Interview with a Student Entrepreneur

Serial Entrepreneurs from Manipal
Introduction:

Solutions For StartUp was cofounded by Gaurav Prakash and Jitesh Luthra. It aims to be the one-stop shop by providing start ups and new enterprises with affordable web design/branding/social media solutions through talented college students. Their vision is to establish a nationwide student pool that would provide the perfect platform for start-ups to get work done as well as giving students a platform to get industry level experience.
Here is a brief Summary about the Cofounders:

Jitesh Luthra

-An Entrepreneur with an IT startup
-A thinker.
-A key interest in Finance and Operations.
-Trying to figure out the HOW’s of everything.
-Finalist at NIT Trichy’s International B Plan

Gaurav Prakash

-A serial Entrepreneur with startups in IT, retail and marketing sector.
-Certified commercial pilot form Florida , USA
-Executive Team member at Social Media Club , Kuwait
-A blogger for Middle East’s largest social media network (http://www.ehulool.com/author/gauravprksh/
-Global Student Entrepreneur Awards , South East Asia nominee and regional finalist
-Top 3 ideas at iWeekend , IIT Mumbai
-Social Media Enthusiast
-Speaker (AIESEC LeadSpeaker at Manipal University)
-Finalist at NIT Trichy’s International B Plan
-Featured on various portals , websites and newspapers.

Here are excerpts from interview conducted by Nurture Talent Academy-India’s 1st Training Institute for Entrepreneurs :
NTA :
What motivated you to take this initiative?
Gaurav: We wanted to build our own identity, break the preconceived rules of society and start up early. We wanted to network with a lot of amazing people.
Jitesh: Starting up gives you a lot of independence. Being your own boss, changes you as a person. Makes you accountable for yourself. It is terrifying and exhilarating at the same time!
This is what motivated us.
NTA: What roadblocks did you hit?
Jitesh: Our first major roadblock was our own mindset. Our startup turned out different from what our initial idea was.
Gaurav: After that establishing credibility, fine tuning the back end of the business were our major hurdles.
NTA: What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
Jitesh: Establishing a collaborative model of growth is the most crucial thing we have done to grow our business.
NTA: What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
Gaurav: Best advice would again be to go with a collaborative model of growth. This has helped us a great deal in reaching more clients and getting work done faster and more efficiently.
NTA:What are your favourite books/movies of all time?
Jitesh: My favourite books are ‘The Godfather’, by Mario Puzo and ‘The Art Of War’, by Sun Tzu.
I absolutely love the TV show ‘Suits’.
Gaurav:My favourite books are ’Entrepedia’ by Nandin Vaidyanathan and ‘Connect the Dots’ by Rashmi Bansal.
My favourite movie is ‘The Aviator’ and like Jitesh I love ‘Suits’ as well.

NTA: Which inspiring personality past/present would you like to have dinner with?
Gaurav: Very difficult and thoughtful question but I must say: Ratan Tata and Dhirubai Ambani.
Jitesh: Stephen Covey (the American educator, author, businessman, keynote speaker and author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People)

NTA:If you were to start another business, what might it be?
Gaurav: I would probably enter a Product based business as all my start ups till now have been service/IT based.
Jitesh:I would enter the field of Data Handling.
NTA: Many entrepreneurs complain about not succeeding in business due to lack of adequate funding, what is your take on this matter
Gaurav:If one has a firm desire to succeed then nothing can stand in his/her way. If the start up is service driven/IT based then the initial cost will be quite less and funding will not be required, but if it is product based then a lot of funding is always needed.
Jitesh:So it finally depends on the situation.
NTA: How would you describe your leadership style?
Jitesh:I am a control freak at times .Trust is very important to me. More you delegate the easier it is.
My core principle is finance. I believe in Management and Micromanagement.
Gaurav:I would say that the both of us are control freaks, but we are not arrogant. We have a good time in the office pulling each other’s legs, but when work needs to get done we make sure it is done properly.
NTA:In your opinion, does an entrepreneur need an MBA to be successful? Are you planning to do an MBA in the future?
Gaurav: In my opinion an entrepreneur does not need an MBA to be successful. It is a good add on to have, but an MBA does not guarantee success .So as of now, I am not planning to do an MBA in the future.
Jitesh: It depends on how you look at an MBA, what skills you wish to acquire. A person can go for an MBA and then go back to a start up.I would consider doing an MBA 5-6 years down the line from now.

NTA: Finally, Your advice to young entrepreneurs.
Gaurav: Go out and start. Keep track of what you are doing. Define growth and work towards it.
Jitesh: Do not be terrified to start up. If you doubt your abilities and are need guidance, come to us at ” Solutions For StartUp” we will give your start up “wings”.(Laughs)

If you want to get in touch with them you can do so:
Website: http://solutionsforstartup.com/
Email ids: gauravprakash@solutionsforstartup.com and jiteshluthra@solutionsforstartup.com
-Interviewed by
Harshith Mallya
Campus Ambassador,
Nurture Talent Academy

Sales versus marketing

If money comes into a business, it is sales and if it goes out of business, it is marketing. This is one simple but a most important difference between sales and marketing. As an entrepreneur, I made a few mistakes within the first month of launching Nurture Talent Academy. We gave an advertisement worth Rs 20,000 in a leading newspaper, and guess what, just one person called as a response to seeing that print advertisement. That was the first and most important lesson I learned — you cannot throw money and get customers.

Rancho or Chatur

If you have seen the movie, 3 Idiots, you must have come across two completely opposite characters — Rancho and Chatur. Rancho is the practical, innovative and friendly guy, while Chatur believes in rote learning and is self-centered. This leads to many funny situations. For example, Chatur makes a mockery of himself when one word in his speech gets replaced (chamatkaar or miracle with balatkaar or rape). Chatur deploys all tactics to keep his competitors down, instead of trying to get himself up. Rancho, on the other hand, is there for his friends when they need him. As a student, you have to chose your path in life during college itself. Who do you want to be? Rancho or Chatur? The decisions you make now, will help shape your career and your future.

Place it before promoting it

Imagine you created a great looking website, but forgot to put a ‘Buy Now’ button or did not take that payment gateway licence required for your website. You go ahead with marketing it — make Facebook pages, buy ‘likes’, give ads on Google, write blogs and are able to get traffic to your website. Customers come to your website, are really impressed with the design, your products and want to buy it. What next? They cannot find a buy button, they do not know how and where to make a payment and leave after getting frustrated. They will never come back and even tell 10 friends that they did not like your venture. What was your mistake? You did the marketing without doing sales.

In the retail world, there is a rule: First place it, then promote it! If you are planning to start a venture, make a note of the difference between sales and marketing, and relentlessly work towards creating value for your customers as well as yourself. Remember sales and marketing are two sides of the same coin.

Article published in : http://newindianexpress.com/education/edex/article1307830.ece

Interview with a Student Entrepreneur

Introduction:

Insight is an online advertisement portal which aims at bridging the gap between the commercial and social sector of society. Within a short span of time the website achieved over 50 thousand hits and still counting.
Their Specialties include: Advertisement, Design, Animation, designing T-Shirts, Brochures.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Nitin Agarwal, one of the cofounders of Insight , here are excerpts from the interview conducted by Nurture Talent Academy-India’s 1st Training Institute for Entrepreneurs:

NTA:
What motivated you to take up this initiative – ‘Insight’?
Nitin: It was after our exams when a couple of my friends and I went out to play pool. There was a huge queue and a lot of people were waiting for their turn to play. So, along with my colleague and co-founder Kanishka Prakash, I thought of doing something which would solve this problem. We understood there was a need for something which will bridge this; the link between the corporate and social life. Now, this was the basic idea which changed manifold times when it got executed. Since Manipal is a University town, with thousands of student and also since majority of the people spend most of their leisure time online, we thought why not give both, the corporate world (to sell their products) and the society (to be aware of the happenings in Manipal and Udupi), a platform to remain connected. So, this was the motivation of our start up.
NTA: Why the name ‘Insight’?
Nitin: Ok, now this was a huge issue for both of us- Kanishka and I, to decide on the name which best described our start up. After a lot of discussions and meetings, we jumped to this one word ‘Insight’ which means ‘a piece of information’ and this perfectly matched with what we were doing.
NTA: What has been your most effective marketing tactic?
Nitin: Again, Manipal is a University town, with thousands of students and being students ourselves, we could understand the mentality very well. We started an online quiz to promote our website, the winner of which would have his/her name mentioned on our website along with a free burger from Planet Cafe. This attracted a lot of people which helped us build a name in the college.
NTA: How has ‘Insight’ changed in the past 1 year?
Nitin: ‘Insight’ just completed a year on 2nd October 2012, and we have seen many ups and downs like all other start-ups. We are no different. But ‘Insight’ has changed to a good extent, it has also shifted focus on its new project- ‘Identity’ which deals with printing customised T-Shirts. We have printed T-Shirts and Shirts for many clubs in Manipal including Formula Manipal, Team Manipal Racing, SAE and IE- EnC to name a few.
NTA: What is your favourite book/movie of all time?
Nitin: Well, I have a long list of them. But my favourite movie would be ‘Guru’ (starring Abhishek Bachchan). There are many great lessons to learn from this movie. My favourite book would be ‘Wings of Fire’ by Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
NTA: Which inspiring personality past/present would you like to have dinner with? Why?
Nitin: There is always something to learn from every single individual. But as soon as you asked this question, the name of that one individual which came to my mind was Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam. His whole life is praise worthy. He had his goals defined from the onset and then he worked hard towards achieving them. The situation which he rose from to where he is today is truly an achievement. And even at this age, he is delivering for the country in some way or the other. His speeches are always a source of inspiration to me. A general poor Rameshwaram boy, who had nothing but physics in his mind and atheism in his soul, went on to become the president of the country. Great Innovator!! Kudos Dr. Kalam.
NTA: What is your least favourite part about being an entrepreneur?
Nitin: Everything in life has its pros and cons, entrepreneurship being no different. I have created a number of cold wars with my colleagues and would like to sort it all out before I leave college. But this is part and parcel of the process and I have no one to blame for the situation. It hasn’t been a rough ride throughout however. I have received support from many of my friends at the same time.
NTA: How would you describe your leadership style?
Nitin: I would say I have always tried to be a team player and support my team however I could. I have always consider work as my priority and this trend will continue despite what others have to say about me, be it praise or criticism. Infact, I welcome criticism and try taking it in a constructive manner to motivate myself to do better constantly. I have always believed in, “Work with us, rather than work for us”, because of which I’ve never acted like a boss amongst my fellow colleagues and teammates.
NTA: What’s the best and worst business advice you’ve ever received?
Nitin: A lot of advices and “gyaan” tags along with entrepreneurship. I paid heed to all the advices that came my way but implemented only those which I thought would work really well for us.
The best business advice that came across my way was to always try and tell your customers about “Why, How, What” of any of your actions, rather than “What, How, Why”. People can relate to the former much more efficiently. Also, ensure that work ethics are intact.
The worst business advice was, “Be Diplomatic to your customers”, which I personally feel is barely a necessity!
NTA: In your opinion, does an entrepreneur need an MBA to be successful? Are you planning to do an MBA in the future?
Nitin: Well, Entrepreneurship is just about following your intuitions and having the confidence in yourself to take the first step forward towards the idea. MBA is just an add-on to your Entrepreneurship skills. Many people have this misconception that an MBA guarantees success in entrepreneurship which is not true.
No, I have a family business to handle and to be honest, 5 years down the line I don’t see myself doing an MBA.
NTA: Finally, Your advice to young entrepreneurs
Nitin: Entrepreneurship doesn’t have an age limit. Infact, the earlier one starts, the better it is. Because, say you start at an age of 15, and for some reason, your ideas don’t work out, you can always go and join college (that is a backup for you) and wait until you hit on another idea. Entrepreneurs have some things in common- risk taking ability, decision making, and belief in whatever he/she does. There used to be an era, when we hardly heard about any start-ups, and now, we have a lot of them. We need more of those. And most important of all, please don’t run after the money. Allan Border once said this to young cricketers in Australia and I strongly agree: “Take Care of Runs and Dollars will take care of themselves”. Money is the result, don’t run after it. If your idea is innovative and unique enough, you will have loads and loads of money. Being recognized as an Entrepreneur is a great feeling within. It’s a complete package which requires and develops certain skills in you. Before, when I used to hear any entrepreneur speak; I took inspiration from them. Hope this gives inspiration to someone as well.
I Welcome all young Entrepreneurs to our legacy!!

If you would like to get in touch with Nitin.You can do so at:
Website: http://www.insightmit.com
Email:nitinagarwal@gmail.com
Contact no:919886680793
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nitin.sodium
LinkedIn: in.linkedin.com/in/nitinagarwal0

-Interviewed by
Harshith Mallya
Campus Ambassador,
Nurture Talent Academy

STARTUPS WITH A PURPOSE

This post is not about entrepreneurship, unlike my earlier ones. It is about a few highly disturbing trends I am seeing in students across colleges — suicidal tendencies, revolting against management, increased stress, career problems. While we can blame the system, I would like to suggest a few ideas to create startups with a purpose.

BUDDY SYSTEM

Every student depends on a special friend inside or outside college — the buddy. A venture can be started to connect online a student with a buddy. On one side will be people who want buddies and on other side, people who want to be buddies. People can discuss and share experiences on forums, blogs, etc. Offline programs can be conducted to bring buddies together, and monitor progress.

FRIENDSHIP CLUB

While there are numerous clubs in colleges like robotics, ecell, etc, there is a need for a friendship club to bring people together face to face rather than Facebook.

TOLL-FREE NUMBER

The more friends you have on Facebook, the lonelier you are in your real life. If there is a toll free number, where students can express their concerns, it gives them an outlet. College can pay to collect feedback and address concerns before things go bad.

ALUMNI PORTAL

I have rarely come across colleges engaging with alumni actively. Even IITs and IIMs are not up to the same standards as Harvard or Wharton when it comes to alumni management.
Current students can benefit a lot with alumni mentoring and a startup handling the system is need of the hour.

PARENT INFORMATION SYSTEM

Every school has a regular parent-teacher meeting, but no such system exists in colleges! When young people leave school and join college, even an online Parent Information System will be good enough. Hope a few more startups with a purpose will take shape in India’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Originally Published in New Indian Express:
http://newindianexpress.com/education/edex/article1284099.ece

Interview with a Student Entrepreneur

Introduction:

Chill Maadi was started under ”Project Parivartan” by Gopal Krishna in August, 2011 as an online magazine. The magazine’s first issue had more than 3500 online readers. Since then, Chill Maadi has not only evolved, but also dazzled Manipal with its statistics- Eight online issues with a combined readership of 10,000, two fest magazines, and two print issues. The website which was launched in December 2011 received 1.5 lakh hits in less than five months.
The basic aim of the start-up was to achieve a national youth network- A forum to read, think, share and express; a network that enables exchange of thoughts and ideas, among the youth. Under Project Parivartan, the services offered are making college magazines, merchandise, websites and other educational and business related solutions.
One of the greatest milestones achieved by the magazine was coming in print. The first print issue came out in May, 2012. More than 1000 copies of the magazine were sold. The estimated reach of the magazine is around 5000 students in nine different colleges in Manipal.
The magazine has had 43 advertisers till date, and has excelled at business relations as well. Besides that, Chill Maadi has also been official media partners with Atharva(the national B-school fest of T.A.Pai Management Institute), Techtatva 2011(the national technical fest of Manipal Institute Of Technology), and Revels 2011(the national cultural fest of Manipal Institute Of Technology).
The magazine has been featured in newspapers, local journals, and websites: Big names include Bangalore Mirror and themanipaljournal.com.
Being a student start-up, finances are limited, which is perhaps a major setback faced by the team. However, the website and blog are being managed by professionals, giving them a cutting edge over other portals of similar nature. Another challenge faced includes setting up of teams in colleges, and getting local permissions and sponsors.
In addition to his start up, Gopal Krishna currently a 3rd year student at Manipal Institute Of Technology, has many more credentials to his name, he has:
-been Featured in Yourstory, Bangalore Mirror, Mangalore Times, Student Story,inc42.com
-given entrepreneurial talks at conferences: Youth Leadership Summit’ by AIESEC and Leaders of Young India.
-been Nominated for Goldnib collegepreneur awards
-rated as ‘star of MIT’ by popular college portal manipalthetalk.net
-been featured in various newspapers for more than 21 times for various reasons.
-been awarded as the “Young Voice Of Bihar” by the Chief Minister of the state for his exceptional ideas for the growth of the state.
Here are excerpts from the interview conducted by Nurture Talent Academy-India’s 1st Training Institute for Entrepreneurs:
NTA:What motivated you to take this initiative-“Chill Maadi”?
Gopal: I have a habit of reading a lot of magazines and staying up to date with what is going on in the world. I realized that there is no magazine as such for college students to read and relate to. I wanted to fill that gap.

NTA:Why the name “Chill Maadi”?
After we decided to take up this initiative, my team and I were brainstorming about possible names. After an unfruitful discussion someone said, ”Just Chill guys, we will think of something catchy soon.” That is when we hit the jackpot and came up with “Chill Maadi”

NTA:What has been your most effective marketing tactic?
Gopal: Our first priority is making sure we publish quality articles. To quote Rob Adams” Build it, they will come.” We were sure that the quality of our articles would attract more readers.
From a purely marketing point of view, inclusion of discount coupons in our magazines from brands such as Café Coffee Day, Dominos, Pizza Corner has been effective.

NTA:How has “Chill Maadi” changed since its first edition?
Gopal: The magazines first issue had more than 3500 online readers. Since then “Chill Maadi” has not only evolved but–the website received 1.5 lakh hits in less than five months. We also had our first print issue in May 2012.

NTA:What is your favourite book/movie of all time?
Gopal:I have watched “The Social Network” eleven times(laughs),but my favourite movie of all time is “The Dark Knight” by Christopher Nolan.

NTA:Which inspiring personality past/present would you like to have dinner with? Why?
Gopal:Its very hard to pick just one person .I would love to interact with Walt Disney, Colonel Sanders(KFC),Christopher Nolan and John Lennon.
They were/ are legends in their respective fields and conversing with them over dinner would be life changing.

NTA: What is your least favourite part about being an entrepreneur?
Gopal:As an entrepreneur ,each and every action is interpreted in different ways by different people.
Many people have come up to me and offered me “gyan” on how to do things. At times I am forced to get into verbal arguments over petty issues.

NTA: How would you describe your leadership style?
Gopal:I am a team player. I have a very good rapport with my colleagues and I am close friends with almost all of them.

NTA:In your opinion, does an entrepreneur need an MBA to be successful? Are you planning to do an MBA in the future?
Gopal: Well, I don’t think an MBA is important for entrepreneurship. It is certainly an add on. I do not plan to do an MBA in near future because my start-ups are certainly going to keep me very busy.

NTA: Finally, Your advice to young entrepreneurs
Gopal: I would ask young entrepreneurs to be passionate and patient. They can afford to make mistakes because age is on their side. If you have an idea, just go for it. And work on it. People may dissuade you and say that something cannot be done, but trust me, if you have the intuitive feeling that your idea will work, it will certainly work.

If you would like to get in touch with Gopal.You can do so at:
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/chillmaadi
Website: http://chillmaadi.com/
Email Id: gkrishna.mit@gmail.com

-Interviewed by
Harshith Mallya
Campus Ambassador,
Nurture Talent Academy

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