Every passing day, the myth that entrepreneurs are “born, not made”, is being debunked in the country. And a significant factor behind the Startup India phenomenon is the presence of a facilitative environment. An entrepreneur’s journey from an idea to a functional enterprise is akin to the process of making lemonade from lemons. Oversimplified as it may sound, both processes call for a lot of initiative, willpower, supporting infrastructure and guidance. And this is the founding principle behind the Lemon School of Entrepreneurship.
Established in 2015, this is a one-of-a-kind institution which functions on the belief that entrepreneurs can be groomed. Many young Indians come across a plethora of ideas, or “lemons”, as they are called at LSE, on a regular basis. The primary hurdle they face is the inability to decide on one idea, which can be translated into a business venture, and how exactly to go about it. And so, for want of proper guidance, the potential job-creators become job-seekers, under-utilising their talent.
At the Lemon School of Entrepreneurship, a nine-month entrepreneurship course is designed such that the budding entrepreneurs are ready to face the real world. Participants are armed only with a journal, in which they document their growth through the nine-month course.
The radically designed experiential learning program has no fixed schedule or curriculum, unlike other professional courses. It focuses on first providing a theoretical foundation and acquainting students with the basic principles of entrepreneurship.
It is followed by innovative activities which teach the students the application of these principles, via a Learning By Doing, and Learning By Reflection approach. There are exercises which involve participants selling items in an actual market, and those which encourage them to introspect and refine their understanding of themselves and their work.
They then zero down upon one idea which they believe would be feasible in the real world. The faculty, which consists of professionals and academics from multiple disciplines, mentor them through this process. At this stage, the trainees are further facilitated by partner institutions of the LSE- ACTON Business School (USA), Founders Institute, JagritiYatra, VC’s- to name a few.
An unstructured program with a strong DIY element is the LSE’s USP. Instead of lectures and assignments, a host of different exercises are conducted, which keep students on their feet for the entire duration of the course. There are no examinations, no grades are given, and no degrees are handed out. The emphasis is on self-motivation, the participants are driven by the zeal to improve their personalities, not by the fear of supervision. Even so, each individual receives personal attention in accordance with the Indian Gurukul tradition, and students learn not from books, but by experiencing the process hands-on.
LSE is an initiative by Lemon Ideas, a startup mentorship organization focussed on creating a conducive ecosystem for enterprises in Tier II cities of India. It boasts of a team of mentors from diverse fields who guide the students efficiently:
1. Deepak Menaria: With rich experience in managing talent and people in the IT sector, Deepak Menaria brings to the table many offbeat ideas. He has also co-founded ONE Foundation and Lambent Technologies (now GlobalLogic).
2. Nitin Gujarathi: Nitin Gujarathi has worked across domains like Insurance, Financial Services, ITeS / Business Process Outsourcing, PC Manufacturing, Media & Publishing, Consumer products & Retail. He has over two decades of experience in guiding startups in India and the Asia Pacific region.
3. Rajeev Roy: An IIM Ahmedabad alumnus, Rajeev Roy was an entrepreneur for nine years, and has since turned to academics, having served as a faculty member at the Xavier Institute of Management Bhubaneswar, Loyola University Maryland and IIM Raipur.
4. Sanjay Arora: Sanjay Arora is the CEO of Shells Advertisements, a leading advertising agency for over 25 years. He has over 13 years of teaching experience and specialises in the areas of Strategic Brand Communications, Creative Concept Development & Writing for Campaigns, Brochures, Websites etc.
5. Dr Prabodh: Dr Prabodh is the Self and Psychology Chair at LSE. He has extensive experience in institutions such as the Reserve Bank of India, Institute of Management Technology and others, and his understanding of the human psyche is of tremendous help to students trying to discover themselves.
6. Poonam Menaria: A leading figure in Counselling and Psychotherapy, Poonam Menaria is the Self Awareness mentor at LSE. Her training and experience has equipped her to guide students understand themselves and bring about the right career alignment.
7. Mukesh Ashar: An entrepreneur with 25 years of experience in the telecom and industrial supply domain, Mukesh Ashar heads the Behavioural Science faculty at LSE. Having conducted over 1500 training programmes in motivational training and presentation skills, he ably mentors the students with his dynamic personality.
8. Praveen Kanda: A technology developer with over 12 years of experience, Praveen Kanda is VP (Engineering) with XYMOB, and is a pioneer in developing location platforms for wireless operators in Asia and North America.
9. Vivek Paliwal: Vivek Paliwal is currently IT Operations Manager – Business Intelligence at GE Capital New York, USA. He has over 15 years of experience, having worked with major companies like Mascon Global Limited, ISC Software Consulting, XL Capital Ltd.
10. Vishal Arora: Associated with giants like Microsoft, Symantec, Accenture, and Avanade, Vishal Arora is a software professional who mentors startups in India and the United States. He also head the Kellogg Entrepreneurs Organization, Los Angeles chapter.
The first batch of the Lemon School of Entrepreneurship, which graduated in 2016, has 80% of its alumni working on their own startups. Some notable names are Flying Penguins, Buzzinga Labs, Pyrophyte and Creative Fox, among others. It is notable that for two years after graduation from the LSE, entrepreneurs are mentored and provided support for incubation of their ideas.
Seeking to preserve the autonomy in its teaching methods, it is not affiliated to any university. To the typical Indian mind used to placing its trust on the paper-etched word, this idea may seem ludicrous. But the students- presently entrepreneurs- who go through this holistic course, beg to differ.
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