The rise of student entrepreneurship in India #tatafirstdot and NEN

Today I had the opportunity to hang out with 1000+ student entrepreneurs from over 60+ cities and all states in India at the NEN #tatafirstdot event in RV College of engineering. The twitter buzz gives you an indication of the event’s energy.

NEN has been promoting student entrepreneurship for over a decade now and this was my 3rd event. They do a terrific job of turning the raw energy and talent of students into some great startups. The first dot event had 500+ students applications. Students from Srinagar (Jammu and Kashmir) to Kanyakumari (Tamil Nadu) participated and this time they had to present fully formed products / prototypes, not just business plans.

To set some context, in 2008, less than 1% of startups in all ventures were founded by students straight out of college. This year, that number is close to 3%. The number of startups has risen 3-fold during this period. We have over 20 Microsoft Innovation Center’s at various colleges in India that focus their effort on supporting great student entrepreneurs as well. These center’s serve to host hackathons, conduct entrepreneurship classes and encourage students and faculty to pursue building companies instead of “getting a job”.

I had a few questions from NDTV (Bala) at the sidelines of the event. One question stood out as something that needs more explanation and commentary.

“Why is it important for us to have more student entrepreneurs as a startup ecosystem”?

There are 3 main reasons why I am so passionate about student entrepreneurs:

1. Their “lack of experience” is a HUGE advantage. Most folks tend to think that experience is a good thing in entrepreneurship. I am a contrarian. I believe that experience (other than the experience being an entrepreneur) holds you back as an entrepreneur. Older and more experienced entrepreneurs are more in number, they are more successful, but they do not create disruptive companies. (p.s. I dont have data to prove this, just anecdotes) They see a problem, they solve the problem and become successful. Student entrepreneurs see something and are willing to question why? They refuse to look at the “current lay of the land” and find ways to operate within the constraints.

2. Their ability to take risk is much greater. When you are young, single and unattached, your ability to take risk is much larger, than when you have a mortgage, kids, hospital bills etc. The worst thing that happens is that you fail and get acquired by a larger company.

3. Time is on their side. Most mid-career executives wanting to start a company are fighting the lack of time on their side. It is NEVER too late to start a company, but if you measure the number of mistakes per unit time you make, then student entrepreneurs clearly have more chances to fail and finally succeed.

I truly believe that students are going to be the largest part of entrepreneurs in India in a few decades. Until then we have Microsoft Innovation centers and NEN to show us how to get them motivated, excited and focused on building their venture.

Shout out to my friend, advisor, guide and awesome student entrepreneurship champion Sri Krishna of NEN. He is the person to connect with in India for all things student startups related.

2 thoughts on “The rise of student entrepreneurship in India #tatafirstdot and NEN”

  1. I couldn’t agree more Mukund. My student venture while in college was (a crowdsourcing platform to connect skilled volunteers with non-profits that needed basic tech help – websites, social media, etc). We were among the top 30 ventures in the first NEN first dot. It was a superb experience. I would say that we became a startup from a college project because of NEN. Kudos to the NEN for this initiative.

    I strongly promote student entrepreneurship – you have loads of free time + no liabilities. Another interesting initiative is Kairos Society ( which connects student entrepreneurs across the globe. Kairos acts as an amazing network + resource pool for its fellows. (Disclaimer – I was a 2011 fellow and head Kairos in India).

  2. @Mukund, much humbled by your shoutout. Reality is like raising a child takes a village, getting student startups rolling and helping them grow, takes not just a (National Entrepreneurship) Network, but the nation as a whole. It’s entrepreneurial leaders such as yourself, @madanpadaki and others giving off your time, energy and insights that makes this journey that much more enjoyable and fruitful. Shameless plug here for your readers to reach out to for useful content and mentoring [at] nenonline [dot] org for support.

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