How to make the most of your university life to gain entrepreneurial skills
University and college spaces are often attributed to being a ‘little world’ primarily because they tend to provide students with a little preview of what life could be like once they enter the professional world. A bridge that connects the essentially directed life one leads in school to the relatively independent life one is to lead later, a university offers numerous opportunities for the students to explore. The best aspect of it is that even though there are ample opportunities to experiment, college still remains a safe space to try out new things and really sculpt your personality during these years.
When life at the university holds this deep a potential to shape the path one walks on in life, this time must be utilized to the core. As students, it is essential that you make optimal use of the experiences that the university life has to offer.
Here are a few activities that you can indulge yourself in, as an attempt to make the most of your university life.
1. Join a Startup / Entrepreneurship club: In most universities today, you can either find a Startup Club promoted by the Entrepreneurship Cell or if you are really lucky, then you might have a Business Incubator in your university. The Government today is also focusing on nurturing startups and entrepreneurship through projects like Atal Incubation Centres under the NITI Aayog. At Rabindranath Ragore University also, we have the RNTU Atal Incubation Centre that supports startup plans and helps them become scalable and sustainable business enterprises. Don’t put second thoughts into the process of joining these clubs and centres. Being a part of that entrepreneurial ecosystem will provide you the access to numerous valuable resources and this could really take your business idea to another level.
2. Opt for an Entrepreneurship /Skill course: Another great option that is present in universities today is the availability of optional/ elective credit courses in addition to your compulsory courses. Universities today offer a bouquet of courses relating to the domains of Entrepreneurship and Skills Development. Opting for these courses could add a lot of value towards enhancing your knowledge base. These courses can provide you with the essential know-how about Business Fundamentals and can get you ready for your future endeavors.
3. Build your skill through training and workshops: Keep an eye on your university’s Incubator/ E- Cell’s training and workshop calendar. These modules and workshops are really helpful to learn the intricacies of business planning. These will go a long way in enabling you to make a robust business plan with your relatively raw idea.
4. Books related to entrepreneurship: Immerse yourself in the process of learning by indulging in some really interesting books and reading material around entrepreneurship. There are excellent non-academic books available today, in addition to the purely academic ones that can serve as personal guides for all budding entrepreneurs. Some of the books to look out for include: Zero to One by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters, The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, Dream With Your Eyes Open by Ronnie Screwvala and the list can go on. You can contact the E-Cell or the Incubation Cell in your university to get more details on such books.
5. Networking: Networking can be said to be the key towards establishing yourself in a professional space. The right connections can take you places and help you acquire opportunities that are relatively hard to get to. Never leave a chance to develop connections with established entrepreneurs whom you might meet during any workshop, events, etc. These connections are really helpful as they can help you solve practical problems while executing your business plan.
6. Participate in B-Plan competitions, Hackathons: Universities are great spaces to challenge yourself and test your capabilities. Look out for business plan competitions, hackathons and the like. These competitions lend you a chance to pitch your idea in front of an experienced team of professionals as well as an audience. The inputs and feedback obtained from these experiences can help you significantly improve your business plan, perfecting it before execution.
7. Test your idea: University is the right place where you could find key elements and resources to test your idea. You can build the right team as you can get hold of people from various backgrounds who bring distinct skills to the table. You can access the right connections and resources with the help of your E-Cell or Business Incubator. Along with that, you can approach the E-Cell / Business Incubators Executive Team or the Institution’s Innovation Council (IICs) for funding to create MVP (Minimum Viable Product).
All in all, the university holds the potential to help you develop and even execute your business plan in part or in totality. Making use of the resources available and utilizing the opportunities can eventually lead you to kick-start your career with your dream project.
(Author Santosh Kumar Choubey is Chancellor, Rabindranath Tagore University, Bhopal. Views expressed here are personal.)