Isabelle Jasmin Roth is a 26 year old German entrepreneur based inDelhi. Her first venture was a business consultancy, in the field of environmental technologies and market entry, for German companies. Now she is ready with her second venture.Isabelle is the Managing Director of a German marketing and communication agency, Avantgarde.
Wolfgang Bergthaler in conversation with Isabelle about the German perspective on entrepreneurship in India.
What led to you shifting base to India? Tell us a bit about your entrepreneurial journey in India.
I studied Political Science at the University of Heidelberg, South Asia Institute, with a focus on South Asia, primarily India and Pakistan. This led to quite a few internships inIndiaand I got a chance to travel to Chandigarh, New Delhi and various other places over a course of time. It was during these internships that I developed a keen interest and fascination for business inIndia, which introduced me to the forever accelerating and changing world of business in India.
In 2008, parallel to my studies, I had the wonderful opportunity to work as the Director of a startup in India. A spur of the moment decision led to my shifting base toIndiaand I seized the opportunity. It has been a great learning experience and I have been able to develop and hone my entrepreneurial skills. Three years have passed, since I moved here, and my love affair withIndiacontinues. I am looking forward to the next chapter inIndia, with Avantgarde.
Why did you exit your last venture to build up the organization and run the business for Avantgarde in India? What excited you about your new project?
After three successful years, a lot of hard work and starting a business from scratch, I decided it was time for a new project and a new challenge.Indiais an ever evolving place, in every aspect. Creativity is evident everywhere you look. The chance to put my creativity to use with such a well established agency as Avantgarde in experiential marketing, inIndia, seemed a fantastic opportunity. It gave me a chance to turn ideas into reality.
UnderstandingIndia’s nuances, trends, likes, dislikes and processing this information into successful, memorable events and campaigns drives me and my team to create experiences and above all, create fans.
After all, in this industry, there is no better place to be thanIndia, where anything is possible. We need only look over the last 5 years at the incredible innovation and transformation that has taken place. There is no other place more exciting to live and work, at this present moment in time!
The number of women in the startup space is still quite low. What do you think are the obstacles faced by women entrepreneurs in India?
I am not sure. However I have learnt that you must be tough, alert and prepared for anything. This applies to both men and women. As an entrepreneur, you must always train hard so you are ready for the unexpected. There are many successful female entrepreneurs, though numbers may be less in comparison to men. Being an “entrepreneurial existentialist” is more of an attitude of life rather than a job. I am sure, in time to come, the statistics of men to women as successful entrepreneurs will change. And let us not forget the old saying: ‘behind every successful man is a woman and behind every successful woman is a man’.
You came to work in the Indian business environment, which is maybe one of the most competitive in the world, especially Delhi. What drives you? Honestly!
To create reality! My work is my environment. From interactions with ice-cream vendors and autowallas to reading the latest article in current affairs, my job is to process it and create experiences for the public. The competitive nature ofDelhi only pushes me to work harder. I don't see it as a difficult environment, but one that will assist me in bettering myself and the hurdles that anyone startup faces. I get a sense of joy at the end of the day when I am able to accomplish so much in, as you said, one of the most competitive environments in the world. Foreign or local, I think all of us face challenges.If you compare German youth with Indian, in terms of entrepreneurship, what do you observe?
Over the last 4 years I have seen the startup businesses inIndiaflourish. The youth ofIndiaappear to initiate and execute ideas that the youth in Germany would think twice about, and the Indian youth appear to do this with little capital. The entrepreneurial space in India is far greater than Germany.
The youth here can take more daring risks in terms of business than compared toGermany. This is evident in many of the new businesses in India over the last year, with innovative and unorthodox business having been set up to meet endless needs as India grows.
For the youth inGermany, the entrepreneurial space is a lot narrower, with more restrictions. I believeIndiais a great place to realize many a dream and see those dreams become a reality far quicker than inGermanyat this present time. This is even more evident in the social entrepreneurship scene, where passionate minds are paving the way forward for many social issues in such a vast country asIndia. Both social and business interests are at the heart of this.India’s youth in this field is far more evident than compared to that of Germany’s.
What can Germans learn from Indians?
That anything is possible. To be spontaneous, fun and to seize any opportunity that comes their way, without thinking too much about where it will take them.
Given the environment ofIndia, thinking on your feet and problem-solving skills are great lessons for Germans. They need to realize that there is always a way to overcome hurdles whilst being laid back and positive.
And of course, the passion Indians have for their culture, incredible food and the wonderful sense of family one has when interacting with anyone in any environment. It is Incredible India after all!
What lesson must Indians learn from Germans, if any?
It is the old song; discipline, quality management and processes, along with being more assertive instead of deflecting responsibilities and decisions. But this must be learnt in the ‘Masala’ way!
You can read more about Avantgarde here.
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