Marion Igarashi, academic dean undergraduate programmes – global at S P Jain School of Global Management, shares her thoughts on the need to nurture an entrepreneurial spirit and opportunities for entrepreneurs in the 21st century.
What is your take on entrepreneurship in the current day, both in India and worldwide?
India is an amazing work place, the passion and excitement in its people is remarkable. They have an inborn sense of entrepreneurship, before the word was even widely used. In the sense, they were known as business people. There are scores of highly successful business people in India who have consistently been making their mark. I would like to say that the DNA of entrepreneurship is already instilled in them. India is poised to see an exponential growth and has been the seat of many successful ventures. Had I been 30 years younger, I dare say I would have set up a business in India myself!
Teaching young Indians is a delight. It is invigorating to witness the unique ideas that they come up with.
In the past, starting a business posed daunting and it was a tough proposition to undertake. However, worldwide, entrepreneurs have now become household names, thanks to Apple and other such companies. These are businesses that came with a vision, that is, a way of thinking and seeing the bigger picture. ‘Entrepreneur is today a respected term, it is associated with innovative thinking. Globally today, innovation and innovative thinking come from entrepreneurs who think outside the box, connecting the dots, networking across the world. Global entrepreneurship is now connecting the world.
To add to this, woman entrepreneurs today, are a phenomenon to reckon with. Mothers as entrepreneurs have a different approach, with their thought processes honed to find what would best suit their babies. This thought process has made them more successful than their male counterparts. It is a neuroscience, where women approach their concept in a collaborative way and men, on the other hand, are much more linear in their approach.
Having said that, entrepreneurship is the way to go and it is exciting to teach and nurture young minds on this subject.
What are the opportunities available for entrepreneurs that were not, a decade ago?
Technology. The Internet of things has changed the way one approaches businesses. Earlier, with a localised approach, people could not move further ahead with their businesses. Today, you can sit anywhere and be connected to your business requirements and needs. The networks that come from technology are fascinating, and the combination of business ideas with technology is explosive.
Today we are connected across the globe and the technology that we use in our everyday lives is constantly evolving. The networking ability and cross country exchanges are excellent. Having said that, the data analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and virtual learning amongst others have gone beyond our assessment of businesses as we had known them earlier. For example, today one can collect data from almost anywhere and the algorithm can tell you the consumer pattern, their preferences and paying capability with predictive analysis. With such data analysis, you can reach out to the customer with an almost precise preference, which you could not have done earlier. The entrepreneur today is very fortunate to have technology that helps them to reach out to the right customer with the right product.
How does SP Jain bring out an entrepreneur in a student through its teaching methodologies?
At the SP Jain School of Global Management, we concentrate on the core subjects in the first two years for the student to get their foundation right. As a Dean, I support the emergence of entrepreneurship amongst students wholeheartedly. This is an area I would really love to spend my energy on, expanding and helping all the undergraduate students. The seed of the entrepreneurship spirit is inculcated along with their specialisation in marketing or finance. Therefore, we approach the undergrad programs not just in theory, but also provide a practical approach to entrepreneurship. The habit of entrepreneurial learning is inculcated by giving the students enough scope to pitch their ideas and projects, enabling them to shape that idea, use data analysis to get relevant information, educate them on the process of funding, amongst other topics and skills. We conduct competitions for students to encourage their business mindset. In the end, it is a way of thinking. We encourage students to come up with solutions to the different problems businesses presents from time to time. Going forward I am trying to focus on Entrepreneurship as the core subject in the first year.
How is this unique in comparison to the other offerings in the marketplace?
Well, to start with, our undergraduate programmes are unique. SP Jain Global being a global business school in itself is an innovative project. It is agile, young and innovative; therefore I would like to call it a start-up. Every year, the school improves its product offering and approach, the entire journey at SP Jain Global helps students understand what’s going on globally. The global learning happens along with their academic learning through the internship programmes at foreign shores. We help them imbibe the culture and the religion of the places of learning as well as the financial market, which helps them gain a perspective of the region. You learn by immersion, not by textbooks or lectures. Our educational approach helps them parachute.
For example, we take the whole cohort to Dubai and make them go through an immersion programme, and, just when they get comfortable, we take them to Sydney where they undergo a similar immersion course. Their internships in these foreign shores help them to understand the local sentiments, culture and the economy which in turn gives them a true global outreach. If you are an entrepreneur and you need a global understanding, we at SP Jain take you all over the world and teach you how to build teams, which is an important element for survival in business. Our program actually plays out the entrepreneurial experience.
At SP Jain Global, you become a polished professional with a global exposure rather than just a student with a certification. This is what sets us apart.
What do you as an academician look out for in an entrepreneur?
Passion. As an academician, whether I teach undergraduate programs or postgraduate programmes, I ask the students what their dream is. And it is astonishing to see that many have dreams that they have not pursued as they have been taught at a young age not to dream. Unless you are passionate about what you want, you are unable to love your work and you end up living someone else’s dream. It astonishes me again that people have stopped dreaming and despite being with your class friends for over two years, many do not share their dreams with each other. You may not become an entrepreneur from the word go as you may not have the correct risk appetite. In that case, wait it out. Find a partner who believes in your dream and is willing to finance it. Richard Branson had a dream and he was willing to take a risk to give shape to his dreams. This man had a vision, a dream and the passion to follow it through. Find your passion, figure out the cost and live your dream.
What should entrepreneurs, young and seasoned, do to make themselves relevant and stay that way, in this competitive environment?
They must stay up to date with the needs of the young generation and include a millennial in their team who will be able to give insights to the pulse of the market. They must always have their finger on the pulse. One also needs to follow social media to understand their ideas. I run my thoughts and ideas with my children who are a generation younger, to get their perspective, this, in turn, gives me clarity. To stay relevant in business you need to understand the needs of the millennials.
What are the qualities of a successful entrepreneur?
Generosity, which is something the earlier generation, has not understood. The world has changed now, it has become collaborative. There are things you must share about your business and with sharing you multiply, which is very important. I think young people understand this and the need to collaborate. Generosity from the heart is important as one has to be part of the community and not isolated.
Entrepreneurship is also about giving back to society. It is the law of the universe. You should share 1/10th of what you earn with the community and it comes back to you. It may not be conventional thinking but it the way forward.
Business is not everyone’s cup of tea. How does one build the entrepreneurship ability and become successful?
Overcome the fear of failure. I used to be embarrassed to be a failure. However, if you don’t fail you are creating a boundary and not pushing yourself enough. When you fail you learn. Personally, if I don’t do that I wouldn’t know where my boundaries are. When you push yourself, you learn resilience, it helps you become humble. Fear of failure is a potential reason for not achieving success. There are times when you fall that it is difficult to get up and you need a helping hand. Similarly, you can be that hand when another falls. In today’s world, we are not competing with each other. The real-life lesson is how we collaborate, how we do not give up and how we move forward together.