Fostering Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Indian B-schools
The average student passing out of a MBA Programme In India has 2-3 pressing issues that dissuade him/her from seriously considering starting-up straight after the programme and forego employment opportunities via placements or career advancement services. The first and perhaps most important is the daunting prospect of giving up on assured earnings over the next several months to few years, the second issue consequent to the first being the uncertainty related to servicing student loans which the large majority of MBA students avail of and the third factor being that what many MBAs bring to the start-up table are business / commercial skills which are not typically the germ that then grows into the full fledged business. Commercial skills in terms of the sequence of events leading up to a viable business model are still preceded by either a piece of IP or innovation that can prove some traction amongst paying customers before a early business case can be generated.
Given this the scale of entrepreneurship related interventions from Indian Business Schools is still fairly muted as compared to the level of activity that can potentially come out of typical ‘e-cells’ or ‘innovation parks’. It is the engineering or technology schools that have more traction and better conversion rates from idea to market. The tech e-cells conversely can have trouble imparting business skills to their incubates. Globally the most productive incubators / accelerators bring together the strengths of nice technology programmes and business programmes. They are situated within large university systems and cross-pollinate core strengths across disciplines. This is more difficult to achieve for stand-alone business schools, which is the case with most top b-schools in India.
To address the first two issues (para 1), e-cells offer ‘Entrepreneur-in-residence’ type schemes that pay students opting to start businesses in incubation mode a salary and the possibility to avail of placement / career advancement services within a fixed time limit, which is normally between 18 and 24 months of starting the incubation programme. The third issue is more challenging to deal with. In spite of having students with backgrounds in engineering, medicine or the sciences the number of students who have access to IP that can turn into a successful business idea is small.
Eco-systems within which several disciplines come together, where pure and applied research converge, business and technology innovation take place simultaneously will have to be spawned and existing ones scaled geometrically. More and more private / deemed Universities will have to become hotbeds of this inter-disciplinary crosspollination. A second and equally important element of such eco-systems is a strong connection to industry. This aspect is almost non-existent in India. Government support via the Atal Innovation Mission, driven by the Niti Aayog and other schemes offered by AICTE have increased substantially the level of financial support available to e-cells / innovation parks, however the job of creating innovation / entrepreneurship networks within and with industry still remains the responsibility of anchor institutions that are part of or connected to University systems.
Leadership finally is a ‘learning by doing’ skill and set of behaviours that is born out of the practice of company creation and serving stakeholders. B-schools are uniquely placed to foster these behaviours and aside from business model / financing model / blended value creation model innovation, responsible leadership is where they can add tremendous value.
So innovation & entrepreneurship eco-systems, action learning, scale with impact and value based leadership is the way to go.