By Arjun Talwar
Edited by Nandita Singh, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
Many dream of becoming a leader. Thousands of students at Delhi University, IITs, IIMs and various other esteemed institutions of the nation, are striving to lead tomorrow’s world. Be it the various student start-up ventures, or job-hunts for managerial positions at top-notch companies, the students of today leave no stone unturned to stand out from the rest. While healthy competition has been sparked off owing to large number of students taking some rigorous, and sometimes even unconventional, steps to become a successful leader, let’s not forget that being one is not very easy. What may help you with your goal, is taking lessons from other’s success stories and views.
Once himself a student at Delhi University, Dr. ShashiTharoor then went on to become Union Minister on two occasions, a feat among his various other accolades. He could be the perfect inspiration for many. I got a chance to quiz him through a one-on-one interview at the Leadership Summit in SRCC.
On being asked about how his life can serve as a learning lesson for the budding leaders of tomorrow, he was quite humble when he responded with, “You can look at a person’s life for examples to an extent, but ultimately most of the motivation comes from within. Moreover, circumstances change from time to time. There may have been some opportunities then that do not exist now, and some constraints then that people do not face now.” He was of the belief that college-going students must also immerse themselves in various extra-curricular activities and outside-the-class learning experiences. If you just walk-in and walk-out of the lecture halls, you are certainly at a huge loss. He further went on to add, “Every person has to deal with their own problems and advantages, but one can certainly learn from other people about how they have dealt with adversities, taken risks, and overcome setbacks”
When he was asked to share his views on the rat-race among students in reference to MBA education, he believed that the rat-race is a relevant reality. “In India, the number of opportunities is much fewer than the number of people chasing those opportunities. As a result, the rat race becomes much more intense. In my time, the politics of scarcity was a major factor. There were fewer of us, but we were chasing even fewer possibilities. The emphasis on marks alone and the so called ‘cut-offs’ is a pity, as it has spoiled the educational environment by relying purely on percentages, and missing the fact that university is a place of all activities,” he said. Dr. Tharoor also went on to distinguish between managers and leaders. He specifically mentioned that the two terms must not be mixed. “When we talk about the rat-race for management, managers are not necessarily leaders. A manager may not be an effective leader and an inspirational leader may not know how to manage the nut and bolts of an organisation.
The15-minute talk came to an end with a question regarding what the priority of student start-ups should be: whether to start businesses which have potential future financial returns, or should they start something only to gain experience. “Students should certainly learn, because without learning they won’t have the capacity to earn anything worthwhile. Having said that, entrepreneurship does require gut feeling, the ability to spot opportunities and take risks, and that can come to you at any age, sometimes with your education having nothing to do with it. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs, let’s face it, have been college drop outs. So entrepreneurship, in a sense, probably cannot be learned. The state and the university can help incubate. One way is by providing a safety net to students who have a very good idea in mind, but cannot afford to take risks,” he said. He also added that entrepreneurship is an efficient way to create more jobs, given that more and more successful entrepreneurs are born. Self-employment and freelance work could be the way to go for students.
Arjun is currently pursuing Economics (H) from Moti Lal Nehru College, Delhi University. He has a habit to discuss politics and current affairs over the dining table (like most Indians!) He is a loquacious speaker yet an avid listener who loves to chill with friends. He is a debater at heart and desires of travelling long distances. Watching movies and cricket is what he craves for in his free time. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org