More students interested in business and finance should be aware of the support available for entrepreneurship-related careers, says LSE economics finalist Raj Dhokia – “at the moment, there are loads of government initiatives and incubators” in this area, such as the government-supported entrepreneurship campaign StartUp Britain. Raj is part of LSE’s entrepreneurship society, which aims to “inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs”. To further this aim, the society last year held the first LSE Sparks conference. The event, as Raj , the president of the organising committee, explains, was set up to “instill some entrepreneurship spirit” at the university by offering “a platform for speakers of different backgrounds to come to the LSE and encourage and inspire students who may have an idea, but perhaps lack the confidence to go out and execute it”.
After the success of 2011’s event, the second LSE Sparks conference was held at the university this spring. Budding business moguls were treated to insights from speakers including founder of chocolate company Green & Black’s Josephine Fairley and Facebook’s EMEA Marketing Director Alexander Schlaubitz. One of Raj’s personal highlights from the two days was hearing from Kris Gopalakrishnan, the founder of Indian technology services firm Infosys: “He’s from India, so it’s a very different perspective to a lot of the other entrepreneurs who were UK-born.” Raj also enjoyed the address of “serial entrepreneur” Asif Rangoonwala, whose past and present business ventures range from bread-making to a recent sporting initiative, Powerboat P1 – “essentially Formula 1 on water”, says Raj.
Raj’s role as president included overseeing LSE Sparks’ marketing and sponsorship, but his main responsibility was to secure speakers, which he and his team didn’t always find easy: “The hardest thing for us was to cold-call the speakers and convince them to come and speak at the conference.” Raj also found it hard at times to keep the team organising the conference on track: “The biggest challenge for me personally was managing a team of 16 people – I’d never had that experience before. Being able to make sure that everyone was adding value at every stage of the process was key, but everything went smoothly on the weekend.”
What advice does Raj have for students thinking about setting up a similar event at their own university? “Be active as a society and hold regular events – we had an expanding base of people who were interested in being entrepreneurs in the future. From there we built up a team of highly motivated individuals [who organised the conference] – this event organisation could be replicated at any university, and I think it was the key to why this year’s event was a success.”