By: Prof. Sidharth Shankar Tripathy, Director of Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Professor of Practice in Entrepreneurship at SRM University AP
For the first time since the genesis of universities in the educational landscape of India, their role beyond providing education and degrees is under serious scrutiny. Several pertinent questions have arisen: Should Indian universities be producing more job creators than job seekers? How can Indian universities produce student entrepreneurs on their campuses who could create companies like Google, Facebook, Reddit, Snapchat, Microsoft, or FedEx? What should Indian universities do to become entrepreneurship and innovation hubs like Stanford, Harvard, or MIT? How can Indian universities become a critical agent of national competitiveness, economic growth, and wealth creation in the post-modern digital world? But first, let’s be clear why India needs entrepreneurial universities!
With a median age of 28 and about 65% under 35, India’s 1.4 billion population includes over 910 million millennials and Gen Z—the world’s largest. They have ideas, creativity, and great energy but are lacking in the entrepreneurship mindset and skills to make India a surplus nation of producers rather than consumers. Technology adoption in India is happening at an exponential rate, while academia is evolving at a longer pace. Indian universities, therefore, have to transform into more agile and intrapreneurial organizations.
India is not only the most populous country but also a country with one of the highest levels of social inequity. The only sustainable way to address this double-edged challenge is to create entrepreneurial universities that can work as organic incubators for ideas to be turned into social ventures. Five Key Strategies to Make an Entrepreneurial University.
Strategy 1: Look for ‘entrepreneurship potential at the source’
Indian universities need to go to the source of the raw entrepreneurial energy, which could be found inside the classrooms of about 1.5 million schools spread all over the country. A recent case-in-point: the leadership team of SRM AP, an emerging university based in Andhra Pradesh, spent two full days brainstorming with school leaders across India about ways to mine for entrepreneurship potential at early stages in the schools.
Strategy 2: Treat ‘entrepreneurs as the first citizens’ of the university.
Universities need to celebrate entrepreneurs and raise the profile of entrepreneurship as a noble career avenue since entrepreneurs, as problem solvers, could address the pain points of millions of people and organizations. And it is equally important that entrepreneurs realize their responsibilities towards society. Hence, entrepreneurial universities need to administer a professional oath of entrepreneurship (just like doctors do) to all their students, irrespective of their faculty, upon joining the university.
Strategy 3: ‘Drip Education of Parents’ to Transform them into Allies
Universities across India hardly engage with parents after a student is admitted. At the same time, parents are exposed to a myriad range of information about VCs, unicorn start-ups, failed start-ups, etcetera that leaves them rather confused. So, to position entrepreneurship as a sound career choice, universities will have to make sure that the parent community is subjected to continuous education about entrepreneurship as a career avenue. Just like Israel produced a huge amount of patents using drip irrigation, entrepreneurial universities in India can similarly create a large number of parent-backed entrepreneurs using drip education (neither too little nor too overwhelming) from parents.
Strategy 4: Train all educators to ‘teach entrepreneurially’.
It’s not feasible to develop our students’ ability to think critically, undertake complex problem solving, and lead with an entrepreneurial mindset by offering a few stand-alone entrepreneurship courses or by deploying a few entrepreneurship professors. On the contrary, every faculty member in an entrepreneurial university should be trained to design and deliver all courses and programs in an entrepreneurial manner. For example, with proper training, a music teacher at an entrepreneurial university can teach everything about music while also transferring entrepreneurial skills about productizing, versioning, and building a music venture.
Strategy 5: Entrepreneurial University as an ‘Angel Investor’
Millions of young students dreaming to make the next Google, Facebook, or Microsoft feel lonely and singularly unfortunate, as Indian society, including teachers and parents, likes to play the role of a ‘Devil’s Advocate’ about the risks involved in entrepreneurship. Well, the interesting thing about a ‘Devil’ is that it doesn’t let others do anything, and about ‘Advocates’ is that they only talk and never really do anything. Ordinary students will turn into extraordinary entrepreneurs only when society and parents stop being the devil’s advocates and become angels who invest hope, celebrate failures, and shower respect on entrepreneurs, and last but not least, when entrepreneurial universities become the very first angel investors for all the ventures created on their campuses.
It is worth mentioning here that, despite just being 6 years old, SRM University AP has announced 2023 as a year of entrepreneurship and has committed to investing in every single venture that is conceived and incubated on its campus. The audacious goal of Vision India@2047 will be achievable only when young and entrepreneurial universities like SRM University Andhra Pradesh become a role model for the 1200 odd universities spread across India.
Prof. Sidharth Shankar Tripathy (The author is a parallel entrepreneur and is currently the Director of Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Professor of Practice in Entrepreneurship at SRM University AP.)
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