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Updated: October 21, 2013 15:22 IST

“Entrepreneurship is all about ‘idea’ not investment”

Sumit Bhattacharjee
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Varun Agarwal CEO of Alma mater. Photo: V. Raju
The Hindu Varun Agarwal CEO of Alma mater. Photo: V. Raju

At the age of 19 when the young minds are usually busy with their academic schedule, he founded a film company – ‘Last Minute Films’. After experimenting with a few short films, at 21 he directed Bollywood star Priety Zinta in an A.R. Rahman music video.

At 23 he co-founded his second business venture ‘Alma Mater’, which is today the largest school and college merchandising firm and at 26 he authored India’s one of the best selling novels ‘How I Braved Anu Aunty’ and ‘Co-Founded A Million Dollar Company’ and founded another company ‘Reticular’.

Today he is one among the most sought after speakers at the IIT’s and the IIM’s. The Hindu met the Bangalore-based young turk Varun Agarwal, when he address the engineering and MBA students as part of ‘Entrepreneur Awareness Drive-2013’ in the city recently.

Here are excerpts of the brief chat with Mr. Varun:

Q. What made you take up entrepreneurship?

A. I never wanted to get into the herding concept. My parents wanted me to become an engineer and I wanted to become a filmmaker. To satisfy them I joined an engineering college, but never took it seriously. I was more comfortable shooting short films with my handycam. I failed in engineering and that strengthened my resolve. On watching my shot films in the Youtube one producer invited me to shoot a music video for A.R. Rahaman and that changed all.

Q. How did Alma Mater happen?

A. One day over a drink with a close friend, we went nostalgic over our school Bishop Cotton. We decided that we should do something. An idea struck us- why not make sweat shirt for all alumni with the BC logo and that’s how it began. Today we have over 3,000 schools and colleges across the country as our clients and it is a Rs.10-crore company with 65 employees.

Q. What about Reticular and Last Minute Films?

A. Reticular is a social marketing firm and as far as ‘Last Minute Film’ is considered, will make it big one day as film has been my passion.

Q. On your book and its sequel and who is Anu aunty?

A. The book happened due to my passion for writing blogs. Someone advised me to write a book. It is a biopic and deals with young people who are discouraged from doing what they want to do. Anu aunty is a character that each one of us encounters at some point of time. She is the character who would tell your mom ‘Hey listen- I believe your son is not doing engineering and is inclined in writing a book or painting or photography. Why is he wasting his time- Even I faced a lot of discouragement from such characters. Someone in Bollywood has asked me for rights to make a film on the book and I am working on the sequel.

Q. You talk about spark- what is it and what advice would you give to the young minds?

A. There is a spark in everybody- but that is suppressed due to societal obligations. People tell ‘Think before you leap’ but my philosophy is different ‘Don’t waste your time thinking- take the plunge-your instincts will force you to survive and excel’.

Entrepreneurship is all about ‘Idea’ not investment. If the idea is great and it combines with your passion, then nothing can beat it. My advice is simple – listen to your heart and do what you like to do the most.

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