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Student entrepreneurship

Team YS
19th May 2011
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A lot of newsprint is now devoted to student entrepreneurship. Business newspapers are running a series on student entrepreneurs and how they form and run their businesses. At the NASSCOM Product Conclave 2010, there was a pitched battle between Prof. Vivek Wadhwa who saw student entrepreneurs as a bubble and Vishal Gondal, the gaming entrepreneur, who was gung-ho about student entrepreneurship. Vishal started the business when he was 13. It is highly doubtful if student entrepreneurs have the audacity or persistence to carry on like Vishal did.

There are several dimensions to student entrepreneurship. Unlike in the past, students get exposed to entrepreneurship – what is it and how to run a business – very early. The National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN), founded by the Wadhwa Foundation (this is a different Wadhwa), has done a phenomenal job of taking entrepreneurship to the grassroots, i.e. college level. The new breed of young, the Gen Y, is bustling with energy and enthusiasm. They have innumerable opportunities. Incubation centres act as enabling platforms for a student to test his or her idea. During TiE Chennai startup super day, I saw three young entrepreneurs who are running their own businesses straight out of college. One of them is a girl making Rs. 70,000 a month from business. I know a couple of students who have had a long haul – two years or more – in entrepreneurship.

But all is well as long as students do anything in college. They start a business, attract customers even from abroad, and make a decent amount of money. But when they finish college, pressures set in. Parents are unwilling in most cases to let their children continue to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. They want a job and that too one at a reputed software company. Some students fall to peer pressure. When they find their friends taking up a plush job in a software company, they begin to think is it all worth the trouble of starting up. Raj Shankar, founder of ichiban Academy, says most of the student startups fold up once their college life is over.

Entrepreneurship by nature brings in lot of challenges. Do students fresh out of college have maturity to handle the pressures of running a business? Do you they enough skill sets? Prof. Vivek Wadhwa’s research has shown that most successful entrepreneurs are the ones in the late thirties and early forties who have had a long stint in corporate before taking to entrepreneurship. First, these people are hungry for success after a mid-career crisis. They are more focused and have little time to experiment. Their experience enables them to cut the crap and focus on essentials.

Like law, everything goes by precedence. No student entrepreneur has yet become a poster boy of Indian business, say, by going on to scale like Infosys did after co-founded by seven friends at Patni. There is clear lack of role models on that front. But there is lot of activity around student entrepreneurship like never before, which has attracted the attention of mainstream media.

Students as entrepreneurs. What’s your take? Write to krishvenkateshys@gmail.com

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