A focus on academic entrepreneurs in India

In a bid to facilitate academicians to turn to entrepreneurship and be successful at it, London-based talent investor firm Entrepreneur First has launched a nation-wide programme ‘Ideathon - Open Innovation’ to hunt, nurture and facilitate academicians.

New Delhi: India is the third-largest tech start-up hub globally, yet academicare still on the fringes when it comes to entrepreneurship in the country. The gaps in academic entrepreneurship are evident in the number of data scientists, engineers and other skilled professionals who continue to seek employment opportunities - even when the job market is down - and hesitate to dream of becoming entrepreneurs, says Esha Tiwary, India head, Entrepreneur First.

In a bid to facilitate academicians to turn to entrepreneurship and be successful at it, London-based talent investor firm Entrepreneur First has launched a nation-wide programme ‘Ideathon - Open Innovation’ to hunt, nurture and facilitate academicians.

Driving the though is the idea that while traditionally the Indian market allowed and facilitated the entry of entrepreneurs, it was largely restricted to a family run business or those with decades of corporate experience in the industry. Things are fast changing, premier institutes in India like IIT, IIM, BITS and NIT among others are waking up to the idea of academic entrepreneurs. According to Tiwary’s chat with IANSlife, the idea is that one does not need to have years of corporate experience to build disruptive businesses. More excerpts:

Where do you think lie the gaps in academic entrepreneurship in India? What are some of those key gaps?

Tiwary: India is the third-largest tech start-up hub globally, yet academicians are still on the fringes when it comes to entrepreneurship in the country. The gaps in academic entrepreneurship are evident in the number of data scientists, engineers and other skilled professionals who continue to seek employment opportunities - even when the job market is down - and hesitate to dream of becoming entrepreneurs!

Traditionally, there are have been pre-defined pathways, such as family-run businesses or small-scale business establishments, for Indians to get into entrepreneurship. However, tech start-ups have opened up new opportunities and levelled the playing field for anybody with a great idea to set up a business.

Those in the academia, though, are yet to realize the potential of turning their research or discoveries into real world businesses that can have a deeper and greater societal impact. In today’s time, you don’t need to have a long corporate experience to become an entrepreneur, as long as you have an impactful idea and zeal to convert it into a purposeful enterprise, anyone from anywhere can build a great tech business. For this to happen, India needs to encourage and invest in market-led innovations, powered by new-age technologies such as data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) etc. Getting the academicians on board can make this a rewarding experience, both for the individuals as well as the ecosystem.

Another key gap that needs to be addressed is the gender inequality in entrepreneurship in India. In 2015, only 14 per cent of the patent applications listed women as inventors. Academic entrepreneurship offers a level playing field for female researchers, who account for about 40 per cent of the academic talent pool globally.

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