Indian schools and their love-hate relationship with startups

15th Sep 2016
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Yet another story about top Indian schools blacklisting once-fledgling startups from recruiting their students.

I understand.

School administrations are just trying to protect students’ interests by making sure they are guaranteed high-paying placements. This way schools can continue to indulge in some proud chest-thumping by guaranteeing the quintessential ‘India Shining’ dream to their aspirational students.

Guaranteeing placements helps their cause, builds their reputation, and entices future students to queue up and enroll in large numbers.


Nothing wrong with that sentiment.

But there is another perspective to it.

If the school administration wants to play the caring mother to their students, then shouldn’t they have shouldered that responsibility when things looked too good to be true?

Let me explain.

India might be the only country I know where startups pay higher salaries than the stable big corporates! Way more!

Okay, I lie.

Waaaaayyyy more!

Let that sink in.

One of the most respected entrepreneurial academicians, Steve Blank, defines a startup as a temporary organisation looking for a repeatable and scalable business model.

Or, to put it another way, they really haven’t cracked how they are going to make money yet, something that just happens to be a fundamental fact of why businesses exist.

But, no biggie. Who the hell cares as long as startups are ready to lay out a red carpet and throw big money at our students? Who cares that students may be out of jobs a few months from now!

Wouldn’t it have made sense for Indian schools to ask questions like:

  1. “Holy moly, where the hell are you going to get the money to pay a fresh graduate whom we didn’t coach much to program/manage for scale, ownership or the discipline of working in teams.” Wait, there is a team at your startup, right?
  2. You said how many lakhs of rupees, again? Was that for three of them or you meant just one of our student? Aha, you surely must be joking, Mr Startup Man!
  3. So, how would your monetisation model of becoming the next big nillionaire succeed? Side note, a millionaire is someone who has a million bucks and a nillionaire is someone who….yes, you guessed it right, has no money.

While the schools were being just euphoric when startups were doling out piles of cash to fresh graduates, did they not even feel an iota of responsibility to wonder that this is too good to be true and something that wouldn’t last?

Maybe not.

Remember when I initially said that I understand why Indian schools are doing it?

Well, I was lying. I don’t understand.

I can’t comprehend this fundamental mood shift by banning startups from hiring.

A startup means a journey. A journey to discover something. A chance to do a whole lot of shit in a very short span of time, either to uproot the incumbents or create a new market category. By that very virtue, a startup would have its own share of ups and downs.

And, that’s the exciting part.

What if a startup cannot guarantee top salary but will give a student one heck of a professional ride? Aren’t the skills of hustling, riding through the crisis, fast-paced development, discovering the monetisation model, working under the constant veil of ambiguity, feeling the heat exciting enough for fresh graduates?

So shouldn’t students make that choice of working for a startup or not? Shouldn’t they decide whether to go to business schools to learn the art of settling in or the art of creating something out of nothing?

I like to think that mostly it would be the latter one.

Then why ban startups? Why give the likes of Flipkart, Myntra, Snapdeal, and Zomato — the very companies that defined the Indian startup ecosystem — bad press? Can’t we show some friggin’ respect?

How would the schools feel if no one gave their students a chance because, let's face it, they don't really know much, they usually don't have much experience in the field, and would require huge investment before they became productive?!

But, the fact of the matter is that students are hired for their potential. Similarly, people join startups or growing companies for their promise.

It’s legit to question startups on their monetisation, growth, and other sorts of models and decide if your students should be a part of that startup. But just banning them because they either postponed or cancelled some of the joinings is harsh, especially when they were the darlings of your schools a few months earlier.

Maybe startups will eventually go bust too. Who knows? But if we give up at the first moment of crisis, we will never know. Don’t all big companies go through their rounds of crappola? Don’t they ride through it or unfortunately go bust?

Can’t we give startups some space? A space to maybe flourish and have them put India on the global innovation map.

I like to think we should.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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Tarun Kohli
Tarun Kohli is an entrepreneur, avid book reader, and a student for life. He is the founder and CEO at Quovantis, a user experience design and software development company that enables startups and product companies to deliver compelling experiences for web and mobile. You could connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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