Gain exclusive insights into the future of Indian entrepreneurship with Dr. Satya Ranjan Acharya, Professor & Director at EDII. Discover expert perspectives, innovative strategies, and emerging trends shaping the entrepreneurial landscape in India.


In this exclusive interview series, we’re honoured to share our recent conversation with Dr. Satya Ranjan Acharya, a leading figure in entrepreneurship education. With a wealth of experience from the prestigious Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII), where he serves as Professor and Director, Dr. Acharya is renowned for his expertise in nurturing entrepreneurs and receiving accolades such as the National Teacher Award.

His impressive career includes affiliations with renowned Business Schools and participation in global programmes, demonstrating his deep understanding of entrepreneurship. Dr. Acharya’s passion lies in empowering entrepreneurs through innovative education and impactful projects, showcasing his commitment to driving change within entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Experience the invaluable insights and dedication of Dr. Satya Ranjan Acharya as we explore the future of Indian entrepreneurship and the realm of education. Join us on this enlightening journey as we delve into the expertise of Dr. Acharya. Catch the full interview exclusively on our PG YouTube channel.

Q1. In light of your 25+ year tenure within the education sector, which includes institutions such as JIMS,  IIM A & now as a professor at EDII, could you share with us the motivating factors that steered you  towards the path of academia?

My professional trajectory mirrors an academic odyssey enriched by experiential learning and active engagement within the entrepreneurial sphere. Originating from a corporate background, I  transitioned into academia, assuming the mantle of an educator adept at elucidating the intricacies of finance and accounting. The transition was not merely a career shift but a journey fuelled by feedback from students and validation from the academic community, reinforcing the substantive impact of pedagogical endeavours. 

Moreover, my academic tenure intertwined seamlessly with immersion into the entrepreneurial ecosystem, notably during the seminal phase of policy evolution in 2015. Collaborative endeavours with the burgeoning startup community unveiled profound insights into industry intricacies, fostering a dynamic dialogue between theory and practice. This symbiotic relationship between academia and entrepreneurship not only facilitated a nuanced understanding of contemporary socio-economic dynamics but also galvanised proactive advocacy for entrepreneurial initiatives. 

Consequently, this multifaceted engagement has not only fostered personal and professional growth but has also positioned me as a proactive contributor to the broader socioeconomic fabric. Grounded in academic rigour and fortified by practical experience, my journey underscores the symbiosis between education and entrepreneurial empowerment, epitomising the transformative potential inherent in interdisciplinary collaboration. 

Q2. What inspired your dedication to Entrepreneurship Education? Your impactful contributions in entrepreneurship, evident from your role as the KL Chair of Entrepreneurship at IIM A and your current position as a professor, highlight your expertise in the field. Additionally, what importance does education hold in fostering entrepreneurship?

In my journey through management education, I began with a background in this field and later joined Professor Anil Gupta’s KL chair of entrepreneurship at IIM Ahmedabad as a research fellow, focusing on grassroots entrepreneurs. I’ve categorised my entrepreneurship journey into three main stages. At the foundational level, we assist individuals aiming for sustainable livelihoods through business ventures. In the middle tier, we engage with small and medium enterprises, which constitute a significant portion of India’s business landscape, requiring varying degrees of technology and managerial support. At the top tier, we work with startups, often requiring advanced technology and strategic management. Regardless of the stage, all entrepreneurs need support and encouragement.

During my time at the business school, I got involved in entrepreneurship teaching through the National Entrepreneurship Network, conducting programmes in various institutions, which sparked my interest in the field. Subsequently, I explored the incubation ecosystem and innovation, leading me to join EDI and participate in academic programmes, short-term courses, and collaborative projects.

Currently, I’m engaged in both academic pursuits and direct interventions. One notable project is the Hastakala Setu Project of Govt of Gujarat, where we support artisans in branding, marketing, and accessing international markets to enhance their competitiveness. Additionally, I assist small-scale enterprises and micro-businesses in diversifying and expanding. I believe it’s crucial to equip the next generation with entrepreneurial skills, especially given the prevalence of small and medium enterprises in India.

Family businesses, which are integral to many regional economies, require special attention in succession planning and skill development for the next generation. Management education plays a vital role in nurturing entrepreneurial mindsets and managerial acumen, catering to startup enthusiasts, family business successors, and those seeking to enhance existing enterprises. My experiences with family businesses have provided valuable insights into their challenges and needs, motivating my entrepreneurial journey over the past seven years.

Q3. How should business schools blend traditional education with modern technology to better align with industry needs and demands for our MBA programme?

I believe that education plays a crucial role in helping individuals grasp the fundamental aspects of their field, with schooling itself being of paramount importance. Students can enhance their skills and deepen their understanding of business operations through various educational avenues, be it online platforms or offline programmes. Additionally, networking is an essential aspect. Engaging in structured academic programmes on campuses allows individuals to not only educate themselves but also to network with peers, groups, and mentors, gaining access to expertise that fosters their growth.

When these three components – education, skills enhancement, and networking – are combined and provided to students or participants, particularly those in startups, their potential for growth becomes significant. They learn how to become competitive within a shorter timeframe, avoiding the reliance solely on a limited pool of expertise and potentially overlooking similar efforts by others.

Observing various startups, it’s apparent that many face similar challenges within specific domains but may lack awareness of similar initiatives in different regions. By encouraging interaction among these entities through academic setups or other platforms, they can exchange ideas and learn from each other’s experiences. This exchange of ideas, often referred to as cross-pollination, is a valuable source of learning, highlighting the importance of education in promoting growth across startups and family businesses throughout India.

This interaction, supported by expert faculty or domain specialists, enriches students’ learning experiences, enabling them to implement their insights into their businesses effectively. Through this iterative process, learning becomes more robust and impactful.

Q4. In your opinion, what are the three key personality traits commonly observed in individuals pursuing the path of entrepreneurship that you consider essential for success in this field? 

Passion and commitment are frequently discussed topics, emphasising their importance in various endeavours. Personally, I strongly advocate for both. It’s essential to recognise the significance of divergent thinking, a trait commonly observed among entrepreneurs. Many individuals, including those I collaborate with, tend to navigate through different ventures rather than sticking to one path for an extended period. This flexibility often leads them to encounter challenges, prompting shifts or even drastic pivots.

Entrepreneurial success isn’t about following a linear trajectory of growth; it’s about being open to experimentation and embracing both success and failure. It is intriguing to observe how individuals engage in multiple endeavours simultaneously, starting from scratch and navigating them towards varying degrees of success or failure. The key lies in analysing the outcomes of these experiments and addressing specific issues they aim to solve.

Another aspect that fascinates me is how individuals perceive opportunities within the marketplace. Whether it’s addressing local or broader issues, such as the challenges faced on Indian roads due to poor adherence to traffic rules, there’s a subset of people who actively seek solutions rather than attributing blame to external factors.

For me, the entrepreneurial journey begins with identifying problems, assessing their scope, determining their solvability, and gauging the willingness of customers or stakeholders to pay for the solution. This understanding is fundamental when considering any business venture.

Q5. In what ways does EDII integrate innovation and technology into its Entrepreneurship Education curriculum? 

Understanding education’s core, it parallels management education since both offer accredited programmes regulated by AICTE. Thus, grasping management entails comprehending various aspects, such as marketing, finance, HR, and business principles, which remain consistent across educational domains. The divergence lies in applying these concepts, exemplified by differing approaches to analysing financial data between established and nascent companies. Entrepreneurial education becomes pivotal in discerning such nuances, elucidating the requisite insights for interpreting balance sheets at different stages of business growth.

Moreover, the application of concepts diverges markedly between established corporations and startups. While a marketing manager in a large company may conduct extensive market surveys and invest in brand enhancement, resource constraints compel startups to adopt more frugal strategies. Implementing the Student Entrepreneurship Policy of Govt of Gujarat in which students are trained and paid seed money to initiate their entrepreneurial journey.

Furthermore, technological literacy and industry comprehension form linchpins of entrepreneurial success. Education, particularly at institutions like EDI, encompasses the identification of opportunities across diverse industry verticals. Analysing macroeconomic policies, such as the government’s Gati Sakthi initiative, facilitates understanding sectoral dynamics and potential business avenues. By aligning with governmental initiatives and discerning industry trends, aspiring entrepreneurs can derive innovative ideas and capitalise on emerging opportunities.

In essence, entrepreneurial success hinges on the synthesis of macro trends, industry insights, and individual ingenuity. Institutions like EDI prioritise imparting knowledge of industry verticals and fostering technological acumen to equip students with the requisite tools for entrepreneurial endeavours.

Q6: Considering India’s substantial potential in the startup ecosystem, we see it as a promising region for entrepreneurial advancement. In your perspective, what disparity do you identify between the current education offered to aspiring entrepreneurs and the skills necessary for success in this rapidly evolving environment?

I contend that both scale and knowledge, particularly the attitude toward the scale of knowledge, are pivotal elements within the framework of KSF (Knowledge, Scale, Attitude). It is imperative to direct individual efforts towards measurable success metrics. Consequently, there is a growing emphasis on entrepreneurship across India. While entrepreneurship is extensively discussed, startup policies aim not only to incentivise individuals to initiate and develop businesses but also to foster a mindset inclined toward problem-solving, innovation, and adeptly addressing challenges. The objective is to illustrate how problem-solving approaches can organically evolve into sustainable business ventures over time. However, transitioning from an idea to a business venture entails a journey. Therefore, it is reasonable to anticipate that among, for instance, a group of 100 students exposed to entrepreneurship education, only a fraction—perhaps two, three, five, or ten—may eventually embark on establishing a business.

Looking ahead, we should perceive entrepreneurship as a mindset rather than merely a pathway to establishing businesses. It is imperative to engage in dialogues concerning problem-solving, opportunity identification, solution formulation, and idea experimentation at all educational levels, from school to college and beyond. Encouraging students to passionately tackle the challenges faced by the country or market with innovative ideas, often characterised as “thinking outside the box,” is paramount. This approach mirrors Thomas Alva Edison’s method of innovation. Delving into his myriad of endeavours, we find numerous unsuccessful attempts preceding a breakthrough, such as the invention of the electric bulb. His unwavering dedication and contribution to the electric bulb underscore the significance of perseverance and experimentation.

Consequently, entrepreneurship should be ingrained as a mindset—a journey encapsulating problem-solving and innovation. Educators play a crucial role in nurturing this mindset among students. Therefore, faculty members need to receive training in guiding and inspiring students. The symbiotic relationship between faculty and students holds the potential to yield remarkable outcomes across various domains.

Q7. From your perspective, what are the top three critical factors that MBA aspirants should consider when selecting a business school? 

Management education encompasses various crucial factors that significantly impact an individual’s academic and professional journey. Firstly, institute ranking serves as a pivotal parameter in attracting top-tier companies for recruitment, thereby enhancing career prospects. Additionally, the quality of a school’s network and the calibre of its faculty are fundamental considerations. A robust network facilitates valuable connections, while experienced faculty members play a vital role in delivering subject matter expertise and fostering intellectual growth. 

Moreover, the dynamics of the peer group are essential for creating a conducive learning environment characterised by intellectual discourse and collaborative learning experiences. Institutions that prioritise continuous learning and offer support for professional development contribute to students’  long-term success. However, it’s essential to recognise that while these external factors are significant,  personal effort and dedication ultimately determine individual growth and success. Commitment to continuous learning, proactive engagement with course material, and application of concepts in real-world scenarios are indispensable for realising one’s potential and maximising the benefits of management education. 

Q8. In your view, what are the three dimensions for assessing success, whether it pertains to personal or professional endeavours?

I refrain from delving into personal success, as it varies greatly within this context. However, from a professional standpoint, I firmly believe in the significance of contribution. While this is my personal philosophy, I acknowledge that perspectives may differ. Personally, I find immense satisfaction in contributing to my country, community, or group. The nature of my contribution holds paramount importance to me. Whether it’s facilitating personal growth, aiding around 100 individuals in securing their livelihoods or meeting the needs of customers, each endeavour adds to my sense of fulfilment. While metrics of success may vary from individual to individual, establishing targets for contributing to the community or group is indispensable.

In discussions, I often pose similar questions to students. What proportion of India’s population do we, as management students or individuals pursuing education, represent? When factoring in elements such as education, income, and age, what percentage do we occupy among the top 1%, 5%, or 10%? Factors such as proficiency in technology markets, academic excellence from prestigious institutions, and socioeconomic backgrounds all play a role in this evaluation. If those who are educated and skilled fail to address the nation’s challenges, how can we expect others to do so? Armed with knowledge, vitality, and youth, it is incumbent upon us to utilise these resources for the greater good.

Individuals must discern their potential contributions to their country and community. While this may seem philosophical, it is imperative to contemplate actions beyond mere financial gains. For instance, advocating for waste segregation in our localities or addressing broader societal issues in India. It encompasses a commitment to societal well-being and sustainability, thereby ensuring a brighter future for succeeding generations. True success transcends monetary wealth or social status; it lies in effecting meaningful change in society. Through diligence and dedication, financial success may ensue, but genuine fulfilment arises from making a positive impact beyond personal interests.

Q9. What guidance or recommendations would you offer to MBA aspirants who are considering applying to the EDII for the upcoming admissions cycle? 

The common desire among aspiring entrepreneurs to initiate startups underscores the significance of understanding key considerations, whether through structured programmes or independent pursuits.

  • One prevalent dilemma revolves around the decision to commence entrepreneurship immediately or after accruing substantial industry experience. Individuals often debate the merits of launching ventures after four to five years of industry immersion, leveraging gained insights and financial stability for entrepreneurial endeavours. 
  • Another focal point pertains to the role of education in entrepreneurial success. While many startups initially prioritise problem-solving, the imperative of comprehending evolving business processes becomes apparent as ventures expand. This necessitates a balance between practical experience and formal education to navigate complex operational landscapes effectively. 
  • Forming and managing cohesive teams emerges as a critical challenge, with many entrepreneurial ventures facing internal discord or trust deficits among members. Cultivating teamwork skills and continuously enhancing individual proficiencies constitute imperative strategies for sustaining organisational coherence and productivity. 
  • The convergence of business acumen and operational efficacy emerges as a foundational principle in enhancing the viability and longevity of startups, underscoring the pivotal role of holistic skill integration in entrepreneurial endeavours. 

Q10. If you had to explain what is entrepreneurship in less than 10 words? 

Entrepreneurship isn’t merely a set of skills; it’s fundamentally a behavioural matter. 

Our mission is to nurture entrepreneurial behaviour, not just create entrepreneurs overnight. We focus on instilling problem-solving skills, a risk-taking mindset, and market understanding. These qualities empower individuals to identify opportunities, create value, and succeed in business ventures.  Ultimately, our goal is to cultivate a proactive approach to problem-solving and opportunity seizing,  laying the foundation for entrepreneurial success.  

As we come to the conclusion, it cannot be overstated the profound impact that has been wrought upon our understanding of Entrepreneurship Education by the insights and experiences shared by Dr.  Satya Ranjan Acharya. Throughout the course of today’s interview, pathways for aspiring entrepreneurs to navigate the intricate landscape of business innovation have been illuminated by Dr.  Acharya’s exemplary career trajectory and unwavering commitment to nurturing entrepreneurial talent. 

In the tapestry of his illustrious career, Dr. Acharya’s depth of knowledge, international exposure, and active involvement in transformative projects have painted a portrait of a true trailblazer in the field.  His leadership in academia, coupled with his engagement in government-sponsored initiatives, serves as a testament to his dedication to instigating tangible change within entrepreneurial ecosystems. As we deliberate on candidates for our MBA programme, it is imperative to consider Dr. Acharya’s multifaceted contributions, which stand as a testament to the transformative potential of higher education. His vision for sustainable economic growth, intertwined with his practical insights into entrepreneurship development, seamlessly aligns with our programme’s mission to cultivate future business leaders. 

In conclusion, the admissions committee is urged to reflect upon the invaluable perspectives shared by Dr. Satya Ranjan Acharya today. His unwavering passion, expertise, and commitment to excellence render him not only a compelling candidate for our MBA programme but also an inspiring role model for aspiring entrepreneurs globally. Gratitude is extended for the privilege of engaging with such a remarkable individual, and anticipation is high for the continued positive impact he will undoubtedly wield in the realm of Entrepreneurship Education.

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