Sunday, August 20, 2006

Entrepreneurship.. over a glass of Wine!

Having worked in the area of entrepreneurship for several years now.. it has begun to clear out some ideas in my mind.. and having come this far, I find myself behaving naturally as an advocate of entrepreneurship and accordingly questioning the fears that normally scare people from taking the risks.. the most primary question being what they stand to risk in the first place.

The work background got me an easy entry to the entrepreneurship initiatives on campus, and as a rather grand welcome to a relatively inactive club, we had an invitation to an 'entrepreneurship' award ceremony at a prestigious hotel, to be followed by dinner and drinks! Obviously, I jumped at the opportunity and got lucky to be in the selected few!

Alright, so sitting in the ballroom of a five (or maybe seven) star hotel, we're looking at this young lady, playing the MC(master of ceremony of course), who, in her own attempts to make the evening light and lively, couldn't help cracking really sad jokes! So we have the awards for the different categories announced, amidst sounds of claps, the feats of each entrepreneur are highlighted and the spirit of entrepreneurship glorified!

Next, was a panel discussion on the hardships faced by the awardees in their own lines of work and I suddenly noticed around myself that the chairs were getting empty fast! and yes, I rightly guessed, they'd started serving the drinks in the dining hall! Awright, so convincing myself that the food and drinks really were the reason i'd gone there, I dragged myself away from the tales of entrepreneurial valor!

High on some vodka and with a glass of wine, I gathered enough courage, to get into a discussion (more like a debate) with a senior. Being a nice guy that he was, he appreciated the reasoning and we got on to talking about entrepreneurship over wine! We were talking something about the lack of startup enthusiasts at our place, to which he(the senior) remarked that it was stupid to expect people to think of entrepreneurship when the stakes were so high. By high stakes, he meant the cushy and really well paying jobs that even an average graduate from our b school was likely to get!

Ok.. this was more than what the entrepreneurship advocate in me needed to wake up

Carefree that I was, rebutted saying that it had actually become easier for us to do what we really wanted! But hey, wait, the drink hadn't gone to my head so I did substantiate- We think that the US has a better support system for entrepreneurship because if you fail, the social security will take care of you.. while on the India, you might have trouble making ends meet. If social security can be taken for a cushion, then our degree should be a rather much thicker cushion because even if we spend a couple of yearsand still fail at our stints, the degree stays with us and will anyday get us a job which will afford us much more than what we need to survive!

He ended up agreeing in principle, but of course, I don't expect to have changed his mindset over a light dinner time chat!

Beyond five star hotels, this work gets you to meet really good people, in my case, it was the Chief of TiE (The IndUs Entrepreneurs) Kolkata. A grad from MIT, he was happy to notice our spirit with regard to entrepreneursihp activities on campus, and presenting my view as a b school student, I mentioned that having competed with lakhs of people to have gotten here, it really doesn’t seem right to be competing with the same people again in the job market! We ought to do better! Of course, this came from the sarcastic appreciative remarks by Sh. Govindacharya, about a reputed b school that selected a few of the thousand students that applied, and got them all placed before their degree was completed! Of course, what good has an institute done if it has only made employees out of the brightest in the country! The TiE guy, of course Couldn't Agree More!

A recent class discussion in Behavioral Sciences pointed to a perspective on eship, which other people might have found banal, but was a new line of thought for me. Whoever can't find a job, sets up a factory and becomes an entrepreneur. At the base of it was probably the application of Douglas McGregor's Theory X that no one really wants to work hard, everyone wants to live off someone else's efforts and thus have the easy way by getting a salary and not grinding themselves on the entrepreneurial line!

Being the selective perceiver that I am, I chose to note his acknowledgement that entrepreneurship is tough! Though, taking the whole thing in perspective, we, at the class, derided eship from its usually virtuous position to the last resort of people who're useless enough to not be able to find a job anywhere!

Given the current trends, I would still like to believe that this is not the more popular perspective, as 'opting out of placements' is still glamorous and if no one else, at least the media will hold you dear, even if for a short while!

Guess, I'd be happy setting up an orkut community by the name of 'Placement Chuckers'.. make it a totally glamorous cult.. you know.. you make a trendy statement by wanting to be an entrepreneur.. it's a cult meant for a limited few, the ones with the proverbial heart of a man...

But then, we need to make stronger statements than this, in order to actually make a difference to the perception and reality of entrepreneurship in our premier schools and further in our society!