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Archive for the ‘Entrepreneurship’ Category

Realities of life start to bite us when we are around 25-35yrs of age. We begin to look at our lives with more seriousness about the past and the future. By now, we acknowledge two facts – (1) Money (through a salaried job or an earning source) is crucial for living. Having a good philosophy for humanity and a non-income earning hobby aren’t enough in life. (2) Our parents are not young anymore and we need to offer our support at their old age. This is more important because, we need act as role models to our kids (or future kids) by showing care and love for parents. Thus, we are struck by the most challenging dilemma around 25-35yrs of age – ‘shall I return back to Manipur, but how?’returning_home_airport_01In search of opportunities to study in prestigious colleges/universities and work in jobs after our studies, we have left Manipur during our teenage period. By the age of 22-35yrs, we are working in a relevant professional career and residing at a developed city of India outside Manipur state or in a foreign country. Also, we are likely to been married by then and have already started a small family with own kids.

One popular option used by most non-resident Manipuris to return back to Manipur (irrespective of current profession or years of job experiences) is to try for Manipur Civil Services Combined Competitive (MCSCC) exam conducted by Manipur Public Service Commission (MPSC). It’s not sure whether most MCSCC exam aspirants actually know what type of work or life style one has to live once selected in that exam and begin to serve in various administrative departments of the Manipur government. Also, it’s not sure what happens to those years of work experiences, technical skills acquired and professional education undertaken in the past by those non-resident Manipuris after becoming high ranking administrative officers. Maybe, MCSCC exam is the most targeted choice because of the status of MCS/MPS officials in society and the income earning possibilities within the state among available jobs.

Another popular option used by non-resident Manipuris (with an average academic, especially among boys) is to try for a job in Manipur Police services (such as Assistant Sub-Inspector, Sub-Inspector, Indian Reserve Battalion Sepoy, Commando Sepoy). Prior job experiences and graduation degree of individuals are also less relevant while applying to the services of Police. What most educated Manipuris living outside Manipur expect when shifting to Manipur is a reasonable salary from a job (or an income source) and maintaining a reasonable social status within Manipur. Also, most non-resident Manipuris love to aim for the job of a teacher in school or a lecturer in college in Manipur. Thus, many non-resident Manipuris depends on government provided jobs to return back to Manipur and many of us haven’t yet tried to explore about any other options to come back to Manipur.

Some of the reasons why most non-resident Manipuris could not realize their wish to return back to Manipur are – (1) non-availability of directly similar jobs in their professions in Manipur, (2) availability of few jobs in some relevant professions, but needing to bribe officials and ministers to get those jobs, (3) being too late in one’s age to shift to Manipur (because of having grownup kids who were already adjusted to the outside social environments, or inability to just leave the jobs as monthly salaries fulfilled family maintenance, or their parents had already died and no close relatives lived in Manipur now), (4) not earned enough money and not gained appropriate business acumen with risk-taking attitude to start businesses in Manipur.

Some of the possible opportunities in Manipur that non-resident Manipuris can try to shift back to Manipur are – (1) starting a business in tourism/hospitality sector (such as running a restaurant, hotel accommodation, travel transport services, cultural tour programs), (2) starting a locally relevant agro-business (such as rearing of pigs/chickens, egg production, milk production, cultivation of pineapple, sales of dried fruits, potato farming), (3) starting a trading business on off-the-shelf goods (such as electronic items, bedding-clothing items, woods and furniture), (4) starting an advertising and marketing agency (such as sales and promotion of local products, non-news related publication and design activities, general website design activities), (5) starting advisory services (such as educational consultants to admit students from Manipur to various colleges in other Indian states, income-tax/business setup services to local enterprises, export-import setup services to local entrepreneurs, investment in stocks and real estates located in other cities of India, funding grant application to various government and private bodies for projects of local enterprises). The other possibility is to try to expand the business one already owns in other cities of India or abroad to Manipur, or to try to expand new offices in Manipur for the company wherein one currently works at senior management position in other cities of India or abroad.

The key challenge to returning back to Manipur by most non-resident Manipuris is that they haven’t acquired relevant skills, life experiences and risk taking willpower to venture into the career opportunities feasible within Manipur. Also, they may not have enough cash to invest the required start-up fund and most importantly, they may not have known appropriate advisory contacts to support them during the transition phase from ‘where they are currently living’ to ‘within Manipur’. One must motivate self to learn transferable skills while at work in various jobs at other cities of India; such as (1) business acumen on how to deal with finances and resources, (2) people management below and above the current job position, (3) relationship building with peers and non-peers, (4) calculated risk taking and self-starting attitude, (5) networking with relevant professionals and individuals in the interested industry/social domain, (6) awareness on government policies and funding supports in interest areas, (7) self simulation of draft ideas by making occasional visits in Manipur and execution of prototype projects, (8) learning to work in teams to achieve personal project objectives, and yet led by self. Its worth to remind ourselves that – ‘Employees tend to remain lifelong as employees or salaried persons, while entrepreneurs of own businesses tend to aim big to grow as one wishes and leave behind the businesses/wealth-earnings to their family on retirement’. In most state/central government jobs within Manipur, one may find self being stuck for life apart from just waiting for the monthly salary. Also possibly, he/she may not like the work environment and job roles, but, there is no other alternative job to quit and thereby no other means of livelihood.

If a non-resident Manipuri wishes to return back to Manipur someday, one should start saving money from early stage of life and start planning how one can invest own time/money in Manipur. As an example: by building homes at our respective town/village in Manipur in a way that some rooms/floors can be let out to tourists for a short stay, we can even earn some income and also contribute to tourism growth to the local town/village. Thus, if we are ready to write MCSCC exam and become MCS/MPS officer after having done entirely different jobs for years in industry and completed highly technical academic studies in the past, why not we dare to dream even bigger like creating own business firms by using the intelligent brain, life experiences, and willpower we’ve got. Earlier the actual realistic planning on ‘how to return back to Manipur’, higher is the success rate of returning; otherwise the person is daydreaming and wasting own time/effort.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at London (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

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Availability of govt jobs has almost dried up in Manipur state. Getting recruited into govt jobs are also extremely tough requiring bribing and having contacts with govt ministers/officials. If one compares the amount likely to incur to get a govt job with the amount one will get as salary in the lifespan of that job, it’s mostly obvious that one will be running into debt for the sake of getting a govt job. Young graduates have almost no industry jobs to work within Manipur except leaving outside Manipur to look for job. So, the question is – ‘isn’t there any other career option for young graduates in Manipur?’

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There is the saying – ‘Where there is problem, there is the opportunity waiting to be unlocked’. It’s now left to self how one approaches the problem. Another interesting saying is – ‘When you got nothing to lose, why not take the chance?’ So, how about planning to own a business as one graduates and becomes the ‘Boss of own life and other employees’.

Anyone who just passed 12th standard (i.e. 17th/18th yrs of age) is already sufficient to be in the world of business. By that age and qualification, one has got the basic education (reading, writing, calculation, social common sense, world we live in) and also, the physical and mental strengths to lead. May be what’s still missing for running/owning a business is the will power and extra guidance/tips on that business setup.

The ultimate formula for a business is based on the simple mathematics equation of ‘Profit or Loss = Selling Price – Cost Incurred’. By considering how to maneuver the parameters on right hand side of the equation, the result on the left hand can be impacted accordingly. To understand concept of a business; try to imagine how a local shop operates, how a school functions, how a rickshaw driver works, how elderly women at Keithel (i.e. Photpham Phambi) make a living, etc.

If a ‘Business’ is to be demystified, it can be viewed as activities happening in three aspects;

(1) Legal/Financial Accounting – A business needs to be a legal entity thereby requiring a registration to operate and show financial statements annually for Income Tax filing. The govt lays down regulations (including tax benefits and supports) for doing business in that industry sector and the region where it operates.

(2) Continued Justification of a Business Case – The logic behind purpose of doing business has to be appropriate at any instant of time throughout lifespan of the business. A business can’t continue to run if incurring losses beyond permissible limit of operation, or business has failed to achieve minimum targets as expected by promoters or shareholders.

(3) Sales-Production-Procurement logic – Any business goes with this concept of ‘get something’, ‘add value on that something’, and then ‘sell off that modified something by making some benefits (e.g. money)’.

While studying a degree course in a college within Manipur, a youth can focus on how to setup a business before graduating. The college may have few basic ingredients that may be helpful to the business setup – such as access to library, buildings, high bandwidth internet, academic staffs, like-minded friends, local communities, industry professionals and govt officials, etc. Also, the similar resources in Manipur University, Central Agricultural University and other higher education institutes in Manipur can be utilized for own business setup support. There are development grants provided by various govt ministries in each district which youths can apply for business setup. Also, youths can avail training support provided by state govt departments (e.g. Manipur Skill Development Society) and central govt departments (e.g. ministry of DoNER) from time to time.

What’s worth reminding herein is ‘Life is not a SPRINT, but a MARATHON’. Graduating from a college is not just the end of life or start of a career. Also, ‘What’s the difference of doing and not doing a degree course in Manipur?’ in the sense that ‘Will someone give the graduate a job in Manipur after graduation?’ Time of youth is to try to find out the purpose of life and what one is best at doing things. One may always fall back on parents to restart a life/career again till age of 20-25th yrs. All the big businesses and organizations we treasure today (e.g. Facebook, Microsoft, Apple) are built by youths in the age of 15yrs-30yrs. So, why not try and take the chance when feasible. Get a business mentor today and start thinking now.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at London (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

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Education is imparted in a systematic approach worldwide for a purpose which is ‘sharing knowledge to inspire minds’. Though School Education may be rather about teaching and learning, but, Higher Education in college/university is more about empowering students to get a job or start a new business in their post-degree career. Unless graduates are exposed to skills and experiences during their studies (thereby finding utility latter in the job market and social environment), the time spent in college/university will amount to waste of time and effort in today’s competitive world. Thus, teaching may be considered as the main theme of education, yet ‘Employability & Enterprise’ tends to be the main objective of education from the ‘performance measure’ perspective.

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 The current education policy in Manipur state has been focusing mostly on providing teachers to schools/colleges and their transfers management, creating infrastructure, and student intake numbers; instead of any new innovation and growth aspects in education to deal with local societal needs and changing global environment. This approach may work with management of school level (up to 10th or 12th standard) institutions but ought to fail drastically when dealing management of colleges and universities. Students out of school level institutions feed into colleges and professional institutions for higher studies or on-the-job studies. If there is no better college, Manipuri students just need to leave Manipur state in post 10th or 12th std for higher studies and thus, we are seeing thousands of students leaving every year (thereby also affecting state’s economy). For higher education institutions to survive, presence of vibrant industries around to provide jobs and business setup opportunities to graduates out of those colleges/universities is also essential. Higher education institutions are source of inspiration and guide to our society by producing responsible adults with add-on values in addition to the book knowledge. Thus, education policies for school level and higher level ought to vary drastically and both need serious attention by using different approaches to deal with.

Private schools (if not govt schools) within Manipur can survive successfully; because ‘score-card and pass % of students’ (which is within the control of school management with less/no influence from other external sources) are the only benchmark used for rating schools and no other measuring aspects are currently used (e.g. extra-curricular activities, staff profile, diversity of staffs as well as students intake, health and safety on school premises, financial fees and scholarships offers, support for disability students, religious tolerance, focus on sports facilities, and promotion on traditional culture, etc). State govt also seems to focus more on school education as compared to higher education and even indicated its intention to create ‘Manipur Education Services (MES)’ similar to Manipur Civil Services (MCS) just to look after school education services. Though it may be innovative, the focus has been not yet clarified on what exactly will be role and accountability of MES officers. One MES official can be assigned per a group of schools or per zone or per district to manage the non-academic aspect of school administration; e.g. management of school infrastructures to maximize utilization factor and timely maintenance (thereby cost saving), budget management and local social impact of school to maximize benefits of govt funding and school education objectives, etc. Thus, school teachers can focus on teaching part while state education officials can focus on non-academic aspects.

State govt seems to get no clue what to do with higher education sector in Manipur. Manipur University may be responsible for academic aspects of its affiliated colleges (e.g. updating course materials, checking mandatory quantity and quality of academic staffs per college, conducting exams under the new semester system, providing certificates to graduates, etc), but, its role starts and ends with affiliation of colleges only. Also, since Manipur University is now a central university and not under state govt, it may say anytime to any govt colleges to seek for de-affiliation if unsatisfied with what/how they function. Yet, Higher Education officials seem pleased only with task of govt colleges in Manipur just getting affiliation certificate from Manipur University. State govt are supposed to work more closely than before with Manipur University to devise far-reaching higher education strategies for Manipur and transform colleges into innovation houses; thus, helping villages/towns across Manipur getting the benefits from nearby colleges apart from local youths getting college education. Because, Manipur University has already gain autonomy from state govt on what/how it likes to function, thereby state govt can’t just direct whatever it used to in the past. Thus, Higher Education officials ought to be clear on what is within their role and what is delegated to Manipur University regarding the management of govt colleges within Manipur.

We are yet to see much discussion on ‘what happens to students graduating out of colleges in Manipur (affiliated to Manipur University and other universities outside Manipur) and universities in Manipur (i.e. Manipur University, Central Agricultural University)’, and ‘how colleges/universities in Manipur ought to support students for their future careers’. National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) does take employability (i.e. students getting a job on graduation) and enterprise (i.e. student enterprises in college, new startups by students, new innovation ideas/products from college, engagement with local businesses and industry professionals/alumni) as part of their rating approach for colleges and universities in India, though in less priority and less percentage focus. Sadly, ‘Employability & Enterprise’ agenda has not yet been  seen as one of the main priority areas of Higher Education policy in Manipur, though the agenda is very essential for the survival of colleges within Manipur and can transform colleges into innovation houses for benefits of local people in Manipur.

Looking from the perspective of ‘Education as a system of input, operation, and output’, questions arise like – ‘Why do we create products (degree courses) for consumers (college students) which got less utility (applications) in the local market (industry jobs)?’; ‘how much % of course contents is about hands-on application of knowledge being taught?’, ‘how much budget % is allocated per college on career development aspect as compared to staff salaries and infrastructure maintenance?’, ‘what is the policy of local business engagement for each college around course design and skill development aspects?’, ‘what is the involvement policy of alumni to support back colleges/universities?’, ‘how is other ministries in state govt (e.g. Industries & Commerce, Science & Technology, regional development agencies in each district and panchayat zones) coordinating with higher education department and various colleges from the aspect of innovation for enterprise and employability agenda?’, ‘how about satisfaction surveys from graduates every year on each college by defining performance metrics to rate each college and accordingly provide innovation funding for relevant support?’, ‘how much responsibility and accountability is assigned to the management team in each college for welfare of students and college infrastructure as compared to education ministry itself?’, ‘how the aspect of student unions in colleges currently focused on political aspects can be reoriented towards innovations around course studies?’, ‘why no plans are made to make buildings and equipments of colleges available for students’ career and skills development activities instead of leaving under-utilized in non-working hours (of evenings, weekends, and holiday breaks), ‘why no delegated staffs assigned to provide career development and enterprise creation support in each college/university?’ and, so on.

On the ‘Employability and Enterprise’ agenda, state govt may implement a hybrid model of funding and operation for higher education institutions in Manipur e.g. a centralized depository of support services (in terms of course contents, business startup funds, on-demand enterprise support services, advisory consultants/academics, equipments, a web-based knowledge resource to be accessed by representative of each college if not by every students, etc) and a localized support services per college (e.g. one-to-few teaching staffs be delegated after relevant trainings to advise on entrepreneurship and deliver enterprise support activities, or appointment of management graduates having experience in such enterprise activities).

‘Manipur Innovation Council’ chaired by Chief Minister setup in 2011 ought to look into overall higher education scenario and enable colleges and other higher education institutions to transform themselves into innovation houses to cause effective socio-economic impact to the village/town wherein they are located. Also, upcoming ‘Manipur Innovation Roadmap 2012-2020’ whose design work is currently advertised by Planning Department in Manipur State Govt through a tender process needs to incorporate concepts of making all the higher education institutes in Manipur contribute towards innovation culture in Manipur, and integrating other innovation related govt ministries with higher education institutes to empower youth as well as local businesses in easy access to necessary business support and technical know-how.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at London (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

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Understanding issues around Higher Education (HE) and local enterprises in Manipur today may be started by asking two most basic questions simultaneously – ‘Why does someone need to go college/university for HE studies’ and ‘What does industry sector need to grow in terms of manpower and skills’. We ought to look at HE sector and industry growth issues under the same umbrella for analysis and not in distinctively separate dimensions. The same fixed amount of input (i.e. Time, Money and Manpower) needed to tackle those two issues separately may be used collectively under an integrated strategy to simultaneously tackle the need to support growth of more local enterprises (thereby providing jobs to local people) and the need to revive higher education in colleges/universities (thereby satisfied academics, support staffs, and students).

Govt of Manipur ought to understand ‘the underlying implicit and explicit relationships between HE institutes and Industrial firms in a state/country’. The detailed analysis (though very critical) on how operation of state govt departments in HE sector (such as Education (U), Technical Education, and Adult Education) can be improved is beyond the scope of this article. Also, what’s excluded herein is how administration of colleges by respective college management can be enhanced and how liaising with Manipur University or Central Agriculture University as affiliated bodies may be made more efficient.

The approach of designing and delivering HE services in Manipur seems to ‘start and end with Education only’, without looking beyond and considering the local environment in which HE services operate. Graduates and post-graduates with traditional degrees are produced within Manipur who may be of least relevance to local needs or lack enough course experience to cause social impact locally. Moreover, it looks like as if colleges and universities in Manipur are just created to produce few finest graduates to be then exported to other Indian and foreign cities for better jobs and follow-on studies. Thus, return on investment (ROI) in terms of social and economic impact by having 70+ colleges and two universities within Manipur currently seem below expectation on ‘continued business justification’ rating and underperforming as a public service proposition.

On the other hand, state govt departments servicing to social and business organizations (such as Commerce and Industries, Cooperation, Income-Tax) are yet to show confidence on local people about their ability to bring about visible sustainability support to local companies and growth of new startups. Unhealthy law and order issues in Manipur (cited as a result of insurgency) may likely not attract big companies from outside Manipur to open up offices within Manipur and also, locally grown-up businesses may not successfully survive for continued operation after startup.

State govt has initiated some programmes recently to provide skill-based trainings in various industry sectors to youths/students in Manipur by financially sponsoring to third-party institutes within and outside Manipur state. Such initiative does help Manipuri youths/students to get employment in companies outside Manipur. Yet, there is huge vacuum to enable local companies to grow so as to absorb such trained individuals for the benefit of local economy. Thus, this current approach of state govt seems just like a one-sided policy to invest public fund meant for Manipur state on training few local Manipuris youths/students and then exporting them as quality manpower resources to feed into the need of other cities/states in India.

So, What if, for once, we look the spectrum of Higher Education from the perspective of need by industry and local market?

Universities in most global locations (esp. in UK) are now exploring extensively on various HE concepts to serve needs of industry clients proactively – such as Work-based Learning, Bespoke Training, Contracted Research and Consultancy, Modular-based course Programmes, etc. In order to outsmart the upcoming huge competition from various private training business companies on teaching similar course offers as universities do normally, UK universities are now more inclined towards the Research and Knowledge Transfer aspect for survival and income generation while maintaining a reasonable income generation through teaching degree/post-graduate courses.

In UK, Modular-based course Programmes are highly successful because courses are delivered in block modular mode. As an example: A 5-weeks modular course of a subject paper looks like 1-week face-to-face class plus a 4-weeks (away from classroom) academic experience period to reflect the learning by self. Students are either asked to write a written exam or online test or submit a project assignment by the end of the 5th week. After successful completion of the 5-week period, academic credit is awarded for the module. The student receives the degree after completion of all the mandatory course modules (including projects). In this approach, students (from nearby the university, within the UK and foreign countries) can travel to the university campus to attend the 1-week face-to-face class and then return back home to complete the next 4-weeks academic experience period. These students are still considered to have done the course study in Full-Time mode (though in modular approach).

If one explores the business model of large ‘training business’ companies: (1) these companies pick up the demand of particular skill sets needed for companies in an industry in a geographical market, (2) they hire industry professionals and academic experts to devise course contents and structure of delivery, (3) they advertise the courses for delivery in particular date/month of a year and recruits students accordingly, (4) they hire large classrooms or offices on rent for a specific period in line with the course delivery schedule, (5) they also hire trainers/lecturers on contract to deliver the planned courses. Thus, global companies in training business get the necessary income inflow from students’ fees and the profit after deducting the payment for classrooms hire and contracted staffs. This model is likely to be successful as long as these training companies are able to provide trained students who can get job in a company after studying the course with them.

For HE delivery in Manipur, we can reuse some concepts from both UK universities’ modular course delivery approach and global training business companies’ course delivery approach. Some state govt departments (e.g. as Commerce and Industries) can identify specific industry sectors that need to be groomed for growth within Manipur for social and economic impact locally. Other state govt dept (e.g. Education (U), Technical Education) can be entrusted with the responsibility to design and develop specific courses (in degree and post-graduate levels) by hiring industry professionals and academic experts to meet the likely demands of skills needed in job profiles available in that specific industry, and also include academic aspects of reasoning and creative thinking in the course design for students. This course development can be done in consultation with competent academic governing bodies (such as UGC, AICTE) and universities (in Manipur or outside the state or abroad). State govt departments (e.g. Sericulture, Agriculture, Fisheries, Science and Technology) can provide funding incentives/vouchers to local SMEs and business owners to recruit local candidates as their employees to undertake relevant jobs in their businesses, and at the same time, allow to access those funding grants only to directly reimburse some percentage of course fee/expense of their sponsored employees who are undertaking such specially created degree/post-graduate courses in their industry sector. This approach enforces business owners to be more responsible and accountable in both business growth and HE delivery. Also, students paying fees on own to study such courses are more likely to get a job on graduation in the local market. Already available buildings of local colleges in various towns in Manipur or other state govt offices or Manipur University or Central Agricultural University can be hired in advance for delivery of the degree/post-graduate courses in a modular fashion. Also, lecturers/staffs can be hired on contract for the course deliveries from industry and academic institutions in Manipur.

This suggested approach does involve (1) developing such course programmes after agreeing on a teaching and learning pedagogy (thereby, extensive consultation among industry, academia, academic standard bodies, and govt) (2) applying Project Management and Programme Management methodologies to ‘create and dissolve’ the entire design and delivery activities as multiple projects in a programme mode (thereby, saving money and administrative headache because of not having to build new costly classrooms and incur maintenance cost for infrastructures, not to continue providing salary and maintenance cost for teaching and non-teaching staffs after the duration of course delivery, etc), (3) efficiently managing resources needed for supply and demand to higher education delivery and industry growth (thereby, matching HE delivery services to current needs of industry in a ‘pull mode than push mode’).

Thus, state govt must undertake drastic changes in the current approach of HE delivery and Enterprises support in Manipur. Also, an in-depth research by hiring competent HE-Sector strategists is essential along with consultations with all stakeholders involved in HE delivery and Business Support services.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at London (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com

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