22 March 2022 13:07:32 IST

Entrepreneurial skills that one gains from a BBA degree

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The essential question in management education when it comes to entrepreneurship is whether it can be taught at all. There are those who hold the belief that entrepreneurs are only born and not made. The consensus, on the other hand, among leading scholars, educators, and practitioners of the innovation and entrepreneurship discipline, is that many critical elements of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial behaviour can indeed be studied, practiced, acquired, and honed.

These include behavioural traits such as risk-taking, opportunity recognition and scoping, and other technical aspects such as strategy, finance, core team identification and management, design thinking, and product development.

How can a BBA programme go about operationalising such an agenda that combines technical aspects taught in a classroom setting and other aspects learnt from real experience?  

Must-have skills

A BBA degree with Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E) concentration must focus on five key aspects — opportunity recognition and pivoting (as necessary), Minimum Viable Product or MVP design and creation, identifying a clear pathway to find and engage the first critical mass of paying customers, the ability to identify and inspire a core team, and most importantly, pursue realisable financing options.

An I&E concentration must alternate between introducing students to concepts and theories in classrooms as well as providing opportunities to test these concepts and ideas on the field in real-life situations.

In the advanced stages of the programme, the coursework must facilitate one-on-one sessions with mentors from the start-up ecosystems across the country and provide dedicated time in the I&E lab, either in small groups or individually, to create and recreate and test business models.

Mentoring should form an important element of the pedagogy. A good mentor-mentee relationship can directly transfer knowledge and insight gained from lived experiences. This type of close shadowing of real entrepreneurs is a crucial input. This is somewhat reminiscent of the mastery and apprenticeship-based knowledge transfer systems that formed the bedrock of the Indian approach to education for millennia.  

Changing focus

The final stages of the course must be dedicated to one of three options - a. to take an advanced idea to a logical conclusion in terms of securing initial funding, b. a full-time shadowing apprenticeship with a founder who has a proven track record, or c. completing a social innovation and venturing programme that includes distinct coursework, workshops, and participation in annual global innovation challenges. 

This can equip students to take on new businesses or new initiatives within existing businesses.

It is important to also place I&E opportunities in the Indian context. The current level of focus on I&E as a major thrust area as part of the country’s National Economic Strategy for growth and competitiveness is unparalleled in the economic history of modern India.

The policy framework is in place, the institutional architecture is more robust than ever before, and the maturity of start-up ecosystems across India led by Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Delhi-NCR, Pune, and Thiruvananthapuram, is also on a high. Hi-tech innovation labs and incubators and accelerators consisting of well-established mentor networks, funders of all types including angels, crowdfunding platforms, and private equity firms, are comparable to the top I&E hotspots in the world.

It is into this flourishing ecosystem of opportunities and resources that our BBAs are entering the market. It is only natural that BBA programmes across the country offer more and more I&E-based concentrations and specialisations. This shift in focus from placements to nurturing innovation happening in management education is a welcome change.

(The writer is Associate Professor, Strategy and General Management Area, T A Pai Management Institute, Manipal.)