Entrepreneurial competition: And the winner is…

By Kazim Alam, The Express Tribune

KARACHI: The objective of business schools in the 21st century is to produce job-creators instead of job-seekers, speakers at the Invent 2012 Entrepreneurial Challenge Finals and Conference at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) said on Saturday.

Organised by IBA’s Centre for Entrepreneurial Development, the conference featured two panel discussions and several speeches on entrepreneurship besides 25 presentations by finalists of a country-wide business plan competition.

Speaking on the topic of “Entrepreneurial mindset for an entrepreneurial world,” IT entrepreneur Jamal Khan emphasised the need to ‘unlearn’ some of the lessons one learns at a typical business school. “Unlearn the academic mindset. Real-world situations require quick decision-making, not detailed analysis.” Khan also showed his rejected the idea that entrepreneurship is ‘teachable.’ He said entrepreneurs also had an element of charisma in their personality that helped them hire, retain and motivate talented human resources.

He said budding entrepreneurs should not look forward to any investor or venture capitalist, and rather concentrate on raising seed money from personal savings, friends and family. “If you go to a venture capitalist with an idea, you’ll be lucky to even get an appointment,” he said, adding that entrepreneurs should resort to bootstrapping initially.

About 2,500 students from 137 universities of Pakistan participated in the business plan competition held between January and July in four categories, namely agri-preneurship, techno-preneurship, social-preneurship and other-preneurship.

The winning team in each category is going to get a cash prize of Rs100,000 in addition to the seed money amounting to Rs500,000 for the establishment of their enterprise. First and second runners-up in each category will also receive cash prizes and seed money.

The four-member team from Preston University, Islamabad, received first prize in the agri-preneurship category for preparing an elaborate plan for ‘Pak Stevia,’ a business that will produce natural organic and non-toxic sweetener from stevia, a plant that is naturally 300 times sweeter than sugar. Although the plant grows in Brazil and Paraguay, it can be cultivated in Pakistan. Pak Stevia will grow it in Shinkiari, Mansehra, which is suitable for its cultivation.

The five-member team from National University of Science and Technology (NUST) grabbed the first prize in the techno-preneurship category. The name of their business is ‘Navigate,’ which uses smart-phone technology to help the blind move around, or navigate. The business will sell a small handheld or wearable device, which detects obstacles in its immediate vicinity using ultrasonic ranging. The device is connected to the smart phone of the user wirelessly via Bluetooth.

The five-member team of IBA Karachi won the first prize in the social-preneurship category for coming up with the business plan for Employing People for Self-Reliance (EPS). The proposed enterprise will assist budding entrepreneurs in getting capital through Islamic micro-financing. It will own businesses initially and employ people, who will go on to become franchising partners in the same business as it becomes profitable over time.

Students from the Islamabad-based Center for Advanced Studies in Engineering (CASE) won the top prize in the other-preneurship category for preparing the business plan of a home construction company. The engineering firm will construct earthquake-resistant homes based on structural concrete insulated panels and steel structure, which uses TridiPanel, a prefabricated material.

According to a survey conducted by the Pakistan chapter of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) in 2010, the predominant motive for pursuing entrepreneurial activity in the country is to increase income. It also revealed that those successful at starting a new business enjoyed a high level of status and respect in society. Most people believe that starting a new business is a good career choice in Pakistan, it said.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 15, 2012.

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