The fifth season of ‘Lufthansa Runway to Success’ will end January 20 in an exciting finale, and this year there is a twist. Unlike previous seasons, where three entrepreneurs were selected for the final round, this time, the bar was raised so high that the judges selected four finalists.
These four embodied passion, determination, and strategic thinking – all the things that ‘Lufthansa Runway to Success’ represents and hopes to nurture.
Over the past four years, ‘Lufthansa Runway to Success’ has provided India’s entrepreneurs the best mentorship and a stage at which to showcase their talent and business potential. The programme is conceived and developed by Lufthansa, in partnership with the global entrepreneurship fostering network, TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) and India's premier business TV channel ET NOW. Over 1.5 lakh young entrepreneurs have benefited from various aspects of the initiative in the last four years.
This year, of the 21 finalists, chosen from thousands of applicants, seven were selected for the semi-final – Asad Khan, Co-founder and COO, Tpot; Abhinav Parashar, Co-Founder and CEO, Digio; Divyandhu Poddar, CEO and Co-Founder, Rocketeers; Yogesh Mittal, Founder, EliteString Apparels; Arjun Chakraborti, President and CEO, TrakInvest; Shilpa Malik, Co-Founder, Bioscan Research; and Deep Bajaj, Co-Founder, PeeBuddy.
The semi-finalists had to face a panel comprising some of the biggest names in the ecosystem – Alok Mittal, Board member TiE Delhi NCR; Girish Shivani, Executive Director and Co-Founder, YourNest Venture Capital; Sanjeev Bikhchandani, Board Member TiE Delhi NCR and Vice-chairman InfoEdge; and special guest Wolfgang Will, Director, South Asia at Lufthansa Group.
Each entrepreneur was called upon to select a card, which bore the name of a jury member who then asked a question. The entrepreneurs were evaluated based on their answer and the reasoning behind it.
The first three semifinalists to face the jury were Asad Khan, Abhinav Parashar and Divyanshu Poddar.
Asad selected Alok Mittal, who asked him whether consistent performance, happy employees, exceptional growth, or acceptance and recognition were most rewarding for an entrepreneur? Asad chose consistent performance saying that while passion for products and innovation were crucial, consistency was most important, especially for a company like his where each customer drove business.
When asked why he did not choose happy employees, he said. “A company that performed consistently and had growing revenues would invariably have happy employees.”
Abhinav was up next and chose Girish Sihivani, who asked that if given a choice, would he alter his product strategy, communication pattern or channel strategy? Abhinav replied he would alter his product strategy as they were continuously innovating, listening to their customers and strategising to develop a product that would work best.
Divyanshu too had to face Gaurav Shivani, who asked whether social or family pressure, funding, competition or putting the right team in place was the biggest risks an entrepreneur faces.
Divyanshu started by saying all four were not risks but challenges that an entrepreneur faced. “There is a certain aspect of talent and grit that you need from a co-founder or a team member in a startup. You need some skill set, you need communication skills because the idea behind the startup is to be able to showcase something new to the world, and you have to be able to communicate that. A combination of these three is very difficult to find within the Indian ecosystem and that is why I would choose putting the right team in place as my option.”
The next to face the judges were Yogesh Mittal and Arjun Chakraborti. Yogesh chose Wolfgang Will who asked him whether the greatest strength of his business was his employees, users, a terrific product, or strategy. Yogesh said, “The biggest strength of my business is my employees. Every business has its own challenges and at different stages, different things become important. And this point of time the most important thing for us are our employees.” He stuck to his answer even when the rest of the jury tried to dissuade him.
Arjun picked Alok Mittal, who asked him whether the purpose of a business plan was to build a road map, to attract financing, to stay on track, or to articulate and validate key assumptions. To this, Alok replied, “I would go for articulate and validate key assumptions because when you are a startup you build a product from scratch. You have an idea, you try to build a solution, and you need to get that validated with your customer, because ultimately the customer is the one who will pay you in most business plans.”
The only woman among the semi-finalists, Shilpa was asked why she chose to be an entrepreneur. She replied that an entrepreneur is his or her own boss, and creates jobs. “I have chosen to be an entrepreneur because it's one life that I've been given, and I want to do something that's worth this life now.”
The last semi-finalist to face the jury was Deep. He picked Sanjeev Bhikhchandani, who asked if he would ever sell his startup. Deep said that at present he could not imagine selling his startup because he wanted to take his product to a larger audience first. “I am not even looking at that option because the minute you think of Plan B, the plan Plan A fails, so for me right now the thing is to make Plan A into a substantially large business.”
The semi-finals drew to an end with the judges deliberating and unable to settle on just three finalists, so, for the first time, a fourth finalist was chosen.
You can check out the action from the semi-final episode here. Tune into the final episode of Season 5 of ‘Lufthansa Runway to Success’, where one winner will walk away with a sponsorship to a business programme at Cambridge University, a business class ticket to Europe, a coveted mentorship by TiE, and a trophy.
And this year, there is also a viewers’ choice award. Video pitches by all the contestants have been posted on https://www.lhrunwaytosuccess.in/. Viewers simply have to log on and vote for their favorite. They can also share their thoughts using the #LHRunwayToSuccess or at @Lufthansa_RTS.
The finale will be aired on 6 30 PM on 20 Jan 2018 on ET Now.