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Posted by on May 20, 2010 in Business, Career, Ex-Patriots, India, TG Roundup

The Start-up Schedule

The single largest reason why people give up on their entrepreneurial aspirations and continue in a job is delay in breaking out after college. [The following article is via]

On The Job | Sanjeev Bikhchandani

The author is co-founder and chief executive officer, InfoEdge (India) Ltd, which runs the website. He writes a monthly column on careers and enterprise.

The question I am most frequently asked by business school and engineering college students, who are aspiring to be entrepreneurs, is: “When is it the right time to become an entrepreneur? Should I do it straight after college or should I work for a few years first?”

The truth is that there are success stories of all sorts. There are those who have done it after working for a few years as managers in companies—the Infosys founders are an example. Then there are people who have done it straight out of college—my good friend Kunwar Sachdev of Su-Kam inverters is one such. And there are those who have dropped out of college to become entrepreneurs— Bill Gates is the most famous name that comes to mind. There are people who do college and entrepreneurship side by side—Michael Dell’s story of how he founded and ran Dell from his college room is famous. Finally, there are those who became entrepreneurs without even going to college or completing their school education—the best-known story in India is of Dhirubhai Ambani.

There is no one right answer to these questions. However, you can always find an example to support whatever point of view you support. Time it right: Bill Gates dropped out of college to set up Microsoft.

The argument in favour of becoming an entrepreneur straight out of college is that once you are in a job and you get comfortable with the idea of a regular salary, you will find it extremely difficult to quit to do a start-up. This is especially true if you are from a premier institute and earning a high salary in a well-known company. It becomes worse if some years have elapsed since you finished college and you have now bought a car and a house and have EMIs to service. And later on, when you get married and start a family, it becomes nearly impossible to quit—you crave security.

The single largest reason why people give up on their entrepreneurial aspirations and continue in a job is delay in breaking out after college.

The argument in favour of working for some years in a job before becoming an entrepreneur is that you improve your reality check. It is well known that the Indian education system does not provide a great reality check to students. It takes several years of working after college for graduating students to figure out how the real world actually functions. You learn to work as a subordinate before you become a boss and that experience is important when your company scales up and you are managing a larger team. You acquire skills on the job that you would otherwise not have. You meet customers, get an insight into their needs and an understanding of the market. You get to know about business opportunities. You learn about processes and good practices that are useful years later. You build your network and credentials.

In a nutshell, working for a few years increases your chances of success once you do become an entrepreneur. The flip side is that if you get into a good job and work there for a few years, you may never actually quit to become an entrepreneur.

My view on this is that you should become an entrepreneur only when you are ready. I had worked for five years before I quit and became an entrepreneur. And, in hindsight, I would not do it any other way. I needed those five years to learn and mature and become a better people’s person. And you will know when you are ready. Your inner voice will compel you to do it. You will start hiring and looking for services such as one of those company formation services that can work with you as you start your business.
The other time to become an entrepreneur is when you have such a compelling idea that you are totally convinced that it is now or never. Gates often cites this when he talks about his decision to quit college and set up Microsoft. He could see the PC age coming and he just had to be a part of it, but felt it would pass him by if he spent another three years in college. He just had to do it then.