A 300-acre green campus in Bengaluru is all set to welcome students who are serious about becoming entrepreneurs. The Kautilya Entrepreneurship and Management Institute (KEMI), an initiative of Jain University – one of India’s leading private universities – aims to provide aspiring entrepreneurs end-to-end support for enterprise creation – from entrepreneurship education to seed funding, incubation and lifetime mentoring.
Leading the institute is Prof. Mithileshwar Jha, as its director. Prof Jha is a Fellow (PhD) of IIM Ahmedabad with over 35 years of academic and industry experience. Prof Jha and the institute’s faculty, come with decades of academic and industry experience and have been associated with premier education institutions like Indian Institute of Management (IIM) and Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA). Prof Jha advocates that “entrepreneurship education institutions act as facilitators, helping individuals nourish, nurture and navigate the entrepreneurial landscape.”
Sharing his take on whether entrepreneurship is an inbuilt characteristic or an attribute that can be learnt, he says, “Both are true. If entrepreneurship cannot be taught, institutions like the Babson College, KEMI and several others would not have been created.” Babson College is among the most prestigious entrepreneurship colleges in the world today. “Having said that, you cannot make an entrepreneur out of a totally risk-averse and non-enterprising individual. Some seeds have to be there,” explains Prof Jha, who was also founder-chairperson of the entrepreneurship centre at IIM Bangalore, and has been instrumental in the success stories of many startups.
According to the professors of the institute, the reason why the courses offered by KEMI are different from others is this,
“KEMI is unique because this is probably the only institute which focuses on entrepreneurship education per se, and not on teaching entrepreneurship as an extension of management education.”
All activities here are oriented towards educating, enabling and empowering students to start new ventures. The mentoring, incubation and funding support, apart from the strong focus on academic input and research on entrepreneurship, are other factors that makes this institute ideal for any student who is serious about becoming an entrepreneur
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The Masters in Entrepreneurship and Management course (MEM) offered by KEMI has been designed keeping the entrepreneur in mind and provides insights, both from the entrepreneurs’ perspective and the industry point of view. Combining academic and applied aspects of entrepreneurship – ranging from enterprise development, capital formation, policy creation, product analysis, to Marketing strategy building – the programme provides real-world practice and active learning.
The course blends the best of eastern and western philosophies in design and delivery, with a strong focus on introducing students to the eastern thought, especially the Indian ethos. KEMI believes that the next generation of entrepreneurs need to know the ‘Indian way of managing an enterprise’.
The genesis lies in the belief that while Kautilya’s (the ancient scholar popularly known as Chanakya) contribution to the business world is quite compelling, his inputs are sadly missing in the current management and business education curriculum. Integrating these with frameworks and theories, with those emanating from the west, will allow the students to understand the nuances of both worlds and thereby design products and services which can succeed locally as well as globally.
Inculcating the essence of creating, managing and sustaining enterprises
A typical day of the residential programme at KEMI will begin with yoga and meditation in the morning, followed by classes, group learning activities in the afternoon, field games in the evening and pre-dinner interactions with achievers (and some who were not very successful) to reinforce the learning. Prof Jha says,
“This is not just another entrepreneurship study programme. It is a mission, a dream to ensure that we nurture job creators and conscientious wealth creators.”
“There are opportunities galore in the market. What looks very attractive may not be the right opportunity for a particular individual. Our programme will help entrepreneurs match their ambitions and capabilities with the right opportunity mix. It will also help existing entrepreneurs scale up and realise their potential.”
The course is designed in such a way that 40 percent consists of outside classroom activities and learning by doing. A large part of this experiential learning includes working in small and medium scale organisations, including social enterprises. Students will spend three to eight weeks learning the nuances of running such enterprises. During this period, the students will be involved in the daily operations and strategic decision-making process, which will help them imbibe a rich and real-time experience of how organisations function, the challenges they face, and how they are addressed.
From not having, a mentor, the right resources, access to a positive network and ecosystem for experimenting and recovering from failure, the challenges in the startup ecosystem are many. The Director says, “We are trying to bridge these gaps through the entrepreneurship programme, but that doesn’t mean we claim to be perfect.”
Educate, Enable and Empower
An exciting component of the course is that each student is expected to formulate a business plan by end of the first year of the programme. This business plan will be incubated and presented before investors for funding. And, the course’s modular approach to learning will facilitate entrepreneurial flexibility without compromising on the thoroughness of the programme. Participants, after completing the first two semesters, are allowed to take a break to start their venture or work on their growth plan (based on the plan developed as a part of the course-work). They can then complete the remaining two semester requirements over the next three years. The maximum time given to any candidate to complete the two-year Master’s programme will be four years.
The Jain group of institutions (JGI) ecosystem, of which KEMI is an autonomous institution, has entities which have been in the domain of venture funding and other support services. JGI Ventures, the venture funding arm, has already seen successful products and services coming out and serving customers in many ways. Basket Option is the incubation centre in the ecosystem and has already hatched many successful enterprises.
By integrating incubation with a seed-funding provision through JGI Group, KEMI is providing opportunities to aspirants to start their own enterprise or scale up an existing enterprise or business. This is in addition to giving them a strong foundation in entrepreneurship and management fundamentals. As early as 2011, Dr Chenraj Roychand, Founder-Chairman of the JGI Group, has been instrumental in incubating over 40 businesses, which together provided employment to more than 3,500 people and made more than Rs 147 crore in annual revenue.
Dr Roychand believes that the first step in creating and building an entrepreneurial culture among the youth calls for investments in entrepreneurship education. He says that while helps build awareness about the business and economic environment, and initiate youth into entrepreneurship, it also provides an opportunity for them to get hands-on experience.
Prof Jha beautifully sums up the role of startups and entrepreneurs with an analogy.
“They sow seeds of hope. Not all seeds germinate and grow. So the farmer doesn’t stop seeding fearing non-germination. What is important is the choice of seed, the preparation of the field, and the right ambience.”