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The young and the restless

Zeenab Aneez
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In focus The under-25 CEO meet brought out the spirit of innovation, usually drowned out by laments on poor institutional standards. Zeenab Aneez reports

Those who worry about the state of professional education in our country might have found some comfort in Lamakaan last Saturday, where ‘Startup Talks’, an initiative that brings together young entrepreneurs conducted their Under 25 CEO meet-up. With eight speakers and over 80 attendees, the event was the 18th one organised by Manoj Surya, founder and organiser of Startup Talks.

“When I quit my job to startup, I found no platform where people at the early stages of their startups could learn, network and get mentored on their ideas and actions. That’s what led me to create this platform for early stage entrepreneurs,” he informs.

The event began with Mrityunjay Bhadauria, CEO and founder of EduKinect. While on the wrong side of 25 at this event, Mritunjay who has spent a few years running a successful start-up had a lot of advice to give. “This is the time to take risks. Don’t dream about things like a car or a house till you are 27,” he says, urging them to aspire towards starting up something of their own. The stage was then open to the seven young CEOs.

In each of their testimonies were lessons for each other and for other aspiring entrepreneurs who were present. The challenges faced by each of them ranged from social pressures to lack of funding to interpersonal relationships.

For Ravi Teja of Folktales.in, who began his first company, a web design services firm during his third year at IIT- Chennai, the biggest challenge was to convince his father while for many others, it was finding the right partner. The stories also challenged the assumption that only high GPAs translate to professional success and that the classroom is the best place to learn. Yuvraj of SourceNxt was happy to admit he spent most of his first year at the Vellore Institute of Technology watching TV shows and raking up arrears but the tide turned when he got involved in the activities of the IEEE cell in college. “The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) changed my life because it got me interested in robotics which led to the formation of my company.”

Jignesh, Dirt9 too got his exposure from being part of the student body and taking part in college-organised technology festivals like NIT Warangal’s Technozion and later at the NASA, UN, International Technology and climate leadership summit. Jignesh also stressed on the importance of having a good team. “Make a team that will walk into the fire with you, no questions asked,” he said. Finding a partner can be one of the most challenging aspects of starting up.

“Your relationship with your co-founder is like a marriage,” says Mritunjay. And as in a marriage, communication is of utmost importance and parting ways can lead to a lot of complications.

While some like Jignesh and Yuvraj have experience working in large multinationals and others jumped on the startup wagon soon after college, those like Chinmay and Ravi Teja began their companies while still in college. “As a student, you can take a lot of risks, your investment will be low and in India, your parents will support you till graduation,” says Ravi Teja. Yuvraj, however believes that working in an MNC gives you the exposure necessary to start a company. Chinmay disagrees saying, “Everything big, including Facebook and Google came out of institutions, not MNCs.”

One thing that stood out at the meet was the complete lack of women. Where are all the women entrepreneurs? “We were supposed to have two women, one of who is a social entrepreneur, speak at the event but they could not make it because of some other commitments,” explains Manoj.

For aspiring entrepreneurs

It’s never too early to start. Being a student allows you to take risks so don’t wait till you graduate to start testing your ideas

Relationships are important. Make sure your co-founder is someone consistent, trustworthy, hardworking and honest

Team first, money later. Building a good team is just as, if not more, important than any amount of funding

Be ready to fail. Hardly anyone makes it big the first time around.

Don’t forget about the less technical side of running a business. Your marketing and networking skills are just as important as your coding skills.

This is the time to take risks. Don’t dream about things like a car or a house till you are 27.

Mrityunjay Bhadauria, CEO and founder of EduKinect

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