Saturday, April 26, 2008

The difficulties of an inhospitable environment

During a recent visit to a nodal institution, my colleague and I had the good fortune of spending the day with an experienced manager of their 'Technology Business Incubator'. They are one of India's top private engineering colleges and so it could be expected that their students are similarly bright, well supported by their families and have the drive to become successes.

The discussion turned to the difficulties of making these students into entrepreneurs. Our host began telling us the realities of working with students nearing graduation and how difficult it was to get students to consider trying to launch a business fresh out of university. He told of us the pressures they face from their families who most often want them to take the stable and lucrative salaries being offered by IT companies. He told us of the pressure from peers and friends to accept a respected job obtained under intense competition, when the alternative offers no guarantees. He told us about the way that failure is viewed -- a failure venture would lead to the promoter himself being labelled a failure, difficulties in getting married and difficulties in obtaining future employment.

We thought a lot about this and ways that we could help to make the environment for innovators and entrepreneurs more hospitable. As we walked and discussed, we came across the career placement office with a raft of bulletins discussing the year's placement activity. Prominent in the notices was one from the Dean, calling on students to repay the faith that their families, friends, the institution and God himself had placed in the students by accepting the first employment offer which came their way.

It became clear to us that the environment for innovators and entrepreneurs must be improved.

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