They are final year engineering students but have a knack for business. For the past year, they have been spending their free time selling ice creams, milkshakes, coffee, tea, noodles and sandwiches to students in their college, and also learning the tricks of the trade.
“Though for every engineering graduate, placement in big companies is the ultimate dream, some want to set up their own businesses. And we wanted to train such students in every aspect of running a business including investment, accounts and organisation. The college provides the space and initially helped them with the capital, which they eventually returned,” said Hema Natarajan, assistant professor of English, who is also in-charge of Rajalakshmi Engineering College’s entrepreneurship development cell.
The students place orders every Sunday and Thursday and also share the work. “We wanted to sell Aavin products as their products are of good quality and it is a government-owned enterprise. Aavin also rented a chiller and freezer. We pay the electric bill. Every day, we close accounts and hand over the money to the college accounts department which deposits the amount into our accounts,” explained Jothishankar, a final year student of IT.
On its part, Aavin has also started supplying products to educational institutions for their canteens and hostels. “With an increase in milk production, milk-based products are in abundance. Based on the institution’s needs, Aavin can either run parlours or supply products,” said dairy development minister, V. Moorthy.
Currently, a group of final year students — Harinee Desikan (biotech), Jothishankar (IT), Hari Vignesh (IT) and Veerasami (IT), ‘run’ the company they have christened ‘Point Group of Company’. When these students pass out, a batch of third-year students — Vignesh (ECE), Suresh (ECE), Harish (ECE), Seetaram (ECE) and Dhanasekar (automobile engineering) — will step into their shoes. At present, they are being trained to handle the operations at the Aavin outlet and another one belonging to Lavazza.
Though the student venture began with a lot of ambiguity last year, the students have gained enough confidence to expand and are now planning to start a photocopying point and a bakery. “We are thinking of bringing out combos like kulfi and noodles, both are top sellers at the outlets. Our enterprise was chosen among the top five student start-ups in the country by the National Entrepreneurship Network, for which we get a year’s mentoring by Tata,” said Harinee.
Asked if they don’t find it hectic to work while studying, and not having much spare time, the students said that as they took turns to managing the outlet, they still did have time for themselves. For all the work they do, the students also take home a small salary. In the last one year, each student would have made roughly Rs.10,000, and from that amount 25 per cent is being spent on charitable causes.