This interview is part of the Investors on Student Entrepreneurship in India Series
Rutvik Joshi, Principal, Inventus Capital Partners has 12 years internet operating experience in India & U.S including his work with Google India. He was a part of India's fast emerging internet ecosystem since 2007, first with Google India where he launched several products including Voice Search, Google Mobile App, SMS Channels and managed Google News globally, and most recently as the CEO of ecommerce startup Taggle in Bangalore. Before Google, he spent 6 years in the U.S. building internet management software for CA Technologies and a startup.Rutvik Joshi recently led a workshop on business valuation, “Next Up”, at Eximius’12 at IIM, Bangalore with special emphasis on valuation for startups. The second half of the event saw students present various valuation case studies with Rutvik Joshi as the judge of the competition. We had the opportunity to catch up with him at the event to get his views on student entrepreneurship in India.
The proportion of students abroad that startup while in college is considerably higher than in India. Do you see the scenario improving in India any time soon?
I think there are two things – one is the cultural issue and the other is the lack of role models in some sense. Culturally, if you see most parents would question their kids if they join a startup right after spending a lot of money in say engineering / an expensive MBA say from an IIM or ISB. They would want their kids to join an Infosys or other well paying and secure jobs. Even if they do a startup, at a marriageable age, in the case of arranged marriage, father of the bride usually prefers a guy who has a stable and secure job. These are some reasons why students even don’t think about starting up in India.
Now with respect to role models, universities like Stanford in Silicon Valley have been in a virtuous loop for a number of years with successful entrepreneurs giving back to the startup community by mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs at institutional and personal level. The culture of giving back is still not very well defined in India. It is still at a nascent stage in India. Of course there are a few people like Narayana Murthy and initiatives like the NSRCEL at IIM B, but this support is very less at the moment. I’m sure there will be more of these in the coming years.
Another good example is Deep Kalra, Founder, Make MyTrip who mentors and is giving back to the startup community. But the situation has definitely changed since I graduated out of college. People at least want to startup as opposed to going to a safe and secure job unlike my graduation days.
Why would you choose to invest/not invest in student led ventures?
It is not that we wouldn’t invest in student ventures. We will not invest in a student enterprise that is in a power point form. We would like to invest in startups that have bootstrapped in college or immediately after college functional for 6-8 months and have a product that has been built to a certain extent. Then we are more than happy to support them. We want to be sure that they have their skin in it and are committed to it. We would be more than happy to invest in them to scale them up.
We would look at the commitment level of the team and the passion. Are they really truly passionate about the product that they are building? If they are, we would be happy to support them.
There is significant emphasis on research and development at colleges abroad. What do you think is the state of research in technology from Indian colleges/universities?
I think good technology is being developed in India as well. When I see students who go from here to U.S and develop great technology and also incubating those ideas, I think it is about the environment. If we create the environment then this is definitely going to go up even in India not just with Indian students abroad. IITs and IIMs are doing it now through different initiatives. A Google kind of student innovation hasn’t come out of India yet. The day that happens there will be a rush from students to become entrepreneurs. We don’t have role models like the Google founders in our country, yet.
In comparison between engineers and management graduates, who are likely to startup? What is the trend that you have noticed among the companies that you have seen so far?
Purely from observations and not from data, I have seen both of them start but the trend we have seen is that engineers startup more often. Engineers become entrepreneurs earlier in their career than management people. Management guys get in later after several years of experience.
There is huge emphasis on technology - with engineers becoming entrepreneurs, what about the other kinds of businesses coming up? What is your take on it?
Entrepreneurship is looked at from the perspective of raising money. But there are so many businesses that don’t get funded at all. Good but a crude example would be Halwai shops at street corners. Bad example may be but companies like Haldi Rams has scaled it. McDonalds has scaled because Halwai shop makes money from day one. Café CoffeeDay is another scaled example of Indian chaiwala. When you think that ‘I want to start something that would pay me more than salary and do something passionately’, you could work on any idea.
What are your 3 pieces of advice for students entrepreneurs and students aspiring to be entrepreneurs?
- If you have an entrepreneurial itch, then don’t get into a so-called safe and secure job. If the startup fails you can go on and take up a job
- Find like-minded friends or classmates and jump into it together building a team together. You always need someone to bounce off ideas and give you another perspective
- When you are jumping in think big. Think of a large, scalable solution. Only if you aim for the sky will you reach somewhere in between