Education gets sexier. But, we need Jehadis
Madhav Chavan (Pratham), Parth Shah (CCS), Shantanu Prakash (Educomp), Rajendra Pawar (NIIT), Shaheen Mistry (Akanksha) are some of the edu-entrepreneurs who have given years of their lives to education. While Shantanu or Rajan are the mainstream corporate entrepreneurs, Madhav and Shaheen have committed their lives to making a difference at the lower echelons of the socio-economic pyramid even as Parth toils away at policy-entrepreneurship. To me, however, each one has been an outstanding entrepreneur who has added value to the field of education. Needless to say….there are over a few more hundred such people whom I have not been able to name here.
The inadvertent contribution that these stalwarts have done is to make Education sexy, alluring, attractive and highly seductive for the entrepreneurship aspirant (E-aspirant) of 2009. The victims of this increased attractiveness have been top corporate guys, youngsters graduating out of a top college / university like an IIT or an IIM or a Stanford or existing and successful businessmen who are looking for business diversification and so on.
The slowdown, the rating down of other sectors that were super-hot over the last five years, etc,. have only added to the relative sexiness of education. However, there are many dangers that accompany the lure, if a new entrepreneur is not wide-eyed and vigilant.
The dangers of attraction :
The idiotic thing about market economy is that most guys who enter an area of entrepreneurship do so after there are a couple of success stories and an entrepreneur or a bunch of them have become millionaires or role models etc,. I call it idiotic from the newly entering entrepreneurs perspective even though it is a very desirable thing to happen from the industry or the consumer perspective.
Some here and now data. As we go about expanding our chain of Indus World Schools, we are now inundated with applications at a rate of about 70 new ones per week who wish to set-up and run our brand of K12 schools. The run-rate was about two applications in a month about a year ago. Most certainly, the stock market success of Educomp or the funding stories of FIITJEE etc,.are some of the reasons for this heightened levels of interest.
What to be vigilant about ?
There is going to be a huge deluge of new ventures by existing as well as new entrepreneurs in education. The myth of easy-pickings in the education sector will get demolished. For instancec, take a close look at the university market space if you are skeptical of what I am saying. The new universities that got approvals through all kinds of means are now having to face the market to build their numbers and make their projects viable.
The good thing is that the consumer will begin to have a lot of choices and that will chasten the edu-entreprises to become more responsive and innovative.
Remember the dotcom boom ?
The Edu-space is entering a period akin to the peak period of the dotcom boom. The rush-in is going to happen over the next 24 months after which the shake-out is inevitable in the conventional spaces of education – mid-segment K12 schools, vanilla Higher-Ed. Dozens of funds and entrepreneurs will have burnt their money as well as hands.
Mercifully, new niches would have got nurtured by the insightful entrepreneurs from the old as well as the new guard who will emerge the new forces to reckon with. Of course, the future-looking and innovative funds that back such entrepreneurs will earn the rewards of such an enterprising bet.
So, are there any attributes of success ?
Take a look again at the guys named above. They entered the arena long before any journalist wrote about education as a sector. They saw the future in advance. They also found it an area of inner calling to deploy their talent, time, money and life. Of course, they were guided by the circumstances and opportunities around them. But, they were and would continue to be Jehadis for education and for social change through education. They did it without a guarantee of success (just as any entrepreneur does).
So, if you are getting attracted towards an area of entrepreneurship…ask yourself this simple question – Are you heading towards Education today (or any other space) because you are innately motivated to contribute to that field ?
‘Jeeragoli’ for the E-dilemma ?
I am not sure if you are looking for a ‘jeeragoli’- a secret pill that helps you decide the course of action. The simple question to ask yourself is this – “What if there is no money to be made or a ‘Padmashri’ to be earned in this life time by pursuing this particular idea of entrepreneurship, would you still be keen and happy doing it ?”
The answer to this question could help you decide your course of action. Jehadis who can write-off their lives is what entrepreneurship requires and so does the field of education.
I just hope that there are a thousand of those who are undettered by this piece (or even instigated J) can help build and transform our nation through their life-committing motivation to the field of education. And, then you will have helped education become super-sexy for the edu-entrepreneurship-aspirants of the next decade !
Satya Narayanan R