The following is the full text of the speech of Dr. MN Patel, Vice-Chancellor of Gujarat University, delivered during the VC Roundtable hosted by GU on August 21, 2015. The meeting was chaired by Shri Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, Hon. Minister of Education of Gujarat.
I thank the Hon. Minister Shri Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, all the esteemed Vice-Chancellors and respected state government officials to take time off their busy schedules to attend this meeting.
Over the last few months, I have met many stakeholders of Gujarat’s entrepreneurship ecosystem and I am amazed at the kind of work that our youth are doing through their startups.
It was surprising to see that many of the problems that these young entrepreneurs are facing are very easy to solve if proper mentorship and support is provided.
What was more surprising was that nothing is being done at an official capacity to help or even recognise the hard work and efforts of these young student entrepreneurs, who are running businesses while pursuing their higher education.
However, all around the world, like in Silicon Valley in United States, or in Waterloo in Canada, or in Japan or in Australia, the best systems for supporting and nurturing startups & young entrepreneurs are operating successfully around universities in a sustainable manner.
In India, however, whatever little policies or frameworks that exist for supporting student entrepreneurship have been developed only for centralised institutions like IIMs and IITs.
But more than 90% of our students study in decentralised systems, through institutes affiliated to universities like Gujarat University and GTU.
To support our own student startups & entrepreneurs at Gujarat University, we established the “Gujarat University Startups & Entrepreneurs Council (GUSEC)”, but we know that is not enough.
In Gujarat there are close to 15 lakh students across more than 40 universities. Did you know that more than 180 countries in the world have less population than 15 lakh, and some of these countries include UAE, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Singapore, New Zealand, Ireland, Luxembourg, etc.
Why can’t all universities work together with the state government to form a common policy and common frameworks to support and nurture student startups & entrepreneurship?
Today, India needs to create more than ten lakh jobs every month and there is already a huge deficit in the number of jobs the country is creating.
This problem will continue to increase every passing day, and encouraging students to take up the path of entrepreneurship is one way we can create a lot many jobs.
It is said that at an average a successful startup can create over 100 direct or indirect jobs over five years. What if Gujarat was to create 1000 successful startups every year? Is that not possible, given that we have more than 15 lakh students?
More importantly, it does not take a lot to support startups given that we have the resources and the infrastructure to do that. Besides encouragement and recognition, we need to make our infrastructure accessible to startups so that they have a place to work, and a lab to experiment at low or no cost.
Around the developed world, students start innovating early at the age of 18-19 and before they turn 30, they get more than 3 chances at three different ventures and in all likeliness, at least one of those 3 turns out to be successful. In India, however, students only dream to startup after 23-24 and by that time, they get barely 2 chances before they turn 30. But if universities start encouraging their students to startup, a lot can change.
And yes, not every student wants to be an entrepreneur and yes, not every entrepreneur will be successful. But you all will agree that the experience of starting an own business infuses the students with enough skills to make him worthy of a job, with a big, fat paycheque.
And just like every student cannot be a sportsperson, every student will not be an entrepreneur. But the privileges and recognition that is extended to aspiring and excelling sportspersons in our campuses, can’t the same be extended to deserving student entrepreneurs?
Even Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has now said India needs to be #1 in startups. The role to be played by us as universities to make Startup India, Standup India a success is very crucial.
The purpose of today’s meeting is to have a productive discussion and decide on a way-forward agenda on how the state government of Gujarat and all universities can work together on this front and help our future business tycoons do better.