Engineered for entrepreneurship

Canopy — an umbrella organisation that provides student services at Sastra University. Photo: Special Arrangement  

Tea at 2.00 a.m., bad mess food and mess strikes, blind-screaming during power cuts, bathroom brawls and bucket reservations, counter-strike clans and sports groups, the amusing professors and the warden-fables, the rare rich-guy and the reclusive geek, the skinny prankster and the portly punch-bag, the chatty showboy and the meek nerd, the nay-say-die boys pursuing the elusive doe-eyed girls (few of the pursuits ending in romance), friendship feuds, break-ups and patch-backs, sharing of assignments, exam-prep hours, last-minute revisions, the always-hungry, the always-bored, and the always-broke... unquestionably, this assortment of memories and characters would each be worth a separate chapter, if the hostel life of a college student was to be chronicled.

What if to this list was added board meetings, business plans, legal nitty-gritty of agreement drafting, investments and rate of return, product and market research, cost-cutting, profit-sharing, and CANOPY? Sounds out of place and, a tad unfathomable? Well, not for a group of 13 engineering graduates from SASTRA University, Thanjavur, who founded Canopy, an umbrella organisation that provides student services at SASTRA.


Rachana Raghavan, one of the co-founders of Canopy, says “Students who chose the business elective during the seventh semester, had to undergo four courses: marketing research, business analysis for engineers, finance, and development of entrepreneurs.

Our Dean Dr. Vaidyasubramaniam, fondly referred to as “Vaidi” sir, who supported a practical approach to education, mooted the idea of Canopy. So, 13 of us got together and put the idea on paper. We held discussions on various aspects of business and formed market-research groups to see what the students actually needed, and finally, had an action plan in place for the inception of Canopy, which was inaugurated on August 20, 2010.”

Initially, Canopy was just a food-court that sold ice-creams, bajjis, and sugarcane juice. As ratings and popularity soared the group came up with more services like ticketing, cabs, general stores and laundry.

Managing Canopy was definitely not a cake walk. As things grew more complex and challenging, the core group, who had divided themselves into operations, marketing and finance, found it hard to divide time between classes and business. They also had to grapple with particularly hard-hitting queries and remarks from other professors.

But, supported by steady profits and an accommodating dean, they made a decision to appoint a supervisor: the septuagenarian Ganesan thaatha, and a young counter-in-charge, Muthu.

Though the team was initially a bit sceptical of thaatha's abilities owing to his age, he proved tthem wrong; in-fact, as days went by, he displayed amazing bonhomie with the students who frequented the food-court, thus becoming a crowd-puller himself!


So will Canopy live strong through the generations that will study at SASTRA? It looks like it most certainly will! Every year, the students who take up the business elective get to manage Canopy. This year, the current team has some more plans in the pipeline. “We introduced the CAB facility and soon we are going to add an online shopping portal,” says Rakesh Srivastava, currently a member in Team Canopy. “We have also succeeded in providing other facilities like LAN to students, apart from supporting and offering facilities to the various student clubs of SASTRA.”

“Your wish to dream; ours to deliver” is Team Canopy's motto, and they seem to be right on track, delivering dreams in leaps and bounds!

Seshasayee is pursuing chartered accountancy.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2022 2:19:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/nxg/engineered-for-entrepreneurship/article2551419.ece

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