Entrepreneurial Practices – Where It All Started?

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started” – Mark Twain. Read Lakshmi Bangalore Gangadharaswamy's entrepreneurial story!

I am a master’s degree student in Automation Engineering at the Hervanta campus of Tampere University (former TUT). As any other student of Engineering, I was confined to studying what my specialization required. Two years into my studies I was struck with a quite bothering thought, “Is this what I want to do?” I had the internal urge to study something along with mainstream engineering. I did not want to do just engineering but incorporate aspects of business and management into it. I would not blame myself for having that urge because that is what has a person I have been. In India, apart from my academics, I was always involved in organizing and running events for the student association. I have held the position of General Secretary for the Mechanical Students Association during my bachelors. I have worked as a Production supervisor leading a team of 64 personnel. So, with all these experiences, I was missing on something in my master’s degree.

To explore my thoughts, I applied for Tampere University’s summer school. Here I learned aspects of cross-cultural communication along with arts-driven innovation for organisations. These courses nurtured my interest and eagerness to learn more in this regard, but then I was clueless about how to do it. Now let me reflect on Twain’s quote. I know where I want to head, but I did not know how to start and where to start. I had a short time and I wanted to learn more than just theory. Business and management are generic topics, I did not know which thread I should pick up. Words cannot describe the commotion of thoughts within my mind then.

Like a pack of wolves hunting for their prey, I was constantly looking for ways to learn what I intend to learn. This is when I came across Y-Kampus’s C-lab (commercialisation lab) course. I was quite excited when I read the course description. It said “C-LAB IS AN 8-WEEK SPRINT IN WHICH YOU WILL LEARN HOW TO GET A PRODUCT OR SERVICE READY TO LAUNCH. You and your diverse team will partner with a local startup, research team, or social organization to develop a real, implementable commercialization plan.”

Well, I found something! The course offered much more than theory; I had the opportunity to partner with an actual start-up to develop a real plan for them. I applied to partner with ViimaTech, whose dynamic R&D team has developed a cost optimized IoT solution to monitor pumps in water utilities and process industry. They aimed to make their proof of concept a reality in the European Market in 2020! The reason I choose ViimaTech was the similarity between their product and my major, Hydraulics and Automation.

At C-lab I was part of a multi-disciplinary team, our challenge was to find potential B2B customers for ViimaTech in Finland and across Europe. We considered factors such as levels of digitalisation, labour costs and much more to find potential market countries and business entities. The course also provided lectures on market segments, finding potential customers, branding, marketing and sales strategy and much more for start-ups. Teea Mäkelä did a brilliant job in bringing these concepts in an easier yet effective way. After a few C-lab classes, I expressed my desire for learning and ways to incorporate the same in my degree program to the course co-ordinator Maria Ruokonen. She was instrumental in shaping my minor in Entrepreneurial and Innovation practices. She introduced me to Y-Kampus, its courses, books and more. I had found a new path to my interests.

I undertook more courses at Y-Kampus such as Innovation challenges and Y-Portfolio. At Innovation challenge, I was part of a more diversified and multi-disciplinary team from three Tampere campuses. We were so diversified that we had a student from Literature, dentistry and me from Hydraulics along with two from a management background in the team. Together we worked on finding potential customers and developing a realistic business model for Riderscout Oy’s “Scouter” (electric scouter), Tampere based start-up. This had persuaded us to get off our comfort zone to develop a realistic business model while assuming ourselves to be the business operators.

Finally, the Y-Portfolio to bring practical experience of entrepreneurship and working skills. It was about building entrepreneurial competencies in real-life settings. Y-Kampus practical courses provide real-world experiences such as working in multi-disciplinary teams, undertaking challenges that you had never thought of before, patience and listening ability, teamwork skills, self-initiative, freedom, make new connections and room for practising EntreComp entrepreneurial competencies. Through Y-Kampus I was able to practise and gain insights into most of the Entrepreneurial competencies mentioned in the EntreComp except for Financial and economic literacy. Well, it very rare for an investor to provide funds for courses. Added to that I wasn’t subjected to much of a risk but, there was a lot of ambiguity.

The current education is more diversified than before. Experience is much more valued than just theoretical knowledge. Maybe that’s the reason three campuses in Tampere have facilitated cross-institutional studies for students to gain diversified knowledge during their studies. Entrepreneurship skills are not just about having a business it can also mean a self-initiative mindset. Y-Kampus is a go-to place to gain such practical experience. A year back I did not know what I could deliver apart from Mechanical and Hydraulic Engineering, but now with few days to graduation, I am confident to enter the professional world. Along with my engineering background, I have developed the innovation and entrepreneurial skills. It was all about new learning. Learning while doing. Is this not what the future workplaces are about? Relearn to learn. When IT and engineering is the mainstream, I have something else to add along with it. Maybe that is where each one of us makes a difference.

You can contact me on LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/lakshmi-bg/

– Lakshmi Bangalore Gangadharaswamy