“Entrepreneurship” and “Start-ups” are the buzzwords today. Words like Unicorn have become part of common parlance and many users wouldn’t know that it originally referred to a mythical creature. Successful start-ups are most storied, and the founders are the new poster faces of a resurgent India. Rightly so. One common factor between our start-up “unicorns” and successful sportspersons is…they did it on their own, inspite of and not because of the system.
Nothing succeeds like success, and like the sudden surge in young sports enthusiasts, there is a surge of aspiring entrepreneurs. The problem faced by them all is the same…. “where is the system?”. Like the mushrooming of sports academies, a start-up ecosystem has emerged in the form of incubators and accelerators, offering crash courses in entrepreneurship. Some of them have strong credentials but are equally selective accepting their participants and are highly sector specific. Unlike access to other professional courses, access to a foundational entrepreneur ecosystem is not available. Criteria for access to incubators are quite subjective and good mentors are available only to “good” start-ups. By that standard, all engineering colleges other than IITs should shut down.
The fast mushrooming communities on website, FB and Whatsapp based start-up “platforms” offering piece-meal advisory and short duration workshops are filling the vacuum created by the lack of structured systems. Existing government supported business incubators and hubs are not enough. Networking events with talks and one-time linkages to mentors are the norm. There is a certain “yuppiness” that has entered the start-up ecosystem, with a prevalence of a party environment. Unfortunately, almost anybody can call themselves a “start-up mentor”. Start-up meets are more about event management than empowering content. The low success rate of funding on demo-days is testimony to the above. Institutional seed funding is rare.
Such “ad-hocism” needs to be replaced with a strong institutionalised, structured education in Entrepreneurship. Entrepreneur development in colleges has taken root, however, it is an addition to the curriculum, and has met with limited success. Business schools for entrepreneurship with uniquely designed syllabus, incubation facilities and access to seed funding are the need of the hour. Such schools will also meet the intrapreneur requirement of employers. The ecosystem must reach out to all and not be the prerogative of a few “good” start-ups. The stars will always shine; however, we must provide the opportunity for all to become stars. An institutionalised college-based system is the right alternative to the current coaching class pattern of entrepreneur development.