Currently several academic institutions all over India are offering a full-time course on entrepreneurship. Mostly, these programmes leave a lot to be desired. In many cases, they are nothing better that a repackaged, or even a diluted, MBA. There have been a few serious attempts to create a curriculum for entrepreneurs but we still have a long way to go.
There are three basic elements of entrepreneurship education. First is introduction to the basics of business and management that are particularly relevant to the entrepreneur, such as reading a balance sheet, planning for inventory and such. Second are the general principles of entrepreneurship, which can be chiefly presented by recounting stories of past entrepreneurial successes and failures. Third is exposure to new business opportunities and ideas. Entrepreneurial success cannot be guaranteed just by equipping the potential entrepreneur with a set of tools; it will only serve to improve the chances of success. It is also important to pass on venture-specific knowledge to budding entrepreneurs.
It is important to understand that entrepreneurship education is not necessarily confined to a classroom. While conducting First Dot, a nationwide campus entrepreneurship competition, the National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN) found that entrepreneurship education is most effective when it is combined with other elements like b-plan competitions, entrepreneurship clubs, incubation facilities, internship at startups and guest lectures by entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurship education lends itself well to being included in an MBA curriculum. Contrary to popular belief, a large number of MBAs are actually setting up their own businesses. Surveys have estimated that about thirty per cent of MBAs from premier B-schools end up starting their own business within twenty years of completing their MBA.
Engineering colleges are probably even better places to find potential entrepreneurs. They have bright ideas and are usually not bogged down by huge student education loans. They are willing to strike out and try something for a few years. In case things don’t work out they can always do an MBA and get back into the corporate workforce.
The process of creating entrepreneurs cannot be left till the potential entrepreneur starts college. Entrepreneurship education should be made an integral part of school education. The objective should not be to make all students entrepreneurs but to identify the ones with an entrepreneurial aptitude and provide opportunities for those students to develop their entrepreneurial skills in a structured manner. There are no well established ways to do that. Though there have been some tentative steps forward in the US and in the Scandinavian countries, it is too early to assess the impact of the initiatives. In the Indian context, it is very clear that we need many more entrepreneurs than we are currently producing. High economic growth can only be sustained with a steady flow of new ventures.