The business environment in the country is witnessing a surge in entrepreneurial activity. Start-ups are emerging from both within the corporate world and from academic institutions alike. The corporate world is an obvious breeding ground for start-ups as a lot of executives are able to identify opportunities and get the required funds. At the same time, among academic institutions, business schools seem to be the most appropriately positioned to provide the necessary ecosystem, know-how, advice and support to start-ups.
A major ingredient going into doing business is to have an idea and the skills to build it in the right way. The top business schools in India, with the curriculum they have, are preparing students to understand the business environment and its intricacies. In a business school ecosystem, there are ample opportunities to meet competent, like-minded people to team up with.
The business school ecosystem, in fact, is being fuelled by a lot of factors that are changing the business landscape of this country. Information technology being all-pervasive is the single-most important factor. Not that IT is the only field wherein start-ups are happening, but IT has enhanced the amount of information that is available to us and, thus, has enriched the thought process for identifying opportunities for business. Students are now better-equipped than ever before to appreciate gaps in peoples’ lives (and interests) that can be filled by products and services that they plan to offer.
In addition, a number of sectors and scenarios such as infrastructure, telecom, banking, internet and the cloud, globalisation of business, e-commerce, services, logistics and supply chain have witnessed growth over the past few years. This growth is resulting in a fairly mature set-up of financial markets, intellectual property regime, technically-qualified people, ease of doing business, and a robust infrastructure. The government has also been instrumental in this direction of improving conditions under which a new business is started and conducted. The ‘Start-up India, Stand Up India’ initiative is a step in that direction.
A lot of business schools today offer elective courses and have set-up entrepreneurship cells/clubs. Elective courses on private equity, venture capital, business modelling and designing new ventures provide practical insights into the nitty-gritty of the critical aspects of starting-up. These courses also make students understand how consumers decide on what to buy and for how much. Planning for a start-up was possible all the while, but with a slowly maturing venture capital infrastructure, sourcing funding has become a shade easier today. There are organisations that provide all kinds of support relating to not just establishing the venture, but also hand-holding in running the venture for the first few years. Obviously, this comes for a share of the equity, but has been observed to be worth it.
Further, the alumni base of some of the top business schools has an illustrious list of entrepreneurs. A lot of such alumni, it has been observed, are committing funds to support start-ups taking birth in their alma mater. Business plan competitions conducted by a number of business schools and the prize money going up both in cash and kind is also contributing towards encouraging students. Clearly, there is a lot of action that will emerge from business schools in the years to come. In fact, there would be a time when there will be more job-creators than job-seekers on Indian business school campuses.
However, while starting-up is getting easier, there still are challenges that aspiring entrepreneurs face.
One, the environment today is witnessing a lot of uncertainty in terms of evolving boundaries of businesses, and changing customer preferences in view of the proliferation of businesses on the internet. These have created a situation wherein while there is ample opportunity, but to decide on the precise offering that would work is a challenge. Two, although funding is no longer a major problem, getting the right business model is a major challenge, as is getting the people with the right competence who would deliver consistent performance.
By Abhishek Nirjar
The author is dean, Executive Education and International Relations, IMI, New Delhi