Sucessful Enterpreneurship
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  • Businessworld : Number one Indian business portal with incisive analysis and surveys Successful Entrepreneurship INTERVIEW / LAURA PARKIN ‘Successful Entrepreneurship Is Not Based On Personality’ How do you create the next generation of N R Narayanmurthys, Ashok Sootas and Dhirubhai Ambanis? Is there a formal process you can create that will throw up a lot more entrepreneurs? Can business school students be taught entrepreneurship to create a breed of top order, management oriented entrepreneurs? Can students in schools as diverse as engineering, law and biotech be taught entrepreneurship? The National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN) is grappling for answers to similar questions. Today, the bulk of the courses on entrepreneurship run in the country has NEN as a partner in some way or the other. Laura Parkin, director of the National Entrepreneurship Network spoke to Prosenjit Datta on how the NEN's efforts to create an entrepreneurship culture in the country and the learnings so far… Prosenjit: Why don't we start with the SP Jain programme on entrepreneurship… Laura: I assume you are speaking about the SP Jain quot;start your businessquot; programme. As you know, S P Jain is a founding partner in the National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN) and they run a full range of entrepreneurship programmes for their students. The quot;Start Your Businessquot; programme is one of their offerings for professionals. They run very innovative programmes for their students as well. Before we discuss these programmes in detail, let me give you the background which will put things in context. As you know, the National Entrepreneurship Network is an initiative of the Wadhwani Foundation, created by Romesh Wadhwani, chairman of the Symphony Technology Group. Romesh is a successful serial entrepreneur, originally from Bombay and now residing in Silicon Valley. He set up the Wadhwani Foundation in 2000, after merging Aspect Development with i2 Technologies in the largest merger in software history. The overarching mission of the Wadhwani Foundation is to help generate economic opportunities for people. Within that, the foundation focuses on two areas. One focus is to provide opportunities for jobs and livelihoods for the disabled population - one of the most marginalized groups in India. The other focus is accelerating and supporting high growth entrepreneurship. When the Wadhwani Foundation was starting out, we did a lot of research to see how we should devote our time and money to achieve the most impact. We discovered that young people were not being formally introduced to entrepreneurship - this in stark contrast to the US, where, over the past two decades, entrepreneurship has become institutionalized in higher education. That's not to say that entrepreneurship development has not been around in India - there are some very strong programmes here. But many of the existing entrepreneurship programmes in the country, are focused on generating self- employment or on the small scale industry - you know, how to set up a small business. Both of these are very worthy and important endeavours, especially in a country with such great under employment. The Wadhwani Foundation focuses on high growth entrepreneurship the creation of scalable businesses that have the potential to create lots of jobs. Research on economies as diverse as those of Sweden and the US, has shown that over http://www.businessworld.in Powered by Joomla! Generated: 25 September, 2007, 04:23
  • Businessworld : Number one Indian business portal with incisive analysis and surveys 2/3 of all net new jobs are created by only 5% of all start ups - by companies that start small, and grow large. We think that by focusing on our attention on developing more of these high-growth companies in India, the foundation and society will realize the highest leverage for the foundation's time and money. We decided that one approach to this problem would be to develop a program that would bring entrepreneurship onto campuses, and integrate the subject into higher education. As mentioned above, for the most part, entrepreneurship has not been part of higher education here in India. For example, about 8 or 9 years ago in fact, when Romesh went to IIT Bombay and proposed funding a faculty Chair in entrepreneurship, they had difficulties recruiting someone to fill the position. This thinking was the genesis of the National Entrepreneurship Network. In 2003, we held a nationwide competition to select co-founding institutes who would work with us to develop high-impact campus-based entrepreneurship programmes, and help develop a business plan for scaling up such programmes across India. The co-founding institutes of NEN are: IIT-Bombay, IIM-Ahmedabad, BITS Pilani, SP Jain, and IBAB. For the next year and a half, faculty from each of these institutes would get together with the core NEN team every 4 or 6 weeks, rotating across the different campuses. Each faculty member experimented with different programs, teaching content, teaching methods at their institutes, and we would discuss the results, refine the programmes. Each campus developed unique offerings, building on their own strengths and tailored for their particular student groups. We learned what worked well, and what did not work. In parallel, we worked together to develop a model of a nationwide network that would accelerate the successful launching and building of entrepreneurship programmes on campuses across the nation. The result of all this work was NEN. Today, 4 years later, NEN works with over 200 top institutes, across 27 cities in India. We reach over 2,00,000 students and have over 26,000 students actively participating in entrepreneurship programmes on an ongoing basis. We measure our primary impact on a regular basis, calculating the level of activities on each member campus, and comparing the level to that of the 12 month period before they joined NEN. We use a point system that we have developed internally. The results are encouraging: in the first 6 months after joining NEN, an institute generally doubles its previous level of activity. Within 12 to 18 months, the average level of activity is over 7.5 times the level before the institute joined NEN. We continue to ramp up and solidify our programs: our target is to reach 600 institutes by March 2010, and at that level have over 1,20,000 students (20% of students on member campuses) actively participating in entrepreneurship programs on these campuses. Of these actively engaged students, 40,000 on average (roughly 1/3) would graduate every year. If only one out of five them successfully starts a company at some point in their lives, that would be 8,000 future entrepreneurs graduating every single year from the NEN member institutes. One can imagine the long term, steady-state impact: if each year 8,000 NEN graduates start companies, and if each company, on average, employs 50 people, that equals 400,000 new jobs for India, every single year. http://www.businessworld.in Powered by Joomla! Generated: 25 September, 2007, 04:23
  • Businessworld : Number one Indian business portal with incisive analysis and surveys Prosenjit: You have five institutes partnering you in the entrepreneurship programme - two are engineering institutes, two are business schools and one is a biotechnology institute. Tell me, are the courses exactly the same in all the institutes or are they different? Laura: Well, there are a few similarities in all the programmes. In fact we have identified three key elements that are critical to successful entrepreneurship programmes, wherever those programmes are located: The first element is student leadership. We recommend that a significant number of the entrepreneurship activities on any campus should be developed and led by students. Up to 50% of the activities. The Faculty will be there to support the students, of course, but the students have to take the lead. This allows students to practice the skills of entrepreneurship, and also generally makes for very exciting and innovative activities. Then, there should be significant industry interaction in the programmes. Students need to be exposed to entrepreneurs of all types, from a variety of industries and backgrounds; and to investors, professionals - all those participating in the venture creation process. It's critical to bridge the gap between academia and industry, and give students a taste of real- world entrepreneurship, making entrepreneurship both accessible and viable. The final element is that programmes need to be comprehensive. We call it quot;surround soundquot;. It's not effective to offer only a single course in entrepreneurship, or to simply have an incubator located in the building. To transform the students' perspectives, to really help them build their entrepreneurship knowledge and skills, one must offer a wide range of ways for them to engage. And these need to be obvious on campus. There should be speakers giving talks, competitions and events, entrepreneurship clubs, courses, lectures, and a variety of industry interactions. This range of activities allows the students to engage according to their interest levels. For example, one student might want to attend only a lecture while another might want the full gamut - from industry interactions to the creating a business plan. Also, a student might come initially just to test the waters - he might want to attend just one lecture. But later, once he has attended it, he might want to listen to the next speaker as well. Once his interested is piqued, he becomes increasingly engaged. The key elements of the programmes are similar. But having said that, not one programme is identical to another. On each of NEN's over 200 member institute campuses, innovative programs are designed and built, with NEN's support, to achieve that institute's goals, leverage their resources, and serve their students' specific needs. Prosenjit: The entrepreneurship courses in the MBA programmes -- do you have some sort of screening to see that only people with some sort of entrepreneurial qualities are opting for them or is anybody allowed to take them? Laura: Well we do not have a screening process for several reasons. One, we do not believe that successful entrepreneurship is based on personality. We believe that many abilities that appear personality driven are skills that can be learned: sales, analysis, even risk tolerance. If you practice these things, you can master them, no matter what your personality. In fact, different personalities are appropriate for different types of opportunities: some might require a high-energy outgoing sales person as founder; other opportunities might be a better match for the quiet patience of a research scientist. Two, NEN's job is to help increase the number and percentage of young people who become successful entrepreneurs. As I've described our role to venture capitalists, quot;A venture capitalist's job is to find the needle in the haystack. NEN's job is to create a larger haystack with a higher concentration of needles.quot; The idea is not to screen people out but to be inclusive. http://www.businessworld.in Powered by Joomla! Generated: 25 September, 2007, 04:23
  • Businessworld : Number one Indian business portal with incisive analysis and surveys Prosenjit: How difficult was it to start these programmes in the business schools? I mean, business schools have geared up their students to work in large, structured organizations, not to start up on their own. So how did the students react initially to the entrepreneurship courses? [Aside: about 50% of NEN's member institutes are engineering and arts colleges; 30% are management institutes; and 20% are a mix of law, hotel, science and other specialities.] Laura: Well the experience was different in each school. In IIM A for example, there is a dedicated core of 6 faculty members who were interested in working with start ups - even with entrepreneurs before they had started their companies. These faculty members then started to provide opportunities for students to work with the entrepreneurs on a variety of projects - market research, technical and operations issues. Once the students were engaged, many became fascinated with the process and with entrepreneurship. And more and more have now gone on to start their own companies. The faculty members and the institute remain very supportive of their graduating entrepreneurs. In fact, IIMA has initiated a plan that allows students who start companies and fail to return to IIMA and go through campus placements. In SP Jain, there was a difference. SP Jain already had a very well established family business course. So you had a lot of people already steeped in their own businesses walking around the campus. In our first year of working together, NEN and SP Jain jointly designed an entirely new entrepreneurship course that capitalized on their two streams: family business and MBA. The course is highly interactive and hands on, brings students from the two courses together, and culminates in an enormous, high-profile public event. That first year, Prof. Suresh Rao, who heads the entrepreneurship programmes at SP Jain, and I quot;pitchedquot; the course to the MBA's. 32 out of about 120 students signed on, which we felt was a good response. The course turned out to be extremely demanding - the public event is an interactive trading game, where every participant can buy imaginary shares in real companies that are presented during the event by the MBA and Family Business students. Pulling off the design and execution of the event alone took over 200 students and 10 faculty members and months of effort. The result was impressive. All during the event, for 500 participants, all day, the energy remained fever pitch. By the end of the event, after the winners were announced, the students were on their feet, chanting their success: quot;S P Jain! S P Jain! S P Jain!quot; Unbelievable. I will never forget that moment. An MBA student told us afterwards, quot;I never knew I could do so much. I can do a lot more by the time I'm 30 than I thought I could do by the time I'm 45.quot; The next year, we wondered how many of the students would sign up for the course. As I said, it had turned out to be quite demanding. We were hoping that at least the same number, 32, would sign up. I was thinking that perhaps I would be asked to go back with Suresh and talk to this next batch as well, about what they could learn from taking a course in entrepreneurship. Then one day Suresh called me. He told me that the sign up for the course was already complete. It turned out that almost every member of the next batch had signed up to take the course, and they had had to hold a lottery to see who could enroll. Prof. Suresh Rao, with enormous support from the Dean and his colleagues, is the moving spirit behind the entrepreneurship programs at SP Jain. He also kicked off the quot;Starting Your own Businessquot; programme at S P Jain, which involved teaching people about how to start their businesses. It's a course that runs over 16 weekends, and targets professionals and new entrepreneurs. So far, 2 batches have graduated, each batch with about 10 - 14 students. Of the first batch, 9 have started companies, of the second batch, 7 have already started. The third batch is just starting. http://www.businessworld.in Powered by Joomla! Generated: 25 September, 2007, 04:23
  • Businessworld : Number one Indian business portal with incisive analysis and surveys Prosenjit: What is the profile of the people taking the weekend quot;Starting Your Businessquot; course? Laura: They are mostly people with five or more years of experience. People who have already worked somewhere and now want to learn the mechanics of starting their own business. We actually think this is the ideal demographic for new entrepreneurs: someone with some work experience, who has been exposed to customers' needs, and has identified an opportunity he or she wishes to pursue. Prosenjit: Tell me about your experience with the biotech institute… Laura: Oh that has been a phenomenal experience. Dr. Gayatri Saberwal is the faculty leader of the entrepreneurship activities at IBAB. As you know, IBAB is a founding member of NEN. IBAB is a biotech and bioinformatics institute in Bangalore, running a graduate program from students from diverse science backgrounds. In those first months, as the faculty from the founding institutes and NEN team gathered to shape NEN, Gayatri was often rather quiet. She later confessed that she was so quiet because she had no idea what we were talking about! Now, such a short time later, she is teaching a full course on entrepreneurship to science students at IBAB, as well as supporting student activities in entrepreneurship. Gayatri is also doing research on biotech entrepreneurship in India, and her papers are regularly published in Current Science and other journals. Gayatri's experience of being a science professor, with no business background, suddenly thrust into entrepreneurship, has informed the faculty development course that NEN now runs. Today, of the support services and programs that NEN provides its member institutes to help them develop and build their entrepreneurship programs, one of the most critical is NEN's Entrepreneurship Educators Course (EEC). The course is developed in partnership with Stanford University's Technology Ventures Program, and IIM Bangalore. Leading entrepreneurship faculty from India, and from around the world, develop and teach the modules. The course is physically taught at IIM Bangalore. In each batch of the EEC, there are about 50 faculty members from the NEN institutes participating. This year approximately 150 faculty members will go through three different batches of the EEC. Usually 80% of the participants have never before taught entrepreneurship. However, three years ago, NEN didn't yet have formal faculty development support, and Gayatri was pretty much on her own to try to gain the skills she needed to teach entrepreneurship. As we were sorting out what kind of faculty development would be most helpful, NEN ran a pilot workshop bringing in international faculty to share their experiences, and to introduce the concepts and teaching methods of entrepreneurship. This was a spark that catalyzed a tremendous amount of activity. In fact, it was the results from that one pilot workshop that encouraged us to put together the entire EEC. One of the exercises that Gayatri adopted from the pilot faculty development workshop was the 50 rupee exercise. She ran the exercise as part of her course. Essentially, the exercise involves giving 50 rupees each to teams of three students on a Tuesday and ask them to come back on the Saturday and talk about what business they had started with the money and how much they had earned. It had to be a legal business and they could invest a maximum of the Rs. 50, http://www.businessworld.in Powered by Joomla! Generated: 25 September, 2007, 04:23
  • Businessworld : Number one Indian business portal with incisive analysis and surveys but those are the only rules. The results were impressive in the diverse businesses that these students - all science students - initiated. One team person came back after starting a movie ticket service in the campus. Another started a snack service. A third was taking order for sweaters. The largest amount of money made was Rs 1400 by one team. The 50 rupee exercise really pushed the students out of their comfort zones. In fact, Gayatri shared that many of the students were quite nervous when they were starting the exercise. However, as the presentations on the Saturday showed, the students ended up very much enjoying their experience, and gained a powerful sense of achievement. One young woman, during her presentation, explained to Gayatri, quot;We always knew we had this talent in us. But it took this one exercise to bring it out.quot; Our experience with IBAB showed us that students and faculty from all backgrounds gain from exposure to entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is a combined mindset and skillset that will enable success in any field. More on entrepreneurship: Of Mice And Men What managers and entrepreneurs can learn from the three IITians who wanted to be the next Infosys. The Entrepreneurship Mantra It is about doing what you like and also liking what you do. The Great Gamble TiE has a new plan to mentor aspiring entrepreneurs and help in funding their ideas. Of Entrepreneurship And Misgovernance India's entrepreneurship is now second to none. Unfortunately, that can hardly be said about its governance. Meet the Alterpreneur A new breed of people is in business not for the glory, the glamour or the greenbacks. They are in it to lead a life where time is the most valuable currency.To know more about NEN, go to www.NENOnline.org http://www.businessworld.in Powered by Joomla! Generated: 25 September, 2007, 04:23