In the recently concluded entrepreneurship competition Megabucks , we had a conference with young entrepreneurs Suhas Gopinath and Allwin Agnel as speakers.
The theme of the conference was ”New age Entrepreneurs: Risks and Gains”.
The event started with Suhas’ talk, a part of which I missed as I turned up a bit late for the event. Suhas, recognized as the world’s youngest entrepreneur by CNBC and the World’s youngest CEO by other leading media including BBC, Washington Times etc., when he was 16 and 17 respectively, looked just like one of us. His presentation was more of an insight into the way he had started and made the progress that he had made, before and during the setting up of Globals Inc at San Jose.
The thing that struck me here was that being a very young boy , he was not able to register his company in India , but with measured steps he went on to start a company abroad first, suggesting quite blatantly the contrast in opportunities available in India and abroad. He also discussed the basics of starting up of a company, which I am sure must be taught at any b school.
Mr R Kumaria , the regional head of SBI was the second speaker , and his talk was a passion enthused one , in which he gave stress on the need to be an entrepreneur. He also talked about the importance of determination and networking and to drive home the point he made the talk interactive.
This was followed by Mr. Kiran Deshpande’s talk. An IIT-IIM alumnus, formerly the CEO and MD of Mahindra British Telecom (MBT) and currently President of Airtight Networks, was the most experienced of the lot. He filled the conference room with fervor as he talked about taking big risks and leaving a well settled life and job in US , when he and his friend and co-founder of the company Pravin Bhagwat , felt that there was something that was missing, that there was a need for some action. And all this when they had crossed 50.
His experience allowed him to make some very strong statements like “risk capital in India does not exist” and that “this country , for technology ventures, does not give you home market advantage , the way US gives to its entrepreneurs ” and substantiated his arguments with incidents from his own life , when their idea got no takers (read investors) in India . The same idea raised $10 m in the US later on.
He also bashed the upbringing in Indian society which circumvolutes us in an environment of safety. “Parents always come in the picture” , he said , quoting incidents of some of the students, who eventually joined his company, who had to make a choice between established companies like Google and a newly formed one (his company) offering 60% of the salary offered elsewhere. He said its important to realise that you have the potential to create a Google, to create a brand.
Another point that he made in his talk was , that when you create a business , you should make it a point not to come in the way of growing the business. He said , if you are the founder and if you feel you are not doing justice to the the business as a CEO , do not be shy to hire a CEO for your company. By the end of his talk , he also mentioned , that it does not help to be misadventurous. It means you would have to go through pain. That is pragmatism. That is what happens in real life.
The thing which I extracted out from his talk was that optimistic pragmatism was the key to success.
Allwin Agnel’s talk was the one I was eagerly waiting for. Better known as Pagalguy for starting a website few years back, which today is the biggest MBA forum for the youth in India, Allwin’s story can be described as the stuff dreams are made of . And that is exactly what he talked about. Following your own dream.
He started his talk by saying that, there is an entrepreneur inside each one of us and that deep down inside each one of us wants to do our own thing.
About taking risks, he said , that you have to take the first giant leap , which is the most risky one for an entrepreneur. After that you have to make sure that the company is getting funds and is working in the right direction and that the people are getting salaries and you have to take care of a lot of responsibilities. But one thing that you have to remember is to keep alive your dream and keep working for it. To give substance to this statement he quoted one of his childhood dream to fly an aircraft, and that following his passion for almost 10 yrs now, he is on his way to get his first flying private license.
A very interesting comment he made was that, in business, the least thing you can lose is money. Other things that you can lose are friends and health. However the biggest thing you can lose is your passion for life.
He also shared, how he started pagalguy.com when he was searching for MBA degrees, and how the seemingly insane name stuck, became popular and led to the success of the website.
With a call from Wharton in his hands , he is vacillating between the options of joining or not. With this he also mentioned the awkward position of his parents who have been replying hesitantly to the queries of guests, as to what exactly Allwin is going to do.
He went on to talk about the importance of having and following dreams. To get up every morning to face ourselves, to do what we love to do, is something that stirred chords in the conference room.
He ended his vibrant talk by saying that money making is not that matters initially . What really matters is to set our careers straight right now, doing what makes and keeps us happy.
All in all it was a very enriching experience on a Sunday afternoon, which would have been otherwise utilized in smuggling in some extra hours of sleep.
My favourite quote for the day , was by Allwin. It goes , “Don’t complicate things for yourself. Life is, by default, simple.”
– Shreyansh, 4th year student IITK