No more Business Plan competitions please!

March 11, 2009 at 7:33 am 14 comments

Through the years we have heard of various organizations and universities running Business Plan Competitions. Things have come to such a stage that now when someone mentions they are holding such a competition, all I find myself doing is shrinking back and hoping I won’t be asked to be part of it.

The reason for feeling this way is that, to my mind, these events do not really accomplish very much. A few weeks of putting together a theoretical plan which the youngsters are not planning to take any further, results in an ‘unreal’ exercise – much like most final year projects at Universities. No real passion goes into it because the end objective seems to be to win, not to end up with something that is going to be a solution to an existing problem that will be implemented, and will be sustainable. Yes sure some of the mentoring and coaching is probably retained by them but not enough. It is still theoretical/academic. Both of these generic activities need to be thought through. Why can’t we do something more useful, I keep asking myself? Something that will result in real businesses being formed and real products being developed.

Obviously Jawwad Farid read my mind and has come up with the beginnings of a solution for the Business Plan Competition part of the above problem. Here is what he says.

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14 Comments Add your own

  • No more Business Plan competitions please!…

    Through the years we have heard of various organizations and …

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  • 4. Sharjeel Ahmed Qureshi  |  March 11, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    Couldn’t agree more!

  • 5. Daily Links-08 « HRM Course Blog-2009-IMSciences  |  March 11, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    […] No more Business Plan competitions please! […]

  • 6. Obaid Ahmed  |  March 11, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    I completely agree with you.. i think we need to start competitions where the focus is on R&D and what the students can do to present a demo of their idea.. a prototype..

    this isn’t too far in future.. *hint*

  • 7. Khurram  |  March 12, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Being a B’School grad, I simply cannot deny the importance of business plan. You may not see immediate results, but it definately helps in longer run. Even if it’s an educational excercise, people will make a mental note to do competitor analyais, market segmentation, cash flow analysis, go-to market strategy, role distribution ; I am not sure, how many universities have regular courses in enterprenuership, apart from LUMS, but i wouldn’t mind having few people take this as a crash course.
    I wouldn’t be surprised, if we dont find enterprenuers emerging from such competition; Local enterprenuers ( people who never went abroad ) is extremely low ;
    I remember Imran Zia, mentioning that he would provide mentoring to enterprenuer – I personally feel that could be a great initiative. Something on lines of Y-Combinator may work in our culture.

  • 8. liferockzzzz2008  |  March 12, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    I totally agree with khurram many few universities have regular courses LUMS may have but in karachi universities like NED ,KU not sure about private sector dont have these types of things

  • 9. Jehan  |  March 13, 2009 at 10:02 am

    @Obaid, exactly that would be a diffferent way of doing it and something that might grow into a “real” business. Hmmm wonder what you are up to. Do let me know so I can talk about it. 🙂

  • 10. Jehan  |  March 13, 2009 at 10:11 am

    @Khurram I wasn’t suggesting that business courses or entrepreneurship courses were not necessary. My peeve is against fluffy competitions that lead nowhere. Sure those who want to learn something, eventually end up learning something from any exercise.

    As for Business Plans, many entrepreneurs say that it is simply a way of focusing your thoughts and thinking things through before you embark on a business. The reason these competitions are usually of no use – of course there are exceptions – is because the focus is on the competition and not the idea or its execution.

    Entrepreneurship courses are being run at LUMS, FAST, NUST, SZABIST and IBA, that I know of, but @liferockzzzz2008 is right – they should be run at other universities as well.

    The YCombinator is the concept that many of us are really thinking of. It would work well here.

  • 11. Khurram  |  March 13, 2009 at 11:08 am

    @Jehan : My argument is business plan competitions might not be producing immediate results, but they help in structuring thought process. Serial enterprenuers, just internalize the thought process. In my humble opinion, they might not be surving ultimate objective, but its still better then not having them.
    Count me in for YCombinator like stuff. Imran Zia, honestly came up with a brillient idea. I can also say, we might not have success stories the 1st year, but inshallah we will have few years down the road –

  • 12. Jehan  |  March 13, 2009 at 11:31 am

    @Khurram I totally agree that Imran’s idea of providing space, coke (as in coca cola), pizza/biryani, mentoring and guidance for a few months until the idea has gelled and developed into something concrete, is a terrific one. Let’s pin him down and make it happen.

    Hey by the way, your interview will probably run next week. Will let you know.

  • 13. Khurram  |  March 13, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    @Jehan : I would probabally request Imran Zia, to get few people to pour in some quick money may be 3,000-5,000 US $, like YCombinator does. It ensures that mentors have their interests in it as well.

  • 14. Hammad Siddiqui  |  March 14, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    How many business plan contests are done ethically?
    Business plans are usually fresh ideas and should be appreciated. 1st, 2nd, 3rd prize are irrelevant.


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