Beyond the battlefield: 6 successful entrepreneurship stories by Indian Army veterans
“Quartered in snow, silent to remain. When the bugle calls they shall rise and march again,” reads the scroll of honour at the Siachen camp base.
Doesn’t it give you goosebumps each time you read about the jawans posted on the Siachen Glacier, the world’s highest battlefield? Think about all the sacrifices these men and women of the Indian Army selflessly offer so that we can lead our undisturbed lives. The bravado they display every day while fighting and defending the nation against constant, clear, and present danger is truly exemplary and inspirational.
To mark the efforts of the second largest standing army in the world, 15 January has been celebrated as Army Day since 1949. For those looking for a short history lesson on the relevance of 15 January, well, it is the day Field Marshal Kodandera M Cariappa (then Lieutenant-General) took over as the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army from General Sir Frances Butcher, the last British Commander-in-Chief of India. The day further pays homage to all the valiant martyrs who laid down their lives to defend the motherland.
Life after the army can be equally challenging as well. The transition from military to civilian life is not easy, and not all army personnel are able to make it in their stride. However, a few take the opportunity as a second chance to serve the nation, setting up unique enterprises and functions. This 70th Army Day, we list out the army veterans and their startups that showcase the rigour and discipline of the Indian army even in the entrepreneurial field:
Turning his passion for army merchandise into a business model, Captain Chethan YK, along with fellow veteran Niranth Bymana, started Olive Planet in 2009. The retired Captain served in the Indian Army as a short service commission officer (6 Engr Regt – Madras Sappers) from 2002 to 2007. Upon retiring, Captain Chethan realised the potential for good army-inspired products, for both army personnel and civilians. Olive Planet initially opened an online one-stop shop for all things military, and now also has a retail store in Kattigenahalli, Bengaluru, which also functions as their warehouse for shipping and packaging orders.
Thirty-three years in any service is a long time, and when you consider that time was spent serving the nation on various army battalions, then the respect for that person soars. This is the story of Rajeev Mannali who, after retiring in January 2009, took to the healthcare sector to continue his service of the people of this country. Using his credentials and field experience, he worked with hospitals in Kerala and Vellore for around five years before setting up ‘Healthy World’ in 2013. The organisation, centred as a consultancy firm, helps those who look to join the healthcare sector. That said, its goal is to inform civilians of prevention measures rather than just providing treatment and cure.
After 21 years of military service, Colonel Samrendra Kumar, alongside an ex-Navy officer Pavan Desai, went on to build Mitkat Advisory Services in 2010, a risk management consultancy service. A decorated officer who was awarded the Sword of Honour and a Gold Medallist at the Indian Military Academy, Col. Kumar later also founded Def Mart, a social enterprise that distributes energy-efficiency improvement products.
When Captain Ramana Rao Venkat learnt that his fellow Army officers were struggling to land jobs after leaving the Indian army, he, along with fellow IIM Lucknow batchmate Flight Lieutenant Srinath, decided to build a platform which helps jawans in their second innings after retirement. They soon started writing like-minded profiles for various corporate positions, that eventually resulted in a 1:5 placement offer ratio. It was the highest turnout in the history of the Defence MBA batches at IIM Lucknow, and Faujnet was born. The company soon escalated to tie up with over 250 corporate houses and is now the premium platform in the country for people looking to hire former army personnel.
Former-army-officer-turned-entrepreneur Prashant Rai felt that tapping into India’s burgeoning services sector would offer him the best chance of success after his retirement from the army. Prashant launched two ventures in 2006, Balram Corporate Services and Fire Prevent System, with offerings in security and safety. After gaining nearly a decade of experience, he launched Onetimejobs in August 2015, a Bengaluru-based resource aggregator that offers personalised services. Prashant aims to expand the company into 100 cities and become a Rs 1,000-crore venture by bringing in one lakh service providers over the next three years. He also hopes to make it the largest and the most efficient supplier of services in the country.
As a member of the first few batches of women officers to join the Indian Army, Sonal Gupta has been a pioneer all her professional life. After serving nine years in the Indian Army, she further worked in the corporate sector for a decade before deciding to take the entrepreneurial plunge.
She set up Navrang Creations in early 2014 with the idea of conserving the rich Indian handloom tradition and culture, where products are sourced from local artisans at each location. Sonal is a strong believer in the discipline and toughness instilled in her by army career and experiences and aims to use her military and corporate knowledge to help her venture grow leaps and bounds in the future.
From serving the nation to solving its internal problems, these heroes have shown what it takes to lead, inspire, and serve. After all, what is the point of success if it’s not for the greater good?
If you know a veteran-turned-entrepreneur, do tell us their story in the comments.