AbstractIn recent times, literature has raised the importance of studying entrepreneurship in different contexts. There has been considerable research conducted in transitional contexts, as it raises the many challenges faced by entrepreneurs. There has been considerable research conducted in Russian, Eastern European and Chinese economies. However, there is a real dearth in the literature on the challenges faced in other transitional economies, particularly Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka was the first country in South Asia to embrace extensive economic liberalisation in 1977 (though the civil war, 1983–2009, in the north-east of the country blocked the full realisation of these economic benefits). Further, entrepreneurial learning in such turbulent and challenging environments has also been identified as a less-explored area. Against this backdrop, this research’s overarching aim was to explore opportunity recognition and new venture creation experiences in the transitional context of Sri Lanka. Four main areas were covered: opportunity recognition and new venture creation, entrepreneurial learning, entrepreneurial motivation and institutional context.
The mixed methodological approach was informed by a conceptual framework developed by the researcher. Semi-structured interviews with a non-random sample of 31 Sri Lankan entrepreneurs provided rich descriptions. Their learning styles/preferences were identified using a modified version of Kolb’s (1984) learning style questionnaires through different stages of opportunity recognition and new venture creation.
Findings suggest that Sri Lankan entrepreneurs’ initial business ideas arose through prior knowledge, scanning the business environment and changes in government policies. Few initial resources were utilised; many relied on previous experience and relationships with customers and suppliers. Most participants were motivated by pull rather than push factors and individual entrepreneurs demonstrated a combination of learning styles/preferences rather than one. Entrepreneurs cited numerous challenges: frequent policy changes, rigid customs policies, unsupportive financial sector, high interest rates, lack of support for start-up firms, and lack of social recognition in society and among the government officials. Further, critical learning events occur in transitional and turbulent contexts such as Sri Lanka. The frequency of such events is high; resilience is required to ensure higher learning. This research has contributed to entrepreneurship theory in several ways. First, the author explored the under-researched transitional context of Sri Lanka to identify the challenges encountered during transition Second, the research contributes to the literature concerning learning styles during opportunity recognition and new venture creation, using a sample of entrepreneurs. The findings will help educators and practitioners tailor their training and educational programs. Further, this study brings new knowledge in relation what, how and when entrepreneurs learn in critical events in turbulent and challenging environments.
|Date of Award
|Kevin Maher (Supervisor) & Jennifer Tilbury (Supervisor)