NEN began with six colleges (winners of a competition in 2002 called Lock Stock and Trade) in Mumbai and spent the next few years building its own team, bank of students’ cells and entrepreneur-advisors as it sought to effect a change in the mindsets of students. “Five years ago, when we launched NEN, there was a clear need to accelerate entrepreneurship in India, especially at the college and university levels,” says Romesh Wadhwani, serial entrepreneur, whose eponymous foundation runs this network. The original goal for NEN was to launch thousands of first-generation entrepreneurs over 10 years, creating 100,000 high quality jobs and accelerating economic development in India. “Five years on, we have come a long way and made a big difference. Today, there are nearly 400 colleges and universities with entrepreneurship programmes and over 50,000 college students are now actively engaged with us. Then, there is a network of resources that can be accessed and used by any NEN member at no cost,” he adds.
In February this year, some 250,000 students across 360 educational institutes took part in NEN EWeek (entrepreneurship week). And over the course of the event, they took part in group discussions and met investors and successful entrepreneurs. They also spent three days on a “Rs 50” game, where they had to devise out-of-the-box businesses (with an investment of Rs 50) in three days and prove their viability. These businesses ranged from dog washing to salsa classes, printed T-shirts and costume jewellery.
At Bangalore’s Mount Carmel College, students baked a cake for Rs 50 and sold one slice of that cake for Rs 20 and used the surplus to bake more products and make a handsome profit—all this to eventually learn being well-rounded entrepreneurs.
Besides nurturing first-time entrepreneurs, the next step for NEN is to play a broader role in building an entrepreneurship ecosystem in the country. “We need to encourage college students to consider a future in start-ups—not just in founding companies, but working in these start-ups and understanding the nuances of working with them,” says Biocon founder and CMD Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, a strong votary of NEN’s activities and an advisor to the network.
Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of information and networking services to the private equity and venture capital ecosystem in India. View free samples of Venture Intelligence newsletters and reports.