Indian Education – Lots to change

Three news items I read in the past few weeks gave me a feeling of how much Indian Education needs to change if it has to truly live its purpose. Here are the three points:

  1. At the Policy Level: Rajya Sabha roll call: Only 37 out of 245 MPs were present for debate on education. Link: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/rajya-sabha-roll-call-only-37-out-of-245-mps-were-present-for-debate-on-education-2786597/
  2. At the Leadership Level: Under cloud for long, Pondicherry University vice-chancellor Chandra Krishnamurthy resigns. Link: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/under-cloud-for-long-pondicherry-university-vice-chancellor-chandra-krishnamurthy-resigns-2794418/
  3. At the Execution Level: EdTech Startup Purple Squirrel shutdown. Link: https://inc42.com/buzz/purple-squirrel-shuts-down/

While the above news items are only a sample of what probably appeared in the papers over the last fortnight, I believe it is indicative of how much needs to change. So, I don’t want you to look at it as negative news, but as changes that are needed if we want to see the sector contribute to its potential.

India is a land of intellectual potential. But research and teaching are lagging. How do we resurrect Indian Education to its original glory? Simply by giving it, its due at every level. At the policy level we need our leaders to take education very seriously. They need to spend more time discussing (progressively) how to take education forward. At the Leadership level, we need more honest and academically inclined administrators. In a transparent world, it will be embarrassing for faculty members to hide their poor credentials. Either they must whip themselves up or move aside for better people to take on the mantle. At the execution level, we must be prepared for more experimentation by entrepreneurs and Universities alike. We cannot expect our entrepreneurs to succeed with innovative solutions unless the ecosystem supports experimentation. And we must allow poor ideas to die so that better ones can be birthed and grown.

Overall the three articles are indicative of why Indian Education is plagued and behind. It is also in the same three articles that I see potential for a resurrection.

I hope you see it as much as I do.

Who is stopping you?

I asked one of the students who wanted to be an entrepreneur this question. He tried convincing me that there are innumerable factors (outstanding student loan, family pressure, peer pressure, social needs, etc) around him that’s stopping him. All of which seemed logical. But a personal experience this weekend gave me a strong response to his answer.

I usually like to jog every morning. Since the time I shifted homes, I have for some reason not jogged. For the first week or so, it was all about setting up. Then we had parents, in-laws, the weather was too cold, and then there were too many dogs around the apartments, inability to sleep on time, and so on. All reasons seemed fair and logical. So although I felt bad once in a while for not feeling as fit as before, I could not convince myself to run. This feeling had been welling up inside me for a while now. So, yesterday (Sunday) i got up a little earlier than usual and decided to go jog. It was a lot of pressure getting out of home. There was someone inside me saying ‘Why not sleep? Its Sunday, after all’ but somehow I had decided to step out. That was all that was needed. I loved it. The rest of the day I felt the pain in my body. This morning when I got up my legs were paining like hell. But I told myself, I loved it. So, there I was, jogging again. I think it is difficult to now stop getting out in the morning. Its the same mind at work. Isn’t it?

In this little (rather silly) episode lies the answer to the above question. ‘Who is (really) stopping you?’ Its ‘you’. All others are reasons that this ‘you’ is giving to you. So if you want to start a company, ‘start’, don’t find reasons to delay. As they say ‘life is too short’, why delay to live the life you have wanted. Entrepreneurship is the life that every wo(man) always wants to live. Entrepreneurship is not just starting a company, it is more than that. It is living life to your potential. It is exhausting yourself. It is experimenting. It is joy in the action. It is joy in doing. I have written this in earlier blogs, I have taught this in classes, I have written it in my books, I try to live it in my life.

Try it for yourself. For there is no one stopping you, except ‘yourself’.

Begin!

Career and Job

Nothing has changed. Last week I was privy to some conversations among students passing out in 2016 about placements. As I listened to how they made or are making their decisions on their first jobs out of campus, I told myself “Nothing has changed”. A decade ago my friends and I went through this debate – should we choose a job or a career?

A wise professor of mine had told me that in hindsight he felt that one should always choose a career over a job. But he also told us that he wouldn’t be too surprised if we felt it was philosophical and do the opposite. He told us that he did the same too. While he knew that many of us would not pay heed to his words, he still kept at it. Some of us took his advice to heart – Did what is not normally expected. Went along paths that many thought was foolish (in fact many still think so). But remain happier people and remain younger people than most our age.

But the sad part is that there is no one consistently telling these kids of today, that choosing careers over jobs requires them to make those “trade-offs” (something most never learn in an economics 101 class). Compromising in the short-term seems increasingly difficult as students have large loans to pay-off. They cannot do what even some of us could, a generation ago. Nevertheless let me make another attempt to cajole these young minds to try their hands at doing something unconventional – choose a career over a job.

Now, that looks like one has to give up a job for a career. Absurd, isn’t it? How can one give up a job and make a career – it does not seem possible!! So the point I wish to make is that – it is the order in the choice that is important. Which do you choose first – career or job? Does your career decision drive your choice of a job or a series of jobs eventually makes a career?

The former may require some tough choices to be made in the immediate term. If you take the life of many individuals that you hold in high esteem, you find that they spent the early careers in tough and unattractive jobs. But this was driven by their long term career goals. Hence it did not make them feel bad even when some of their peers seemed to be doing much better then. As they say what matters is where you finish! If there is a role model of yours, look up and read what they did during their initial years at work. See how they made their choices. You will learn to decide how to choose a career and a job. It is not one against the other, but one based on the other.

Think well. Make a wise choice (Career and Job). Live a happy life. Since much of your life will be spent at work, you might as well choose what you love to do. It can have a significant impact on your personal life too.

Happy choosing!

MHRD Ranking of Indian Educational Institutions

Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) recently released the list of top colleges and universities. It is probably the first time a Government has taken the proactive step in ranking our educational institutions. This is long overdue!! After seeing a number of rankings every year and wondering why there is little correlation (similarities) across all of them, here is a more authentic listing.

Official Website: https://www.nirfindia.org/Home

The National Rankings of Higher Educational Institutions 2016 is officially out. It contains lists of engineering institutions, management institutions, pharmacy institutions, architecture institutions and Universities. If you are one of these, go ahead and check where you stand.

In many ways I believe this is a very positive first step. It is a wake-up call to our educational institutions that are slowly falling off to sleep. While this should stir healthy competition among institutions to rise higher in their respective lists, what is more important is for institutions to improve their absolute scores. How I wish there would be many institutions fighting for the first spot with almost equivalent scores!

I looked up the scores for Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII) where I study. We stand #45 in the list of management institutes. While we (www.ediindia.ac.in) can feel proud to have entered the Top 50, I am sure we know there is still a lot of scope for improvement and scale.

Great Going MHRD! While it may not be sweet to all, I am sure a reality check will do good to all involved. Since the ranking will be conducted (perhaps annually) it should keep the institutions in the Top 50 lists to work hard to stay there too. Others are not going to sit and watch. While all can complain how the calculations are not fair, the system is fairly open and hence people can work to becoming better.

Lets hope this is one of those opportunities for India’s Higher Education System to improve and eventually compete to join the ranks of the Top Institutions and Universities of the World.

With lots of hope….

XIME Conference on Business Incubation and Acceleration 2016

Last week I was at the Xavier Institute of Management and Entrepreneurship (XIME) campus in Electronics City, Phase 2, Bangalore. While I enjoyed the talks and panels, I also benefitted from the long and detailed comments from three senior academics in entrepreneurship.

There are a few reasons why attending this conference was special to me:

  1. I listened to speakers, many of whom were from the theme areas identified for the conference. Few academics and many practitioners presented their thoughts. This clearly highlights the limited scholarly work conducted in the area and the greenfield for potential research that exists.
  2. I enjoyed the keynote address (talk) by Prof Larry Cox from Pepperdine University USA. His short creativity exercise was interesting and useful. His discovery of India’s ‘Language of Horns’ was hilarious and eye-opening. Above all his idea of taking intellectual property from labs and bringing it to the classroom was exciting and my biggest take-away from the conference.
  3. Having three senior academics (Prof Mathew Minimal, Prof Jay Mitra, Prof Larry Cox) especially from your same domain, listening to your paper presentation is itself a lot these days. But them, spending 30 minutes on your paper, providing specific feedback, comments and inputs for improving the manuscript are just a bonus. I am writing this because it is such a rare occurrence in an academic conference these days. If you attend many conferences in India, you will appreciate the value of what I have just shared. Thanks to XIME for making this happen.
  4. I made new friends and enjoyed the hospitality of the institute. I believe academic agencies / institutions have to make it financially easier for doctoral students to attend more such conferences. It will be a big contribution to the research ecosystem in this country.
  5. I must also mention that I received the ‘Best Paper Award’ too at the conference. This was a cherry on the cake! Thanks to the reviewers and conference chairs to giving me and my co-author (Dr Balachandran) this award.

Thoughts from moving around in Bangalore: While I have had wonderful experiences in Bangalore, during this trip I spent time travelling across the city for a few meetings. Every intra-city move took a few hours, cost a lot of money, and exposed me to the growing pollution (all kinds) that we are creating for ourselves. While I do not want to give a discourse on what we need to do to become more sustainable, I can only say that I did become more sensitive to the growing risks of sustainability. If we don’t do something about it soon, reversal may not be a possibility. I am sure this will not be the end, but it may not be a very pleasant beginning of something else either. Lets sensitise ourselves of this growing challenge and take small individual actions. Let us apply Mahatma Gandhi’s age-old wisdom – ‘Be the change you want to see’.

Happy Thinking and Happy Acting!

Finance for Entrepreneurs: Value and Valuation

While today we speak of companies such as Flipkart and Zomato, most of them seem to be running a ‘valuation’ game. But according to my understanding entrepreneurs must run a ‘value’ game. While the two should be related, there is a huge difference between the two.

Value – is what is created by the entrepreneur for a consumer. In the process the entrepreneur gets rewarded. All of this if done in a sustainable way, the business runs for a long period of time. Rare, but examples exist.

Valuation – is when an entrepreneur attempts to create value for themselves and their investors. They provide consumers services to make this happen. If the business makes through the difficult mathematical puzzle of numbers, it exists, else death is certain. Examples are a plenty, but exceptions exist.

If a startup create value for its customers, over time it is rewarded by valuation too! But if valuation is the focus, value is at times compromised, industries undergo turmoil and there is a shakeout of good players too. This is not very good for the long term.

Last week when I was speaking at a panel discussion I was reminded of this: why creating business models and identifying value are more important than raising money.

I hope entrepreneurs and startups understand this and live it. It is important considering the fact that, even if all the Venture Capital money flows in and gets invested, the number of startups getting funded will be a minuscule portion of the startup population. And more importantly, entrepreneurship is a career, a journey, not just a race or a competition.

Think and decide to take the plunge into entrepreneurship. Its fun and fulfilling! I can vouch for it both from my personal experience and of having groomed many.

Happy entrepreneuring!

Entrepreneurship is a verb

How much of entrepreneurship is spoken?

How much of entrepreneurship is done?

If one takes a candid look at it, one is bound to see that all the talk leads to nothing, but even an iota of action leads to value creation. Even a failed entrepreneur does good things: moves experimentation forward, learns lessons and improves himself/herself.

When I authored a textbook, I defined entrepreneurship technically, but above all I shared with my readers that ‘entrepreneurship is a way of life’. One lives entrepreneurship. And living is a verb, not a noun! Internalising this makes a huge difference to how one lives life entrepreneurially.

Think about it!