Research Journey – Next few Steps

Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else thought”

Albert Szent–Gyorgyi (1893–1986), Noble Prize Winner, 1937

I was a part-time entrepreneur for nearly five years (1979–84) and subsequently became full-fledged entrepreneur. This had not prevented me from thinking of doing formal research through a doctoral program. As I was busy with ongoing business, I did not give much importance to it. However, whenever there was an opportunity, I used to discuss with people who had done their PhD. The demise of my only brother, who succumbed to cancer while pursuing his PhD made me finally to register for a PhD program as a way of fulfilling the wish of the departed soul.

Having registered for a PhD program with Bangalore University (BU) in January 2002, I followed the advice given by my supervisor Prof.M.K.Sridhar – focus on reading as much literature as possible in the problem area chosen for research and strengthen knowledge of research methodology. He said that although there is no regular coursework, there would be examination in two areas – chosen area of research (entrepreneurship in my case) and Research methodology, apart from a viva- voce by an external examiner based on the synopsis submitted. Only on passing these examinations (the passing mark being 50% in each) would my PhD registration become official. He also suggested that I should be on the lookout for opportunities to present a paper in the chosen area of research at any regional / national conferences in the near future.

Within two months of registering for the PhD program, my supervisor handed over to me a brochure of a two-day national conference, BVCON 2002 on Small Scale Industry – Past, Present and Future organized by Bharati Vidhyapeet’s Institute of Management and Rural Administration Development, Sangli, Maharashtra, to be held during 12th and 13th April. He suggested that I should attempt writing a paper for this conference as I was managing small scale industry.

During October–December 2001 I had spent some time with a few of the faculty members at Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIM-B), discussing generally about research and developing a suitable methodology for doing research. Thus, I was prepared to an extent for writing a paper. Based on my personal experience of managing an enterprise and the concepts of business incubation that I had understood through literature, I wrote an exploratory paper: “Business Incubation – A Measure to avoid Sickness in SSI Units and a Tool for Re-engineering: Specific reference – Electronics Units,” explaining how Technology Business Incubator (TBI) can help electronics SME sector to solve some of their technical and business problems. There were more than eighty papers presented at the conference and interaction with other research scholars and academicians really exposed me to a different world. I was happy that my maiden paper was well-received in the academic world.

During the latter part of December 2002, I came across an advertisement of IIM-B announcing a two day international conference jointly with University of North England on Entrepreneurial Innovation to be conducted during 3rd to 6th March 2003. I developed a concept of drawing an analogy between eight systems of the human body to the eight functional processes of a business organisation and how this could help in forming the right leadership team. When I explained the concept to my supervisor, he said it is novel and worth writing a paper around the concept. Thus my second paper, “Entrepreneurial Innovativeness in Team formation: A Conceptual Model” was published as part of conference proceedings and this time at an International conference. My paper was one of the forty papers selected for publication out of over a hundred papers presented.

Having completed more than a year and published two papers, I was now eagerly awaiting the examination so that I could go forward with visiting some of the TBIs that were already functioning across the country to understand their effectiveness in promoting start-ups. My supervisor said that the examination process may take some more time, since the Deputy Registrar (PhD), the official responsible for organising the examination, had to coordinate with all the research supervisors from various humanities departments apart from getting confirmation from the external examiners identified by the respective supervisors for the viva voce to finalize a date for conducting the examination. He suggested that I should start working on developing a questionnaire covering all the important parameters for collecting data / information from the business incubators.

I decided to develop the questionnaire in two parts – the first one to elicit all the details about the business incubator and the personnel managing it and the second on the functioning of the incubator. After listing all the business incubators functioning in India established before 2003, I sent the first questionnaire to all of them with a note explaining the objective of my research endorsed by my supervisor. I had sent out the questionnaire to more than twenty-five incubators and had received response from hardly five over one month.

My supervisor had set up a system of a monthly review meeting, which was compulsory for all the research scholars (he was supervising six of us at any given time) to attend and one of us had to make a presentation. During such a meeting, I shared my disappointment of not receiving enough response from the incubators. My supervisor said it was quite normal that many will not respond unless you know someone or visit them in person.

In August 2003, I came across an advertisement of National Science and Technology Management Information System (NSTMIS), a division of Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India calling for research proposals. I suggested to Prof. Sridhar that it would be beneficial both to the college and the research scholars if we could take up a study on Industry Institute Interaction with focus on SME sector in the Science & Technology domain and technical institutions. He encouraged me to go ahead. We thus developed the research proposal to study Interaction between Technical institutions and SMEs in the S&T sector, limiting the study to three Southern States – then Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu along with another research scholar Prof. N. Ramesh, who was working on technology as a strategy for SMEs’ growth for his doctoral thesis.

The total project outlay for the proposed study was twenty lakh rupees and duration was fifteen months. Sometime during November Prof. M.K. Sridhar, being the Principal Investigator was invited by DST to make a presentation on the research study proposal to a committee of experts. We received the grant approval letter in January 2004 with the grant amount reduced to rupees twelve lakhs. In all earnest I started my new role, Principal Co-investigator of the sponsored research study.

November 01, 2019 | Ravi 26