Today, there are many phrases and roles in fashion, entrepreneurship being the most popular, especially in relation to business. However, I would like to show that first and foremost, entrepreneurship is a personal character quality, and is about much more than profit or wealth creation.
At root, it is about our attitude to life, to the challenges of life and our mindset. It is also about our ethics and values, and if we understand this concept in its depth and breadth, we can become more empowered and self-confident, whatever we choose to do in life. Fortunately, our Dharmic science also helps us to be good entrepreneurs.
For me, an entrepreneur is a person who looks at possibilities and opportunities, not just problems and barriers. In many cases, barriers actually inspire entrepreneurs to overcome them and shape opportunities for themselves and others. When our forefathers first came to this country, they applied for jobs, but could not get them due to racism or the lack of proper “British” qualifications – that is why they went into business and corner shops – rather than sit and moan about the difficulties.
Entrepreneurship is about not sitting idle but doing and making something of life. Our women are so used to juggling multiple tasks, and making things happen that they do not need to go to a Business School to become entrepreneurs. The recently successful ‘Women in Tech’ meeting at the House of Commons organised by the City Hindus Network is an example which proves the point. Universities need to wake up to this huge talent that comes into their campuses and encourage them rather than force them to become textbook entrepreneurs. Aspects about finance and marketing can be learnt or even delegated, but the mindset is priceless.
The other misunderstanding is that entrepreneurship is just about business. In reality, it is first about life and then about work. How we adapt and cope with life’s challenges makes a big difference, and as immigrants we face a lot of challenges all at once. But we do not allow them to diminish us – instead we rise to them, make new friends in the absence of relatives, organise community festivals and gatherings, and adapt to the local culture and language all at once. These multiple challenges are hard for any community or migrant family, but somehow we do not complain – we adapt and instead even praise the opportunities and flexibility that is on offer. Often having such qualities make us become leaders in whatever occupation we choose. And leadership is a truly rare quality, and a highly responsible one too.
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As a nation, we are facing huge challenges in terms of public leadership today – just look at our roads, transport, health, education, crime and economic inequalities, and you can see how divorced society has become from its duties, responsibilities and fairness to one and all. As many of us are very agile and talented, we choose to go into private enterprise as it is perceived as more flexible and the rewards are immediate. However, we are also very good at tackling social and public challenges – for example, there is a very talented new Chief Executive Meghana Pandit at one of the largest NHS trusts in the UK – and she has shattered the glass ceiling. We need more of us to go into such roles and bring genuine transformations in society. The barriers are there, but we can overcome them.
Let us celebrate our Dharmic entrepreneurship qualities – and encourage them to uplift society from its vast challenges.
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Professor Atul K. Shah [@atulkshah] teaches and writes about Indian wisdom on business, culture and community at various UK universities and is a renowned international author, speaker and broadcaster.