My Research Journey: The Beginning

“In much of society, research means to investigate something you do not know or understand.”- Neil Armstrong, (1930-2012, first person to walk on the moon)

Hailing from a conservative middle-class family, I was clear from my childhood days that academic pursuit is the key for my survival. Initially, graduation was the goal. My graduation in engineering (1973) got me a decent job in a leading Public Sector Undertaking of the 1970s. Within a year, the academic bug bit me and I joined a Post Graduate Diploma in Industrial Management (PGDIM), initiated in 1974 by the Department of Commerce, Bangalore University (BU), for the first time in Karnataka as an evening programme for working executives. I enjoyed the course to the extent of getting the first rank. Subsequently I joined a Diploma Course in French at the Alliance Française in 1975 as there was a possibility of technical collaboration between my department and a French Company. Unfortunately this did not materialize.

When I learnt that BU’s Department of Commerce had initiated in 1976 a three-year part-time MBA program, I enquired with Dr. O. R. Krishnaswami, the then Head of the Department, about joining the course. He said that I could directly join the third semester because I had done a one-year PGDIM. So I joined the MBA in 1977 and completed it in 1979 with Marketing as my specialisation.

While in the fifth semester of my MBA during the second half of 1978, I became an entrepreneur. I started off part-time and continued for nearly five years until 1984, when I resigned my job and became a full-time entrepreneur. As part of my networking, I joined a few industry associations; one of them being the Consortium of Electronics Industries of Karnataka, popularly known as CLIK. It was in 1989, when I was the President of CLIK, I had the opportunity to interact with Dr. M. K. Sridhar, who was then a lecturer in Vijaya College. He had invited me to be a panelist in a discussion, which was part of a two-day seminar on technical education at the BMS College of Engineering. During the seminar, while discussing with academicians like Prof. B. R. Narayana Iyengar, former Principal of University Visvesvaraya College of Engineering (UVCE) and Prof. Dhanjaya, former Principal of Jayachamarajendra College of Engineering (JCE), Mysore as well as industrialists like Sri. S. G. Ramachandra, who was then the President of Kirlosker Electric Limited, the first seed of research was sown in my mind. In early 1992 I had a chance to meet Prof. Gopal Valecha of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore and I discussed with him the possibility of pursuing research in the area of entrepreneurship. He narrated his own story of how hailing from a middle-class family made him take up a job with Central Customs and Excise Department after completing his post-graduation. He was posted in the International airport at Bombay as a Customs Inspector. Looking at his colleagues abusing their position, he got fed up and resigned. Owing to his academic bent of mind, he pursued his doctoral studies. He completed his Ph.D only because he dedicated four full years. He told me that it would be difficult for me to pursue research as an entrepreneur and that it would require at least three to four years of full-time efforts.

During 1993, I had to come out of the company that I founded in 1985. I started a new venture in association with a few of my business friends. The research idea took a back seat. In 1997, my brother Raghuraman, who was then working at Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, had registered for a part-time PhD in the USA and pursued it vigorously. In the middle of his research, during early 1999, he was diagnosed with cancer of esophagus and stomach (stage 4). He succumbed to the disease in November. By this time, the new venture that I had founded with five other entrepreneurs was six years old and had attained certain amount of stability. In April 2000, I informed my company’s board that I would like to give up my executive position by 2001 after completing all the compliance requirements for the financial year 2000-01 to take up research and community work seriously. Accordingly I was relieved in September 2001 after the balance sheet and profit and loss statements for FY 2000–01 were adopted by the general body and company / income tax returns were filed.

When I consolidated my thoughts on doing research during October 2001, the first person I approached was Dr. M. K. Sridhar, who had moved by then from Vijaya College to Canara Bank School of Management Studies, which was a part of the Department of Commerce, BU. He asked me to briefly write a synopsis on the problem area in which I wished to pursue research. He also advised me to visit the library of Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore and go through some of the Ph.D theses to get some idea. As I had already made up my mind more or less on the research area – entrepreneurship, I wrote a four-page note on Business Incubators, then an emerging concept in India and gave it to him for his perusal. To my surprise, the very next day Dr. Sridhar called me up and said that he would take me under his wings as a research scholar, subject to fulfilling all the university requirements. He also asked me to be on the look-out for an advertisement from BU calling for applications for Ph.D.

To my good fortune, BU advertised in November 2001 and I developed a synopsis on Development of an Effective and Appropriate Framework for Business Incubators in India with the help of Dr. Sridhar. Even the preparation of the synopsis in the format given by the university was a mini-research experience. It took nearly one month and finally I could submit my synopsis along with the duly filled up Ph.D application form to the Ph.D section of BU during middle of January 2002, well before the last date. Thus, I had taken the first few steps in my research journey.

October 15, 2019 | Ravi 25