Encouraging entrepreneurship as a career option among youth

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Developed countries are moving from ‘managerial’ to ‘entrepreneurial’ economies. India, as an emerging economy, is ensuring that entrepreneurship is embraced as a career choice for the young.

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A study conducted in 2013 by International School of Entrepreneurship Education and Development (ISEED) revealed that more than 87 per cent students surveyed aspire to become an entrepreneur at one point of life, while about 90 per cent believe that the country is full of entrepreneurship opportunities.

Encouraging Entrepreneurship

A number of initiatives are being practiced to encourage creation and growth of new ventures. A ministry of skill development and entrepreneurship has been formed by the current government, educational institutes are providing courses on entrepreneurship, large number of incubators and business accelerators have been set up both by universities and the private sector to mentor, coach and train entrepreneurs, open forums, celebration of entrepreneurs in the community role models through seminars, webinars, YouTube videos, blogs, books, massive open online course (MOOC) from Coursera & Stanford Online and other media are some of the other initiatives that are driving the youth to choose entrepreneurship.

The National entrepreneurship network has been encouraging entrepreneurship facilitation through training programs on entrepreneurship for faculty, nationally. The Indus Entrepreneur (TiE) conducts a number of programs for rookie entrepreneurs. A number of organisations support mentoring by their senior management employees, free cloud space which are major contributions by industry.

Support of idea generation and innovation competition by the industry helps too. Alumni of various institutions are now returning to their campuses and are actively involving themselves through mentoring and creating an angel fund. The current ecosystem for entrepreneurship is vibrant.

What could be done?

More could be done to enhance this – projects for students with start-ups so that they can gain a first-hand knowledge of the challenges faced by an entrepreneur, shadowing an entrepreneur, initiating an entrepreneur in residence by educational institutions, and start-up job fairs in both, under graduate & post graduate institutions would be helpful, including a large experiential learning content in the facilitation of the subject would be useful, instead of having an examination.

Creation of campus companies would improve learning. Often the youth do not want to engage in this, as it is stressful, ambiguous, has no structure and in the initial years’ one has no free time. Through the exposure, they can make up their minds accordingly – understanding that all ideas are not opportunities, needs recognition.

A small percentage of engineering students have technological ideas and work on them, but they need support to approach it form a business perspective. Whereas, a large percentage of business school students prefer a secure job rather than creating a start-up immediately after their education.

Taking Entrepreneurial Plunge

Entrepreneurs are job creators rather than job seekers. They create products and services. An entrepreneur is an independent-minded or innovative business person. Being an entrepreneur, teaches life skills, increases creativity and problem solving skills, provides better understanding of business and market economics, enhances competencies of persistence, communication, teamwork and networking skills and hence, enhances employability. Being a failure in entrepreneurship too is a learning experience.

Entrepreneurial careers could be varied from being an entrepreneur to serial entrepreneurs, angel investors, partners in venture capital or PE firms, corporate entrepreneurs, educators, mentors, and policy making in the government.

Aspects that could support youth in taking entrepreneurship as a career could be, reduction in regulatory burden during the start-up phase, tax rebates, ease in closing of businesses, reduction in taxation when entrepreneurs obtain funding from angel investors amongst others.

Similarly, educational institutions could offer a deferred placement processes, could encourage students work on their venture idea, instead of an internship or project, alumni entrepreneurs could be utilised as mentors and create an angel investment pool for students at their respective universities.

Helping Bridge the Gap

Strong networks between entrepreneurial associations and academic institutions could help bridge the divide. Organisations could introduce sabbaticals for employees, who want to initiate a venture and welcome them back, if they are unsuccessful, as many opportunities are identified by, the marriage of work experience and the environment.

Ventures of varied sizes, family managed businesses, corporate entrepreneurship, and franchisees amongst others need to be encouraged. Calculated risk taking need to be encouraged. Many are of the opinion that one should start young by learning how to create and sell small products & services, which are the laboratories of experience.

Other influencers include, the environment, the place she lives in, the peer group, the family and the educational institution she is from, which play a large role in determining the career options.

Lastly as Peter Drucker said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it”, which is true for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is full of ambiguity and uncertainty if one accepts that is willing to embrace it, success is assured.

(The writer of this article is Associate Professor Radha Iyer with the K.J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research (SIMSR). The views expressed here are personal.)