College degree vs street smartness.. what actually counts?

As a student graduates from high school and steps into college, he/she is often in a dilemma about making life-changing decisions. Deciding what course to pursue and from which college is one of those decisions. Worldwide, the governments encourage every child to at least attend school and then further pursue a degree in various specialisations. And why not? Aterall, humans are also a resource for development.

Despite the steep inflation of recent years, there is a 40 increase in high school graduates and college attendees in India. But is attending college the only path to success? In fields such as Entrepreneurship, Computers, and Art, your ability to execute your idea is undoubtedly more important than your ability to brag about where you graduated from. Being street smart is what counts when you’re out in the real world.

Each of us must have heard of Bill Gates or the internet entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg. Well, they are one of the few notable people who dropped out of college, proving that you do not need a degree to be successful. Listed below are the names of college dropouts who changed the face of the Startup Scenario in India. They explored the right opportunity at the right time right and developed the right strategy to execute their plans.

Kunal Shah – Freecharge

Shah is the man behind the famous platform FreeCharge. The free app brought a fresh change in the way online recharge took place, with three step recharges along with offers and free coupons. The app made the headlines when Snapdeal acquired Kunal’s Firm for a whopping $400 million (Rs. 2600cr.) making it one of the largest deals in the consumer internet space in India. He has a bachelor degree in Philosophy from Wilson College and later attended Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies from where he dropped out only to come up with FreeCharge app in 2010.

Ritesh Agarwal – OYO

Everyone must be aware of OYO Rooms or may have spent a night in one. Ritesh Agarwal is the guy who saw the problem and came up with a solution to help people find budget rooms and hotels nearby on their mobile. He completed his schooling from St. Johns Senior Secondary School but couldn’t continue with his college so he dropped out. Ritesh took all the time to work on this project and founded the Gurgaon based company in 2012. OYO is backed by Lightspeed Ventures, Sequoia Capital, and Green Oaks Capital and has more than 700 hotels under its brand. What started with the name of Oravel, was rebranded to OYO after all the share of investments made in the enterprise.

Mahesh Murthy – Marketer/Investor
We know that Mahesh is the founder of advertising company pinstorm, which is an ad firm offering pay-for-performance solution to companies across the world. But little do we know about his life, He dropped out of Osmania University in Hyderabad, after which he used to sell vacuum cleaners door to door. Mahesh used all his experience and street smartness in helping big brands with marketing counsel, mainly through digital media for 29 years. Moreover, he later moved on to help startups with marketing & funding. Mahesh’s work earned him a fortune for which he also received many honorary awards by Unilever, The Economist, and Pepsi. To top it all, He also wrote and shot a series of top award-winning commercials for MTV.

Azhar Iqubal – Inshorts
After preparing hours for JEE Main (Previously called IIT JEE) to get admission into IIT Delhi, who can think of dropping out in their last year from such a prestigious institute? Azhar did exactly that and obviously made it into the news being the second dropout from an IIT that year. He always believed on his entrepreneurial instincts and thats what made him take this decision to put all his time and effort in “News in Short” (Now known as Inshorts). Inshorts is an app for those lazy or busy people to read news in less than 60 words. Azhar was able to get a $24million worth of investment in just 2 funding rounds.

Deepak Ravindran – SMSGyaan
Deepak dropped out in his 5th semester from LBS college of Engineering in 2007. He always stepped out his comfort zone and thought out of the box. The education system failed to satisfy his desire to excel in the field and his passion for computers made him opt for the entrepreneurial path. Recently, Deepak started another venture – Lookup, which is a local commerce messaging app which lets users chat with local businesses and shops. Before this, he founded Quest technologies which let people answer someone elses question via Sms. His primary company was Innoz Technologies which was behind ‘SmsGyan handing internets knowledge to people via texts.

Kailash Katkar – Quickheal
Kailash Katkar worked his way up from a small village in Rahimtapur in Maharastra to a CEO of Rs. 200 Crore business. Kailash is the man behind Quickheal technologies which is one of the leading Antivirus companies in the world. His luck changed when he started a new venture – CAT computer services, where around that time, his brother developed a basic model of antivirus software. In 1993, viruses were one of the biggest problems faced by computer users, which really gave a boost to their business. It was later renamed to Quickheal Technologies in 2007. What are his qualifications, if you may ask? None.

So is it cool to be a dropout?
Well to keep it simple “only success stories are printed, not failure stories”. Some may have survived a fall from a tall building. Suffice to say that the fall can kill a lot of people. The dropouts mentioned above are successful because they were productive people with a vision for whom attending college was just an add on to their knowledge. Never forget that luck and the right opportunity at the right time also plays a big role in their individual success stories.

An advanced degree is and will always be of a greater value, as it is a proof of your knowledge in a specific field. A professional degree can help you make 6 times more living than what a school degree will. It is a fact that college graduates are more likely to find a rewarding job and earn a higher income than if they didnt have degrees. If you believe that college is a waste of money, then just know that “Investing in education will yield the best return”.

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