Tej Kohli: How Early is Early Enough?

Tech entrepreneur, Tej Kohli writes about how to help young people enter the global market.

Tej Kohli, the visionary global tech entrepreneur, billionaire, international businessman and Chairman of Kohli Ventures, global investors in innovative ideas, disruptive technology and dynamic businesses, looks at the ways business leaders can build the right conditions to help young people enter the global market.

With over 1.8 billion people aged 10-24, the world has never had more young people living in it.¹ The world of business and enterprise has a moral duty to improve the opportunities for this demographic, particularly those who are teenagers. After all, the next generation will, one day, be future leaders in politics, business and industry. Millennials, who are already emerging as leaders in technology and other industries and will comprise 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025, want to work for organisations that foster innovative thinking, develop their skills, and wish to see them make a positive contribution to society.²

Yet, worryingly, young people aged 15 to 24 are almost three times more likely than older segments of the population to be unemployed and in some countries, the youth unemployment rate exceeds 50 percent.³ So, how can the opportunities that are available to young people be improved?

It is clear that a proactive involvement is necessary from both sides of the coin: businesses and the future generation of employees. First, let’s look at the ways young people can maximise their own opportunities.


One theory that is often touted around is the suggestion that practising any skill for 10,000 hours is sufficient to make you an expert. This concept was originally conceived in the early '90s by Professor Anders Ericsson, and was later made famous by the likes of Malcolm Gladwell in his 2008 book, Outliers. The theory claims that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practising a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.

Whilst the act of practising the violin or your golf swing for around 10,000 hours is quite unnatural (or even artificial), it nevertheless requires an innate skill that not everyone has: dedication. This is a noun that is often attributed to professional athletes and musicians. But is also a word that I think of whenever I meet a brilliant business mind, which happens fairly regularly in my line of work.

Whenever I meet with an innovator or entrepreneur from around the world, the common denomination tends to be that they all have an absolute dedication to the job at hand. This is an important skill and, if spotted at a young age, should be nurtured at all costs.

Unlike a sport or a pastime, it is not particularly easy to ‘practise’ being an entrepreneur. However, to be successful in business, I do believe that it is important to have an entrepreneurial flair from a young age. How often do we hear the stories of how some of the best entrepreneurs of the last few decades first started out as teenagers, whether in their parents’ bedroom, their college dorm room or in a dingy basement before building up disruptive, global brand names.


Now, what can businesses do to aid the development of teenagers and create the conditions necessary to enable the next generation of skilled workers to flourish?

Businesses can only nurture young talent if they are able to attract the talent in the first place, and an important element is being attractive to the teenagers of today in order to attract the graduates of tomorrow.

Indeed, 78 percent of Millennials say they are influenced by how innovative a company is when deciding if they want to work there. [Ibid] It is therefore clear that businesses must foster innovation, and demonstrate their innovative thinking, in an attempt to attract and nurture young talent. It is therefore important for companies to communicate their approach to innovation to teenage audiences. In order to communicate successfully to teenagers, businesses need to understand that this is the generation that consumes news through Buzzfeed and Twitter, rather than traditional media outlets.

Recruiting and developing young people is a great way to build a dynamic and productive workforce. However, often a significant barrier to recruitment is that few young people know or understand the industry your business operates in; there is too much of a disconnection between children in education and the business world that they will one day enter. Business leaders should look to encourage and support those that may be naïve and new to the industry. Communication and education is therefore essential in order to overcome this hurdle; young people will only be interested if they fully understand what the job role entails. Management teams should visit schools and colleges in order to engage with teenagers and understand their needs as the incoming generation.

Establishing mentor schemes and apprenticeships is not only an excellent way to educate young people about the world of business, but it is also a fantastic recruitment exercise that enhances brand loyalty and recognition. More businesses should look to recruiting through social media platforms or relevant industry forums in a cost-effective recruitment strategy that will impress prospective tech-savvy workers.

Fundamentally, businesses must work harder to make it easier for young people to join their ranks, whether supporting educational initiatives, training courses or mentor schemes. It is never too early for businesses to look at the next generation of talent, and it is an important part of future-proofing a business in order to stay avant-garde and at the forefront of market trends.

Tej Kohli is Chairman of Kohli Ventures, a global venture capital firm with offices around the world, with the most recent addition being in London.

¹ Source: Global Employment Trends 2014
² Deloitte
³ Source: Global Employment Trends 2014

February 2015