As a journalist who has reported on startups and investors…
Can any form of ‘art’ like dancing, painting or singing be taught? It is often claimed that one is either born an artist or one is not. Only if you have the inherent rhythm can you be trained as a dancer, only if you are born with a sense of aesthetics can the artist in you be honed. Similar is the case with entrepreneurship. The will or the instinct to be an entrepreneur cannot be taught, but some quintessential entrepreneurial skills can be.
The question is not whether entrepreneurship can be taught or not, it is “what” in entrepreneurship should/can be taught. It is not a profession that someone can be convinced to pursue. Professional courses or MBA programs in entrepreneurship have always been popular but recently there has been a rage of online courses offering specific as well as generic well-rounded entrepreneurial skills. Are they really worth it? Should you opt for it as an entrepreneur? If you do choose to pick up an online/offline course in entrepreneurship, it is good to know what all can you expect from it and what can be taught.
The skill sets required to be an entrepreneur can be divided into three buckets: technical skills, personal skills and domain knowledge. Here is a look at these three categories and whether they can be picked up by any training or not. More importantly, can a course in entrepreneurship offer you these skills?
Technical Skills: Can be taught
Every entrepreneur has a business idea, in fact that is the baby step from where the entire journey begins. The more crucial part is to validate that idea through technical skills and get going with all the practicalities. A technical skill is any method that you need to know to make your business more structured from making a website to refining a business plan. Mridula Chhetri, Founder, inmovidu.com shares, “Your startup needs more just beyond the idea. A course in entrepreneurship that I picked had all the tools I was looking for : from understanding the market demographics, knowing your target audience to getting to know the technical bit like legal compliances, design thinking -it was well rounded.” Mridula took a four months online course in entrepreneurship through UpGrad.
Mridula shares that until the professional training of entrepreneurship, it was difficult for her to understand the mindset of investors. Even though she had worked with a startup earlier, some skills needed professional training. She took a chance to learn about entrepreneurship in a structured way and it played well for her.
Mayank Kumar, Managing Director and Founder, UpGrad lists the technical skills that can be offered,
“Through entrepreneurship programs, individuals learn about frameworks and concepts around – idea validation, business model evaluation, user understanding, conducting surveys and research, marketing and branding, product evaluation, building a B plan and pitching,”
Personal Skills: Can only be nurtured
Personal skills such as having a passion, vision, imagination or motivation – are all very difficult to instill in an entrepreneur. Prajakt Raut, co-founder, Applify and also someone who spends majority of his time mentoring startups puts it correctly, “Entrepreneurial spirit is within a person, it is NOT just about doing a business but about taking on ownership of something through leadership, self-motivation, etc. If a person has that, and if the person wants to use that entrepreneurial spirit in a business, then aspects about how to run a business can be taught and it is an on-going process.” Being proficient in entrepreneurship is a mix of formal and informal skills. For example, the courage to fight a crisis has to be within and then crisis management techniques can help. There is very less hope for an entrepreneur who panics in crisis and cannot function.
On the other hand, Mayank from UpGrad argues that entrepreneurship programs are also a lot about being inspirational, “A lot of learning in the program is through case studies – which brings both experiential and inspirational aspect of learning.” Mayank is right too. Ravvi Mansingh, Founder, Textile Basket who took an entrepreneurship course mentions how his vision amplified after a professional program, “Earlier, I wanted to do a business of Rs 10 to 15 crores yearly, but now after entrepreneurial training, I want to do a business of 1000 crore. I feel very inspired!”
Domain Knowledge: Can be learnt from specific industry experts
Let us say you have the technical skills and personal skills, but if you do not have knowledge about a particular industry/domain or sector that you want to operate in, you are in for trouble. Pranay Gupta, Founder, 91 Springboard and Salil Agarwal who are leading the course on entrepreneurship at 91 University feel that practical knowledge and talking to people from within the industry is very important for an entrepreneur to learn about business. The thing about entrepreneurship is that your learning cannot stop ever and you have to keep learning as you grow, especially industry specific or domain knowledge. This can be learnt from case studies or people who have already been or done that in a particular sector. For instance, hospitality industry has its own understanding and you need to know the nuances before you plan a start up in that sector. The best people to tell you about it are the ones who have already done business there. So pick up an entrepreneurship course that ensures people from your specific sector as speakers/ teachers.
Many entrepreneurs also make the mistake of joining an MBA program for learnings, but it gives them nothing more than a wide network. However, these networks are extremely valuable. You find a co-founder, your first or maybe even second round of funding often in these circles, access to talents – your MBA network should thus not be under estimated. Generally networking is an important skill for an entrepreneur. And yes, it can be taught. Read our previous blog on this topic here. Salil Agarwal, an alumni of IIM Ahmedabad talks about the relevance of an MBA for an entrepreneur in his recent blog, “Doing an MBA is equally pointless. You will spend two years of life and a lot of money to discuss how large organisations do business and you will never figure out how to start small and nobody will tell you the challenges of a small organisation.”
So, yes, pick up a course on entrepreneurship if you want, but know what to expect out of it and ensure it has all the tools you are looking for.