Teach entrepreneurship in schools

NITIN POTDAR

THE HINDU Winds of change: Entrepreneurship as a subject can bring just that - Photo: Vijaya Bhaskar

Unless we change mindsets at a young age, we will remain a nation of job seekers

In his second Independence Day speech Prime Minister Narendra Modi put his emphasis squarely on entrepreneurship and job creation through startups by launching a new campaign ‘Start up India, Stand up India’ and expected 1.25 branches of various banks to promote bank financing for startups by the underprivileged.

The recent focus on startups emanates from the Nasscom Startup Report which revealed interesting statistics that should undoubtedly make us proud.

India is home to around 3,100 startups and by 2020 a projected 11,500 startups would employ 250,000 people across the country. The current volumes as also the projections are no doubt impressive, credible enough to predict a bright future for Indian startups across verticals.

But volumes alone — of any initiative, project or phenomenon — don’t necessarily speak volumes of the value attached. It’s only the quality of innovation, the ability and agility of an enterprise that separates the winners from the also-rans.

The startup universe is no exception. It needs a comprehensive ecosystem starting from school education to industry connect to ensure quality is not compromised in the focus on quantity.

Encouraging entrepreneurs

Taking a cue from the West, India has indeed taken many positive steps towards this mission. The ?10,000 crore startup fund in the last finance budget is one of them.

At the State level too, there’s substantial activity happening — whether Karnataka’s proposed Startup Act, the first of its kind in the country, Kerala’s unique Startup Village of Kochi, West Bengal’s single-window clearance for MSMEs myenterprisewb.in, IIT-Bombay’s vibrant e-cell in Maharashtra, Gujarat’s innovative Center of Excellence in Entrepreneurship & Technology or Tamil Nadu’s pioneering ‘New Entrepreneur Cum Enterprise Development’ (NEED) programme.

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In a recent development, market regulator SEBI has proposed to issue guidelines foe enabling knowledge-based startups to raise funds from the capital markets. An inspiring initiative indeed, seemingly on the lines of the ‘Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act’ (JOBS Act) in the US.

Having said that, governance and regulation are fine but they will have their own limits. Both work best when the system and its constituents are intrinsically wedded to the larger cause.

As important as the gesture to boost the start up dynamic is the need to factor in the dizzying speed at which innovation is shaping the startup world: questioning business models, distinguishing between risk and adventure capital, triggering mergers and acquisitions, and calling for quick consolidation of legal structures in line with market demands, all in same breath.

Need a holistic vision

How can we achieve the needful only through instructional communiqués issued in hindsight? Such learning stems from a strong startup ecosystem that needs nurturing, to help stakeholders achieve traction and momentum in their evolutionary strides.

There’s an urgent need to equip our young guns of the startup universe with the holistic vision that alone takes the primordial idea to the next level. This knowledge can’t ever be acquired through official regulations or guidelines of the reactive kind, however elaborate they are made.

This value-added learning — how to identify opportunities, how to work around problems, how to foster innovation, how to overcome constraints, how to form winning teams, how to put risk in perspective, how to strike a blend between innovation and tradition — is best imparted in the formative years of education.

Contrary to popular perception, the very notion of an enterprise is best explained on a blank slate, to a child of starry-eyed ambition while he or she is still at school.

Teaching entrepreneurship from school level has become even more critical in today’s times as the future clearly belongs to the graduates of the startup world. In fact various recent surveys have outlined the importance of encouraging entrepreneurship and creating globally skilled and competitive workforce through education system.

In fact teaching entrepreneurship from school level would be the long term blue print for the most ambitious Make in India campaign. And it is now globally proved that entrepreneurship can be easily taught. It is high time that we engage our younger generation in creating productive assets. Yes, there are many challenges in the way — prime among them is the curriculum design and the force thousands of trained teachers. Should it be optional or mandatory, should it be in-house or outsourced, should it be modular or freewheeling, should it be prescriptive or suggestive, so on and so forth.

But the moot point is the need to teach students about the redeeming value of entrepreneurship in life. How much to learn from it is up to them but isn’t that the case even with mortarboard education of math, science and language?

A new thinking

Not that the new wave of learning would turn the entire populace into entrepreneurial wizards, but most would surely appreciate a few things better than what the earlier generation did — like the value of design thinking, versatility and multi-tasking, collaborative skills, co-creational abilities and cultural sensitivities.

Thinking out of the box would then come more naturally, unconventional talent will get the respect it deserves and the heightened awareness has a better chance of bringing about much required economic prosperity based on social justice.

Unless we introduce entrepreneurship as a school subject — like math, science history or geography — most young minds would remain oblivious of an undeniable fact for long, that jobs are best created, not consumed.

Worse, the white collar brigade of the ill-famed British lineage will continue to fill umpteen cubicles across verticals, albeit in newer forms and avatars in this tech-enabled age.

The writer is Partner, J Sagar Associates. The views are personal

(This article was published on March 23, 2016)

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