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Should I pursue higher studies in the US if I want to start a business?

“If you’re trying to create a company, it’s like baking a cake. You have to have all the ingredients in the right proportion.“ This quote, by Elon Musk, was meant to describe creation of a business. But it can be used to describe creation of a career abroad as well. Having started several businesses and also having pursued my higher studies abroad, I have a strong perspective on this issue. I also know several entrepreneurs in the US and around the world.
So, you have probably heard of Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs? You may want to be like them. You also watch TV shows like Silicon Valley and dream of doing something similar. So you feel inclined to pursue your higher studies in the US and start a business after that. If that is your idea, I would strongly suggest that you don’t do it. There are several reasons for this:
  1. The best way to learn about business is actually starting a business. No formal education can replace that. If you do pursue your higher studies in US, you are losing out on 2 years of valuable learning time. Also, towards the end of your higher studies in US, you will be likely be in debt or looking to get a return on your investment. So, you would want to work 3-5 years. So, in total you might lose 6-8 years.
  2. The money spent is money that you could have spent on your business. If you are spending 20 lakhs to pursue your higher studies in US, this is 20 lakhs that could be used towards growing your business.
  3. The US is a tough place to start a business from scratch, but is a great place to scale a business. If you do not have a lot of financial resources, the US is difficult to start a business from scratch. Lawsuits are very common for new businesses starting off. It is a common tool used by bigger companies to finish off smaller companies. Since the economy is already developed, you will need to produce something truly innovative to get funded and get traction.
  4. India is still developing; so there are a lot more opportunities for improvement and entrepreneurship. Of course, it is very hard to do business in India. But it is hard anywhere, and you are better off getting into a market that you are familiar with. India is also growing much faster than the US.
  5. Your business will most likely not survive the US immigration system. You cannot start a business in the USA on a student (F-1) visa or work (h1b) visa. And, for Indian citizens, it currently takes 10 years to get a green card. There is a huge number of disgruntled wantrepreneurs on h1b’s, who can’t realize that all they have to do is move to a better location. If you do end up starting a company on h1b, you will spend half your time trying to find loopholes in the system; and might finally end up getting deported.
  6. It is a global world now. Now it is easy to sell to customers in US as an Indian business; and vice versa (if it is an online product). And, for physical products, you can look at manufacturing in China and drop shipping to US.
However, there are a few cases in which you should consider pursuing your higher studies in US:
  1. You want to start something in an advanced technology that is only available in USA. There are quite a few technologies that qualify. In this case, pursuing your higher studies in the US is the only option. You can learn about the technology and start a business with the university or with a local citizen. Also, you can complete a PhD in that technology and get a green card in priority processing (within 1 year).
  2. You want to start something in financial technology. The US is so far ahead of the world here and has so much more funding in this area; that it is definitely worth it. Also, the amount of funding required here makes VC funding essential. All of these can be obtained a lot easier if you do a MBA at one of the top universities in the US.
  3. You already have a patent or successful business in India, and are looking to expand it to a more global market. If you already have a profitable business or patent with huge potential, you will not have trouble finding VC capital to fund you to transfer your business to the US.

Alternative Option

An alternative option you can look at is starting a business in Australia or Canada or other country; if you have a permanent residence there. An entrepreneur is great at figuring out solutions to complex problems; so if you are a true entrepreneur, you will figure out what’s best for you. If you are just looking to complain or looking for others to solve your problems, then entrepreneurship is not for you.
Are you looking to pursue your higher studies overseas? Check out our free scholarship guide here.