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Is Wizardry In Business About DNA?

You need to learn, at every step, in a structured manner to make your entrepreneurial dream into a reality

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I am often asked, can entrepreneurship be taught? And my simple answer is, ‘ Yes’. There is always the perception that either you are born with an entrepreneurial zeal / DNA or not! I disagree. Of course, the decision to become an entrepreneur, your own personal evaluation of your risk taking ability, your conviction to make continued personal sacrifices, and not look for the exit door whenever you face setbacks and failures, is yours and yours alone. No one can teach you that nor can a mentor advise you on that. But post that – there is a lot to be learnt and if you can pick up those life learning lessons, you should.

What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur? Ability to take risks, a great idea, passion… I believe it takes much more. But you don’t have to know all of that when you start or rather when you are even a few years into your business. You need to learn, at every step, in a structured manner to make your entrepreneurial dream into a reality. As individuals and professionals, we cannot stop learning even for a single day.

A detailed understanding and learning on entrepreneurship can give you insights like never before, giving you a fighting chance to survive in the challenging world of entrepreneurship. Starting-up is great, and I am excited to see our country witness an unprecedented wave of entrepreneurship. To me, however, staying the course is the key differentiator. Yes, you can’t teach someone how to leave the comfort of their jobs and dive head-on into entrepreneurship, but you can teach them how to survive.

Learning entrepreneurship doesn’t mean that you will suddenly chance upon a great idea or have a renewed passion or your risk taking capability will tremendously increase overnight, but it will give you a perspective, it will help you identify a good idea from a bad one by learning from others, it will help you think like a consumer, it will help you keep your passion alive through all the ups and downs in the journey, through networking, it will help you take calculated risks by observing the paths that successful and not-so-successful entrepreneurs have taken and above all, it will eradicate the mindset of failure.

Being a counter-intuitive subject, traditional teaching approach doesn’t work for entrepreneurship. One needs to learn from experiences of others, from case studies, exposure to what’s happening around and real-time mentoring. There are so many examples – both successes and failures – in front of us from where we can learn a lot.

There are a couple of basic things one needs to keep in mind before going all out with a startup. A great idea is a wonderful thing, but without clarity of vision, it will remain just that, a great idea. A structured learning on entrepreneurship can help gain the ability to recognize an opportunity, understand potential problems along the way and prepare for solutions and continue to create value all along. When I look around at the current crop of startups, I see them missing out on key elements like vision, market mapping, research and piloting, co-founders, business plan, product development, team building, financial and legal basics etc., before going to town to launch or market their product or service. They fail to understand that when they miss out on these crucial first steps, they are indirectly affecting their long-term prospects.

Training in entrepreneurship can also help you define and crystallize your goals. That’s key to sustain any business in the long run. When as an entrepreneur, you have not set a specific goal, it becomes more and more difficult to explain your perception and expectation of things to people you wish to hire and inspire and that spells disaster like nothing else.

To be fair, you cannot blame the new-age startup founder for rushing into things, but it does remind me of meteors that hurtle across the space at grea t speed, but end up crashing just as spectacularly. India will only achieve its entrepreneurial dream when today’s start-ups stay the course and build business at scale instead of the badge of honour being how much funding she / he has been able to raise – a totally wrong benchmark for success. The media nowadays only focuses on successful founders and their stories, portraying a rosy scene to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. This in-turn, makes for confusion, as everyone assumes that these triumphant stories had a very easy road to success, which in reality is far from the truth.

Imagine this — you are going to a race where everyone just starts running — there is no starting line — and then whoever comes first, comes first versus a disciplined format wherein everybody who is participating gets into a starting gate, where one gets to learn from competitors, study everybody’s strategy; work on your strengths and weaknesses. Which situation do you think is conducive to growth?

When I launched our new Online Learning and Education company, UpGrad, with my co-founders, our first course we launched with, was on Entrepreneurship, because with learning, if you can save yourself those 20 of the first 30 mistakes you are bound to make, or help you pre-plan better, it’s worth it and it’s not something I had when I started off.

The right guidance is what the entrepreneurs of today need. They need a place that allows them to work out their ideas, without actually structuring it out for them. They need a mentor who leaves them with a lot of questions, rather than full stops. They need a guide who will get them to think, and ask themselves questions they did not dare ask themselves. And with a training that provides them this, Indian entrepreneurs will be unstoppable.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Ronnie Screwvala

The author is an entrepreneur, philanthropist and co-founder, UpGrad

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