Business makes the world go around, and holds immense career options.

The term “business” is often used in a negative context in India. Whenever someone fails to deliver an expected level of service, you hear people say — “He is a business man! What more can you expect from him?” or “He is running this organisation as a business.” Is business bad? “Certainly not,” is the answer as you will see below.

Any organisation or individual that provides a service or product in return for monetary consideration can be deemed a business. A group of individuals working together in a business can be termed a “company.” By this definition, most people are therefore involved in one way or another in a business. Either you own your own business or you work for someone who runs a business. Either way, the cornerstone of almost all economic activity in any country is business. Businesses generate new jobs. Businesses therefore create growth.

The other misconception is that businesses are always run with a profit motive in mind. There are many businesses that are not for profit. What this means is that the primary motivation to run it is not to earn money for the owners. However, this does not mean that these not-for-profit businesses give their services for free. They do charge fees but all the earnings go into sustaining the business. For example, you may attend a stated not for profit school, but this does not mean that you will get free education. What it means is that the earnings are used to pay salaries, improve facilities and are not paid as dividends to the owners. Doing businessEvery sector in the economy functions through businesses. Hospitals, schools, car manufacturers, textile manufacturers, logistics companies — all operate as businesses. No matter which sector you choose, you have two options. One is to participate in the core delivery of what happens in that sector. The other is to enter the “business” side of the organisation. For example, you may work as a doctor in a hospital, then move on to the management side and start your own hospital a little later. You have now become a “businessman.” Therefore, business or management opportunities are available in every sector of the economy, immaterial of the field you choose.

The general skills needed to be successful in the field of business,(at the risk of oversimplifying) are an ability to lead people, manage finance/money and develop processes for doing things systematically. The field of business/management is vast with various specialties that you can focus on. You can be a finance professional, taking care of the finances of the organisation, or you can be in human resources (HR), ensuring that the staff is properly looked after and trained, or you can be in charge of operations, ensuring the smooth running of a plant. No matter what your interests are, there is opportunity for you in this field. EducationBecause of the cross-sector nature, you can qualify in any field and still move into business. The best MBA schools take students from all educational backgrounds — lawyers, doctors, engineers and accountants are all represented in top MBA programmes. Many youngsters now do an MBA to move into this field, but this is not mandatory. In fact doing an MBA in a school of poor repute can damage your prospects of future employment, especially if you have had a good track record in your career so far. When it comes to business, very often you can learn most of what you need on the job with periodic training courses in between.

Businesses are therefore the lifeblood of any economy and provide immense opportunities for careers. Of course as in any other field, there are examples of bad businesses as there are of poorly managed schools, hospitals and transport services. But to view all businesses in a negative light is erroneous. The next time someone says derogatory things about businesses and business people, remember this — business make the world go around.

The writer is a director at Thinking Palm. Email: vikram@thinkingpalm.com