School for entrepreneurs at Kharagpur

IIT-Kharagpur plans to open next year a school for entrepreneurship. It would target students with “financially secure backgrounds”, says the IIT director D Acharya, adding that the school isn’t for job seekers, but for “potential employment generators”. A school, I guess, for the kin and close cousins of the Birlas, Nandas, Ambanis; the tech-millionaires, and of those who have made fortunes on real estate, and mushrooming malls and multiplexes.

Wonder if the idea of a five-year course at Kharagpur appeal to this lot? Business moms and dads send their heirs to US b-schools. Would Kharagpur sound to them as good as Wharton or Stanford? And then, five years doing an entrepreneurial course may seem too long a time for those who are willing and eager to get into their family-held businesses.

The e-school idea was first floated by Prof. Acharya at an Entrepreneurship Summit on the Kharagpur campus in November last. Expressing disappointment at the lack of entrepreneurial spirit among students, he observed that for IITans the challenge was not getting a job for themselves, but doing something of their own and contribute to India’s growth.

The IIT professor’s point has been echoed in a Silicon India blog by Gunjan Sinha who would like to see the emergence of, what he calls, the entrepreneurial India. He speaks of the need for building network-infrastructure in a professional environment. Mr Sinha points out there are some 27,000 professional associations in the US. Wonder what his take is on the Kharagpur e-school idea.

As an idea, I reckon, it is entrepreneurial; in the sense that no one else has thought of it. But would an e-school make business sense? Wouldn’t it be better to have it as an add-on to the MBA program, with an additional year or two of e-schooling for the benefit of students with entrepreneurial aptitude?

As someone who has neither been an academic nor entrepreneurial I lack credentials to answer these questions. I can only raise them. I wonder how many people with “financially secure backgrounds” have an aptitude for entrepreneurship. 

Abraham Tharakan, a Chennai-based consultant, blogs about conspicuous lack of private initiative to promote industries in Karala, although the state accounted for over $16 billion remittances from 1.8 million Keralite NRIs in 2006. Bulk of this money went into building fabulous houses and investment in land. That kind of fund-flow could have made a thousand businesses bloom. Mr Tharakan attributes it ‘a general lack of entrepreneurship’ among the moneyed in Kerala.  

Would an e-school help promote entrepreneurs here? One could teach someone a few chess moves, but it may not turn him into tournament material. I have heard of schools that teach cooking or driving. But could anyone be schooled in cooking a business idea and driving it to profitability? Isn’t entrepreneurship about taking business risks? We have it from Hotmail Bhatia that nine in ten products conceived in Silicon Valley flop, but the one that succeeds more than makes up for the failed nine. Which is what, I guess, entrepreneurship is all about. It is a matter of mindset. 

Cross-posted in SiliconIndia



2 Responses

  1. Why always give an example of Indian Entrepreneur from Silicon Valley. Why not pick some one near home? What about the example of Mr Shenoi who built Mangalore Ganesha Beedi works (forgetting the nature of the product, but appreciating his hardwork in buiding an enterprise brick by brick from nowhere). If one reads how most of the IT companies (Sun and Microsoft excepted) became big enterprises, one would find that it is invariably as a result of share valuations and revaluations and floating stocks in the financial market place. Mr Shenoi had none of these modern ways of becoming rich and almost instant magnification of his enterprise.

  2. Wonder if Ganesh Beedi Works folks could have been this rich if they had provided retirement benefits, insurance etc. to their workers.

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