So that start-ups don’t fail…

Published: December 8, 2014 12:05:13 AM

Entrepreneurship should be incorporated in the Indian higher education system

Over the last few years, India has transformed its higher education landscape backed by several programmes, reforms and advancements in technology. Over the last few years, India has transformed its higher education landscape backed by several programmes, reforms and advancements in technology.

“The single most important contributor to a nation’s growth is the number of start-ups that grow to a billion dollars in revenue within 20 years.” —Carl J Schramm, former president and CEO of Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

By 2020, India will emerge as one of the youngest countries with 64% of its population in the working age group. With the West, Japan and even China ageing, this demographic potential will offer India and its growing economy an unprecedented edge that economists believe can add a significant 2% to the GDP growth rate. However, the challenge posed is that the workforce will be an asset only if it is educated and suitably skilled. Keeping this change in mind, there are newer needs that are emerging which need to be addressed with a dedicated focus towards India’s education sector.

Over the last few years, India has transformed its higher education landscape backed by several programmes, reforms and advancements in technology. Online courses, MOOCs, video classrooms, etc, have expanded reach to far-off cities, giving students access to high quality education/training and changing the traditional brick-and-mortar nature of India’s educational system. ICT tools have not only been instrumental in bridging the demand-supply gap but have also made education more accessible, interactive and affordable. However, the higher education system is still in dire need of reforms to become a more robust and sustainable institution not just for the country but on a global level too.

Unfortunately, the current education system in India lacks focus on research and innovation. Students are still at a crossroads between traditional employment due to societal pressure and treading upon the entrepreneurial path. Indians have a skill set to be entrepreneurs. People need to look at entrepreneurship as a way of life, and parental pressure to be restricted in corporate jobs should not be the mindset any more. The lack of focus on skill-based training, multidisciplinary and entrepreneurial courses is an immediate reform the education system needs which is also grappling with employability issues.

India is in need of young, passionate entrepreneurs to drive the economy and the right education will play an important role in developing entrepreneurial skills. Entrepreneurship has become a key driver in economic growth for its immense potential in creating employment opportunities and is the need of the hour. Research indicates that individuals who study entrepreneurship are three to four times more likely to start a business and will earn 20-30% more than students studying other fields. Entrepreneurship as a subject can act as a catalyst and address the void in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in India. Educational institutes and especially business-schools need to build an environment that nurtures entrepreneurship at an early stage.

Technical education institutions, in my opinion, are ideal for fostering innovation and converting those ideas into a business that creates employment. However, the key here lies in setting up a complete ecosystem in every institute encompassing teaching, incubation and business mentoring for students to be equipped with skills for the real corporate world. This can be achieved through various courses, workshops, training and development programmes and can be in the form of short-term or long-term programmes. Another school of thought that needs to dissolve is that entrepreneurship cannot be taught. Some of the leading universities/colleges internationally such as Babson College, UC Berkeley, Coventry University, University College London, Rotterdam School of Management, etc, have inculcated entrepreneurship in their curriculum to develop skill-ready entrepreneurs. With entrepreneurship being taught by actual entrepreneurs providing real-world knowledge and business mentoring, it will help support and guide young entrepreneurial ventures in the right direction and also play a crucial role in reducing the number of failed start-ups.

Another aspect which needs attention in the Indian education system is the need to develop skills and make students employable for jobs of tomorrow and the need globally. If we look at the radical changes taking place in IT, the impact of digitalisation for example, we need to create new courses in the field of social, mobile, analytics and cloud. We also require courses for new product development and product management to meet the needs of Indian companies and start-ups beginning to create products in India.

India has the potential to become an R&D and entrepreneurship hub with the right steps taken to encourage innovation across industries and sectors. Entrepreneurship education is paramount, and understanding its significance, the government has already implemented several initiatives in this direction to boost ongoing efforts by states and institutes/universities across the country. It is critical that we continue to develop and support a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation for India to make a mark for itself globally and be recognised as one of the leading destinations for entrepreneurial activity.

By Ajai Chowdhry

The author is founder, HCL

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