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Marketers at War

Biting the entrepreneurial bug

Whether or not they ultimately take up entrepreneurship as a career, B-schools must ensure that they firmly ingrain a culture of entrepreneurship in their students.

Ashish Kumar 21 August 2012

Are you also one of those who have taken down volumes of notes, sitting in a packed auditorium in their “entrepreneurship” lecture during their B school days? Now think of Richard Branson a dyslexic in childhood days who only attended school till the age of 16. The Founder & Chairman of the Virgin group has an estimated worth of $4.2 billion (Forbes 2012), and epitomises entrepreneurship to the core. And he is not an isolated instance of individuals who were unsuccessful academically, but rocked in the big, bad world of business. Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Darwin Deason, Roman Abramovich, Gautam Adani, Dhirubhai Ambani, the list is long.

A very tempting argument is that education bears little correlation with successful entrepreneurship. And while taking notes in your class, the very thought would have crossed your mind as well. The truth is that while consolidation of years of entrepreneurial knowledge based on extensive research and real life experiences that is imparted in B-Schools gives you an invaluable headstart, entrepreneurship education is woefully inadequate sans a practical orientation.

Some of the world's leading B-schools are attempting to inculcate this practical orientation in a number of ways. Babson college assigns you $3000 at the start of the year to conceptualize, start and run a real business in an attempt to understand the challenges and the excitement involved. At the end of the year, your performance is measured by the profits you have earned while the money goes for charity. Prof Shahid Ansari from Babson says, “Entrepreneurship is a totally action oriented subject, which needs more to be lived than to be studied in the classrooms. We do have theory classes, but the emphasis is on real time attempts and donating their hard earned money to a charity foundation also establishes a true sense of social responsibility in the minds of future business leaders.” Harvard provides a course titled The Entrepreneurial Manager in the first year and has 30 entrepreneurial elective courses. Besides, it also has a FIELD course, where students practically learn how to start and grow a micro business. Looking back home, a 2011 strategy workshop conducted at Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management in Mumbai asked students to ponder over a strategy problem and rather than finding out the solution, they were asked to bring out three alternative ways in which they could see the situation going wrong. Commenting upon the same, a professor from the college who did not wish to be named said, “The attempt is to divert the minds of students from regular ways of thinking so that they are able to respond to unexpected situations with much ease.”

As B-school education consistently endeavors to stay abreast with the changing business environment, the ability to create a true business leader who ensures long term sustainability and not just an employee who emulates the status quo will prove to be a key differentiator. Entrepreneurial education is a must for both potential entrepreneurs as well as practicing managers in organisations, since it can provide them with the courage and the wherewithal to shake up things when needed as well as successfully initiate new entrepreneurial initiatives from within the organisation. So for those B-schools who haven't yet given their entrepreneurship courses a rethink, the time to do so is now!



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