"Business and Society Should be Treated as a Single Unit"
Saras D. Sarasvathy, Professor of Business Administration at Darden School of Business, University of Virginia, feels business and society should be treated as a single unit. Also, entrepreneurship is a method of study for building a new society and should be addressed through education. She further compares the business eco-system in India and the US, to derive that along with entrepreneurship, students should also be taught about relationships, value-creation and idea of values.
Entrepreneurship being taught to students, does it seem to be a fruitful idea to build strong young enterprises ahead?
Going back to late 17th century, people never thought that science could be taught as a subject. Francis Bacon in his book, Novum Organum, defined science as a method and only after reading this book, people began considering science as a subject. The idea was not to create Isaac Newton after teaching them science but it was meant to shape the way they looked at the universe. So historically, we are in a very similar stage of teaching entrepreneurship. It is a method which helps us to build a new society and the subject should be taught to everyone, not just to potential entrepreneurs.
So, according to you it is a mindset teaching?
Entrepreneurship is not only a way of structuring mindsets but it also helps us to build a new society thereby a new world. So here, you can actually break things down for a project you are working on; just like the way things are done for chemistry experiments. A lot of my research is literally about what experienced entrepreneurs have learnt from their ventures and which of those can be actually brought to the classrooms.
If you have to compare Indian entrepreneurs, who established companies like Flipkart and Ola, against their international competitors, where do you think they stand?
Anytime when there is a big success, people will try to emulate the act and make different versions of that. So initially Alibaba looked similar to eBay, but in many ways they proved to be very different because there were things which you could do in China but not in the US. So Flipkart and Ola are definitely doing good work. But, Paytm as a project is even more exciting. Also, the Husk Power System, they literally invented the micro power grid.
Any three-piece advice for budding entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurs should not imply everything or anything that they read about or hear, as it closes other doors and they perceive it to be the only way to attain success. One has to look beyond every story and devise their own ways. In todays' accessible world of internet, look at zero-to-sixty mile story of every venture. Second thing I learnt while working with a group in Bengaluru. At various forums they often discuss about our attitute towards failure. When you start on your own, you will have unexpected downside experiences that you might not have talked about. The stories when they are actually looked into are much more mundane and more difficult to understand than what you actually would have imagined. Just do what you can do and some things will work out and some will not. Prepare yourself for the downside surprises. Thirdly, don't look at failure or success as F or S. That's not the way it actually works.
(This article was first published in the April issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)