Are Startup events the new Reality Shows?

A student of mine recently wrote to me saying he was surprised that most of the B-Plan competition winners failed to start or failed after starting. He looked back at one award winning B-Plan presentation and found that even he (a nascent entrepreneur) could easily locate significant gaps in its business model. What surprised him was that none of the jury asked him anything related to that. They were enamoured by his presentation. That boy, encouraged by the jury and the award went on to start the business and eventually failed.

Could this unnecessary failure been stopped? Is it the responsibility of those who sit in the jury to be critical? But then how will these competitions run? Events are a part of the show business, “show” is critical.

His mail reminded me of a Reality Show on TV for identifying super singers. On one such final the boy who delivered the best performance did not come first. It was the one who got the maximum votes from the public (the most popular one) who came in first. One of the famous singers who was on the jury came to the stage and said something like this to the that boy who sang well and did not win “You may not have won the title today, but remember you are a real super singer.” And if I am not wrong he also offered him a chance to sing in one of his upcoming movies.

This is what I told my student – Please understand that the business model of events and reality shows is to create hype and raise emotions. It thrives on populism. Though they call themselves “Reality Shows” the only thing missing is “Reality”. So be wary! But remember that they are important and have their place in any entrepreneurship ecosystem! Make use of these events if they can help you, but don’t spend your life trying to be the new actor on stage.

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If you are an entrepreneur

You will not be reaching out to people and programs to find out if you are one. You will simply begin acting on opportunities. Once you realise you need to grind your axe, you will then find the right people and programs to support you.

The one who searches for programs to attempt becoming one will probably never become one. The one who becomes will naturally gravitate towards the right people he or she needs to become even more successful.

Entrepreneurship education must look at contributing at all levels:

  • Providing inspiration
  • Providing tools and techniques to start
  • Providing methods to sustain
  • Providing approaches to scale

Entrepreneurship research is growing leaps and bounds. Sadly, much of this research remains hidden from entrepreneurs. This I believe is due to the entrepreneurship educators who do not soak themselves in the literature before delivering their classes.

If you are an entrepreneur and wish to hone your entrepreneurial skills, then search for the right program and constantly evaluate the value of your skills – are you improving and in effect, is your enterprise growing? If yes, continue, else quit and find the next person or program.

Good Luck with your entrepreneuring!

How are you finding opportunities?

Having been involved in ‘entrepreneurship education’ for close to a decade, I can tell you one thing — the weakest part of any entrepreneurship program is the ‘opportunity’ piece. Let me illustrate with a recent experience.

I met up with a few students who had undergone a complete year of entrepreneurship education. They had to do a two month market research on a product / service and write up a report. Based on the discussions with their faculty, they narrowed upon two ideas: (i) food distribution and (ii) nutrition bars. After worrying about how to go about doing a market research, they walked up to me (not sure why!), and asked ‘Sir, can you help us choose one of the two ideas?’ I did what I normally do – asked how they arrived at these two ideas / opportunities? They said many things but ultimately accepted that it was through ‘imagination’. So what they basically now wanted to do was ‘validate’ (which meant) ‘prove’ that their idea / opportunity was worth creating a business on. I spent the next 30 minutes explaining to them why this was wholly wrong. The surprising part – the two kids quickly latched on the idea of searching for opportunities, rather than spending two months validating one. My belief that students are really smart was proven once again.

How do you (aspiring entrepreneurs) find opportunities?

Opportunities can be either created or discovered. Discovery means going out to the world and identifying gaps. Creation means coming up with a need/want that is not yet felt. As an entrepreneur you got to choose which route you wish to take to finding opportunities. My rule of thumb is – if you are trying to figure out which route, take ‘discovery’.

Discovering opportunities means finding out gaps. The easiest ways to begin is to start out by identifying gaps in the industry side or the market side. On the industry side one can quickly draw out the value chain and start looking at ways to fill / improve / disrupt / etc what exists. On the market side, one can identify which needs are not fulfilled, which are underserved, and what can be better delivered. While none of these are exhaustive ways to locating opportunities, it is a good beginning.

My advice to these students was – identify a sector of your choice (interest); look at it deeply from either the industry side and/or market side; use all available secondary information first; identify and speak to at least 30 people involved in the sector; analyse all the information; and create a list of 25 hot opportunities in the sector. Create the report.

Do you think they will have spent their summer usefully?

Do you think they will have located more opportunities than they knew off before?

Do you think this is a better way to deliver entrepreneurship education than quickly fixing the idea and evaluating / validating it?

Share you thoughts! It matters!

Quality of Counsel and Decisions

I have seen number of leaders, especially young entrepreneurs, at close quarters. This gives me a ground-zero view to their decisions. In recent times I have also had the fortune of seeing how some senior leaders make decisions.

Based on the above experiences I have noticed that almost everyone (young or old) seek the counsel of those they have access too. Every one of us has a counsel, a set of wise people (they come in all sizes and shapes) who we reach out to when we require inputs And their inputs have a strong influence on our decisions. So we can safely assume that the quality of our decisions have a strong correlation to the quality of our counsel.

But who forms this counsel? We! So it is up to us to attract the wisest people we can on our counsel. But this is where most of us falter – we appoint people who kind of agree with us or people who always tell us what we want to hear or even worse people who please us all the time. If you suffer from this challenge – don’t bother much about decision making; focus more on changing your counsel.

If you have the courage to keep wise people on your counsel and take their inputs honestly; you may lose a battle or two; but never the war of life.

Think about it!

World Book Day 2017

Happy World Book Day!

While almost every day on the calendar has a reason for celebration – today is special. Because if you do ‘celebrate reading’ on this day, even a little, it can open you to a whole new world. The world will never be the same again!

I love books. I am glad that I got so many of my students (over the past year) to read books. On this day, I wish and pray that they keep this habit going, so that they will be constantly exposed to so many more worlds that exist in this world.

Happy to be a book lover. I will buy one more book today. WiI will also gift one to another.

Celebrate Reading!

National Digital Library of India

I love books. I love to read. I love to teach. And so I am always in search of good materials and sources of new materials.

But when I speak to faculty during my faculty development programs and otherwise, one common complaint is that they do not have access to good resources. They provide a number of reasons – lack of funding, lack of management interest to invest, lack of direction, lack of readership amongst others.

When I came across this new initiative by IIT Kharaghpur with support from MHRD, I was impressed. At least some of these challenges of faculty members will be resolved. Once you register you will have access to a large collection of resources. Hope the two institutions above will do even better and increase the collection, especially in the area of innovation, technology and entrepreneurship.

Until then please log in and enjoy a whole range of good quality materials.

Link: https://ndl.iitkgp.ac.in

Attending the 4th PAN IIM Conference at IIM Ahmedabad

It was good being there at the Fourth PAN IIM World Management Conference held between 13-15 December 2016 at IIM Ahmedabad. Out of about 850 submissions, less than 200 were chosen for presentation (paper presentation and poster presentation sessions). I was one of those 150-odd individuals to have their paper selected for presentation!!

Over the three days we met a number of senior professors from various disciplines within management. It was good catching up with number of doctoral students and candidates from institutes across India. It did help presenting my ideas at the conference and have some informal discussions around them.

I had people who simply thought what I was doing was ridiculous, some rubbished me and my work, some gave me encouragement, some showed interest and a few definitely did discuss future possibilities around my topic. It showed how and why academics (industry) is just like other sectors – filled with human beings of all kinds!! Nothing is different in education, though one would expect it to be (remember, holy profession!).

As one who loves teaching and research, I believe that there is tremendous opportunity for young scholars to make a mark in the Indian Higher Education industry – big changes taking place in disciplines, new disciplines emerging, people caught up in old ways of thinking, expanding universities/institutes (IIT, IIM, etc) creating fresh demands, and pockets across disciplines where the average scholarly output is really low. Any young and emerging scholar should see this as a great opportunity, act with entrepreneurial zeal and establish themselves firmly in their domains of interest. Considering the fact that India is being seen as the future land of opportunities and accepting the fact that the world wants to know more about India and Indian management, time is ripe for us to research, write and teach from here.

Let us (scholars) make use of this golden opportunity.

Think about it.