How entrepreneurship can be taught to school students – 12 tips from entrepreneur-author Vrunda Bansode

Vrunda Bansode’s second book, ‘Become a Junior Entrepreneur’, is a useful resource for young students, parents and educators.

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Become a Junior Entrepreneur by Vrunda Bansode is a very different kind of entrepreneurship book – written for school students! The five chapters are spread across 160 pages. The glossy paper presentation makes it appealing for younger audiences, as well as illustrations and plenty of worksheets and tables.

Vrunda Bansode heads India Data Insights, a data portal for the Indian social sector, at Sattva Consulting. Her new book draws on her experience in entrepreneurship development – from co-founding her own startup, managing incubation programmes at IIM Bangalore NSRCEL, and the entrepreneurship lab she ran for high school students for five years. A graduate in economics from the University of Pune, her earlier book is Become a Junior Inventor.

Here are my key takeaways from the book, summarised below. See also YourStory’s coverage of TiE Bangalore’s Young Entrepreneurs programme in 2020 and 2019.

The book chapters correspond to the stages in a startup journey: idea, product, money, promotion and growth. Even for those who don’t want to launch their own startups, having an entrepreneurial mindset is regarded as a valuable trait for the future.

1. Begin with what

Students are often asked what they want to be when they grow up – a doctor, engineer, or artist, for example. It may help instead to ask what they want to invent, build or sell.

As product builders and job creators, students should be shown how entrepreneurs play a key role in the economy, the author explains. Since knowledge, skills and aspirations evolve over time, students need to learn self-reflection and map out what they like, what they are good at, how they can impact others, and how much others value their contribution.

2. Start with simple examples

The author shows how the quintessential example of making and selling lemonade can be used to teach concepts of market assessment, product packaging, samples, price estimation, customer research, differentiation, branding, stall positioning, and even environmental friendliness.

Targeting the humble tea and fruit juice market led to the rise of Chai Point, Chaayos, Paper Boat, Raw Pressery, and Cane Crush.

The examples should span the services sector also, such as designing the space for a weekend reading club at a library for kids. Local vegetable sellers offer useful lessons as well, on how to pitch fresh products, seasonal deals, and preferences of family members, the author shows.

The broader focus should be not just on product or service, but the entire customer experience. Approaches like design thinking should be presented here, with visualised workflow. To explain what happens to startups at the scale stage, the author uses analogies like cricket team captains, managers and coaches.

3. Use local and global examples

Tech-savvy youth today are quite familiar with digital media, so the stories behind the creation of Apple, Instagram and WhatsApp for global markets resonate easily with them. They will also be familiar with local brands in India – such as Swiggy, Flipkart, BookMyShow, Naturals Ice Cream, Wildcraft, and Biocon.

4. Show that many entrepreneurs started young

The author shows that students get particularly inspired when they see that other successful companies had young founders. Examples include Google and Microsoft, founded by college students.

The founder of ID Fresh Food ran a small sweets shop as a student. He later entered the market for products like batter, and now has a massive international business. “There are inspiring stories of real entrepreneurs all around you,” the author enthuses.

5. Emphasise problem spotting

Through a range of examples, the author shows students that entrepreneurship begins by spotting problems. For example, Wildcraft spotted the gap in affordable, high-quality outdoor gear in India. BookMyShow spotted a problem in the queue-based model of buying movie tickets, and offered an online option.

6. Grasp the importance of money

Since financial sustainability can be a key challenge for most entrepreneurs, the author shows how concepts like expenditure, investment, direct costs, indirect costs, sales, revenue, operating profit, and net profit can be taught to students using lemonade sales as a simple example.

For the service sector, Vrunda explains project-based pricing, on-demand models, and markups for skills-based businesses like website design. Topics like break-even point, sales volume and subsidisation at launch stages can be explained later through examples like Amazon and Flipkart.

7. Leverage media

Tech-savvy youth may already be conversant with creating digital content on the web and social media, the author shows. This can be used to showcase web and email strategies for marketing, though help from others may be needed to create payment gateways at this stage.

The author advises aspiring entrepreneurs to focus on digital conversion to sales, and not just on “instant gratification” of social media popularity. For the offline world, she suggests activities like comparing posters and pamphlets of other companies to pick up design tips, eg Amul’s ads.

8. Encourage self-paced discovery

Instead of spoonfeeding or hastening the journey, it helps to be a mentor or guide from the side, the author emphasises. A nudge towards business decisions by conducting surveys helps more than giving answers outright. A year-long programme may be better than a weekend crash-course.

Choosing teams in such a way that the students work with others beyond their usual circles of friends helps them learn how to cement new friendships and build respect for teammates.

9. Recast failure as a learning

Failures should be cast as features or products that did not work out. “Failing does not make one a failure, being afraid of failing does,” the author explains. A mistake or invalid assumption should be seen as a pointer to a change in the right direction.

10. Give guidelines, not a roadmap

The journey of every entrepreneur is different, so it’s impossible to give an exact roadmap for the path ahead, the author cautions. Instead, guidelines, principles and tools help in the journey.

Entrepreneurs often tackle problems for which there are no clear rules or formulas in the books. Many answers will come only from asking other people or doing experiments. For example, the author asks students: How much paint (and money) will it take to paint your house?

11. Share advice from successful entrepreneurs

In addition to the author’s own advice, the book shares tips from the founders of The Better India. The entrepreneurs, a couple who were engineers, spotted an opportunity for a website providing positive stories of change, instead of the negative news dominating mainstream media.

Anuradha Kedia and Dhimant Parekh show that a successful venture can begin as a side project, but requires fulltime commitment later on. Their singular focus led to a growth opportunity and success, even in the face of critics and naysayers.

12. Measure outcomes

Based on her workshops, the author identifies a number of benefits that students reported. These include decision-making, taking responsibility and ownership, skills in listening and collaboration, ability to experiment and take risks, and appreciate the role of money in business.

The book ends with a glossary of terms, and links to resources and organisations such as National Entrepreneurship Network, Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India, Atal Innovation Mission, and Startup India.

In sum, the book offers a useful guide to those who want to start early in their entrepreneurial journeys, or educators, parents and entrepreneurship support organisations who want to empower the next generation.
Edited by Kanishk Singh