Are business schools killing the entrepreneurial spirit?

‘Are business schools killing the entrepreneurial spirit?’, Kazim Alam explores this thought on Express Tribune Business Pages by building up on the results of a recent survey highlighting management students’ aversion from venturing into the entrepreneurial realm.

KARACHI: During an interactive session held in connection with the Global Entrepreneurship Week 2011, the moderator asked a sizeable group of management students present in the audience if they wanted to be entrepreneurs after graduation.

Hardly 20% replied affirmatively. The rest of them said they would rather get a secure job, preferably at a multinational, which promised a steady income and growth.

Are our business schools turning out good employees while killing the entrepreneurial spirit of potential business leaders of tomorrow?

According to Haris Hamdani – who graduated from a private university in 2009 and now runs a clothing brand for men namely Red Tree – career counselling at the undergraduate level was more about getting a stable job instead of entrepreneurship.

“As such, there was no encouragement to be an entrepreneur. There was not even an entrepreneurs’ society at my university. I’ve heard now they’ve established one,” said Hamdani, who set up his first retail outlet at Dolmen Mall on Tariq Road in July 2010 in partnership with three of his classmates.

“I started my business simply because I am a Memon. No one in my family works for others,” he said, adding that he had to lure his classmates away from their regular corporate jobs.

He said Red Tree’s business grew by over 100% in the first year of its establishment. It now has two retail outlets in Karachi’s upscale markets and a franchise in the United Kingdom. Noting that a number of graduates of the same university had earlier launched businesses, and some of them failed, Hamdani said universities should develop case studies on successful business models conceived by their graduates.

The call for developing case studies based on local start-ups seems to strike a chord with business students. Furhan Hussain, an MBA student at SZABIST, thinks business studies in Pakistan is rarely solution-oriented. “They’re often focused on unrealistic ideals, or situations, which do not apply in the Pakistani context.”

Hussain says the education system ends up making students “confused, delusional and impatient” about what to expect in the business world.

According to Saifuddin Kamran, assistant professor of marketing at Textile Institute of Pakistan, less educated people are more likely to start their own businesses. The reason, he says, is that they have fewer chances to land a job in the well-paying corporate sector.

On the other hand, Kamran adds, people with formal business degrees perceive their expensive education as an investment that must ensure steady returns after their graduation. “That makes the corporate sector their preferred option.”

Hammad Siddiqui, deputy country director of Centre for International Private Enterprise, a non-profit affiliate of the US Chamber of Commerce, believes it is wrong to assume that lack of access to capital and/or family pressure are the biggest discouragements to budding entrepreneurs.

Instead, he says, young business graduates are less motivated about entrepreneurship because of two reasons. One is that they are simply unaware of success stories that exist around them and two, business schools have failed to inspire students to become entrepreneurs.

“What fresh graduates need is a little awareness about local success stories and some encouragement at business schools from their professors.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2012.

2 Replies to “Are business schools killing the entrepreneurial spirit?”

  1. the fact is that human communities depend upon a diversity of talent and interests, and our educational model tends toward conformity and standardization and rarely celebrates individuality.

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