The Independent Student Newspaper of Ashoka University

The Importance of ‘Why?’

Philip Deweyi talks about experiencing a ‘classroom beyond boundaries’, interacting with eminent South African startups and learning the nuances of private sector collaborations with governments.

Major at Ashoka: Economics

Course at the University of Cape Town: South African Entrepreneurship Immersion

Built on the lines of strategic and competitive learnability in entrepreneurship, the South African Entrepreneurship Immersion organised by the Centre for Entrepreneurship at Ashoka in collaboration with Ingenious Faces, was a tremendously endless learning experience. Albert Einstein once said, “Education is not the learning of facts but the training of the mind to think” — keeping with this spirit, the program was designed with a balanced mixture of both in-classroom and practical learning. This is what I refer to as “classrooms beyond boundaries”.

Philip posing in front of the University of Cape Town building.

Throughout the program, I had the immense opportunity to explore intricate and complex disciplines of entrepreneurship such as leadership in today’s competitive economy, event staged pitches, enterprise marketing, technology commercialization, ethics in new and emerging markets, and understanding of the African start-up ecosystem with a case specific to South Africa.

The program kicked off with giving us an understanding of the categorization of energies that are dominant in both the entrepreneur and the entrepreneurial venture. These energies, as I gathered from the lectures, are predominantly pertinent in determining “Flow” i.e. a business planning based tool that enables an entrepreneur to create optimal experiences for optimal results, as well as answer fundamental questions such as, “Why you do whatever you supposedly do? When do you turn value into currency?” and the like.

Next was marketing, which focused on cultures, or what I refer to as innovative, cultural-based marketing in emerging markets, one of the most significant, yet commonly ignored issues. This particular session allowed me to develop new and innovative entrepreneurial approaches to society’s most entrenched problems, draw a road for collaboration with governments, and more significantly, develop a cultural based marketing campaign for a brand, all with the commitment of a team player. My team proposed a campaign dubbed “BABA.” i.e. Buy Africa, Build Africa, and even went on to win the challenge.

The Ethical leadership module of the course enriched my understanding of ethics as driven by values. The training here focused on the factors that influence choices, or rather business ethics, such as globalisation and culture.

The most fascinating, fleeting and interesting experience of the program, however, was the series of industry specific visits to various hubs such as the Amazon Development Centre, V&A waterfront and start-ups such as Pargo.

These industry specific visits presented an opportunity for horizontal and vertical interaction with the various founders and entrepreneurs, that transmogrified the conventional and traditional contact-sharing to networking and discussing their work, referred to as scale and ideas cross pollination. Additionally, it gave a one-on-one feel of how each of them was contributing to making the community better.

A key insight I took from these meetings was the importance of the question “WHY?” — the purpose behind why you do whatever you do, and its correlation with the entrepreneurial mind. Each entrepreneur, who shared their story, emphasised that they were either doing it to solve society’s most entrenched problems, or to help bridge the gap created by their government in rethinking and redefining the equality of opportunity. I also learnt that for my entrepreneurial venture to be able to deliver on its promises and achieve its vision, I need to connect with people with the right managerial competency, so that constant innovation steers the organization from its soul, the vision, while simultaneously helping me focus more on the ideas pertinent to its growth.

In conclusion, the Global Learning Program in Cape Town provided a holistic view on startup ecosystems and new perspectives on the subject of entrepreneurship. The activities were not only engaging, but also provided exceptional opportunities for an exchange of experiences, interactive debate, networking with emerging African leaders and entrepreneurs, and acquiring a better understanding of the ideals and principles for starting a successful entrepreneurial venture. Group based sessions encouraged team play while promoting strength based leadership.

Finally, I perceive that this program also offered a platform to share, exchange and familiarize myself with good practices as a channel for my personal development.

We would also like to thank the
Centre for Entrepreneurship, for providing the students with this wonderful opportunity.

The Edict would like to thank Ms. Anuja Kelkar from the Office of International Programs for her support in making this series possible. Ms. Kelkar is the one-woman army at the office who helps Ashokans with the arduous process of applying for and attending summer school. If you wish to attend summer school during your time at Ashoka, it might be best to approach Ms. Kelkar as the first step.

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