It all begins with the right mindset: Dr Vinod Shastri on entrepreneurship

Shajan C Kumar

Dr Vinod Shastri

Innovation and entrepreneurship are two complementary constituents upon which the future of the post-covid industrial world would be built upon. In this context, Dr Vinod Shastri of Bennett University opens up to Mathrubhumi on how to inculcate values of entrepreneurship and innovation among students.

How far it is important to inculcate innovation and entrepreneurship among the young minds of India?

According to the former president Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, the last decade itself was an age of innovation and entrepreneurship for India. The emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship started in the academic field at that time. The current issues emanate from two problems. Firstly, it is the employment situation, jobs are scarce, and the government cannot produce jobs for everybody, the private sector has to step in. but even the jobs in the private sector may not find many takers if they don’t do anything different rather than producing routine jobs. This is what the entrepreneurial bid is concerned about. If you want to start something of your own, then you better be innovative. Everybody cannot become an entrepreneur, either people may lack the inclination, or they may not have enough resources. Therefore, the majority will be going to take up jobs.

Secondly, the job market is also competitive. Even if you don’t want to start something of your own, being entrepreneurial becomes equally imperative when you enter the job market. Therefore, between a job seeker and entrepreneur, there is a space called “being entrepreneurial.” If a job seeker could reach there, it could definitely make him 10 times a better employee and more competitive than others in the job market. I think that is the relevance of innovation and entrepreneurship in education.

Do you think skills alone are enough to develop an entrepreneurial mindset or does it require the right knowledge also?

It all begins with the right mindset. At Bennett University, we give importance to developing the right entrepreneurial mindset. Once the mindset is made then people will have the natural urge to cultivate the right skills needed for entrepreneurship. Therefore, our focus is on building the right mindset and then enabling them to acquire the necessary skill sets. Regarding knowledge, it keeps on expanding, but skills are permanent. In fact, skills could be improved and refined to the next level but once they are acquired, it gives permanent expertise.

Can you share your experience with the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Bennett university? Some case studies that you have.

Let me give an example of how startup ideas can come up from very mundane activities done by people. Blogging is a very common thing with the current generation. Most of the students in our varsity have their own blogs. We had a student, namely Pradyum. He used to run a blog called “Physics Mindboggler.” He is running it since the age of 16 and it came out of his passion for physics. When he joined Bennett university, he also took the course of entrepreneurship, which ran across four semesters. As he reached the third semester, he started to become restless and impatient. He started to complain that he still doesn’t have a startup. At last, after some discussions, we told him that his blog itself could be transformed into a startup. Within the next one month, it was converted into a startup and today it is one of the most vibrant startups on our campus. I wouldn’t call it exactly innovative, but it is the best example of how a blog could be transformed into a startup.

Two of our students are also running another startup called “Hyprclub.” It works in the NFT (Non-Fungible Token, a unit of data used to certify digital assets) space. Anything created digitally like music, artwork, photos, stories could be converted into an NFT and could be transacted online. The students have fantastic ideas, and we are providing all necessary support to them, through the varsity’s start-up incubator, Bennett Hatchery.

Do you think the campaigns like Start-Up India and Make in India schemes of government would help the young generation?

I would like to speak anecdotally. I will tell you about the experience of my former student. He was working with IBM when he was doing his course under my guidance. Before the pandemic, he quit his job at IBM. With 20 years of experience and a flourishing career ahead, some may think that he took a bad decision. He did struggle a lot, but four months ago, he has received funding of Rs 50 lakh from the startup mission of the government of India. Now “Physics Mindboggler,” which I mentioned earlier, is also going to apply for a similar grant although not for a bigger amount.

Do you think the Digital India scheme and the digital transformation of our economy would help our youngsters in a big way in their businesses?

Of course, it would help them 110 per cent. As you are aware, I also have a business and I had reviewed the previous day’s revenue and only 11 per cent of the total sales were on cash, the rest of the entire payments were through online means. One of our students had also launched her new brand Riyal, and she is also planning to bring her own cryptocurrency by the same name. You can imagine the scale of digitisation through these experiences.

Do you think the interest of youngsters in 9 to 5 job is fading away?

I don’t think it is a widespread trend. There is still demand for jobs, but within that, they are expecting more flexibility, trust and respect. They need a steady job. The lure of a secure salary is not gone away. People are ready to work 24 hours, but they want the job timings to be left to their convenience. This trend existed even before the work from home practice started with the pandemic. WFH might have fueled it and it has enhanced employee productivity further.

What is your advice to the youngsters, many of whose plans to launch startups were disrupted by the pandemic?

My experience was strange in this respect. Because in my experience at Bennett University, the startup activity in the campus has grown manifold. Since the pandemic, the rate of start-up ideas has shot up like never before. During the usual times, students on the campus were not getting enough ‘me time, but with the pandemic induced lockdowns, students have got a lot of ‘me-time’ which enabled them to reflect upon themselves and finally arrive at a conclusion on what they need. Regarding brick-and-mortar businesses like mine, we really struggled to keep it alive. We also don’t know when things are going to normalise. Even existing business models may need to change as per the changing demands of the time. All businesses need to change their revenue models. Today those who run the restaurants are giving a lot of emphasis on packaging like never before. Such changes had happened in other sectors as well.

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