Passion to do something innovative must be the driving force to do business, says expert

The auditorium at the Madurai District Tiny and Small Scale Association (Maditssia) complex is full of people listening in rapt attention as K.R. Gnanasambandham, a trainer from Aathma, Madurai, elaborates on feasible business ideas.

“Madurai is a tourist hub and yet we don’t have organised tourism ventures coming up. It’s an area where innovative business initiatives are welcome,” he says at the entrepreneurship development programme conducted by the Maditssia’s Business Information Centre.

The college students, aspiring businessmen, homemakers and working professionals who make up the 150 people in the audience are representative of the people in the city who are increasingly turning to entrepreneurship, away from regular jobs. This is attributed to the fact that most people who aspire to be self-employed want to be their own masters and enjoy high returns.

A homemaker for the past 11 years, L. Seetha, who is part of the audience, says she hopes to turn her interest in making snacks into a full-fledged business. “No one else in my family has ever owned a business. But I hope to gain knowledge from programmes like these and start my own venture,” she says.

Elaborating on the necessity of such guidance for potential entrepreneurs, L. Murari, vice-president, Maditssia, says sessions such as these are organised every month. “We also have sector-specific seminars that include sessions on food processing and textiles which are very popular,” he says.

These programmes and training initiatives are invaluable to budding entrepreneurs and those who already have their own businesses. One such initiative, Export Promotion Centre, was launched three years ago by the Tamil Nadu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TNCCI), Madurai, to help manufacturers and businessmen to promote their products internationally and expand their ventures.

“We conduct a year-long course with monthly sessions on topics such as finance, e- commerce, marketing and trade for people who want to start new ventures and those who want to expand their business,” says Thirupathi Rajan, chairman of the Export Promotion Centre. “The centre has 150 members and at least 50 of them have started new ventures in the past three years,” he adds.

Another nine-year-old TNCCI venture, Young Entrepreneur School (YES), employs a practical approach to educate its members on better business models and requisite skills for self-employment, says YES chairman V. Neethi Mohan. “In a country such as India with 1.2 billion people, there are a lot of opportunities. There is so much of untapped potential in south Tamil Nadu,” says Mr. Mohan. “Passion to do something innovative must be the driving force to become an entrepreneur,” he adds.

The National Skill Development Corporation has identified 1,600 skills that can be imparted through Vocational Training Programmes. As part of this initiative, training centres are reimbursed with the cost of training aspirants and nearly 50 crore people are expected to be a part of these vocational training programmes. “The foundation for self- employment is skill development,” says R. Jeyaraman, member-secretary of the Centre for Entrepreneurship Development (CED) in Madurai. “When a person is confident of his expertise and skill in a field, it will motivate him to set up units of his own,” he adds.

Elaborating on the conducive environment for setting up large industries in Madurai, Mr. Mohan says the relatively cheaper land price and good connectivity can prove to be extremely beneficial.

“With surplus power and adequate political backing, the district should experience the industrial growth that Chennai and Coimbatore enjoy. This industrial development will motivate the young and upcoming small scale entrepreneurs,” he notes. “One of the main drawbacks among young entrepreneurs in this region is that they tend to venture into multiple businesses without a specific plan. It is better to focus on one core field to begin with,” he says.

Observing that many young college students are taking to entrepreneurship and self-employment soon after they complete their studies in Madurai, Mr. Jayaraman adds that a structured curriculum in schools and colleges can sometimes stifle entrepreneurship.

To train teachers to counsel students on self-employment opportunities, educators and teachers are put through a 12-day faculty development programme in which they are given an overview of entrepreneurship and business models.

The slow but steady change in the mindset in favour of entrepreneurship in this region is a welcome change, says Mr. Thirupathi Rajan. “While entrepreneurship is all about taking risks, knowledge and skill, coupled with the willingness to explore, are more important than the financial aspects,” he says.

The would-be entrepreneurs are advised to take only affordable risks. “Budding entrepreneurs should only invest money that they can afford to lose,” explains Mr. Jayaraman.

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