E-Cell In Engineering Colleges: What's Wrong?

Entrepreneurship is a subject I really love to write and talk about. Today's post aims at the sorry state of entrepreneurship cells established in engineering colleges all over India. What I observed is, every college wants to have an e-cell, but no one in the college really knows what to do and how to operate it. What I figured out is that most of the colleges have no clue why they need an entrepreneurship cells. I even know few colleges thinking of setting up e-cells because their rival colleges have one.

India, with thousands of engineers graduating every year should have been the entrepreneurial hub, at least in the technology domain. But in reality, we're far away from it.

You Don't Need A Business Plan

I realized that the biggest problem with e-cells is that there are no 'real' entrepreneurs to guide the wannabe entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship cannot be taught by professors/lecturers who've never started a venture on their own. At least in Business, theory is different from what you experience in reality. The general procedure followed by e-cells in deciding which startups to incubate is this: -

1. Write a business plan.
2. Screen the business plans.
3. Interview the candidates.
4. Select the ones that appeal to the selecting committee.

There's a big flaw in this process. Actually, the above procedure looks like a candidate recruitment procedure. Also, how can just a few people decide which startup idea has potential and which is not? I'm 100% sure an idea like 'twitter' would get rejected even today because the professors won't see anything 'useful' in it.

Suggested Approach

The tech-startups do not have 'huge' needs in the initial stages. e-Cells should incubate all the ideas and setup mechanisms to closely watch the founders & their team. Those who aren't 'serious' about their own ventures, should be asked to incubate elsewhere. However, the serious ones should be incubated and guided by the entrepreneurs who've gone through the process.

Challenge: Can we really discover the entrepreneurial role models and have them guide the new entrepreneurs? I think the responsibility should be shared by the entrepreneurs who've been successful. Spending an hour or two with the new startups every weekend shouldn't be a big deal for most of the entrepreneurs.

Funding - Why is it so glorified?:

I've seen this trend among the b-schoolers turned entrepreneurs. They have a plain thinking line: - Idea + Money + You = Entrepreneurship. In fact, if you look at 99% of the successful businesses, they started with no business plan and no funding. Funding is important when you want to scale and already have built something that really works. Of course this may not be true for research based projects where the research cannot proceed without initial funds. But for the rest of the startup ideas, your personal savings should just do the job well.

The major factor in success of any b-school will always be the energetic & enthusiastic engineers who want to try out new ideas, use technology to solve problems for many and in the process make some good money for themselves.

How many are going to follow that path?


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