Looking for a job today, that too in one of the core industries, in the current environment seems like an uphill task. Even among those who have a job, there will be a handful who would like to start off something of their own. This article discusses the options that are open to fresh engineering graduates, and to those who are skilled but want to quit their current jobs to start a venture of their own. The article focuses on the field of elecronics with respect to manufacturing, assembly and repairs.

Can an engineer be an entrepreneur?
At a time when fnding an occupation is hard, the sensible option (which is actually being pursued by many) after graduation would be to either study further or start your own business, which can be one of the hardest, most challenging and demanding options. Besides, success in business is hardly ever guaranteed. Having said that, it can also be one of the most rewarding endeavours, both financially and professionally.

According to a survey, people with engineering qualifications are more likely to run a business than those with an MBA. Engineers with the right mix of a technical background and entrepreneurial abilities have a good chance of starting projects of their own. With job uncertainty increasing by the day, entrepreneurship is now a good option to consider. So, the question is: Can an engineer be a successful entrepreneur?

Yes, believes Vinay Chaddha, CTO, GVC Systems Pvt Ltd. He says, “All a person needs is guts; everything else will fall in place. But I assume that readers would be interested in starting a micro-sized or a small enterprise, rather than starting a large-scale organisation, for which they need to be financially sound.”

Ganesh Shankar, managing director of FluxGen Engineering Technologies, which is a start-up, says, “In my opinion, engineers with a business idea should ideally ask themselves the following questions: ‘Why do I want to start a business?’, ‘Who will be my immediate customers?’, ‘Who will be my end customers?’ and, ‘What are my skill sets—do I have, at least, the basic skills to start working towards the business?’ If the motivation is strong, the rest will most likely fall in place.”

The first step
Sharing his views on the important first step in starting a business, Vinay Chaddha says, “They should know their skills really well. The most critical thing in the field of entrepreneurship is to understand your own skills and, more importantly, whether people will be willing to pay for your skills or not. Personally, I have been through all the stages—repairing, designing and manufacturing. If aspiring entrepreneurs can understand their strengths, whether in the field of manufacturing, repairing or designing, they should go for it.”

The first step is generally the toughest of all, and it can be exceedingly intimidating and discouraging for inexperienced graduates trying to compete against multinational companies. But consider this quote by Donald Trump: “If you’re going to be thinking, you may as well think big.”

So the first step is always about your concept—your idea of what the enterprise will be about, what it should be, how it should develop its products, its cost points, how it should operate within its environment, etc. It is very important that you feel confident aout your idea, as this will help you to work harder towards being successful. A good understanding of commerce will certainly help. And don’t think about the big companies in the domain—just focus on your plan!

Where do you belong?
With over 25 years of industry experience, Ganapathy Subramaniam, ex-CEO of Cosmic Circuits and presently a consultant to many ESDM companies, shares his views, saying, “According to me, manufacturing, design and assembly within the field of electronic is largely a part of the ESDM (electronic system design & manufacturing) sector. Hence, the upcoming start-up firms that aim to concentrate on that domain may well be classified into two categories.” He adds, “One is the highly innovative, global market kind of a company. These organisations come up with a brand new idea and commercialise it. The other type of company is one that builds something over an existing idea. Both the product and the market for it exist globally, and Indian start-ups localise the idea for the domestic market.”

So first, engineers must decide which category they belong to. Subramaniam says, “I would, in all probability, counsel the student community to consider the first category because they are not confined to any boundaries or routine patterns initially, and they can start to create something world-class. The second option could be for people who might not have great innovative ideas but are talented and are willing to take the risk of investing. To be successful with the second option, it does require expertise within the industry,” he further adds.

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