EDUCATION PLUS

Foster disruptive thinking

The smell of risk is headyAs is the smell of money

The smell of risk is headyAs is the smell of money  

With students from around the country hooked on to the idea of becoming entrepreneurs, how can parents nurture their ambition?

The year 1973 saw the release of the film Bobby, which saw actor Rishi Kapoor play the role of the quintessential rich young businessman with multiple cars, smart clothes, good looks, many industries and rich relatives.

The year 2015 was marked by the film Dil Dhadakne Do, in which actor Priyanka Chopra essayed the role of a successful entrepreneur who pursues her dream of setting up an internet-based travel business from scratch.

Of course, in true Bollywood style, both those stories were about love and not business. However, if you think about it, both these movies were a clear commentary on the changing face of entrepreneurship in our country.

What is this changing mindset that is taking over the career landscape in India? In the previous millennium, being a business-owner was something one inherited. Today, youngsters want to set it up themselves. They aim at make it big while they are young. Their gender doesn’t matter and they are likely to be connected to the Internet.

Increasing number of students in high schools and in colleges today talk about wanting to be entrepreneurs. As a career guidance professional, I am used to this. But what is surprising now is parents talking about it happily. There was a time when setting up a business was considered a risky proposition. The average parent wanted their ward to get a good job. Today, I meet beaming parents excited about their children talking of starting their own business.

Every second day I interact with students who are excited by the idea of setting up their own venture. The smell of risk and thrill is heady, as is the smell of money. The stories of successful young entrepreneurs are all over media. And yes, you hear of those whose ideas didn’t work but they got absorbed into some other start-up or job. There is always a way ahead and a way out. It is not really about risking your entire career. It is merely about giving it a shot.

However, there is more to entrepreneurship than having an idea. “Often, it’s not your first idea that works,” says Anuj Kacker, co-founder, MoneyTap. “At least not in its original form. You go out in the market, get brushed off, get some business, meet some obstacles, learn and then get back to the drawing board.”

Mostly, it really comes together when the right partners work with each other. One individual has an idea, a beta website, maybe some intellectual property, and the other has industry connects and business sense. Together, they roll things out and the magic starts to happen.

What can you do about it as a parent? Can you support your school or college going child who is playing entrepreneur in her or his dreams? There are institutes, hobby classes and certificate courses for almost every other skill. But how do you groom an entrepreneur?

Encourage your child speak his or her mind. New-age entrepreneurship is often disruptive in nature. But no child can get up and start spouting disruptive business ideas without first building the confidence to think disruptively. So encourage your child’s ideas and listen to what he/she has to say about friends, teachers, school curriculum, sports, careers and movies. Desist from “correcting” them or sharing your own opinion too quickly. “Move fast and break things,” says Mark Zuckerberg. “If you are not breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough.” And he doesn’t mean the crockery and glassware, here

Encourage your child to take things to fruition. Does your child want to set up an innovative game at the Diwali mela or a city fest rather than the usual Lucky 7? Support him or her to flesh it out, present it to other stakeholders (friends), take charge, make things happen, prepare for failure (what if no-one comes to my stall) and give it a shot! The idea may bomb, but at least children will get to see their ideas in real form

Encourage wide-ranging social skills. One day, your child may become an entrepreneur and will need to recruit a wide set of skills that he or she may not have. That young entrepreneur will need humility, pleasant behaviour and an active interest in other people. Young entrepreneurs need to handle the personalities, hopes, fears, and even tantrums of people, friends and family. Teach them from an early age about how to get along with different types of people and help them appreciate their own traits and strong points. Teach them to appreciate more and criticize less and to deal with failure.

All of us have experienced failure and yet, we try to protect our children from that bitter taste in their mouths. We help them prepare, we discourage them from participating in contests without preparation, we celebrate their successes and show concern at their losses. Children who are competing at the state-level and building a CV are as young as 10 years old. The grit and determination they showcase is much needed in an entrepreneur. Just like a sense of ease in failing. We need to teach children to accept failures and roadblocks without getting their self-esteem tangled up inside their system. Teach them how to laugh in the face of failure and worry about the lessons to be learnt tomorrow. Teach them how to come up with the next plan and feel just as excited, if a bit wiser, about its possibilities.

As Marcus Persson, the celebrated developer of Minecraft says, “I don’t see myself as a real game developer. I make games because it’s fun, and because I love games and I love to program...”

Let your children do the stuff they love, break boundaries, spout ideas, try things, fail, succeed and carry on like it is just another day. You cannot prepare a successful entrepreneur, but yes, you can prepare a child who can give it a great shot and have fun while doing it. And what do you know, they might even succeed!

The writer is CEO and co-founder, Inomi (www.inomi.in )

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