Over the last fifteen days I have been having frequent and intense interactions with the group that I love spending time most – students. I interacted, discussed and debated over these days with them on a variety of topics around entrepreneurship. What impressed me was the high degree of enthusiasm, interest and fire to achieve something beyond the ordinary. Most of them had great ideas and a large group of them had also started piloting their ideas as ventures on campus.
When I participated in a panel discussion on the same subject the questions posed by these young minds were pointed and deep. Even during my intense two day workshop on business design the sustained level of motivation of students even towards the end of the second day surprised me.
Why then is there so much discussion amongst the teaching and mentoring community about the need to motivate these students? What greater than this intrinsic motivation can we feed to this Gen-Y?
However it is also true that somewhere this enthusiasm in entrepreneurship is not getting translated into real action. What then is stopping this group from taking that bold step in becoming entrepreneurs? While a number of reasons such as lack of funds, experience etc. can be readily sighted, I disagree by categorising the above as plain vanilla excuses. Let me expound this further.
Anyone watching these youngsters will agree on one thing that this Gen-Y are not characterised by inaction. Very often we have seen them go on to garner resources, support, funds, friends and tools that we thought were far beyond their reach. They have broken many of our accepted limits of performance and possibilities. They are innovative, motivated and result driven – however only on those things where they are convinced. When they decide the end is worth it – they have the drive to figure the means.
Today when you notice the effort in the ecosystem to expose the young minds to entrepreneurship – the energy we are expending is directed primarily at motivating and energizing them. The thrill of the journey is spoken more than the end result (achievement, contribution, wealth creation, recognition etc). Except for making feeble attempt at appealing to their emotions; we are not providing them with a strong enough case to pursue entrepreneurship. This is where the weakness is.
In my view, the singular factor that can catalyze their jump to entrepreneurship is inspiration.
Inspiration cannot be drawn only from the stories of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. They need to be shown Indian success stories of the likes of Narayana Murthy, Dhirubhai Ambani, Karsenbhai patel etc. But even more importantly they need to be exposed to the regional-local stories which may not yet be popular; but with whom the students would find easier to relate.
Since these local entrepreneurs would have started and grown their enterprise amidst the same conditions and constraints – it will provide inspiration of the highest order. When the students constantly listen to only examples from west and exceptions from India, their logical minds start weighing the possibility of success.
If one can inspire them with the thought that while it is fine for all to aspire to become Narayana Murthy, there are many business owners who have created profitable and sustainable socio-economic ecosystem – supporting multiple families, creating and sharing wealth in many planes right from their locality, who they can also become. All these examples are not for pure emulation – but to provide the needed inspiration at multiple levels. Inspiration then also needs to be sustained by constant interactions with such entrepreneurial minds. And this will be extremely powerful once again if they are local!
Once these young minds are inspired by the larger end – I am confident that they will work out the means to achieve it.
All our hopes for a stronger and younger entrepreneurial India can come ONLY if we start inspiring our already motivated Gen-Y. Do we actually have another choice?