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Alumni relive campus rivalry - from college contests to startup standoffs

Sameer Ranjan
21st Jun 2018
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They might have faced off against each other in college games. Now, they are reliving their past and competing against each other, but this time through the startups they have founded.

Over the last few years, startups by alumni of renowned institutes have taken India by storm. Be it Knowlarity, Redbus or TaxiForSure, college graduates made a mark in the ecosystem. But now, the Indian alumni network - well known for providing support to fledgling startups - is seeing stiff competition.

Colleges leverage their alumni association not only to help in-campus students get “placed”, but also enable in-campus student entrepreneurs get access to a wide network of alumni who can help them connect with investors and mentors.

The best known face off between alumni in Indian startup ecosystem

Alumni of institutes like IITs and IIMs are competing in sectors such as real-tech, logistics, agritech, and others. In a cursory scan of a number of startup founders’ Linkedin profiles, YourStory found that the new-age economy is witnessing competition among many startup founders taught and trained in the same alma mater.

NestAway vs ZiffyHomes

Take the case of NestAway and ZiffyHomes - two real-tech startup competitors. The four co-founders of NestAway, Amarendra Sahu, Jitendra Jagadev, Smruti Ranjan Parida, and Deepak Dhar are alumni of National Institute of Technology, Surathkal. Their company competes with ZiffyHomes, which is co-founded by Sanchal Ranjan, an alumnus of NIT, Surathkal.

ZiffyHomes vs Homigo

There’s more to come. The other co-founder of ZiffyHomes, Saurabh Kumar, is an alumnus of IIT Kanpur and might be devising strategies to outwit Nikunj Batheja, Jatin Mitruka, and Aakash Verma, Co-founders of Homigo, and also alumni of IIT Kanpur. That’s quite a lot of ex-alumni from the same college battling each other on the startup ground.

Zocalo vs Stanza Living

Meet the co-founders of competitors Zocalo and Stanza Living. Zocalo, co-founded by Uday Lakkar, an IIM-Ahmedabad alumnus, is a broker-free platform that offers listings of PGs, hostels, and shared and rental apartments. Student accommodation platform Stanza Living was co-founded by Anindya Dutta and Sandeep Dalmia, both are alumni of IIM-Ahmedabad.

Intra-city logistics

Intracity logistics is another sector where startup founders find themselves locked in bitter battles. Porter (Resfeber Labs Pvt Ltd) is co-founded by Pranav Goel and Uttam Digga from IIT Kharagpur, and Vikas Choudhary from IIT Kanpur. The Co-founders from IIT Kharagpur might be frequently bumping into their competitors from IIT Kharagpur - Sudarshan Ravi, Pushkar Singh, and Ankit Parasher - the co-founders of LetsTransport - and Pavan Guntupalli, the co-founder of TheKarrier, at their alumni meet.

Agri-tech

In the agritech sector, Gramophone and Agnext have been founded by alumni from the same college - IIM-Ahmedabad. However, they are not in direct competition. But Rajendra Lora, an alumnus of IIIT Jabalpur and CEO of agritech startup Freshokartz, might be crossing swords with Kapil Sahu, also an alumnus of IIIT Jabalpur and Co-founder of an on-demand supplier of fresh vegetables and fruits, Daily2Home.

Inter-city logistics

Coming to inter-city and inter-state logistics sector, the co-founders of Rivigo Deepak Garg, and Fortigo, Vivek Malhotra and Anjani Mandal, passed out from IIT Kanpur.

Together they can

Deepak Dhar, Co-founder of NestAway, says, “A lot of alumni reach us to ask for mentoring, help, and advice. We connect them to angel investors and try to connect them to people where they can get backing.”

When asked about his competitor, the alumnus who co-founded ZiffyHomes, he says, “They had also reached out to us. Unfortunately, we haven’t managed to meet. I had scheduled to meet them to talk about how they want to go. If it’s a competitor, we will not be talking to them about our own business. We will be talking about startups in general. We may not discuss what we should do in this space, but we can talk on other topics.”

Most startup founders don’t see the competition as bad; in fact, some of them welcome it. Speaking about the competition between alumni in the startup world, Rajendra Lora, the CEO of Freshokartz, says:

“One of my seniors, Kapil Sahu, the Co-founder of Daily2Home , contacted me as they wanted to expand their operations in Jaipur. We shared some database, but we didn’t talk about our strategies. It’s a very big market and we are already established and profitable in Jaipur. We didn’t have any apprehensions about their launch in Jaipur.”

A natural progression

Most alumni seem keen to help the others grow. In an alumni network, the connect is instant and trust factor comes very fast. There are more than 4 lakh alumni of IITs and IIMs taken together.

Alumni competing with each other is a natural progression in the startup ecosystem. If they are alumni of the same college, they will also know each other well. This has its own positives and negatives. Positives are when you know the person on campus, you know how they will behave, you know their traits, etc,” said Vikram Gupta, Founder and Managing Partner, IvyCap Ventures Private Limited, a fund powered by the global alumni network of mentors, investors and entrepreneurs.

Face off

Vikram says that the trend of alumni competing with each other is positive from a consumer perspective. It is positive because these competitors would probably know each other well and will try to better each other at a faster rate, thus leading to consumers benefiting much faster. “They can anticipate their competitor’s move. There can be a collaboration, but that might not be good for the market or may not happen every time. Look how Flipkart’s Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal and Snapdeal’s Rohit Bansal are from IIT Delhi, but preferred to compete vigorously. So it is not just about alumni. A lot might depend on how investors drive them,” said Vikram.

Chance of synergy

On collaboration and synergy, Vikram added, “There is a better chance of initial stage startups getting merged in case the alumni knowing each other than in case the founders don’t know each other. Also, both competitors have access to a common set of the alumni network and that might drive how they strategise,” Vikram ends.

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