On the occasion of World Entrepreneurship Day tomorrow, we look at a few youngsters who took the plunge and find out what drives them. SAMVITHA RAM
Observed since April 13, 2009, World Entrepreneurship Day was begun by a young college student and her mentor. The day celebrates people who have embraced the risks that come with entrepreneurship and to acknowledge their creativity and innovation. Entrepreneurship is certainly not new to India with more than 60 percent of our population being self-employed; from the local milkman and flower lady to the tycoons who started software and telecom companies. What is new, and even inspirational, are young people daring to venture into various unorthodox fields, and trying to make a difference socially and environmentally. From starting a college counselling company in Bengaluru that helps the youth realise their education and career aspirations to an eco-friendly company in Chennai that wants to redefine the way consumer products are created, this new generation wants to make an impact on the economy and society!
Samvitha is a student of the American International School.
Biju Ashokan, 28
Metroplots, operational since September 2009, is based in Chennai and has an end-to-end service model. In partnership with developers and banks, it provides options for property investors by giving unbiased recommendations, co-ordinates site visits, arranges home loans and provides after-sales support.
Entrepreneurship… Fresh out of college, I felt it was the right time to experiment with my career. I jumped at the first opportunity that came along.
Funding… Our seed fund came from The Chennai Angels in August 2010 mainly to prove our business model. We raised another round of funding from the same group a month back to expand our operations to four other cities.
Advice… It makes more sense to take the plunge when you are young. Don’t make money your primary objective while coming up with a business plan.
Shaista Baljee, 28
Ivy Aspire, started four years ago, helps students get into their dream college or courses. It works with students who are interested in applying for undergraduate or master’s degrees, MBA, and PhD.s, and also runs a customised counselling programme to help students.
Entrepreneurship… As I was informally counselling various friends on their options in studying abroad, I realised how little information there was. Whatever little information people had was through mostly unreliable sources, and a lot of myths had been perpetuated. I knew I could debunk those myths and help other students get into top colleges abroad; I got admission in an Ivy League university myself. As the number of students going abroad was bound to mushroom, I decided to take the plunge and help students achieve their dreams.
Funding… From my personal savings. I was able to keep costs low by working from a family owned office. Keeping costs low helped minimise the funding required!
Advice… Just do it! If you have an idea, don’t wait; someone else will beat you to it. If you’re already at it, work as hard as you possibly can while you are young. You will reap the dividends later!
Balaraju Kondaveeti, 29
He runs BodhBridge Educational Services that helps students get trained, assessed and recruited for higher education through a portal Btechguru.com and Placement Ready.
Entrepreneurship… When I was in pre-final year of my engineering, I was thinking of the best career option. I like executing tough tasks, leading people and following my passion. Evaluating various options, I found entrepreneurship fit my profile. I also believe that entrepreneurs play a key role in nation building by creating employment and generating money.
Funding… Initially, my company was incubated in C-TIDES (Entrepreneurship Cell) of IIT Madras, where I got a lot of knowledge support and infrastructural support without any cost. After that, I received funding from friends and angel investors who also believed in my ideas and vision.
Advice… Follow your passion. The best way to handle the challenges is to have good advisors and mentors. You can get a lot of wisdom from them. Also don’t expect immediate results. One needs to be practical and give the business enough time to grow.
Preethi Sukumaran, 34
Krya, co-founded by her in 2010, creates environment-friendly, natural, ethical, vegan and cruelty-free consumer products like detergents, home cleansers and personal care products.
Entrepreneurship… I spent eight years looking for the “perfect” company. It was clear that the only way to completely realise my vision was to start my own company. After a whole year “off”, I decided to start work on the business I would co-found.
Funding… Creative control is critical to our success. We will always be self funded at Krya; since we don’t want to compromise our principles. Many of our decisions are very long-term and principle-based that investors or VCs may not understand. Constraints encourage creative solutions and financial prudence has helped us exercise our ingenuity.
Advice… Be positive: Wake up feeling happy and imagine the world you want to see. It creates itself for you.Be passionate: Start something you are truly passionate even if someone else says it won’t make you much money. That is the kind of business that will paradoxically make you the most money. Be relevant: Focus on solving an important problem for your set of consumers.
Babu Tiagarajan, investor:
Who is an angel investor?
An angel investor is one who provides capital for a start-up business in exchange for equity ownership. In some cases, the angel investor also mentors the entrepreneur in the early stages of building the business. As an angel investor, I spend time with the entrepreneur to understand his business model, team structure, competitive market space, business projections etc. I help with tweaking his business plan, if necessary, to ensure that the entrepreneur builds a robust business, which yields itself to rapid growth.
What do you look for in a company before you decide to invest?
Some lay emphasis on some factors more than others: Detailed background of the founders / management team including past ventures, education etc., vision for the venture, funding requirements, business model differentiator(s), competitive landscape, marketing strategies, revenue model, detailed financial information, investment made thus far etc. Most importantly, I look at the quality of the entrepreneur, his/her initiative, intelligence, and attitude.
What is your experience with regard to the young entrepreneurs you have funded?
I am very proud of the entrepreneurs we have funded so far. Some of them are more marketing focused, while some others are stronger in general management. The main challenge is to spend the investment optimally while quickly building a robust business model. Once this is done, the business becomes replicable and scalable with more funds.
What advice would you give to young people who want to become entrepreneurs?
Look around you, network with entrepreneurs, read about them, and learn rapidly from your environment. Once you have a good business idea and you feel that you have the grit and gumption to build a business, do not waste any time to look for funds. If possible, spend some of your own money and build a pilot business model. Your confidence level to raise funds will be higher once you earn some revenue that deems your pilot successful. To lead a venture, you should have a high sense of responsibility and a large measure of humility. The buck stops with you and therefore you should be determined to stay the course. As we all know, fortune favours the brave!
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