We have an active discussion going on our CE-Forum about: Why aren’t engineers thinking about entrepreneurship? Presenting to you the story of an engineer from IIT Delhi who founded his Venture ‘Nurture Talent Academy’ on January 1, 2010 after doing his MBA from IIM Indore and working at a couple of companies. Here is Mr. Amit Grover sharing his experiences of taking a plunge into entrepreneurship by building a startup.
CE: Hello Amit, you are the founder of NurtureTalent. Could you brief us about your background?
Amit: Sure, I am from a middle class family, born and brought up in Kanpur where I did my schooling. My mother is a teacher, father is a shopkeeper and education was always a priority in my family. After schooling, I went on to do my engineering from IIT Delhi, did my first job at Infosys Technologies in Pune, Mysore and Bangalore. Later, I joined IIM Indore to do MBA, which was a great personally and professionally. After MBA, I joined Asian Paints in their sales and marketing team, which was followed by a stint at Onida. I started Nurture Talent Academy on 1st January, 2010.
CE: With IIT+IIM background, you could have settled in a job with some MNC in India or Abroad. Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
Amit: You are right, it helps to have a IIT+IIM brand to back you. But while at Onida, I was taking care of my Chairman, Mr Gulu Mirchandani’s portfolio, additional to other strategic projects, sales and new initiatives. He is a prolific angel investor, and his son co-founded Mumbai Angels, a group of angel investors. During my stay there, I met over 2000 entrepreneurs personally, and realized it was time for me to become one!
CE: Could you explain us the concept behind NurtureTalent?
Amit: While meeting over 2000 entrepreneurs, I used to spend time on their business plans, strategies, teams etc. and also negotiate, guide, mentor, counsel, consult or fight with them – all with the aim to help them towards achieving their goals. I got only 1-2 hours daily, as I was working full-time with Onida, but there was lots more that could be done. Entrepreneurs need lot of help to answer basic questions like how much money is required to start and run a business, how to plan for break-even, hire teams, pricing, how to get customers etc. So I decided that Nurture Talent will be the 1st company to conduct training programs on how to start a venture. There are lot of MBA colleges, but they teach you how to work as a manager in large companies with set systems, and follow the policies. As an entrepreneur, you need to start something from scratch, learn to generate resources, and have the desire to create something rather than manage what others have created – so Nurture Talent’s idea was born!
CE: Do you think anyone can become an entrepreneur? Can proper training make someone an entrepreneur?
Amit: No, not everyone can become an entrepreneur. Else, we would have lots more Ambanis and Murthys. Entrepreneurship requires a different kind of mindset – you need to have a desire to create something, which may be even more than your desire to earn money, you need to identify customers’ needs, and solve it in a innovative manner and be able to make money in the process. The problem is that you never know if you are cut out as an entrepreneur, unless you try it once! On the training part, I believe that it makes a difference between an entrepreneurial person and an entrepreneur. It also helps you bring clarity of purpose, and move towards next steps in starting up by removing the fear of venturing out on your own.
CE: What type of training is essential for any entrepreneur or a wannabe entrepreneur? Amit: Training is a mix of soft skills like attitude, motivation, determination and hard skills like finance, sales, marketing, operations and business plan. Before starting a venture, a wannabe entrepreneur has to be clear about why he/she is starting a venture, what are the action points, when and where to start, how to go about it, and also identify the risks in business. A little planning, a little effort on personal skill development, and lots of determination can make a successful entrepreneur.
CE: Are you content with the current state of entrepreneurship in India?
Amit: Definitely not! But I am happy that things are changing. India has always been a nation of entrepreneurs – look around, and you will find traders, farmers, shopkeepers in your family. But there came a certain phase in 1980s – 90s that everyone wanted to take up a Government or a private job, that offers security but no satisfaction. I can see things are changing again and next decade will be the decade of entrepreneurship. There are trends like government supporting MSMEs, other NGOs like TIE, NEN, media like ET PoIs, 100s of business plan competitions for students, financial support from banks and VCs etc. that are positive signs. India is growing by 9-10% in GDP and there are opportunities everywhere. You just need to get down and start up!
CE: How can an engineering student go about becoming an entrepreneur?
Amit: An engineering student is exposed to lots of new technologies by virtue of the education and environment he is in. I have seen students come out with innovative products based on a new technology and make a great venture out of it. For example, few IIT Kharagpur students converted their B.Tech. project on online security into a venture and got funded by VCs. So once you have a technology or product, and it satisfies a customer’s problem, try to get a team around it.
CE: Continuing from above question, does the same apply to an employed professional?
Amit: For an employed professional, the first step would be to make up your mind towards a goal – what kind of venture you wish to start, how to find customers for it, and what kind of information or knowledge is relevant for that. Most importantly, you need to give up the security of your job, which is only possible if you are in love with entrepreneurship and are willing to take that risk. I have met lot of professionals, who say that they will start their ventures only if they get funding, but no investors like that attitude. Also, a professional is in a better position to use his contacts/network to get their first customers, so always aim to reach out and talk to your customers rather than keep focusing on internal tasks in the company.
CE: Is some prior industry experience necessary to be an entrepreneur?
Amit: I do not believe prior industry experience is required. It is a myth that entrepreneurs need experience before starting a venture. In fact, if you are passionate about an idea, it may be worth to jump now rather than wait for a few years, when you will have a higher salary and your cost to switch even higher. The experience of failure in a startup itself is a very valuable one, and I personally feel that 1 year of entrepreneurial experience is worth 5 years of working for another company.
CE: Have you had any interesting experiences while running NurtureTalent & Entrepreneurs?
Amit: Oh there have been lots of them – in fact everyday there is a new experience. Just last week, we were doing an online webinar and the power went off in Mumbai – a rarity in a city which has 24 hours power supply. I learned the importance of a “backup plan” that day – fortunately we had other laptops and a dongle to connect internet with! Another great experience was when we got selected by Business Today as India’s Hottest Startups for 2010 – I would have never come on national media like Business Today, ET Now, CNBC Awaaz or Bloomberg if I were working elsewhere! Ofcourse I can never forget the first time when I told my mother that I am going to become an entrepreneur, she told me, “If you need money to do business, we can take a loan on our house property”. That was the best thing I ever heard, and it keeps me going every morning!