Lessons in entrepreneurship, Hyderabad – 8th day of Tata Jagriti Yatra

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Tata Jagriti Yatra - 1 Train | 13 Destinations | 15 Role Models | 18 Days | 400 Youths | 9000 kms

The Tata Jagriti Yatra has reached the same latitude as where it started. Having taken a complete you-turn in the Indian peninsula, it has proceeded to Hyderabad, a meeting point for North and South India. The scent of biryanis, the smoothness of pearls and the stories of Nizams fill the air as the yatris step out of the train and get on to a bus to the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad for the second CNBC Panel Discussion on ‘Funding India’s Entrepreneurs’. Later in the day, the yatris also visit Naandi, an organization that pioneered the Mid Day Meal program in India.

Given the rate of growth of entrepreneurship in India, and the participation of youth in enterprise-led development, funding a start-up is one area no one can choose to ignore. Where do you get the funds when you are still in college and want to take the plunge right away? How do you look for seed capital when you don’t have a lucrative corporate career and a corpus of savings backing you? To answer these questions, three esteemed panelists invited were Nandini Vaidyanathan, Professor and Founder, Start-ups, Alok Kejriwal, Co-Founder and CEO, Games2Win and Deval Singh, Founder and President, Dasra.

Where to look?

The session began with an anecdote about Shyam Benegal and how he was rejected by many producers when he wanted to make a film. He had gone on to raise money by asking thousands of farmer women in Rajasthan to contribute Rs. 2 each for his movie Manthan. The rest is history. It is often said that when you need the money, it is never around but when you don’t, it flows to you. How true is this? Alok shares his experience, “Not finding money when you need is different. I have even been a situation where my VC went bankrupt during the DotCom crisis. At that point, we literally begged, borrowed and stole! What entrepreneurs in general need is to look in the right places. There are many sponsors, investors, evangelists and angels out there. You just need to find them.”

The world of finance is filled with fancy jargons like VC and Angel Investors. Is there something we all miss out while chasing such sources? Nandini advises, “Don’t be obsessed with this animal called VC. Look around you, in your ecosystem. Go back to your colleges and start an Incubation centre! Think beyond management fests and contests!” Deval added an important point that VC might not be the answer to one’s financing woes, as they seldom provide seed capital. Alok in fact expands VC as Vampire Capital, Vulture Capital and Vapour Capital, warning the youngsters that their VC can disappear any day!

Is money really that big a deal? Can one not start with a very small fund and grow it over time? Deval explains, “Money should not be the inhibitor. What really stops entrepreneurs is the ability to take risk, to forego a salary, to be okay even if you don’t get paid for 10-12 months. Just focus on creating the right product or service that people will buy.”

Are you investment ready?

An important reason why entrepreneurs can’t raise money is simply because they are not ready for it and don’t have the ideal pitch. Sometimes they lack the passion, while at others they lack the right team mix. Nandini elaborates, “The word passion is overused. In many cases, passion is only at the ideation stage. In evolution of the idea into a venture, it takes a backseat, leading to the mortality of the same idea. Honestly ask yourself if you will have the same passion. Secondly, put together a team with complimentary skills. Bring diversity to the table not only in employees but also in the founding team.”

Entrepreneurs are not always good managers. Be ready to appoint someone else as your CEO. Be ready to say ‘I don’t know’. Investors appreciate the honesty and sincerity. The session was followed by a short session with Jude Kelly, Artistic Director, South Bank Centre who had joined the yatra for two days. She noted how art is as important as any other stream, if not more. Any form of art, be it poetry, paintings, music or drama, can provide an impetus to an entrepreneur and be the source of inspiration. Through heart-rending anecdotes, she stressed the need to bring out the creative side and let it show in your venture.

Naandi -

Post the exciting panel discussion, the yatris left for Naandi, an initiative of Leena Joseph and Manoj Kumar, founded in 1998 to work on child rights, safe drinking water and sustainable livelihoods. In Sanskrit, Naandi means a new beginning. True to its name, the enterprise was the first one in India to implement the Mid Day Meal program. It started the same in 2003 in Hyderabad. What fed 2 50 000 children back then is today serving more than four times that number. The impact is phenomenal.

The Naandi Kitchen in Hyderabad is a huge set-up, with proper mechanisms for storing, cleaning, cooking and packaging of rice and other necessary items. The goal is two-fold. Firstly, to manage the nutritional needs of the children and secondly, increase the enrolment and retention rates in school on a sustainable manner. The operational intricacies and logistics of this enormous task are beyond imagination. Running on the six sigma practices, Naandi is as professional as any corporate. The only difference is that their vision is to eliminate hunger and poverty. India has half the world’s malnourished child population, exceeding that in Sub-African regions. Probably, this is what makes Naandi’s role even more critical. Leena Joseph narrated many touching stories of children and their parents.

Laxmi, Mother of Saikumar, Standard 1, Government Primary School, Somajiguda, Hydeabad, is a case in point, “I can see my child improving his height and weight. He looks healthy and is quite active in school. I am sure he will score first marks in his class this year.” What was Leena’s motivation? She explains, “Knowing that because of our work, a million children will not go to bed hungry is what inspired me.”

Truly, money is neither always the motivator nor a critical success factor in new ventures. What males a difference is just what the entrepreneur feels, the vision and the passion to keep the fire going!

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