CARMa Connect, Creating Access to Resources and Markets

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“The biggest pain point for all entrepreneurs, whether in the start-up phase or in the growth phase, is access to resources and markets. And that's where CARMa comes in.”

We at YourStory.in recently caught up with Abhijeet Bhandari, one of the mentors at CARMa Connect to understand more about how they address this pain point.

Below are the edited excerpts:

Tell us about CARMa in detail.

We provide mentoring to start-ups, family businesses and mature enterprises. This mentoring could be on a long term basis on a contract or it could be real time for a particular problem. Our long term mentoring product is called CARMa Sutra and our instant mentoring product is called AskYourMentor(this is about to be launched online where mentees can buy conversations with mentors online to redress problems).

We are passionate about creating awareness and generating interest towards entrepreneurship in the country by collaborating with various educational institutions and corporates to provide an eco-system conducive for entrepreneurs through our intervention called CARMa Shala. CARMa Shala is a 20 hours online course in entrepreneurship and is designed in such a way that it is useful to aspiring entrepreneurs, start-up entrepreneurs as well as employees who want to think entrepreneurially even in their jobs.

CARMa believes in a collaborative model and we have over 130 mentors from across the globe in different domains. They bring their own unique core competencies and territorial reach, on a win-win revenue-sharing basis.

When was this started? Where are you based?

“CARMa Venture Services (P) Limited” was registered in Feb 2010 and is headquartered at Bangalore.

Tell us in detail about the kind of hand holding you provide to your incubatees.

We provide mentoring to start-ups, family businesses and mature enterprises. The kind of hand holding required for each of them is different and below is a brief of the same:

Start-ups: We help start-ups give shape to their idea, identify the right team, put a face to their customer, develop a robust value proposition, help in market validation, identify solid revenue model, create collaterals required, estimate resources required, write the business plan and facilitate growth by sharing resources and networks.

Family Businesses: We help them set-up processes and controls, bring in professionals as required, deploy appropriate technology, manage their brands effectively including creation of collaterals and connect them to relevant people for partnerships. We also help them to come out of their legacy mind-set which becomes an impediment for growth.

Mature Enterprises: We help the enterprise scale, and grow profitably by effectively deploying capital. Mature enterprises hit growth plateau and are unable to overcome them without fresh infusion of ideas and capital. We open their minds to different possibilities and different networks so that they can scale up.

Tell us about the founding team of CARMa Connect. What expertise does the team bring in?

CARMa is founded by Professor Nandini Vaidyanathan, an alumnus of Delhi School of Economics and London School of Economics. She’s a traveling teacher who teaches entrepreneurship in several prestigious business schools around the world such as Princeton, LSE, NUS, IIMA, IIMB, IIML. Her moment of epiphany happened four years ago when she realized that in India not too many people became entrepreneurs simply because they didn’t know how to. So, she founded her company Startups to mentor entrepreneurs (forstartups.blogspot.com). Up until July 2010, she has mentored over 500 startup entrepreneurs across domains, across geographies, pro bono. Twenty years in the corporate sector, in MNC’s on all inhabited continents, have given her enough reason to say, been there, done that. Startups have also been involved in mentoring women at the bottom of the pyramid to grow from livelihood enterprises to scalable profitable opportunity based organizations in Afghanistan,, Ethiopia, Somalia, Ghana, Nigeria and India. She writes a regular monthly column for the magazine, Entrepreneur. It delights her no end that it is from smaller towns that aspiring and practicing entrepreneurs reach out to her after reading it. She is also a TED speaker. She is also the author of the just-released book on entrepreneurship – “Entrepredia – A step-by-step guide to becoming an entrepreneur in India”. The book tells in 20 simple steps on how to become an entrepreneur. This book has just been released and has sold 50,000 copies in the pre-launch phase. Below is a brief about CARMa team, Advisory Board and Independent Director and the rich experience they bring to CARMa:

I am a mentor at CARMa. I am an alumnus of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur and Indian Institute of Capital Markets (IICM), Mumbai. I have over eight years of experience at leading consulting firms across the globe. I have also cleared level II of Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), US. I have conducted trainings in varied finance domains.

Kunal Krishna: Kunal leads CARMa Shala, a 20-hour certificate course in entrepreneurship addressing every aspect related to starting an entrepreneurial venture. He is a Computer Science engineering graduate from the University of Pune and has five years of experience at leading Investment Banking and Consulting firms across the globe. Besides this, he has also been involved actively in the Green Sector, specifically Carbon Footprints, and has been speaker at few International forums.

Medini Mangala: Medini has done her Graduation in Journalism and her Masters’ in Advertising and Media Management. She is passionate about creating India’s next super brands. She worked in ESPNcricinfo.com. Her passion for cricket was so fierce that she even put aside her distaste for television reality shows to participate in the ESPN Dream Job! (She did make it to the Top Ten nationally by the way!)

Anil Gopalakrishna: Anil works in branding team and develops media strategies for CARMa and other external clients. Anil is an Information Science engineer from PES School of Engineering, Bangalore. He is also the co-founder of a Socio-Environmental club called ‘HELP’ (Humanitarian Endeavor for Life’s Perseverance) that works towards educating underprivileged children in the outskirts of Bangalore and spreading awareness about Global Warming in general public.

Prajwal Koteshwar: Prajwal works in the Mentoring vertical of CARMa that mentors entrepreneurs at any stage of their business. He coordinates with mentors and their mentees and tracks their milestones as defined in the mentorship agreement. But his heart lies in convincing and encouraging colleges to set up incubators to drive the CARMa Shala initiative on their campus and that is his primary responsibility in CARMa. Prajwal is an Information Science engineer from PES School of Engineering, Bangalore. He was the secretary and Vice President of his college. He was also a member of the core-committee that organized the annual cultural and technical fest of his college.

How many startups have you worked with so far? Which sectors are they primarily from?

We are currently mentoring 32 start-ups from different domains including but not limited to advertising, agriculture, gaming, HR services, retail, travel, entertainment, e-commerce, manufacturing, pharma, publishing, realty and education. Our mentees come from varied geographies across India, metros and smaller towns like Salem, Dindigul, Virudhnagar, Nilambur, and Kenya, Toronto, and Turkey.

Are there any specific sectors that excite you?

We believe that mentoring is required more in building the organization, putting processes in place and identifying the market. Hence, we are domain agnostic. However, we bring mentors from various sectors to mentor mentees in their domain, no matter which sector they are in.

What is the screening process?

We don’t take a call on whether an idea is good or bad, as mentors we don’t think that’s our call. Our job is to make sure that the mentee creates a robust value proposition for his customers, builds a great organization, irrespective of whether he is the prime mover or has plenty of competitors.

Let us know your expansion plans.

We are launching two new unique products:

CARMa Shala: CARMa Shala is a unique online certificate course in entrepreneurship. It mentors not just entrepreneurs but also employees, to encourage them to take ownership of the road map ahead of them. The course comprises of 20 comprehensive modules that cover everything that an entrepreneur needs to do – from concept to market-readiness. It is an online highly scalable course.

AskYourMentor: AskYourMentor is one-of-its-kind offering that addresses one singular pain point of all entrepreneurs, that is, when they are faced with a problem in their business, and they need instant mentoring to solve that problem, they have no access to a mentor. It’s a unique real time product that is created for entrepreneurs to solve problems then and there. It is an online widget which will sit on CARMa’s website and the entrepreneur can chat with the mentor by booking his/her time online. It can be scaled rapidly and would provide instant gratification to the entrepreneurs.

What is your revenue model?

In CARMa Sutra, our mentoring is online and through phone and the mentor is available all the time as per the need of the mentee. We do not charge based on the number of hours spent but an upfront one- time fee for six months/one year to mentees depending on the extent of involvement with each mentee.

In CARMa Shala, the registration fees is only Rs 2650 for the entire course.

For AskYourMentor, mentees can buy conversations online in units of half hour with mentors.

Can you please share few of your success stories?

Entrepreneur profile: Bhavin is a 33-year-old commerce graduate. His family has been in business for over a hundred years and they were one of the largest Calico Mills traders. He has been involved in the family business since he was 18 years old. He’s a complete feet-on-street guy and knows the lanes and by-lanes of his market across India.

He signed up for CARMa Sutra mentoring program in October 2010 with below scope of mentoring:

  • Improving operational efficiency
  • Regulated cash flow
  • Efficient capital deployment
  • Expansion of capacity

The scope was broken into milestones and the very first milestone was improving operational efficiency between 0-60 days. The tasks that were set for achieving these milestones were:

Understand things as they are: Nandini and Abhijeet spent two days in the factory with Bhavin and his team in first week of November to:

  • Learn production processes
  • Identify bottlenecks
  • Understand the whole eco-system, both within and external to the trade
  • Map competencies of 100+ people involved in production
  • Spot shop-floor leakages and ‘red hours’
  • Capacity-productivity-output linkage

Recommend things as they ought to be: Each pain point was addressed and solution recommended. Redundancies were also put in place.

Result:

  • Up until October 2010, MR Hosiery had an average monthly turnover of Rs. 45 lakhs
  • Between November and February, the company has seen a consistent increase in productivity of over 25%
  • The company will close the year 2010-2011 with a turnover of Rs. 4.5 crores. And has an order book of Rs. 10 crores for the next year from Big Bazaar alone

Bhavin has already begun to work on the tasks set for the second milestone; ‘regulated cash flow’ and his P&L next year will reflect better cash circulation in the system.

Anything else that you want to tell us?

Professor Nandini Vaidyanathan has recently launched her book – “Entrepedia”. This is a guide book if you want to become an entrepreneur, or, if you are in the start-up phase. It tells you in easy, simple, 20 steps, what are the things you need to do from the time you think of the business idea to becoming market-ready. It is a go-to book, like a dictionary. If you have just started a company, or thinking of starting a company, it answers some basic questions:

Why should I be an entrepreneur?

  • Where will I get my business ideas from?
  • Why do I need a mentor and where will I find one?
  • How will I hire good teams when I don t have the money to pay them market rates?
  • What is a business plan, why should I write it, how should I write it?
  • What are the different ways in which I can raise money for my business?

This book acts as a pocket mentor, pointing the way each step of your exciting journey to becoming an entrepreneur.

Do check out http://carmaconnect.in to know more!

Write to us at feedback@yourstory.in