INDIA: In a new episode of Smart Entrepreneurship Decoded, Transcontinental Times’ Nalin Singh hosts a discussion on startup ecosystems and how function with the help of rock-solid business incubator systems.
Singh says that in India, university backed incubators are a recent phenomenon, started only about a decade ago. On one hand, educators do not have a business background, making them not well equipped to teach the practical aspects of business, so running incubators in addition to being educators, he deems is unfair. On the flip side Singh points at the argument — if you are able to teach people business, then shouldn’t you be able to do it with incubators. In a startup university incubator, the expectations are however different, these conflicting viewpoints are put across along with Dr Premendu Mathur, the Vice-Chancellor of Birla Global University, Bhubaneshwar who has decades of experience as a leading Indian educationist in different parts of India.
“The value of startups and incubators is now being perceived, a lot of universities are struggling to cobble up enterprising people and to make the incubators work but we are realizing its importance now,” says Dr Mathur.
“Back when I started teaching, our job as a teacher was only to teach students but now information is available everywhere so now there is a tremendous shift in the role of a teacher, so now students don’t come to the universities just for information, but to avail the services of incubators.”
“Textbooks now do not have much value or use, because students seek experience now, which textbooks cannot provide. Information is available everywhere with the internet now, so they now ask the question — what can we really do — which was lacking during our time. Back then the education system was least compliant for doing things rather than knowing things, that is present now but things are changing.”
What can change the education system and bring alignment to the universities?
“As far as my understanding goes, we need to align our teaching system with the needs of the industry. In the university I taught, I made it mandatory to bring in people from the industry to the table — I suggested that every school should offer at least one industry-driven course. I received positive feedback for that and it also turned out successful. So students got ready for the industry with the grinding and training, they felt like a part of the industry.”
Singh added that outcome-based experiential learning with engagement from students and also participation with the end client i.e. the industry
What are the requisites for a successful incubator on a university campus?
“Firstly, there needs to be a willingness, then the involvement of the students and the faculty. We should allow people to fail, everything cannot be a success every time. But we must give them guidance in every way, structural changes need to brought to the curriculum. Social engagement needs to be put forth, for instance, if we consider the pandemic, we can help the migrants and labourers — setting up incubation facilities to sell their products. I think ideas are lacking, and ideas come from teachers as well as students. We have reached a point where students are teachers, I have no hesitation saying that a major chunk of things has been taught to me by my students.”