ThinkEdu Conclave 2024: Spotlight on evolving job market; Start-ups role in non-linear growth

During the panel discussion titled “Taking Education Higher: Synergy in Opportunities,” on Day 1 of the two-day conclave, Raman emphasised the vast opportunities available for students
Visuals from the event | (Picture: TNIE)
Visuals from the event | (Picture: TNIE)

The 13th edition of the ThinkEdu Conclave 2024, presented by SASTRA University, brought attention to the evolving landscape of India’s job market and the crucial role that start-ups play in fostering non-linear growth.

Speakers MJ Shankar Raman, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of IITM Pravartak Technologies Foundation, and Saji Gopinath, Kerala University of Digital Sciences, Innovation and Technology (better known as Digital University Kerala), shared insights on the changing dynamics of opportunities and entrepreneurship.

During the panel discussion titled “Taking Education Higher: Synergy in Opportunities,” on Day 1 of the two-day conclave, Raman emphasised the vast opportunities available for students in the present scenario. However, he pointed out a prevalent challenge—students’ hesitancy towards entrepreneurship due to a fear of taking risks. 

In response to a query posed by panel chair, senior journalist Kaveree Bamzai, regarding the potential challenges encountered by entrepreneurs, Raman emphasised the enduring commitment entrepreneurs have to their work.

“For entrepreneurs, their jobs are not merely roles; they are enduring commitments,” he stated. 

Delving into the dynamics of job creation, he pointed out the limitation of exponential growth in the number of engineering colleges in India without a corresponding surge in job opportunities.

“We can witness exponential growth in the number of engineering colleges in India, but realising a commensurate increase in job opportunities requires the proliferation of start-ups and innovation,” he said.

Highlighting the inadequacy of the conventional approach of urging companies to establish centers in India, he underscored the precarious nature of job security if companies are not favourably inclined. 

“The conventional practice of urging companies to establish centers in India may fall short, as companies, if dissatisfied, possess the capacity to relocate jobs elsewhere,” he added, shedding light on the necessity for a more robust and dynamic job creation strategy.

Gopinath echoed the sentiment, emphasising a philosophical shift from an industrial to a digital world. 

“In the evolution of our economic landscape, we are transitioning from an industrial-centric paradigm to an era dominated by digital advancements. Examining transformative products like WhatsApp, it becomes evident that they originated from the innovation of small companies. Our current emphasis is on nurturing the success of smaller enterprises, and this is precisely where the significance of start-ups comes into play,” he said.

To accomplish this, colleges must adopt a mindset akin to that of start-ups, he said.

“Educational institutions need to contemplate the establishment of a culture characterised by agility, proactive response to emerging trends, and optimal utilisation of available opportunities,” said Gopinath. 

Both speakers emphasised the importance of creating an environment conducive to start-up growth. 

“The emergence of the next Google cannot solely rely on the efforts of a small group of students in India; a robust support system must be in place to nurture such ventures," he said. 

Interdisciplinary skills in entrepreneurship
Addressing the vital question of whether fostering a start-up-friendly ecosystem could lead to a surge in engineering colleges, two prominent speakers emphasised the significance of interdisciplinary skills in the world of entrepreneurship.

Gopinath stressed on the need for a diverse skill set within a start-up team, advocating for a combination of engineering and non-engineering talents. “Your team needs assets from both engineering and non-engineering backgrounds,” he said.

Raman echoed this sentiment, highlighting the increasing demand for a variety of skills driven by the diverse needs of start-ups.

“A variety of skills are surging in demand due to start-ups. Otherwise, everyone only ever talks of electrical engineering, electronics, computer science, or mechanical engineering,” he remarked.

Illustrating the broad spectrum of opportunities available to non-technical graduates in the start-up realm, Gopinath provided examples – “A life sciences graduate can seamlessly venture into Bio-AI, while a geography enthusiast can delve into the realm of geospatial analytics. Media graduates can thrive in the domain of media analytics, and arts graduates have the opportunity to contribute significantly to digital humanities. The amalgamation of these diverse skills with technology presents the potential for the creation of numerous innovative start-ups,” adding that UPI and fintech stand out as prime examples of the success achievable through such interdisciplinary collaborations. 

Raman highlighted the facilitative role of the National Education Policy, particularly in the form of dual degrees, which has made it easier for students to acquire diverse skills.

Discussing the potential of start-ups to address unexplored market segments, Gopinath emphasised that these ventures could resonate with the unaddressed sections of the market, presenting opportunities for growth and innovation.

Both speakers delved into real-world examples, including the case of Music Temple, a start-up incubated and funded by Pravartak. Raman narrated how the start-up, which aimed to convert Indian music into text notation, inadvertently contributed to the revival of dying Assamese folk songs. 

“We went to these singers and told them that we would convert them into notation – and the result was, everyone started singing them!” he shared.

In conclusion, the speakers underscored the critical need for a nurturing ecosystem that supports graduates from all disciplines in their entrepreneurial endeavors.

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