Monday 15 July 2019

How can college students get started with entrepreneurship?

A lot of students across various colleges want to get into entrepreneurship. Keeping this in mind, here is a detailed roadmap for students who want to create jobs rather than get a job. Note that this is just a rough sketch of what you should do in college to get started with entrepreneurship. You should explore entrepreneurship yourself and learn from your experiences.
Let’s get started?
What is Entrepreneurship?
We will not bore you with the definitions, so let’s get straight to the point - entrepreneurship is about creating value for others so that in return you can make money. A wrongly perceived definition of entrepreneurship is - making money by selling products and services. If you read the first definition carefully, you will observe that entrepreneurship isn’t really about making money. It is about creating value for others. Money comes as a byproduct.

Let that sink in again - entrepreneurship is about creating value for others. Money comes as a byproduct. As an entrepreneur, you are supposed to solve the problems of others so that they get benefitted and in return, they pay you.
We all are aware of the well-known entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Sergey Brin and many others. All of them have solved problems for billions of people (including us) and we are all happily paying them. They are solving our problems - the problem of purchasing something online, the problem of finding information on the internet, etc.
Case studies of some well-known entrepreneurs
Before delving into how you can get started with entrepreneurship, let us first take a look at some of the case studies of entrepreneurship:

  • Jeff Bezos: Jeff Bezos is the founder of Amazon, the global e-commerce giant. Jeff Bezos started Amazon in 1994, initially selling books online. Today, Amazon has more than half a million employees across the world. Jeff Bezos is impacting billions of lives - customers, employees and shareholders. For customers, he is solving the problem of getting anything at their doorsteps. For employees, he is creating so many jobs. For shareholders, he is creating value by helping them make money through his company’s shares. You see how much value he is creating? Undoubtedly he is the richest person on earth.
  • Bill Gates: Bill Gates is the founder of Microsoft, the global Software giant. Bill Gates started Microsoft back in 1975, selling software for computers. Today, we all use Microsoft Windows in our Personal Computers. Like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates has also impacted billions of lives. He stayed as the richest person on earth for several years.
  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin: Larry and Sergey started Google back in 1998 and today, the products of the multinational technology giant have become an indispensable part of our lives. Larry and Sergey have impacted billions of lives and no wonder both of them are billionaires.
Now, let us delve into the important question - how can you, as a college student, get started with entrepreneurship?
How to get started with entrepreneurship?
The most important aspect of entrepreneurship is getting started. Remember, time in the market is more important than timing in the market. Therefore, the earlier you start, the better would it be.

Let us first talk about some small ideas with which you can get started. We will talk about some bigger ideas as well.
First, make a list of marketable skills - things at which you are good at. For instance, writing articles, creating software, communication, teaching, etc. These skills are your strengths. Since you are great at them, you can find out how to create value for others with these skills. This is particularly useful for 1st and 2nd-year college students who may not have too much knowledge.
Once you have the list, try mapping it to use-cases where you could apply these skills. For instance, if you are good at writing articles, you can start with freelance content writing. If you are good at teaching, you can consider tutoring online.
Basically, the objective here is to find out a well-known business idea and execute it. Your idea would not be unique since there are millions of software developers or content writers out there. But, the important point here is to get started with something. This way, you can quickly learn the basics of business - handling clients, sales, marketing, negotiation, hiring, etc. These are extremely important skills for any business.
Remember - college teaches you how to become a better employee and not a better employer.
So, your aim should be to learn about the most important pillars of entrepreneurship mentioned above. Here are some more details about these pillars:
  • Business Development: Business Development is about making a list of your potential clients. For instance, if you have created software for professors to manage their lectures, you will have to make a list of all of the professors in your college and possibly, other colleges. Once you have created this list, you will probably reach out to the professors. This exercise is called as Business Development.
  • Sales: Sales is about actually selling your product/service. For instance, in the above case, you reached out to 10 professors and 2 of them called you for a meeting at their office. In the meeting, you presented your product and showed them a demo. This is sales.
  • Marketing: Marketing is about making customers aware of your products/services. For instance, in the above case, you may want to run a Facebook advertisement campaign so that Professors across Mumbai get to know about your offering.
  • Hiring: Hiring is about building a strong team of people who will help you in the day-to-day activities of your business. We all are aware of hiring, and so, we won’t talk much about it.
  • Finance: Finance is about managing the cash flow - how much money you are getting from customers, vs how much money you are spending on the salary of your employees, rent of the office, etc.
  • Product Development: Product Development is about actually building the product that you are offering to your customers. For instance, it could be an app, or a hardware device, or a web-based platform.
Unfortunately, except for the basics of product development, none of the above is taught in college. This is why there is a need to revamp college education. Let us talk about it later.
For you as a student, the most important point is to get started with something where you don’t really have to invest much money. This is why we suggested that you can you should start with offerings where you don’t have to hire anyone. Hiring involves a fixed cost in terms of salary. So does an office space. You should try and avoid getting into such fixed costs at an early stage because if you don’t get enough revenues, you will make losses.
Entrepreneurship terminology
Here are some basic terms that you should keep in mind while starting up:

  • Revenues: Revenue for a year comprises of the total money that you collect from your customers.
  • Expenses: Expenses are the costs that you incur in terms of employee salaries, office rent, etc.
  • Profits: Revenues minus expenses. Profit is the money that you make once you have factored all your expenses from the revenues.
Case Study
Suppose that you start a simple business of partnering with restaurants near your college to get them more business. Your idea is as follows:

  • You go to a restaurant near your college and tell them that you will get them more customers if they give you a 25% discount. They agree.
  • You create a simple restaurant booking app and market it to your friends. Through this app, your friends can book tables at a restaurant and get a 20% discount.
  • Since your friends are getting a discount of 20%, they are super happy. Since the restaurant owner is getting more customers, he is happy to offer a 25% discount.
You as an entrepreneur get 5% of revenues that you bring for the restaurant. Imagine that you partner with 50 such restaurants near your college. At each restaurant, you are able to drive traffic of 100 students. Assume further that each student purchases food worth Rs. 200. The total revenues that you have created for these restaurants (in 1 month) = Rs. 200 x 100 students per restaurant x 50 restaurants = Rs. 10 lakhs. Since you are charging 5%, you make a cool Rs. 50,000. This amount can easily cover your basic expenses of developing a mobile application (provided you know how to do), and server and hosting charges.
Isn’t that a great business idea?
What skills do you need for this business? Let’s see:
  • Sales: you need to go and convince each of these 50 restaurants to offer a discount of 25%.
  • Marketing: you need to make your friends aware of your app.
  • Core skill: the core skill here is Software Development. If you don’t know how to develop the software (app), you can hire a developer for say Rs. 10,000 who can easily develop such an application in a matter of 1 week. Alternatively, a smarter way would be to partner with your friend from the Computer Science department and take his/her help. In return, you can offer them a 20% share (Rs. 10,000 in this case). The latter way is smart because you are avoiding a fixed upfront cost of paying a developer Rs. 10,000.
As you can see, without much fixed cost, a small business could easily be started. Through this simple idea, you may not make much money, but you will get to learn a lot. When you interact with 50 restaurants, you will learn how to sell - one of the most important skills for any entrepreneur. When you tell your friends about your app, you will learn marketing - another important skill.
There are hundreds of such small business ideas that you can execute locally. It is tough to scale such ideas because some or the other large company would already be a leader. But, you can always start it locally to gain more knowledge of business and create income for yourself.

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