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YOU CAN WIN: A motivation session for prospective entrepreneurs in progress at the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Career Development, Bharathidasan University, Tiruchi. Photo: M. Moorthy
Coimbatore/Erode: It is a new buzzword. Sweeping across different centres of learning in Tamil Nadu, especially from Erode and Coimbatore down to Madurai and its surroundings. It is spelt ENTREPRENEURSHIP.
Of course, with the boom in Information Technology, Chennai remains the main magnet for IT-based entrepreneurship.
A carefully developed methodology in different universities and colleges is slowly ensuring that more students are looking towards enterprise, mainly in the knowledge-based areas.
However, the exercise is only a miniscule effort, considering the large mass of graduates coming out of professional and arts and science colleges in the State, say long-time watchers of higher education trends.
Generally, students even now do not consider starting an entrepreneurial venture immediately after leaving the college as a viable option because they are not confident of their own skills in engineering and management practices; financial institutions are extremely cautious in funding projects submitted by young entrepreneurs; many first generation entrepreneurs could not succeed in spite of their best efforts; families invariably discouraged their wards becoming entrepreneurs.
The western region of Tamil Nadu is always known for technology-based entrepreneurship.
Campus placement services are not affecting entrepreneurial mentality in students, here, despite big corporate offers of lucrative salaries.
Entrepreneurship at KEC
Take, for instance, the Kongu region, acclaimed for its entrepreneurial skills. "In Kongu Engineering College, Perundurai (near Erode), we have students who opt out of placement services to start their own ventures," says R. Mohan, who heads the college's Entrepreneurship Development Cell (EDC).
About 20 per cent of students wish to start ventures and evince interest in EDC activities.
In the management course, it is about 30 per cent, he points out.
At KEC, where majority of the 40-odd trustee members are first-time entrepreneurs, there are round-the-year programmes for third and final-year engineering students involving successful entrepreneurs.
KEC principal A. M. Natarajan says the Women's Development Cell in his college acts as a catalyst. "Active women participants are contemplating starting their own ventures," he says.
K.S. Rangasamy College of Technology, Tiruchengode, with assistance from the AICTE, has been conducting entrepreneurial courses for students through its EDC cell since 2003.
The college in association with the Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India, Ahmedabad, also conducts a diploma programme through the distance education mode.
The principal, PSS. Srinivasan, says "Besides job and higher studies, entrepreneurship is on the minds of the students. It is a very important alternative for them."
Nearby, Coimbatore also has a reputation as a city of self-made entrepreneurs, a city that encourages risk-taking in business ventures.
"We are motivating our students for self-employment and have been bringing in alumni, who have started industries of their own, to talk to the students about financial management and administration," says V. Thandapani, Director, Students' Welfare, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU). Agriculture graduates are now beginning to start their own plant clinics.
K. C. Leelavathy, Director, Centre for Women's Studies, Avinashilingam Deemed University, Coimbatore, says "Entrepreneurship development programme components are an integral part of all subjects. We train students at the end of the year on how to prepare a business proposal and start a venture. It depends on the demand from students of each course." Coimbatore's one notable success story is the entrepreneurship development cell started in the late 1980s at PSG College of Technology. In 1998, it was upgraded to a science and technology entrepreneurial park, and is popularly known as PSG-STEP.
"For first generation entrepreneurs, initial investment is a problem. The Department of Science and Technology, through the STEP, provides facilities on rent," said R. Rudramoorthy, principal, PSG College of Technology.
"A person with a bankable project can take the facility, save on investment cost, and use the money for recurring expenditure," he noted, adding that more than 50 entrepreneurs who had made use of the `technology incubator' had now moved out and launched their own companies.
K.P. Mohammed, a retried principal and pioneer in EDCs, says the concept was initiated by the State and Union governments in the 1970s, especially in institutions such as the regional engineering colleges.
They conducted structured programmes to motivate and train prospective entrepreneurs selected from among applicants after certain evaluation procedures.
The success rate of these programmes in terms of number of persons who started their enterprises was 5 - 10 per cent; but later it had at times improved up to 30 per cent. Marketing and the pre-liberalisation bureaucracy were indeed problems for small enterprises, Prof. Mohammed notes.
The DST then launched STEP (modelled as their counterparts in the U.K. and the U.S.), mainly to commercialise projects developed by students and faculty members.
Slowly STEP turned into a nursery for young motivated entrepreneurs leaving the portals of the institution to produce and market their products developed by them during their college days.
Now, Technology Business Incubator (TBI), the re-incarnation of the STEP, is vigorously promoted by DST. A few colleges in Tamil Nadu have created TBI facilities.
But again signals emanating from these TBIs are not very encouraging.
However, opportunities for young entrepreneurs, especially in IT & ITES area are plenty now. Units started in TBIs are likely to succeed in the present scenario, he adds.
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