Students and Startups

Recently I conducted couple of bootcamps for student entrepreneurs, one in Chennai and the other at Jaipur. Between the two groups I had close to 40 student startups. Each of them founded by full time students of either engineering, arts, commerce or management courses. Predominant part of the group were pursuing their undergraduate degrees. While a few were from the premier institutions, many came in from unheard of institutions. I was thrilled not just by the diversity and breadth of the ideas, but by the sheer boldness to start a company while on campus. One company has built a fuel efficient car, another a personal fashion stylist, a biotech solution to neutralizing pollutants, sharing commerce starts, revolutionizing adventure amongst others. I was stunned by the innovative solutions that these young minds had come up with. But what amazed me was their sheer entrepreneurial zeal to get out of college with exams round the corner. What could be driving this phenomenon?

In India this was unheard of even a few years ago. Entrepreneurship was not encouraged either by teachers or colleges. Parents abhorred it and did not want their wards to even be close to such characters, let alone try it themselves. But all this is changing! But with the web in their palms, online courses from the best teachers in the world available for free, and practically every piece of information accessible in a few minutes if not seconds, students have been unleashed. They are now experiencing freedom at the level of information. They are exposed to the latest and this is inspiring them to try their hands at it too. When a student like them can do it in another part of the world, why not me is the question that’s doing the rounds. Where I am does not matter anymore, what I do does said a student, coming from a tier-3 (if there is one like that) college.

The education systems are still archaic and not a day passes without we hearing the need for a revolution in India’s education system. While we all wait for the policy makers to bring out this much needed revamping, I think we are on the brink of an upheaval. An upheaval that will make the policy follow the effect. Students are no more waiting to gain approval from their parents and teachers to set up their firms. Like the recent Idea advertisement where a son shows his new drone to his dad, students are now showing their parents results. Will parents be able to stop them after they have won?

Students and startups are not unrelated anymore. They are very much a trend in the making. We are going to see students turn successful entrepreneurs right in the college. All these are the triggers for the much needed change in education. It will change education and eventually society at large. Watch out for student startups!

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