Power of Youth isn’t just a project; it is a movement that aims at bringing together the community and bring about the change they wish to see.
Gautam Ghai, co-founder of SourceFuse, a Global Digital Product Development company, has a simple message for the young and hopefuls looking to start a business. “Start now,” he says. “That’s the key thing. Don’t postpone and delay your plans till you’ve got a foolproof one. There isn’t such a thing. Once you start something, you’ll know what bits need tweaking as you go along. I’m still learning as I work.”
Gautam Ghai recently attended Power of Youth, a movement that connects a growing global network of 70 young entrepreneurs from 39+ countries. Established in 2011, POY is now four summits down, from Beijing, China (2011) to Cape Town, South Africa (2012), Scotland (2013) and the most recent one that concluded in New Delhi.
A sort of residency for young and dynamic entrepreneurs that offer them more than the usual cut and dry networking platform, the POY summit aims to create a synergy between two key ideas – growth of self and growth of business. “We work on the assumption that there are entrepreneurs in the world driven not only by profit, but also by the need and desire to make a difference. These are people who have the agency to make a difference, influence and affect change. At the summit, we concentrate on making them get back in touch with the reason why they started their business in the first place, and introduce them to the fact they can do so much more to make their business as well as their society and environment grow,” says Adam Purvis, founder and director of Power of Youth.
Adam’s vision, one that essentially takes an idealistic view of entrepreneurial motivations, seems to have worked. Over the years, POY has opened its doors to young entrepreneurs, who have not only attended the summit, but also actively became patrons of the programme, returning for the residency year after year. This year, the attendees included entrepreneurs like Humeera Qayoom from Kashmir, founder and director of Huma’s Carpets. Qayoom works on a similar motto to that of POY, using her entrepreneurial success and skill for more than just personal gain. “Don’t just think about your betterment by taking government jobs. Think for the betterment of your community, your society along with your own good.”
The POY network now extends all over the world, and this year, New Delhi saw over 25 delegates gather in the picturesque location of Zorba the Buddha. They would spend the next six days with strangers, with access to their cell phones and laptops considerably restricted, and their days filled only with mental, physical and spiritual exercises, lunch time conversations and in-depth discussions. Surprisingly, while the opportunity to network professionally is immense, the residency becomes much more than a networking platform. “On my first day at the summit, I met people who would be very helpful in expanding my start-up, but we got talking and there was so much else to discuss, we kept forgetting to talk shop!” says Ghai.
POY identified and invited an equal number of Indian and international entrepreneurs, and Charanya Chidambaram, Regional Director, India, agrees that logistically, organising the summit in New Delhi was nothing short of difficult. “I knocked on countless doors and approached countless people. It was a while before we could get anything going.”
In a risk-averse country, with political frameworks that hamper rather than help entrepreneurial initiatives, it is easy for a start-up to get entrapped in a maze of red-tape, corruption and time-warps. Rohin Kumar Y., Founder-CEO of MyTi Technetronics Pvt. Ltd., faced the usual challenges while setting up shop. “Unaware of the funding scenario in India, I went and started pitching investors for help to develop prototypes. After gaining some experience in reality, we worked with loans from friends and family. It was (and still) a pain to run on debts while building a hardware product where there is high cost of R&D. The main obstacle is the half-knowledge people (mostly investors!) who think they know it all before even listening to one’s ideas, especially when ideas/concepts are presented in a simple and straightforward manner. Honestly, pitching felt more like sugar-coating!”
For Saurabh Arora, founder of Airwoot, a social customer service helpdesk which enables brands to deliver real-time customer support on top of social media, things weren’t much better.
“Raising funds is one of the most challenging parts to break into the entrepreneurial world. It is hard and there is no question about it. It is a huge hurdle for almost everyone out there. And yes, it can feel like a brutal marathon and sprint at the same time.” After the first 10 months on its own, Airwoot needed funding to unfold its full growth potential. Arora applied to the leading start-up accelerators of India and got positive responses. How focused is their program? What has been the experience of the founders in the portfolio? What is their company portfolio? How specific are they about the programming, mentoring and expectations? We went ahead with 'The Morpheus' in August 2012 and looking back it was the best decision we could have made.”
Ghai identifies the key areas that cause difficulty for young start-ups in India – legal and company structuring hassles, obscure tax legislation, banking issues, high attrition and lack of focus on quality.
For POY too, establishing its presence in India has demanded a different, more adaptive model. “We have registered ourselves as a non-profit organisation and a board of directors, comprising members from various organisations like Ernst and Young will be assisting POY in India,” says Charanya.
Are things changing in India? Possibly. Saurabh Arora feels that the investor community in India has started maturing. “There has never been a better time to start a company in India.” At the same time, he adds that despite the trend of popular culture glamorising start-ups, the reality that 90% of them fail is consistently ignored. Young entrepreneurs need to be self critical, stay grounded and work on real problems.” Gautam Ghai too, feels that the access to easier funding and support and focus around entrepreneurship has helped young entrepreneurs. “People are getting more experimental and following their hearts.”
Linas Ceikus, founder of Activitygifts, started his business in his home country of Lithuania. After expanding rapidly, he is now looking to enter the Indian market. The potential is hard to miss, as are the obstacles. For POY, the goal remains to put young entrepreneurs in touch with themselves and each other, creating a lasting and sustainable ecosystem for them, the very ecosystem that’s often found missing in India.
Between annual summits, the organisers of POY hope to create a lasting legacy in India that continues and sustains. Leaving behind footprints that speak of new and exciting business opportunities as well as personal growth and reassessment of goals, the POY summit seems to indicate a brighter and better future for India’s young entrepreneurs.