When a win heralds a journey into entrepreneurship: Two college students share their stories

4th May 2016
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This article is sponsored by Lenovo

Vishal Patel, who is studying for an MBA in Finance at MIT School of Telecom Management in Pune, harbours big dreams of becoming an entrepreneur. The ups and downs, an integral part of this journey, are not new to him. When he speaks, it instantly strikes you that Vishal clearly knows where his heart lies. “I have seen the trials and tribulations that my father faced while setting up his business – beginning with timber and then diversifying into other areas. But because my extended family is closely involved, I know the business will continue to run with or without my intervention. So I am determined to start something on my own.”

(L to R) Winners Vishal Patel and Abhishek Bagde
(L to R) Winners Vishal Patel and Abhishek Bagde

All of 22, he has even figured out what this “something” is. Vishal wants to start an e-waste recycling plant – something you don’t hear off very often. Ask him how he hit upon this idea, he says, “I used to keep a track of current developments. That’s when I observed that e-waste was becoming a huge problem; ending up in landfills and causing pollution woes. To top it off, the players engaged in e-waste collection and disposal were largely unorganised.”

He then began to delve deeper into the subject by understanding how other countries were addressing this problem. He came to the conclusion that if he was to address this problem in India, he needed to make the sector organised and use technology to address the challenge. Soon, he began to develop a business plan.

Vishal says, “As a first-time entrepreneur, I was wondering how to take my business idea forward. While my family was supportive about my decision, they had made it clear that like any other entrepreneur, I would have to fight the battle alone. It was clear that my father wouldn’t fund it. There were no shortcuts.” It was during this time that he came to know about Lenovo’s ‘Start off as CEO’ contest. He says, “I knew this was it – just what I needed.” He then restructured his business plan to suit the contest requirements. Once he hit the sent button, Vishal knew this would be the beginning of a new journey.

For Abhishek Bagde, a winner from Nagpur, it was the contest that sparked thoughts of becoming an entrepreneur. A brilliant Computer Science student, Abhishek says, “I used to be really good at academics. If we had to code a programme, I would be one of the first ones to finish.” He wanted to pursue a career in Computer Science. But the Lenovo contest has seemed to chart a new direction. “I applied because I found the format of the contest interesting. I saw it as a platform to test my idea generation skills,” he explains.

Abhishek’s business plan was to develop a blind pad, an add-on device that will make regular laptops and smartphones accessible to the visually challenged. He says, “While there is a business angle to it, personally I think it is relevant because it addresses a social problem.” This win is the first of many to come for Abhishek: “This is the first prestigious recognition for me. It has given me the reasons to dream big and think differently.”

The duo travelled to Mumbai to attend a day-long workshop and also participate in the National Entrepreneurship Challenge (NEC) 2016 at IIT Bombay. Vishal says, “While I had a winning idea at hand, I wasn’t an expert at selling it.” The workshop helped students like Vishal, who says, “My biggest takeaway was how to present my idea convincingly in just two minutes. I realised I needed to build my communication and marketing skills as I begin to take the first steps of my entrepreneurial journey.” For Abhishek, it was his first experience of presenting before a distinguished panel. He says, “It helped me understand the basics of how students like me can become entrepreneurs.”

Lenovo’s take

Echoing the dreams and aspirations of young entrepreneurs, Lenovo partnered with NEC 2016. Commenting on the initiative, Bhaskar Choudhuri, Director Marketing, Lenovo India, says, “Our primary objective was to drive increased consumer engagement and join hands with the youth who are passionate, uninhibited, and optimistic about what they do. All the five winners of ‘Start off as CEO’ contest are immensely talented and had equally challenging business ideas.” He adds, “Abhishek Bagde’s concept - Blind PAD, is an application that helps the visually challenged use laptops and mobile phones. The idea is to enable this section of society to be proficient with technology and be connected with the new age developments. Vishal, on the other hand, wants to target the unorganised e-waste collection and disposal sector in India and start an e-waste recycling plant to help the environment. We saw great potential in the concepts and it compelled us to support both the causes.”

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.

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