Management education is often considered as a double-edged sword when one tries to critically evaluate its impact in nurturing entrepreneurial spirit. On one hand it supports young minds having entrepreneurial mindset to refine their venture ideas, develop understanding of various aspects of running a business and build networks. On the other hand, it hinders them in taking the plunge by offering good placement opportunities and inducing them to dream about safe havens and a rewarding career path. A good business school will navigate its role balancing these conflicting objectives to achieve both – nurture entrepreneurial dreams and ensure that they are supported holistically to grow fast, and healthy. All processes of the management school from student admission, induction, creation of course curriculum, delivery, extra-curricular activities and final placements are geared to achieve this mission.
The current young generation is influenced by successful entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and Narayana Murthy, or new age entrepreneurs such as Byju Raveendran. They keenly follow their live stories, cherish their achievements, and understand the value they have created for their stakeholders and the society. It is heartening to see that they are equally enamoured by the leading social entrepreneurs such as Muhammad Yunus, Dr. Verghese Kurien and Ela Bhatt among others. Their examples act as a daily dose of classroom discussion in almost all the important courses such as economics, finance, strategy, marketing, operations or human resource management to name a few. They are a great way to understand the application of management theories, warm up the class participation and induce students to find innovative solutions to a given problem.
The MBA program content has discussions on the self-employed, micro, not-for-profit & small and large organizations providing a smorgasbord of examples for reflection. Learning is application oriented with a combination of academic theory & new knowledge supported by case studies, simulations, and internships among others which are useful inputs in being an entrepreneur. Outside class, they are encouraged to obtain live projects and participate in competitions, providing a fertile ground to learn & network. The courses address business uncertainty, forecast market trends, navigate resource constraints, and understand lean philosophies providing business challenges thus creating a holistic business perspective.
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Student life includes voluntary membership to committees a key component of enterprising emotion and learning through real-life practices. It helps create a bias for action, a trait noticed in entrepreneurs. Hence it is safe to claim that entrepreneurship is integrated in the management curriculum.
Though the question remains to be seen if entrepreneurship can be learned at all? The question gains relevance as many successful entrepreneurs are either school dropouts or have started their ventures at an early age. The belief is that an entrepreneurial mindset can be learned and is useful both for a startup & intrapreneurship in existing organizations. Also, the urge to start-up can begin whilst on campus, immediately afterwards or later in the future.
A rising trend noticed is that an increasing number of management aspirants desire to start their own venture, and gain autonomy. A robust entrepreneurship campus eco-system includes exposure to the life of an entrepreneur through books, articles, guest lectures, immersions, meeting successful entrepreneurs, analyzing cases studies, setting up campus companies and learning by doing. Introduction to alumni entrepreneurs’ journeys enhances the learning. The management curriculum is also changing proactively to meet the changing aspirations of the students. New courses such as design thinking, new venture marketing, new venture investment, creativity and innovation, or social entrepreneurship, are being introduced to provide exposure related to the opportunities and challenges in the exciting world of venture creation. The presence of entrepreneurship cells which conduct idea pitch and business plan competitions, and incubation centers broadens entrepreneurial imagination. Leading institutions provide mentor support through alumni networks and placement sabbaticals which create a foundation to entrepreneurial success.
The focus of learning and assessment is also undergoing changes. Entrepreneurship thrives on teamwork, building relationships with customers, strategic partners, and investors. Current pedagogies emphasize on team performance rather than individual performance.
At the K J Somaiya Institute of Management, the endeavour is to build a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem through engaging the young minds in, and outside the classroom discussions, conducting workshops and training programmes, providing experiential learning experience through live projects, working with startups, encouraging them to join various students’ committees to get hands on experience of running a business, associating them with campus incubator – “RiiDL” and building networks.
Lastly the MBA degree is not critical for entrepreneurial success rather it is a place where students can experiment, learn through their experiences & those of others providing an edge over others. The dream is to nurture the next unicorns in the future!
Authors: Dr. Radha Iyer & Dr. Prema Basargekar