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Dreaming big

YASHASVINI RAJESHWAR
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There’s a business opportunity in every problem and this is proved by youngsters who are turning entrepreneurs even before they graduate! YASHASVINI RAJESHWAR

The birthday of a long lost friend is approaching. You have lost touch but want to reach out and give a gift that matters. You have no idea what that would be. Maybe likes have changed and there are trends you should know of. If only someone could search out likes and dislikes. If only there was a good way of knowing where to get the cheapest deal.

It has been a long day at work. You stretch and head out to the coffee vending machine. You could use a snack. The only thing available is a handful of cookies and perhaps a sandwich or two. You crave something substantial, something that reminds you of home, something that will help you work through the next few hours. Why can’t we have dosas and idlis near coffee machines, you muse.

You are an app developer. You put in hours of work every week in creating applications that would make other people’s lives that much easier. Yet, before you can officially launch and enter the market, you need to test them. Do you turn to family and friends and risk unreliability? Do you invest in in-house testing and multiply your costs? If only you could tap into a database, it would all get so much easier.

Each of these situations poses a problem. Each of these situations allows for a solution. While many of us waited for them to waltz through our door, some students decide to take control.

Innovations

Young entrepreneurship as a way of life is picking up steam amongst Indian students today. When Gaurav Dahake and his friends recognised the need to reconnect with old friends meaningfully, BuyHatke was born and today, they are aiming at becoming the single starting point for all online purchasing.

Mukunda Foods Pvt. Ltd. came into being with the goal of creating a trend of Indian fast foods. Today, the student entrepreneurs have patented a dosa printer and have gotten demo enquiries from a hundred different reputed hotels. “We should have a dosa machine near every coffee vending machine” is the goal they work towards.

Finally, the need to benefit from a database inspired Amritanshu Anand and Anshul to create Crowd Beans, a platform to link app developers to volunteer testers. The model is effective, with testers being paid according to the bugs they help identify.

BuyHatke, Mukunda Foods and Crowd Beans are all examples of a greater trend crashing on the shores of the sea of Indian youth. With the plethora of options open to us today, the opportunity to fill the gap, become an employment provider and contribute to the creation of national wealth is enticing.

The romantic notions of paving one’s own path, sculpting one’s own future and being in a position of responsibility lure students to explore their options while debating their prospective career paths. Contributing to the greater good, making a dent in the larger canvas and plugging a hole that seems so evident spur them on to taking the risk, deciding to leap.

Yet, the picture is not as rosy as it seems at first glance. Young entrepreneurs are often faced with waves of doubt, confusion and lack of clarity. Where to begin, how to approach the problem and whom to ask for help remain questions that no one seems to have the answer to.

Identifying mentors willing to invest time and energy into the cause, building a team that’s equally responsible for the success and working out sustainable financial models are roadblocks every young entrepreneur faces. Societal pressures do not ease the burden any. The demand to find a “respectable job” that earns a steady, dependable income often accounts for many losing heart before seeing their venture through to completion and success.

Ray of hope

Young entrepreneurship in India today is still in its nascent stages, struggling to find a foothold as a mainstream career choice. However, if the 600 participants at the recently concluded Tata First Dot powered by NEN (contest for student entrepreneurs) is anything to go by, the situation is improving, albeit rather slowly.

Today, entrepreneurship is gaining popularity as a trend but remains restricted to the brave, the lucky and the determined who all face an uphill task. The returns are undoubtedly incomparable but there remains a long way to go before the visiting card reading ‘entrepreneur’ will bear just as much weight as one reading ‘doctor’ or ‘author’.

Catching them young

Six hundred students. Over 400 ideas. Eleven finalists. Six-member jury. Two days in a conference. One common platform to ignite the spark.

The two-day Tata First Dot powered by NEN national conference held at IIT-M last week saw the perfect platform to bring forth scores of ideas from budding entrepreneurs. Open to only full-time students, it is based on the basic motto that these individuals will later contribute to the cause of employment generation and the creation of national wealth.

With six finalists chosen by an accomplished jury and another five through public vote, eleven chosen entrepreneurs will be given the opportunity to be mentored and guided through the course of the next year.

A brief chat with a few shortlisted students reveals the excitement and joy that the platform provides them. “The mentoring session gave us access to people with industry experience and allowed us to understand what we were doing wrong. Since the mentors already had the background and context of our projects, it was easy to directly discuss strategies and plans” says Gaurav Dahake from IIT-Kharagpur who started BuyHatke.

“We are looking to be a global testing leader in five years. At Tata First Dot, the best thing to happen to us has been recognition. Our business depends on it,” say the duo from Crowd Beans.

Thanks to initiatives like this, today young entrepreneurs can breathe easier knowing there are many standing behind, waiting to give that one supportive shove in the right direction.

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