Research Journey: Exams and Moving Forward

Exams test your memory, life tests your learning; others will test your patience.

In April 2004, my wife and I had been on a short holiday to Ahmedabad to visit Dwaraka, the city established by Lord Krishna. I used the opportunity to informally visit Indian Institute of Management (IIM-A) and Nirma Institute of Management as both these institutions had established Business Incubators (BI) with the support of Department of Science and Technology (DST). During 2003 and 2004 I was a member of the Managing Committee of Bangalore Management Association (BMA) and was also editor of Manage, an in-house monthly journal of BMA. I also visited Ahmedabad Management Association (AMA) because it was declared—for five consecutive years—as the best branch in India (among 25+ branches) by the All India Management Association. In an article I wrote for Manage, I shared my understanding of how AMA was so successful. While serving as editor, I reviewed a few management books, which helped me hone my writing skills.

In June 2005 my PhD supervisor Prof. Sridhar informed us that our examination will be held in August. The last examination that I had written was more than twenty five years earlier. Owing to computer usage my need to write on paper had drastically reduced over the years. Apart from preparing for the examination, I had to also practice writing! I was fortunate to have Prof. Ramesh as a fellow research scholar; he was serious in his preparation for the examination and this motivated me a lot.

We had two papers for examination – one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. This was immediately followed by viva-voce conducted by an external examiner. The examiner appreciated the topic chosen for research and suggested that I reduce the number of objectives. This suggestion came handy when I was finalizing the second questionnaire for data collection. My supervisor at the end of the day expressed great happiness that both Prof. Ramesh and I had done well in the exam.

During the second half of December 2005, I happened to see on the notice board of Canara Bank School of Management Studies (where Prof. Sridhar was working) a brochure of Shailesh J Mehta School of Management, Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B), inviting papers for an international conference on Creating Entrepreneurship Environment and Development of Entrepreneurial Managers to be held during the third week of March 2006. The last date for submission of the complete paper was 31st December 2005 because the process of selection of papers was extensive. For the selected papers, IIT-B would bear the costs of travel and accommodation. I decided not to miss the opportunity of presenting a paper at such a prestigious conference. I had less than a fortnight and had to work like my engineering examination days, almost fifteen hours a day, to develop the paper:  Developing Entrepreneurial Society in India through Business Incubation. Not only was my paper selected for presentation, it also happened to be one of the thirteen papers shortlisted (out of over one hundred and twenty papers presented) for a book that was later published on the conference theme.

There was a national conference on Sustainable Development Initiatives for SMEs organised during 23-24 March 2006 by National Institute for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (NIMSME), Hyderabad, which was announced in January 2006. I had sent a paper: Business Incubators: An Appropriate Entrepreneurship Development Strategy in the Changed Scenario. As there was a week gap between the two conferences, I had suggested my wife to come over to Pune, where we stayed with a friend of ours, who had been inviting us for a long time. We could also visit the Ajanta-Ellora caves. I utilized the opportunity to visit Pune University as they had a BI.

Having published four papers and passed the Pre-PhD examination, I started working on the research tool – questionnaires. By August 2006, I had sent to over forty BIs across India the questionnaire seeking information on the working of their BI. Responses started trickling in. I personally visited BIs in nearby cities – Chennai, Coimbatore, Mysore, Tiruchi and Vellore and met the managers to gather the required data. I had the opportunity to attend the Second International Conference on Business Incubators organised by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Government of Andhra Pradesh at Hyderabad in November 2006. I gathered data from three BIs based out of Hyderabad and reminded some of the BI managers who attended the conference requesting them to send me back the filled up questionnaire.

I had the good fortune of being invited by Nirma University in January 2007 for their annual International Management Conference to be a panellist to share my views on Effective Commercialisation of Technologies Developed in University. I made use of this visit to Ahmedabad to collect duly filled up questionnaires from three BIs there. I visited the BI at IIT–B and also a few BIs in Pune. This trip helped me to collect six filled-up questionnaires.  In the same month, my research supervisor suggested that I attend a state-level conference on Research Methodology organized by Mangalore University. I used this opportunity to visit the BI at National Institute of Technology, Suratkal. I had thus collected data from eighteen (more than forty percent of the) BIs functioning across India at that point of time.

One of the requirements of Bangalore University before submitting the thesis was submission of a synopsis covering literature survey, objectives of the research, research methodology, chapter scheme, analysis of the data collected and conclusion, recommendation & limitations of the study. Sometime during end of January 2007, I submitted the synopsis and my supervisor suggested that I should start writing the chapters as the approval will take time.

Around the same time, I received a telephone call from Prof. Kalyani Gandhi who was Chairperson of N. S. Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (NSRCEL), Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore requesting me to come over to meet her. When I met her, she said that NSRCEL was looking for a consultant to support outreach activities as well as to mentor start-up entrepreneurs and my name was recommended by one of her faculty colleagues, Prof. Seshadri. I had interacted with Prof. Seshadri during 2001 and 2002 while preparing to register for PhD. The job was on contractual basis for a period of one year. As I was in the process of writing the thesis, I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to work out of IIM-B. I hence accepted the offer and started working at NSRCEL from February 2007.

December 01, 2019 | Ravi 28