“Many lives and many adventures await – your time is now,” begins author and youth expert Rashmi Bansal in her new book ‘Arise, Awake,’ urging students to heed the call of entrepreneurship.
Rashmi Bansal graduated from Sophia College in Mumbai and IIM Ahmedabad, and is the author of a number of bestselling titles on startups (see my reviews of her books on social entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs, small-town entrepreneurs and slum entrepreneurs).
Rashmi classifies student entrepreneurs into three types: rankers (toppers), repeaters (who failed initially but succeeded later) and rebels with a cause (mavericks who did weird but wonderful things). The 190-page book ends with contact information of the entrepreneurs, and a list of student business plan competitions such as Eureka (IIT Bombay), Empresario (IIT Kharagpur), Ventura (NIT Trichy), First Dot (NEN-Tata) and International Business Plan Competition (TiE).
The 10 startups profiled in her book are Practo Technologies, Magicrete, Sacred Moments, Bewakoof Brands, Innovese, Inopen, Bhukkad, Ganpati Facilities, FraudExpress and Dosamatic. (See also my book review of ‘Bhaag’ by V.Ganesh, which profiles the 11 startups GharPay, Tech Innovance, DoLoJo, iGenero, BlueGape, Gyan Lab, BioSyl, Om Shanti Traders, Centre Stage, iKheti and Nurturing Green.)
Practo Technologies was founded by Shashank ND and Abhinav Lal in their final year in NIT Suratkal, and is a Rs 20 crore company serving 10,000 doctors across India. The campus entrepreneurship cell Eforea organised panels and events like the Ignition summit. The duo dreamt up ideas like software for marriage halls, and then hit upon the patient reminder service for doctors delivered via mobiles. They were nominated by Morpheus, received funding from Sequoia, and expanded operations to Singapore.
Magicrete co-founder Sourabh Bansal and his IIT-IIM team began in his father’s quicklime manufacturing line, and spotted an opportunity in Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC) blocks. They worked out the metrics of its construction advantages as compared to bricks, imported machinery from China, secured bank loans, and partnered with developers for contracts.
Sacred Moments was founded by Prakash Mundhra who hatched the idea during business competitions when he was at SCMHRD in Pune. His involvement in college book circles and regular visits to the library led him to read about Zee TV’s business idea show, ‘Business Baazigar,’ where he made it to the Top Ten. His Rs 4.5 crore company now offers puja kits and corporate gifting to Indians and NRIs.
Bewakoof Brands was founded by IIT Bombay students Prabhkiran Singh and Siddharth Munot, who first began with a lassi stand outside their campus and then moved on to printing T-shirts and other merchandise with a ‘funky irreverent’ streak (the ‘Ghanta Engineering’ T-shirts were hugely popular at the Mood Indigo festival). They raised funding from a Gujarati angel investor, and ploughed ahead despite criticism that this was not high-tech enough for IIT students to be doing!
Innovese Technologies was founded as a web hosting service by three BITS Pilani students who also created YoCaptcha, an interactive branding product based on Captcha. Another project of theirs was the social network Slambook, and they received funding from the Technology Business Incubator (see my earlier interview). They eventually sold the company to German multinational Gruner+Jahr, but one of the co-founders decided to split from the team and pursue a separate career.
InOpen Technologies was founded by Rupesh Shah, who fell in love with open source technology even while he failed some of his exams. He graduated from IET Alwar, but then pursued an internship at IIT Bombay. A professor helped and funded him with a model curriculum for teaching computer science in schools, which used open source software. The startup joined the IIT incubator SINE (see my earlier interview), raised external funds, and now targets state schools with its innovative teaching approach which it hopes can be extended to science education as well.
Bhukkad was founded as a ‘natural fast food’ chain by Aruj Garg while he was a third-year student at National Law School, Bangalore. He earned some money during his internship at Akosha, which was founded by his senior. Aruj also learnt the ropes of the food business from a stint at Faaso’s. Despite others questioning whether this line was appropriate for a law student, Aruj went ahead and hired a five-star hotel chef to design his menu. His sudden diagnosis with high cholesterol at such an early age led him to discover ‘natural’ fast food.
Ganpati Facilities was founded by Anurag Arora when he was at ICFAI Business School in Pune. The atrocious hostel facilities led him to launch his own hostel for fellow-students, by renting local apartments. Taking good care of the students led to positive referrals and social media endorsements for subsequent batches, and Anurag now plans to approach other colleges as well.
FraudExpress was founded by Apurva Joshi when she was a CA final student in Maharashtra. An internship at the startup IndiaForensic exposed her to the intriguing world of fraud detection and reporting, and she launched her own startup FraudExpress to offer fraud risk assessment services and a course via Solapur University. The backdrop of the Satyam scam also boosted market awareness about this field.
Dosamatic was founded by Eshwar Vikas and Sudeep Sabat when they were batchmates at SRM Engineering College in Chennai. They caught the startup bug during entrepreneurship cell activities, and explored their fascination as tinkerers at local factories and markets. On a visit to Delhi, they were shocked to discover that dosas cost an astronomical Rs. 130 – and decided to make a dosa machine. They were mentored by the Indian Angel Network, and finally had a sound tabletop product in 2013.
Each startup story ends with a page of advice from the founders for other aspiring entrepreneurs; here’s a sample of the useful tips and recommendations.
Think big, be creative, keep innovating and stick to your vision. If you can’t convince and motivate yourself that this startup is for you, then you won’t be able to convince anyone else. Media coverage, networking and business plan competitions are great but don’t get distracted too much by them. In India, feet-on-the-street activity is key for success in sales.
Make the most of the energy and dynamism of the youth years. There is no substitute for hard work, positive thinking and perseverance. Entrepreneurship is not about working just for yourself, but working to solve a problem others face. Practical knowledge is as important as classroom knowledge.
Learn as much as possible and take internships. Work with a startup during vacations to understand what it all about and see if that’s the kind of life you want to lead. As a young entrepreneur you have to work extra hard to prove yourself because you have no past track record, money, products or results. But you have no commitments and low expenses so you can experiment more, provided you can accept and learn from failures. College is a great time to shed inhibitions and do unusual things.
Study at the same time, and finish your courses. Sign a co-founder agreement with your first team. A project or a product is not the same as a company. As you scale, professionalise the business so that it can run even when you take short breaks. Appreciate the value that mentors bring. Don’t be swayed by criticism – or by media glamour.
“Your first office could be your very own hostel room,” Rashmi concludes. Many of the entrepreneurs featured in this book say they were inspired by her earlier books, and this book itself is bound to inspire a new wave of startups.