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Mould entrepreneurs young: IIM-B

October 29, 2008 08:42 IST

Even as most business schools across the country have begun supporting start-ups, a working paper from the Indian Institute of Management - Bangalore has suggested that primary education in India fails to make a significant impact on entrepreneurship.

Titled 'Entrepreneurship Education in India', the study proposes that policy makers must promote education that will lead to self-employment. The study states that attempts to develop entrepreneurship in India are confined to higher education. This may not produce the desired results unless the right attitudes for innovation and independent thinking had been ingrained at the earlier stages of education.

This implies that entrepreneurship development can be achieved only if appropriate changes are introduced right at the start of academics. The early-stage education should focus on developing the personal attitudes and traits within the individual so that student is oriented towards innovation and independent thinking.

When such an individual is given additional inputs in technology and management along with the facilitation of the legal-political, financial and other operating environments, entrepreneurship development stands a better chance.

"There is inadequacy between the education and the actual environment. In spite of several measures taken to improve the general environment, the desired development of entrepreneurship is still a distant dream.

What is needed is a thorough overhaul of the education and socialisation system, starting from the pre-school stage, thereby creating independent thinkers. This would help in developing quality entrepreneurship in the country through better innovation," says Mathew Manimala, author of the working paper and professor of Organisation Behaviour at IIM-B.

To make an empirical assessment of the entrepreneurs' perceived training needs, the NS Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning at IIM-B undertook the study in Bangalore with the support of the International Finance Corporation. From a master-list of more than 40,000 small and medium sized enterprises in Bangalore, they selected a random sample of 300 for a first-hand investigation of their training needs.

The findings suggest that the most preferred training provider is the individual trainer and consultant (30 per cent), followed by training institutes (28 per cent), consultant organisations (17 per cent), universities (7 per cent) and industry associations (7 per cent). It may be noted that universities are among the least preferred training providers, reinforcing the perception of mistrust or mismatch.

Taking into account the lack of a long-duration degree or diploma programme at the Indian Institutes of Technology or IIMs, the study says that it is only in recent times that even higher education has begun to be perceived as an instrument that can be used to foster the entrepreneurial spirit.

Universities rarely considered entrepreneurship to be a discipline worthy of being taught. The findings of the study reflect this perception with only 15 per cent of the sample acknowledging the need for training.

This clearly suggests that while the level of education is relatively low for SME entrepreneurs, their assessment of the need for further training or education for themselves or for their employees is low.

The study says that educational institutions can play a much more vital role in developing the intrinsic factors affecting the performance of entrepreneurs, particularly their attitudes, knowledge, skills and other competencies.

The study further states that educational institutes focus on imparting knowledge and information as against the entrepreneurs' need for developing implementation skills.

The long traditions of imparting knowledge-oriented education by the education institutions has come in the way of the faculty developing any competence in imparting skill-oriented education.

Consequently, it is natural for entrepreneurs not to trust such institutions and the programmes offered by them.   Time and cost constraints also inhibit the use of the programmes offered by universities and higher education institutions by the entrepreneurs.

The study concludes by highlighting the role of early-stage education (primary and secondary) in shaping the values and attitudes of the individual, which would influence the choice of his/her career.

While educators at the primary and secondary levels have an opportunity to influence the individuals towards taking up an entrepreneurial career, the quality of such entrepreneurship could be substantially improved by the technical, entrepreneurial and/or managerial knowledge and skills learnt at the higher education level.

Chitra Unnithan in Ahmedabad