Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Useful actions .... worth emulating by other similar groups/organizations

Back in Mid-March this year at the Hyderabad Entrepreneurship Society (HES) meeting, a number of entrepreneurs expressed their need for functional knowledge and labor resources.

In response two things occurred. Both commendable. Here is what happened and some of my thoughts.

1) Vivek Anand, a busy entrepreneur who puts in the extra hours as organizer of the HES Meetup Group because he believes in Entrepreneurship, came up with the idea of an internship drive.

Rather than talk about it, he did some ground work, got some 150 interns to send their resumes and posted a date and time when HES members could come and interview the candidates. Another member kindly made his office space available (on Saturday and Sunday!) as a venue to conduct the interviews - free of cost!

The disappointing aspect was that very few entrepreneurs took the opportunity to interview the candidates. On Saturday, when I attended, there were 5 potential employers and about 50 candidates. The charitable view is that all the other 900+ members were busy and/or had all their manpower needs met. The less charitable view, and one that I hold, is that the charitable view accounts for only some of the members, while the rest simply did not bother. You can take a horse  to the trough but you cannot make it drink. Another argument for low attendance by Entrepreneurs could be that the approach taken was "build it and they will come" i.e. demand push as opposed to supply pull where Entrepreneurs state what they need and candidates are selected on that basis.

Here is why I would have thought that entrepreneurs would support the Internship Drive.  Entrepreneurs complain about the lack of resources and of having to compete with bigger, more established businesses. Picking a bright youngster as an intern would allow them to try and get that intern - if found to be good - to join them as an employee.

The interns seemed to sense the opportunity better than those entrepreneurs who did not attend. I got the sense that quite a few may not have been able to get better placements so were willing to try with smaller firms. That said there were also some who thought that the experience would hold them in good stead as they themselves were toying with the idea of becoming entrepreneurs; and there were others who clearly believed that they would be able to make a meaningful contribution. The latter may not even know what happens to quite a few interns at larger firms - they typically spend most of their time at the copy machine! (Oh I know there are exceptions ...)

As to the pool of interns, at first I thought that I had noticed a flaw - most of the interns were "techies". The event was not restricted to techies though there was a bias in that some of the colleges approached were engineering colleges. Then it occurred to me that an entrepreneur is unlikely to have much time to train an intern and would want someone with specific skills to do meaningful work. While limiting in one aspect, the positive implication is that the "techie" intern is likely to get meaningful experience. Was this what had motivated the "techies" to apply? If so, they were smart to do so.

On the other hand, it would also be useful to think how we can get more students from humanities and other fields to get useful internships with entrepreneurs. The problem needs more thinking (and some of us have agreed to meet on this) but my initial thought is that the solution lies in connecting two dots (educational institutions and entrepreneurs) better.

One other point. In the first hour, about 5 interns turned up. All male. Vivek got up, looked out, then sat down and said: "sad to see that its male dominated. Would have been encouraging to see some women try as well.". About 15 minutes later the intern flood gates opened and some 40 to 50 turned up almost at once, with women outnumbering men 2 to 1! ;)

2) Manoj Surya, an HES member who started a new Meetup group called StartUp Talks, sent out a request for a "financial expert". Just one day later he had a confirmed speaker, Nikhil Beheti, himself a Chartered Accountant and entrepreneur.

The event is to be held on May 04 and I do hope the speaker is good, the topic relevant and the audience both sizable and engaged. It will encourage more such information sessions. As of today, 24 people (excluding the speaker) have signed up. The Start Up Group has some 84 members.

My thoughts.

It will be interesting to see how the venue suits such a presentation and the format of the talk.
I had also requested that such information as could be shared before the presentation be shared so that the folks attending could do their homework and spend more time at the meeting discussing aspects that cannot just be read up. A recipe for example, can read and acted on, as can a grocery list. That type of content does not need a presentation.
It would I think have been good to have had entrepreneurs specify certain aspects they wanted to focus on so that the speaker could address that.

Stay well. Stay true.

Vishnu.