Guidelines to harness intrapreneurs

Tuesday, 19 June 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Maleesha Sulthanagoda 

Companies that are able to tap into the ideas generated by their own workforce could have the advantage of self-generating new businesses that can synergise with new enterprises to give fresh growth opportunities, an expert said recently.    

An intrapreneur is an employee of a company who has been given the freedom to act as an entrepreneur. This would mean that the company that employs the intrapreneur has both the chance to work for his company and also establish a new business, thereby generating additional opportunities in the larger economy. However, there are advantages and disadvantages in this process. 

Managing how these opportunities influence corporate growth of companies was the focus of the third Talking Point 2018 organised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) which was held on 16 June.

Hemas Holdings Innovation Director Dr. Himesh Fernando, John Keells Holdings Group Finance Director Gihan Cooray, Innovation Quotient CEO Ahmed Irfan and oDoc Co-founder Heshan Fernando were the panellists at this event.

Dr. Himesh Fernando who is one of the key figures of the Hemas Slingshot startup incubator which helps to grow and commercialise ideas and innovations, presented how companies drive innovation from within.

“When we look at innovative growth options for companies there are two key categories. One is investing and working with startups and the other is innovation from within the companies. Hemas Slingshot is an example for the first category. We work with people who have ideas that we think are successful in the future,” said Himesh Fernando.

He went on to elaborate on the critical success process for an intraperneurship program. Fernando highlighted the fact that idea submission, selection criteria, implementation mechanism and a steering committee were important for a successful intraperneurship program. According to Dr. Fernando, resource management, training and mentoring of the intrapreneurs is also vital for success. 

“There are also many challenges in making an intrapreneurship program. There are the problems that a company faces in the early stages and problems they face in the more mature stages. Eccentric people who are the intrapreneurs are not easy to handle. This is where company rules and regulations suffer. We must be able to tweak the rules if we are to be successful. Also funding, funding is a big issue that almost all intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs face.” 

The challenges faced in the latter stages according to Fernando, were the eligibility of ideas, function of the ideas and evolution of the ideas. 

Gihan Cooray who is the Finance Director of John Keells Holdings spoke about the financial aspect of setting up intrapreneurship and entrepreneurship programs and explained discrepancies that would be faced by entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs alike.

Cooray also fleshed out the John Keells X accelerator program run by the John Keells Holdings that is also an incubator for startups. He also stressed the importance of science based research and how it is one of the key drivers for successful intrapreneurships and entrepreneurships.

Heshan Fernando, who is the current CEO of the medical video consulting service oDoc, spoke on the topic of “the Entrepreneurs’ Journey”. Fernando related to the audience his experiences from when he tried to market branded coconut water to running the successful consulting service of oDoc. 

Ahmed Irfan who is the founder and chief executive of Innovation Quotient discussed the success ensuring guidelines and the risks that one might have to take when engaging in an entrepreneurship or intrapreneurship. 

“Failure is not celebrated enough, as an entrepreneur the day failure is celebrated is the day that you start learning. Intrepreneurs aren’t given the chance to use it because big companies are afraid of failure. Entrepreneurs must learn to use failure and the other most important thing is persistence,” said Ahmed when asked how entrepreneurs should grow.

Pix by Upul Abayasekera