The Need For Entrepreneurship Education in India
Having knowledgeable business school professors as guides in their learning journey is an experience that is difficult to duplicate outside the college environment
What is Entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship could be viewed as one of the key reasons for the progress of the human race. The creation of things we use everyday, like our smartphones, tablets and cars have all been due to the efforts of entrepreneurs. However, it is important to note that entrepreneurship is not limited to the owners of small or large companies. Even self-employed individuals or the local paanwallah can embody the spirit of entrepreneurship. Anybody who wants to use their business acumen, perseverance and risk taking ability to build a figment of their imagination into something that benefits society can be considered a true entrepreneur.
This brings up the question; can the capabilities needed to be an entrepreneur be taught?
The Need For Entrepreneurship Education
There are conflicting views on the contribution that formal education can make for an entrepreneur who wants to build a successful company.
Some believe that a structured program of business education from a reputed institute would be invaluable for building the entrepreneur’s mindset, skills and knowledge. Reading the appropriate textbooks and having discussions within a classroom environment would be critical for enabling them to discover how the disciplines of marketing, finance, human resources and operations can be applied in a business. Additionally, having knowledgeable business school professors as guides in their learning journey is an experience that is difficult to duplicate outside the college environment. Those budding entrepreneurs who cannot take out time for a full time business program, can always avail of the many part time business courses offered in major cities around India.
However, others use the examples of famous entrepreneurs who did not finish college like Bill Gates, Richard Branson & Dhirubhai Ambani, to take the view that formal business education is not needed. They believe that entrepreneurship can be learned through the day-to-day running of a startup business supported by reading business books or getting advice from peers.
One thing that is common in both the above views is the importance of continuous learning as entrepreneurs start and scale their business. It is difficult for any entrepreneur to succeed if they close themselves to the various opportunities offered to enhance their personal competence.
The Options For Entrepreneurship Education
Outside of formal business courses in college, there is a plethora of educational resources available for entrepreneurs. There are a large number of websites which host free or paid online courses offered by top business schools or independent entrepreneur trainers. There are also many free how-to videos, webinars and business interviews that enable an entrepreneur to gain knowledge when time is short. There is constant research being done internationally in disciplines like online marketing, business strategy, financing techniques etc. It is important for entrepreneurs to stay abreast of these new developments to better enable them to steer their businesses in an ever-changing market environment.
The Importance of Peer-To-Peer Learning Platforms
Aside from the learning resources outlined above, a great support for the entrepreneur’s personal development can be gained by joining an entrepreneurial peer-to-peer learning platform. These are well known internationally, but are now starting to grow in India.
A peer-to-peer learning platform brings a group of entrepreneurs together via learning events or mastermind groups to learn from each other’s experiences. Learning events usually have entrepreneurs get insights from selected speakers who may be successful entrepreneurs themselves or experts in specific business domains. These events also facilitate networking among the invited entrepreneurs to share experiences and contacts.
Mastermind groups essentially have the same 8-12 entrepreneurs meet once a month to share updates on their own business and seek advice from the other group members on challenges they are facing. These groups tend to have strict confidentiality rules that allow the entrepreneur to share their true challenges freely without concern that this information may be leaked to outsiders. Over time, the bonds developed within these mastermind groups become a great source of moral support for individual group members as they have a set of close peers who face the same issues that they do and can provide understanding and encouragement. What starts as a business association often becomes a lifelong friendship. Mastermind groups are considered to be one of the top benefits of joining any entrepreneur peer-to-peer learning platform.
Entrepreneur peer-to-peer learning platforms are relatively new in India. However, many entrepreneurs who have joined them have stated that the feedback they have received from their trusted peers have enabled them to push their own boundaries by promoting constant thinking, development and innovation.
This is a very apt statement as a majority of entrepreneurs struggle to succeed in their initial business and often fail the first time around. However, the ones that do finally succeed are those who are willing to learn from their mistakes with the help of the formal or informal educational resources around them and take the support of entrepreneurial peers who are on the same journey as they are.
Akhil Shahani is the ASCENT Member and Managing Director of Shahani Group.