Among the many lessons that the pandemic taught us this year, one was about unlearning everything we considered ‘normal’. Schools moved online and offices asked employees to take their work home, too, calling on people to improvise and adapt to these changes. For parents, in fact, it was a particularly trying period, for they were — and still are — riddled with apprehensions as to what will happen to the future of their kids, in the absence of regular classroom teaching.
But author Vrunda Bansode knew, from even before the pandemic, that the future of jobs was going to look different. “Many of the jobs that today’s 10-year-olds will do when they grow up, are not even known today!” she says. Bansode, who co-authored a book called ‘Become a Junior Inventor’ about five years ago, has recently published her second — ‘Become a Junior Entrepreneur‘. Published by Penguin Random House India, it accompanies the reader through every stage of turning a nascent dream into a commercially viable start-up.
In a recent conversation with indianexpress.com, the author talked about what prompted her to write this book, if parents can think outside the box and encourage their kids’ entrepreneurial ideas, and if risk-taking should be rewarded, among other things.
Excerpts from the interaction:
What gave you the idea to write this book?
I am a firm believer in the value of experiential learning – nothing drives home the point like learning by doing! A few years ago, I was involved in starting and running a venture that provided hands-on STEM education to children. We also developed and conducted courses on financial literacy and hands-on entrepreneurship. Thus, I gathered good experience in working with children on entrepreneurial ideas, and I had seen first-hand the positive difference that it made. So the genesis of this book was in wanting to convert that understanding into something that many more children can use and benefit from.
‘Entrepreneurship’ is a heavy word for kids — how did you simplify this concept and make it interesting for them?
Entrepreneurship and startups have become a mainstream conversation today, which wasn’t the case a decade ago in India. The government is promoting it in a big way. Children come across these words in the news and hear glamorous stories of successful startups. Naturally, children are curious to know more and understand it better. In this book, I have covered stories of Indian startups and brands that children would have interacted with such as Wildcraft, BookMyShow, Id foods, Paperboat drinks, and more. The idea was to make entrepreneurship real and relatable in the Indian context.
Secondly, the economic and business concepts such as revenue, profits, break-even, marketing, team-building, design thinking and many more, have been explained through plenty of examples and simple DIY activities. The book itself is colourful; it has pictures, stories, illustrations and activity pages. The cherry on top is a wonderful foreword written by Anuradha and Dhimant — the founders of The Better India and The Better Home, and parents themselves! On the whole, I think this is an attractive combination for the age group of 10+ years to explore.
What kind of research went into the writing of this book?
As part of my previous venture ‘Cloud Mentor’, we had designed and run a hands-on Entrepreneurship Lab programme in a school in Bengaluru. So, I had observations and learnings from working with hundreds of children on entrepreneurship. I have also worked closely with many startups at IIM Bangalore’s startup incubator, and continue to observe many more through associations with the vibrant startup ecosystem in the country. Thus, I was fortunate to have a wealth of experiences to draw upon while writing this book.
Most Indian parents are still convinced that conventional career options — like becoming engineers, doctors, etc. — are safe. What do you have to say to that?
Parents are right! Conventional career options look safer only because one knows what to expect on those career paths. Entrepreneurship is a journey into the unknown – no one can predict the fate of a new business in the early days. So entrepreneurship naturally looks riskier. But don’t forget high risk brings high rewards! And not just on the material front, I think the personal strength and growth that entrepreneurs build is invaluable.
The pandemic has rewarded risk taking; since unconventional choices have thrived this year. Do you agree?
Even before the pandemic hit, with developments on many fronts – AI, automation, gig economy, rapidly evolving technologies – we all knew that the future of jobs was looking different. Many of the jobs that today’s 10-year-olds will do when they grow up, are not even known today! So in any case, it was time for all of us to break the shackles and think differently in terms of education, employability and careers. The pandemic accelerated some of it as most of the world had to suddenly move to a virtual workplace and education. What has emerged from this experience strongly is the need to be adaptable, resilient and innovative – traits that foster entrepreneurial spirit!
How can parents be more accommodating and encouraging of their kids’ entrepreneurial spirit?
I had co-authored a book called ‘Become a Junior Inventor’ about five years ago. The book contained many DIY tinkering activities and Edison’s quote that we live by: ‘To invent, you need a great imagination and a pile of junk!’
I think inventiveness and entrepreneurship are muscles best developed by exercising them. Parents need to let children experiment without fear, fail without being reprimanded and make decisions without being overly controlled. The entrepreneurial spirit is a combination of many things – leadership, risk-taking, innovation, system building, people skills, thinking, doing, and much more. Just as the best way to learn swimming is to jump in the water and start, I think the best way to foster entrepreneurial spirit is to let children do many things and learn from those: let them set up lemonade or tea stands, bake and deliver cookies and cakes, develop websites and apps for people, do dog-walking and reading services, design posters, build new toys and games! Hopefully this book will provide some guide-rails for those experiments, but eventually the real deal is in doing things.
What do you think are some of the most basic myths associated with entrepreneurship?
I think we overimagine the type of personality it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. One need not be a dramatic extrovert, an outspoken leader or a nerdy college drop-out or of a particular age to succeed as an entrepreneur. If you look around, you will see young and old people, women and men, techie and non-tech person, bubbly and shy people, coming up with ideas, executing them with focus and succeeding.
Some people associate entrepreneurship with risk-taking. Do you agree?
Risk-taking is an integral part of entrepreneurship, but not the only part. Even gamblers take risks, but that’s not entrepreneurship! Entrepreneurs typically take a well-considered calculated risk, and combine it with solid focused execution and good management practices.
What are some of the most creative entrepreneurial ideas that have emerged from children’s minds?
Children are curious experimenters by nature, until we condition them to think in a particular way. If you observe how young children draw, or build stuff with Lego or sand, you’ll find enormous creativity. But converting a creative idea into an entrepreneurial venture is a different game altogether. Some of the biggest businesses today such as Facebook and Microsoft, or Id Foods in India, were actually started by young adults barely out of their teens. So my belief is that we need to foster the creative entrepreneurial spirit at a young age, without putting too much pressure on it for one big million-dollar idea!
How can schools/teaching institutions encourage this?
Teaching institutions play a huge role in shaping young minds. Some of them have set up entrepreneurship cells now and run structured programmes. Many colleges have startup incubators for early stage ideas and they participate in nationwide competitions and startup pitches. Young minds are greatly influenced by their role models, and giving them the right ones through interactions with entrepreneurs can help. The environment all around is much more conducive for entrepreneurship today.
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