#Asia Why Indian campuses must encourage ‘startup spirit’ in students


The role of educational campuses to nurture and develop the entrepreneurial talent is key to setting up the foundation for future generations, says the author

The author Bhushan Dewan is former VP at Tata Consultancy Services, and founding Pro Vice Chancellor of AKS University (Madhya Pradesh).

Promoting entrepreneurship as a viable career option, and supporting innovation in an educational campus has social and economic relevance. The role of educational campuses to nurture and develop the entrepreneurial and innovative talent is key to setting up the foundation for future generations.

The goal is for college students to be empowered and to come out of their comfort zone. The Central Government and State Governments across the country — through various schemes of organisations like the Department of Science and Technology, Department of Biotechnology, National Institute for Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development, Ministry of Skill Development, Entrepreneurship, Youth Affairs and Sports, National Skill Development Corporation, and Ministry of Micro Small Medium Enterprises — are aggressively encouraging entrepreneurship and skill development.

Many NGOs and self-help groups, angel investor networks and venture funds continue to spring up by the month across the length and breadth of our country towards creating a favourable environment and ecosystem to try and propel large numbers from among 700 million youth into startups and small enterprises.

Enterprises like Microsoft, IBM and Oracle have several programmes to encourage startups and innovations from among the students in educational institutes. Jugaad (making do in Hindi) innovation, which is perhaps an intrinsic part of Indians whereby washing machines are being used in lassi-making shops in Punjab, needs to be encouraged and revelled in.

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Campuses need to become a ‘Doing University’

Educational institutions are expected to come forward and connect the above-mentioned ecosystem with the youth of our society. Universities have to rise to the role of becoming a ‘Doing University’, which is way beyond being a mere teaching university or a research university.

Mad thoughts and a free-wheeling spirit reside in all of us. But they reside with greater potential and promise in the energetic hearts and minds of our youth today. Because they are bombarded with the powerful information-and-technology-intensive world of today, they are uniquely placed to spawn startups with new products and services — provided their energies and efforts are mentored, sharpened, channelled and harnessed into viable innovations.

As evidenced by the example of the Indian MOM (Mars Orbiter Mission Mangalayan) costing a mere US$100 million in India, the cost of services and manpower is ridiculously low.

Given this cost advantage, the sky is the limit for the success of innovative experiments by our youth, provided our educational institutes can get down to setting up entrepreneurship-harnessing incubators on their campuses.

The campus can play a role in allowing students to explore the process of starting an educational or social venture. Conferences, discussions, guest lecturers, speakers and projects enable students to understand the entrepreneurial mindset, fine-tune ideas and give an understanding of real-world issues.

Also Read: Can India build the next Silicon Valley?

Encourage women, encourage entrepreneurs

Nidhi Agarwal, Founder and CEO of Kaaryah, backed by Ratan Tata and others

The challenge in promoting entrepreneurship in colleges is expanding the definition to women entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship. The IT and technology fields today are abuzz with startups and phenomenal funding figures for extraordinary innovations.

Entrepreneurship must be encouraged, not only in management colleges, but other faculties like social sciences, natural sciences, engineering and arts. Tech colleges are already offering these courses in their syllabus. However, educational institutions must play a role in motivating the dreams and ideas across the board —  including simple entrepreneurial ideas, for example, starting a skill-based business, starting a beauty parlour, art, music or catering services.

Encouraging girls to look at entrepreneurship as a career may mean more efforts by the institutions. Indeed, entrepreneurship as a career option is critical to those who may not fit into standard job profiles for various reasons.

Creating programmes to address this need

The approach and creativity of the education system in innovation in teaching by creating training programmes that address this need would make all the difference. The campus must not only foster an environment that allows this career option but also provide the resources for experimentation.

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Startup incubators can support students in developing skills and provide resources needed at the early-stage. Setting up a startup incubator in a campus is one of the first steps in promoting entrepreneurship.

Undergraduate students are launching startups right after graduation or sometimes while still at college, and that is a good sign. The field of social entrepreneurship is also growing.

A desire to make a difference in the world is the heart of social entrepreneurship and needs as much support and encouragement. In India, social entrepreneurship has a great role to play in bridging the gaps in our social and economic configurations.

Awareness leads to innovation

The challenge to come up with ideas that will succeed against all odds and creating new products and services that dramatically improve people’s lives is a great motivator to an entrepreneurial spirit. It is that potential of creating lasting, transformational benefit to society that attracts the youth to this field.

Increasingly, management institutions, science colleges, engineering colleges need to create a greater awareness of the many issues that affect the world — from the environment to pollution, from poverty to literacy, from financial inclusion to healthcare. Sensitisation towards these issues, if begun in the educational campus, can trigger creative and innovative ideas for solutions in young minds.

Thus, instead of taking the typical route, students will find new avenues that will not only give economic growth but also open new doors to making a social impact. This new life path impacts students, the campus and the community.

The post first appeared on LinkedIn. 

The views expressed here are of the author’s, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them. e27 invites members from Asia’s tech industry and startup community to share their honest opinions and expert knowledge with our readers. If you are interested in sharing your point of view, please send us an email at writers[at]e27[dot]co

Image Credit: michaeljung/Shutterstock

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