'An Entrepreneur Has to Be Passionate About Their Business'
The results of the Russian part of the Global University Entrepreneurial Spirit Students' Survey (GUESSS 2021) have been published. It found that Russian students show interest in entrepreneurship more often and think about starting their own business five years after graduation. Galina Shirokova, Professor at the School of Economics and Management, Director of the Centre for Strategic Entrepreneurship, told us about other trends in the sphere of entrepreneurship.
The Results of GUESSS 2021
About 50% of Russian students expect to find employment right after graduation. At the same time, 22% are ready to start their own business from scratch, and 42% of students mentioned that they would like to engage in entrepreneurship in five years.
In the entrepreneurial intention index devised by the researchers, students who study economics and management showed the highest score of 4.4. Students of natural sciences showed the lowest score: 3.3.
The university environment plays an important role in shaping students' entrepreneurial intentions. About 54% of students noted that they had no courses on entrepreneurship. That is only 1% higher than in other countries.
If parents engage in entrepreneurship, it contributes to shaping an entrepreneurial mindset in their children. In Russia, the percentage of students who want to become an entrepreneur is higher (51%) among those with parents in this sphere than those whose parents are not entrepreneurs (39%).
Entrepreneurship is more attractive to students of Russian universities. However, there are fewer active student entrepreneurs than potential ones.
— Tell us more about GUESSS. What is this project?
— This is a global study of students' entrepreneurial spirit in which 50 countries, including Russia, take part. I learnt about this project in 2010, and the organisers from Switzerland invited me to join. Then I became a national representative of GUESSS from Russia; I invite Russian universities to join the project and help to develop and distribute the survey in Russian. I am happy to see that more and more countries use our survey.
The research is carried out once every two to three years. The main goal of the project is to learn the career preferences of students, find out which students want to become entrepreneurs, and see who has already done so and joined the family business. There is also an interest in aspiring entrepreneurs—those who have already started doing things like coming up with a business idea, creating a business plan, finding partners, creating a product prototype and so on.
This project is great not just because of innovation, but also because it provides a limitless resource for academic research and publications. For instance, around 30% of my publications are based on data from the GUESSS project. These articles have been published in high-ranking journals—for example, in the Global Strategy Journal and the Journal of Business Venturing. So, those who believe that it is impossible to publish an article based on data about students are greatly mistaken.
— What is the main difficulty that young entrepreneurs have to face? What does the data say?
— The research has shown that many students lacked courses on entrepreneurship. The trend is gradually changing, but these changes are not enough. Now, entrepreneurship courses generally teach students to draw up business plans and present projects, but this is not really what entrepreneurs need today. It is important to shape the entrepreneurial mindset: teaching people to see opportunities and create a new product. This is what I teach master's students of the School of Economics and Management at HSE University-St Petersburg.
— Which fields of study are most popular among students who become entrepreneurs?
— Most often, these are people who study management and economics. There are fewer of them among students of engineering and natural sciences. It is instinctively clear why this is the case. If parents send their children to a business school, they likely want their kids to work in business or become an entrepreneur. The engineering specialities have other goals.
My foreign colleagues sometimes joke that they are not interested in working with students of business specialities—it is said that they cannot come up with anything interesting. In this context, technical students win: they can create a new technology or device. The only problem is that most frequently, they do not know how to package it in an attractive way or implement it in the industry. That is why we should take engineering students into account.
— Are there more entrepreneurs among men or women in Russia? What are the dynamics?
— There are more male entrepreneurs, but in some cities (such as Vladivostok), women start more firms than men. Most often, women who have become mothers start their own businesses for others who have children.
I recently sent an article on the gender gap and entrepreneurship for review. In it, I focused on young people—it is usually harder for young women to get a job. At the same time, data from GUESSS for 2021 shows that after graduation, 26% of surveyed men and 21% of women are ready to start a business, but in five years, the difference between them falls to 1%.
— The conclusions of the research deal with social entrepreneurship. What is the understanding of this phenomenon in Russia?
— There is an opinion that social entrepreneurs are people who do good things and do not make any money. Of course, this is a misconception: any business has to pay off and generate income. Social entrepreneurship only differs from regular entrepreneurship in that it aims to solve complex and socially important problems.
There are various examples of such businesses, including those based in St Petersburg. There was a case when a gymnast broke her back in childhood and spent a long time recovering. Then, as an adult, she created a travel agency for people with disabilities.
I think that if a person is familiar with a problem, the business is more likely to be successful. An entrepreneur has to be passionate about their business. Such a deep passion often appears when they have faced a problem themselves. In such cases, an entrepreneur understands what the situation in the market is and what is required to keep the business running.