The Indian and his insatiable appetite for the college degree

It’s all about your college degree and the so-called “multi-national” you work for.

I’m the only person in my fairly large extended circle who didn’t end up having a formal college education

I started my first business when I was 15 and just didn’t find the point in going through the drab they called high school and college. Almost everyone except my parents, uncle and close relatives effectively discouraged me from pursuing my dreams and wanted me to focus on getting a college degree.

Sell the computer. Turn off the internet and lock him in a room. The only way your son is ever going to succeed being an entrepreneur is by getting himself an MBA.

This is what my 12th grade chemistry teacher told my parents during a regular PTM. She really believed that I had it in me to go get an MBA, but I was just not motivated to do so. She believed that my parents getting rid of the computer and internet would get me back on course.

Thankfully, my folks never complied.

I come from a fairly conservative family where every cousin or second cousin or uncle has either an engineering degree or a management degree. My parents’ dream for me was to study well, get into a good college and get a good job.

The moment they realized that I wasn’t interested in that, they resisted a little, but eventually became supportive. My mom gave me one piece of advise which I thought was irrelevant back then, but I understand makes a lot of sense now — “Do what you want, go to school like everyone else, don’t tell any of your teachers or school friends what you’re doing”.

As a kid growing up in upper middle class India, if you’re not academically proficient, you’re considered mostly a loser. And, I didn’t understand the merits of not being able to flaunt my other talents. But, boy was she right.

Everything changed the moment everyone knew

I looked forward to the moment of reckoning when everyone would know exactly what I was doing. It did happen, in a span of a few weeks, I found myself covered in every major newspaper and magazine. And, everything changed from then on.

Almost every uncle, aunty and random person my parents knew were calling them up and talking about how formal education was very very important and how they’re making a mistake encouraging their son.

But, they didn’t listen to these people either. They let me do what I wanted to — for that I am ever greatful.

Oh, you’re 22. Where do you work? Erm, you don’t work anywhere, are you studying? Oh, you’re an entrepreneur? Where did you get your MBA or Engineering degree

Almost everyone I meet today asks me where I got my MBA when I tell them that I’m an entrepreneur. They get shocked beyond belief when I tell them that I’m a college dropout and still manage to get by running two businesses, both of which are in high-tech.

For some reasons, Indians just can’t deal with the fact that someone without pedigree can get somewhere in life. It’s unbelievable that you can be a good programmer, successful businessman or great marketer without an {insert random college degree here}

A few days ago, a very well “formally educated” person wanted to see if he could share some office space with us. He had just quit his job in one of the very large IT outsourcing companies in India to pursue his startup dreams. As usual, he was flabbergasted when I told him that I had no college degree. But, something he said really shocked me. It goes like this — “Oh, my sister’s kid is just like you. He’s got a $10,000 grant to go build a business and he’s in the 10th grade. My sister asked me what she should do. I told her to ask him to focus on finishing his college first before doing anything else.”

Even if we can’t encourage kids who are different, let’s not discourage them.

Every single day, I get ten new people telling me how I missed a lot of “fun” and knowledge that I could have gained by going to college. To all of you folks — I agree, but you have no idea how much fun I had by doing what I did and discovering what I did.