Friday, June 17, 2016

Talk at St. Ann's Degree College, Mehdipatnam - Entrepreneurship Development

St. Ann's Degree College, Mehdipatnam, has this laudable drive aimed at empowering girl students to think proactively in terms of building enterprises / careers. Led by Principal Dr. Anuradha, who actively encourages such programs - seminars and workshops focused around Entrepreneurship Development - the institution, I am certain, would contribute in no mean terms to the number of students it has empowered over the years. I do think they should do a study, a before and after five years study, to measure the difference they made in producing women entrepreneurs.

Apart from being exposed to the idea of business and enterprise at a young age, the girl students also meet many external speakers with varied experiences and hear from them, their stories. I was fortunate enough to speak at one such meet a few months ago and was glad to hear from Dr. Anuradha again. So on the afternoon of the 15th of June I was invited to speak about Entrepreneurship Development to a group of 40 students who had signed up for the course.

The gist of the talk:
After a brief introduction, and trying to get my tongue around the world 'entrepreneurship', I asked the girls if any of them had experimented with entrepreneurship before. No, said they.

What is it about enterprise or entrepreneurship that is good for them, I asked. Let's see why we have to surmount this mountain instead of taking up a simple job and settling for a monthly salary. The girls replied - Financial reward, Financial independence, Creative freedom, Being useful to society by creating employment and contributing to the economy, Satisfaction of creating something, Reputation in society etc. Good replies. All seemingly good outcomes for taking this plunge into the unknown.

I made the point about Risk and Reward and how they are proportionate. High risk and high reward. At their age they should take high risk, because they have the energy to back the risk with active work that ensures success. Of course we also discussed how high risk does not mean investing in schemes that simply promise crazy returns with no business model. The entrepreneur should first be able to see what is really of value and what is not.

What are our biggest fears then about entrepreneurship, I asked. They replied - Fear of making losses, fear of failure, of losing reputation and money, of not knowing how to go about it. Honest and clear replies again.

Firstly then, we discussed the aspect of failing. I told them that failure is not a bad thing. It's good actually. No one does everything perfectly right all the time. We didn't walk without falling, We didn't learn to cycle without falling, We failed at all the things we tried for the first time. Then why do we want to be perfect here? All successful people and entrepreneurs tell us how many times they failed - that for every success there are many failures. So then - do not not try things because you are afraid to fail. Not trying only means not growing.

The key is to try and self-correct failures as fast as we can. Failure is final only when we accept it and give up. But if we change our course and find another way it becomes a temporary setback. If one has to remember one thing, it is that we make mistakes, but let's not repeat them. The faster we learn from our mistakes the less costly it will be. So make new mistakes, not the same old ones.

Now, that the failure aspect has been dealt with and we are all okay with failing, and knowing that we need to be aware to self correct, we looked at a way where we could minimize uncertainty. How can we minimize the uncertainty in anything, business included?

So we touched upon the most basic of management principles - that to reduce uncertainty we need to get information / knowledge. We analyze the information available and make our decisions based on that. Any grey area, any uncertainty only means that there is not enough information yet. One has to go back and get more information, look at all possibilities and eliminate uncertainty. That is one way to handle uncertainty while planning. There will still be corrections required at implementation stage but one must go on looking for the solutions - and not for excuses to give up.

Next we looked at how one goes about choosing what to start a business in? We looked at the importance of how the greatest entrepreneurs always fulfilled an unmet need. All the girls had to do was to look to fulfill an unmet need and satisfy that. They could either do that with the resources and talents they have or they could hire out resources and talent. Needs could be as basic as food (as Dosa King or any hotel chain does), Uber or Ola, Oyo Rooms or something like a technological product like a Google or an Apple. We discussed how a concept like Sulabh Toilets which was started with a purely social motive now has a turnover of over 130 crores, of Goonj and its way of converting urban waste into help for the needy, solar lighting by Selco to the poorest of the poor.

Primarily the girls had an option to choose form the widest spectrum of unmet needs, take any unmet need to a higher level, use technology to overcome the need for capital, use alternative ways of raising capital. I gave them the example of starting an idli joint and how Dosa King made hundreds of crores through an idli-dosa joint.

The girls participated wholeheartedly and listened attentively. Hopefully they will think of an unmet need, draw up a plan. start in a small way and practise entrepreneurship through setting up stalls in the college, developing apps, organizing events and actioning so many more ideas. Hopefully, all of them will turn into successful entrepreneurs and find the confidence of being financially independent and of being active, and powered memberes of the society.

Thank you Dr. Anuradha. Hope to visit the college soon.

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