This article is sponsored by Lenovo
The son of a primary school teacher in Dhamangoan village in Nashik, Sagar Ravindra Thoke knew he could rely only on his hard work if he had to make his dreams come true. Hidden among the many big dreams was this tiny dream of pursuing his passion of playing badminton professionally. Sometimes it is the smallest of dreams that opens the door to realise the big ones. That’s exactly what happened with Sagar.
As a badminton enthusiast, he got a chance to get professional coaching while pursuing his engineering course. That’s where he met a well-known industrialist, Kapil Patil. Inspired by Kapil’s story of how he rose to great heights, a new-found enthusiasm enveloped Sagar. When the industrialist himself encouraged Sagar to pursue his dreams, Sagar began looking out for opportunities. And, so it was in search of such an opportunity that he arrived in Coimbatore. He visited a number of companies and factories over the course of several days. There was just one problem: he couldn’t find a place that served a meal that hadn’t been made in coconut oil. Since he had run out of options, he ate what was available but subsequently fell sick because he was not accustomed to the local cuisine. Sagar says, “That’s when I realised that this challenge also doubled up as a business proposition. I decided if ever I would start my own venture, it would be an app-based tiffin service serving authentic regional cuisines in small pockets of the cities.”
Once he returned to Nashik for his engineering course, he got busy with studies. But the idea lingered on. Later, he visited IIT Bombay for a tech fest. He says, “We had to wait in a long queue to attend a talk. I casually told my friends that one day I would make it here and people would queue up.”
So when Lenovo’s Start off as CEO contest was announced, he registered without a second thought. But then he was worried as the contest required students to submit a business plan and as an engineering student, marketing was a relatively uncharted territory. So he turned to the Web for assistance and worked on a presentation. He was still sceptical but a mail from Lenovo put that to rest. Sagar says, “I was ecstatic. It was a proud moment when I was felicitated at an event in the college and the entire student community applauded my efforts.”
In Mumbai, a day before Sagar was to present his winning idea at the National Entrepreneurship Summit at IIT Bombay, he attended a day-long workshop facilitated by the e-Cell. He says, “It was extremely useful. We learnt so much about enhancing our soft skills, communication, presentation, and entrepreneurship skills. It was an eye-opener for me.” He went on to successfully present his business idea at the very same forum where just a few months ago he had stood outside in a queue.
At the entrepreneurship summit, apart from presenting his idea, he also got to attend sessions where entrepreneurs like Sachin Bansal, Co-founder and Executive Chairman, Flipkart, and many others were speaking. Sagar says, “Getting to hear from the high-profile entrepreneurs is a major motivation booster.”
After completing his studies, Sagar knew he didn’t have to worry about getting a job, because he would create one for himself. While his family supports his dreams, they still believe a regular job is a safe bet any day. But, Sagar hopes to live his dream every single day.
Talking about the startup ecosystem in India, he says, “Today, youngsters are willing to take risk, fall and rise again. While startups are mushrooming in major metros and gaining momentum, small cities and towns are beginning to catch up. There is enormous talent waiting to be tapped in these towns. He adds, “With initiatives like Startup India by the Government of India and other initiatives driven by leading brands, just like Lenovo’s Start off as CEO contest, there is so much to look forward to. I think the next league of entrepreneurs will be from tier 2 and tier 3 cities. The future belongs to us.”
Speaking on this initiative, Bhaskar Choudhuri, Director Marketing Lenovo India said, “The youth in India are always enthusiastic about their ideas and innovation. Aimed at youth in smaller cities and towns, Lenovo, is creating a gateway of opportunity for budding talents to urge them to kick-start their dreams. While there were many noteworthy entries, Sagar was the clear winner, was his concept: Bhojan. An idea which is simple yet so fundamental. The fact that he wants to capitalise on the lack of availability of good and simple food for students and working professionals working away from their hometown. The campaign promises to engage and empower the youth’s entrepreneurship drive and their goals.”
This is part of a series featuring winners from the Start off as CEO contest organised by Lenovo in collaboration with the e-cell of IIT Bombay.