HAVE I KILLED AN ENTREPRENEUR? – Dr. Deependra Sharma (FDP-2015)
Formula: wimwian.iima.ac.in (17 JUL 2018)
I had an opportunity to teach entrepreneurship (in case if it can be taught) to MBA students a few years back. Although I am a man of marketing (hope my wife won’t mind saying so), I started feeling more and more attracted towards it and my passion was boundless for my new found love. Days were passing by and on one day of December 2017. I found myself in the United States of America where I met with few of the finest brains and human beings existing on this planet. I was on an official trip (sponsored by my University) and there I interacted with business leaders and entrepreneurs while attending the summits at Harvard University, Boston and at Consulate General of India, New York. The discussions that started during the Q&A sessions spilled over to the recess time and as a consequence of it I found myself enriched with lots of insights. Interestingly, these insights were not out of the world ‘thoughts’ but were very simple. I realized that these thoughts have been existing around me but I was myopic and thus failed to observe them. Listening (I am very greedy and selfish that is why I talk less and listen more) to various entrepreneurs and business leaders there, a new understanding about the role of parents in the strengthening the entrepreneurship ecosystem in India dawned on me.
Here, I want to admit that whatever I am sharing is no way a validated remark on the parents, the educational bodies and any other stakeholder working in the domain of entrepreneur. These are merely my reflections but I am sure that these may act as a ‘food for thought’ to many and may be validated by the researchers in due course of time.
On my way back to India, I was introspecting if I have really done the justification with my new found love as a teacher. My mind was wondering and trying to find answers to queries like was my pedagogy wrong, was I able to present any role model for my students etc. I was following the best books with latest editions, was getting excellent feedback also from my students but was not able to get the real outcome i.e. transforming the mindset of the students to become a job creator and not a job seeker. I started to recollect that one of the reasons why students do not opt ‘own business’ as a career option was parents’ disapproval. For me, the story used to end thereby putting the entire onus on the parents.
At this point, I have to give a pause to my thoughts as there was an announcement that Zurich has arrived and all the passengers need to get down for a connecting flight to India. After a few hours, again the journey to home started and taking the full advantage of having the leisure of free time I started introspecting and picked the chain of thoughts where I had left them. Till now, I was under the impression that I had done my duty as a teacher by ‘teaching’ the subject allotted and what can I do if the parents are not allowing their wards to be an entrepreneur.
It never occurred to me what if my own daughter (right now she is thirteen years old) decides not go for conventional career options like the medical field, engineering and has an inclination of doing something on her own (that too when she does not know what exactly she wants to do). What would my reaction be, how would I be supporting her (if at all I am going to do so) in her pursuit of exploring the ‘true calling’? Like most of the middle-class parents, till now I have brought my child in a very safe and protective environment. Which ‘desire’ of her to be fulfilled which one not was decided by me and my wife because we had assumed that we know the best for our child ( Is it really so?). In the name of discipline and etiquettes, I used to keep telling her what to do, what not to do and even how to do. I never realized what damage I am doing to the creativity and decision making capability of my own blood to whom I love the most.
Ironically, many times I have shared with my students, as well as my own ward that nature has answers to all our questions what we need, is to develop a sensitivity to understand it and a keen observation to observe it (and not just see it). If a larva is not allowed to struggle to come out of the cocoon on its own it will never be a beautiful butterfly. Any external support basically is not doing any good to the larva rather is putting the future and life of the creature in jeopardy. I realized while sipping the drink( it is only a soft drink, don’t think otherwise) offered by the courteous air hostess that this is what I have been doing with my larva(i.e.my daughter). In the disguise of love, concern or care I have become so overprotective that inadvertently I am killing her ‘thinking power’ by taking decisions on her behalf. I was planning that in XI standard she should be taking a medical stream as it good for girls. Now, I am realizing who the hell I am to decide about her. She is not my ‘property’ that in case I am feeding her and taking care of all her needs give me a right to decide everything for her. I was wrong. I decided that I will stop deciding for her rather would help her in making decisions for herself. She should not be afraid of taking decisions and taking responsibilities of the consequences occurring as an outcome of that decision. I am giving the best education (within my limited means) and she should use that knowledge to decide what she wants. I will provide her with the confidence that it does not matter if the results are not favorable. Keep on trying and failing until she finds her true calling. I will not provide her with a readymade solution but will provide her confidence that I along with my better half will always respect her each decision and stand beside her irrespective of the outcome. This will make her a bold decision maker who thinks.
While traveling down the memory lane I encountered with the pictures of my ward playing with toys and dolls. For me, it was toy meant to be used in a particular so that it does not become dysfunctional soon. The moment she used to do something with the toy (which according to his grown-up father) was not ‘right’ I would immediately poke my big nose and instruct her on how to use it and how not to use it and she was supposed to comply with my orders( this is what makes her good child). I never realized that all the walls, floors or anything for that matter was an extension of her drawing book or any other notebook. But again, when she (mis) behaved by using them as a canvas to draw her imagination, I would (in the name of teaching her the etiquettes) start giving her the sermons of right and wrong. Now, I feel that actually I was killing her creative thoughts and damaging her inquisitive mind and was not letting her roam in her own world of fantasy. By telling her what to do, how to do, when to do was turning her into a ‘compliant’ personality who was expected to fall in line whatever she has been ordered (although everything was in the disguise of love, care, and concern).
I have harmed her more than benefitted by taking away the courage from her to try something new, to look at same thing from a different perspective. I made her compliant person who would always seek approval of others when she would try something new. She will always carry the baggage of others opinion at the back of her mind (result of this mindset is known to all of us). Rather, I should have let her do whatever and in any way she wanted to do. Because walls can be rewashed, toys can be purchased again but the virus of fear of thinking differently and fear of disapproval from the society that I embedded in her might may not remove that easily.
This is one of the reasons why we have many Indians working as the topmost Executives of many MNCs across the globe but we have very handful of Indian entrepreneurs who have made to Fortune 500 organizations. Why could these executives who have been running these organizations founded by some entrepreneur successfully could not have created their own enterprise?
I requested for a hot coffee on the flight to gain some energy as I was feeling drained out with the realization how I have been detrimental to the growth of my own ward. Let me make one more confession (with a hope I will feel lighter). My wife wanted to learn to drive four-wheeler but due to my own fear that she may meet an accident, I somehow persuaded her to give up the idea. She agreed unwillingly. Why did she give up a genuine demand? Maybe because she would have been brought up to be compliant personality by her parents the way I have done with my daughter. Now, what if my daughter demands the same? Will I have the courage to allow her to drive all alone? Why do I want to protect them? Let them have the pain destined from them? This mentality getting hurt was reflected in the fielding style of our cricket team of the seventies and eighties. On comparing the style with the Australian cricket team fielding style it would become self-clear that they would go all the way, diving, sliding, and gliding stretching to get the ball without being afraid of getting hurt. Why were our players not SO outgoing? I feel because they would also have been protected by their parents (out of their love) in their childhood from falling. This leads to the creation of fear of getting hurt into the young mind of the children which persists lifelong. This fear of failing or getting hurt stops him from treading on a path unknown to him.
Feeling tired of continuously feeling guilty of how I have killed the creativity, inquisitiveness, decision-making capacity, risk-taking ability of my ward I decided to share my thoughts with my co-passenger( we Indians are expert in doing so). He listened to me patiently and presented an entirely different perspective. He was of the opinion that before we come out with a verdict on the Indian parents, these issues should be looked from their perspectives also. It needs to be understood why are the Indian parents so protective and why do they want their wards to be compliant in nature?
According to him, previous generations belonged to the era of colonization where the education was exploitive in nature which was meant to create ‘clerks’ for the British. Working in the government office was a matter of high social prestige (which is true even today). Our forefathers studied in that education system, worked for them directly or indirectly and obeyed their orders without raising any questions (even when the orders were not justified). This pattern exists even today. Thus, taking instructions, not asking the questions when required and following an education system which does not teach how to ‘think’ killed the brain of an average Indian. Since then, this same ‘thing’ has been percolating to the coming generations and that is why children are not expected to question their parents or teachers or to do something which has not been taught earlier.
Secondly, many of our forefathers have to face the brunt of poverty, thus they do not want their children to go through that rough life. This makes them cautious and protective.
These words of my co-passenger were very soothing. I started realizing that I myself (and other parents ) have been a victim of same ‘syndrome’ and maybe not held absolute responsibile for all the damage that we had done to the ‘future of the world’ i.e. our children. Society, government educational institutions (Indian educational system has not been that successful in rekindling the spirit of entrepreneurship in the mind and hearts of the students) and other stakeholders must accept their share of the responsibility in letting the young brains, young minds and young hearts to blossom. They should without any fear of failing or rejection, their imagination should not be limited and they should have their own world of fantasy.
This will allow us to create an Eco-system where individuals are encouraged to ‘think’, to be ‘inquisitive’ and rewarded for providing ‘creative’ solutions to the problems. It will give them the courage not to be ‘compliant’ but raise questions, to take bold decisions and be oblivious to the fear of failing or fear of disapproval. Any individual with this mindset is a perfect candidate to be an entrepreneur, to be a job creator and job provider.
I am not only hopeful but confident that having done this we would not only be giving the best executives but also the best entrepreneurs to the world.