ISME Commencement address


Dean Dr. Indu Shahani, Vice Dean Prof. Heena Thakkar, Siddharth Shahani, Senior Associate Dean, Dr. Sonia Bharwani; distinguished faculty, parents, students and friends,

I must start by saying that I am in awe of what Dr. Indu Shahani and her team have built here. An institution that is motivated by the importance of entrepreneurship and management is so apt and needed today.

To the graduating class of 2018, parents and family members, and the faculty – my heartiest congratulations!  This is a very proud moment for all of you.  A moment, you, the students have worked hard for.

You are graduating at a wonderful time – when India is full of opportunity.

In fact, I have not seen such an opportunity-rich environment anywhere since the dot com days in Silicon Valley.

In nominal dollar terms, the size of India’s economy just surpassed that of the UK, an advanced industrial economy; in purchasing power parity terms, India can be considered to be four times larger. India’s economy grew at 8.2% in the last quarter.

Many businesses are planning to grow at rates of 25 or 30 per cent. Where else in the world will you see that?

When I was your age, the attractive opportunities were in the West. India was growing at around 3%, what was called the Hindu rate of growth.

Today, the best opportunities in the world are right here in India. Young people like you need no longer to look to the advanced economies to find rewarding careers. At my firm, KPMG, just in the last year, we have attracted several topnotch professionals to come back to India. They have come from the US, UK, Canada and Australia to help us address the opportunities we see right here in India.

India’s growth will be driven by the energy, talents and aspirations of your generation in the coming twenty five years and more.

You make India one of the youngest populations in an aging world. The energy of your youth will propel India.

India is already the fastest growing large economy and its continued growth will need your skills and will present you with many avenues to develop rewarding careers.

Indeed it is an exciting time for young people in India. What William Wordsworth said, about the early days of the French Revolution which caught the world’s imagination, holds true today in India:

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,

But to be young was very heaven!

But first, I must commend you on your choice of the ISME program, combining entrepreneurship and management.

An entrepreneurial mind set will be critical in the world ahead as change continues to accelerate and choices continue to proliferate.

I lived in Silicon Valley for 35 years, surrounded by perhaps the most vibrant entrepreneurial community on earth. And there I spent fifteen years as a co-founder of three companies – and engaged as an advisor and investor with many entrepreneurs.

There is no more addictive vocation than that of being an entrepreneur because of the thrills of success and ownership. But is also demands the ability to deal with adversity when things do not go well. It is a vocation that, because of its highs and lows, demands that nerves of steel. You cannot get low when things are not going well, and when things are you cannot take it for granted that it will continue.

India, today, is among the most active places for entrepreneurship.

Last year, India added over 1,000 startups. In terms of numbers of new ventures, India will soon catch up with the US and is already the third largest start-up ecosystem in the world. Friends in the US tell me that, after Silicon Valley, India has the best deal flow, the best pipeline of investable opportunities.

India has some ten unicorns and many more “Soo-nicorns.” In the next two years, India is expected to double the number of start-ups from its current level to over 10,000. All the unicorns are trying to solve some key issue or problem faced by today’s consumer – examples are Ola and Swiggy.

These technology oriented business are reshaping, as did Amazon, how we do business. Business models are thus impacted like never before.

This is not just a passing trend.

Coming back to you, the entrepreneurship scene in India is supported by the fast paced development of the startup ecosystem in the country – incubators, accelerators, venture capital/ private equity and angel investors, corporate fund houses, regulators, corporations and other ecosystem players.

Entrepreneurship is direly needed in India, to create jobs for the 12 million people who join the Indian workforce every year.

Government in India, at the centre and the states, know this and are encouraging young people to become job creators rather than job seekers.

Young entrepreneurs across the country are already working on advanced technologies such as 3D printing, Internet of Things, Robotics Process Automation, Virtual and Augmented Reality, Machine Learning and Artificial intelligence – and are signs of more to come.

India needs – and there are opportunities here – for many kinds of entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurs working to create a more inclusive and fair society are as if not more important than technology businesses.

All this is very well, but you ask, how do I find opportunities?

You never know where opportunity comes from. You have to get around, and get known to people across your area of work, or the city where you live.

I will give you just one example. When I first went to Silicon Valley, I was the controller of a company. But I did not just stay holed up in Finance, I got to know the engineers by sharing with them the work of the Finance department. One of them, in fact a renowned computer scientist, came to me and asked if I could be his business partner to launch a new venture. That opportunity would not have happened if I had not got involved with areas outside my own.

We joined forces to co-found a new company. This was also the start of my entrepreneurial journey.

You have a responsibility to seek opportunity. You have to place yourself in situations where opportunities will find you – by getting involved in business activities and voluntary organizations and generally cultivating your interests where you will meet other people.

If you are in a large organization, raise your hand to offer to get involved in new areas, actively ask for new roles once you have won the confidence of your superiors and peers.

Many times, these acts of seeking opportunity will take you out of your comfort zone. That is a good thing, as the best learning and personal growth comes from the risks you take as you move out of your comfort zone.

Indeed, a willingness to move out of your comfort zone, to take risks as you seek opportunity, is a great asset for a career.

Staying static, as the world is changing around us, is not an option.

This reminds me of a story I heard many years ago from an MIT President. A student related to him, many years after the convocation, that the two most important words he learned were those he had been told at the degree award ceremony. The two words were. “keep moving”.  The President had said, as he gave him his degree, keep moving, keep moving. For there was a line behind waiting to get there degrees.

I would like to close with those words. In your years ahead — keep moving. Do not stay still. Acquire new knowledge, make new friends, travel to new places, learn new skills, find new opportunities, keep moving intellectually all the time. Keep moving out of your comfort zone.

I wish you adventure, learning and success.




%d bloggers like this: