The IIT-Startup Equation

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On the eve of Alumni day, held on 17th and 18th December, IIT Delhi witnessed the homecoming of several of its heroes. Among them were 3 students of the 2010 batch, who had managed to make it large. And not by joining a heavy-paying bigshot industry, but by taking initiative and giving their dreams, the refined shape of a startup. These 3 were – Raghav Verma, the co-founder of Chaayos ; Samar Singla, Founder of Jugnoo and Ravi Soni, the founder of Obbserv.

Here are some of their experiences that they shared with us during an interview. Special thanks to Divyanshi Yadav, AAIP events coordinator, for facilitating the interview and Rishi Garg, member of DC, for assisting in the interview session.

                             Samar Singla                                                                           Raghav Verma

                                                                                 Ravi Soni

1.       How was your life at IIT Delhi?

Three People. One Answer. SIMPLY AMAZING. So much so that Ravi credits his office location to the best 5 years of his life which were spent at IIT Delhi !

Just like many of us, our 3 entrepreneurs were involved in various extracurricular activities. Raghav, a Chemical Engineering Student, was a guitarist and boasts of a 3-time music trophy haul with Vindhyachal hostel and a band called ‘Under Siege’.  Samar, who hails from the Engineering Physics Department, was a robotics enthusiast with interest in photography and sports as well. In fact, many of the top management people at Jugnoo hail from Robotics Club itself. Ravi, the non-geeky Computer Science dual degree student, played lawn tennis and was a part of the Street Play Contingent. A ray of hope for all the students out there, low on both CGPA and confidence, as all the 3 founders were not the typical academic enthusiasts. However, they became serious at the end of their degrees and that is something every student in IIT Delhi should strive to do.

2.       What was the primary motivation behind a startup? How difficult is it to leave a secure job and set out on a new risky path?

For this, we bring to you three different aspects of the ‘How did you build a successful startup?’ story.

·       The Inspiration of a Job Quitter:  Raghav worked in Opera Solutions for 2 years and then he started an online education company which couldn’t take off.  Then he met co-founder Nitin who has this unique idea of opening Chai Cafes. According to them ‘ Chai was consumed 30 times more than coffee. Yet all we had were coffee cafes. Pretty unfair on chai no? ’ This idea spurred them on and personally, Raghav feels that it is easy to step away from a secure job early. 5-6 years later, one might get in his comfort zone and gain additional responsibilities. Also, since working in startups is so much more acceptable nowadays, the fall from grace concept doesn’t exist anymore.

·       The Persevering Startup Enthusiast: For Samar, it was more of an experiment that worked out pretty well. It was his third company which ultimately brought him success. So, keep trying folks!

·       The Fruit of Proper Mentoring: After IIT, Ravi joined Flipkart as a software developer but always had some inclination towards brand marketing and all. He reported directly to Sachin Bansal and this gave him a great opportunity to learn the trade from the master himself. Flipkart was a great workplace which fed him with the nuances of entrepreneurship. Even though Ravi belongs to a business family, he didn’t take a single penny from his parents as he wanted to engage in Bootstrapping which stimulates creativity and allows you to develop as an entrepreneur.

3.       Any Suggestions for the juniors looking to stroll down the Startup Lane?

·     Time is Precious:  What is essential, as Raghav tells, is the utilisation of the vast amount of time, available during our stay at IITD, to learn about the things that really interest us. He learnt this the hard way, as his online education company, which stemmed out of his knowledge of JEE, didn’t do very well.

·     ‘Karm Karo, Fal ki chinta mat karo’: Raghav has also stressed on the importance of our product and the vision behind it. We should work hard to develop an Unique Value Proposition and then strive to make ourselves capable of upholding that vision. No preparation for fundraising needs to be done at an early stage. If your product is good, investors will come on their own.

·     The Courses( or Non-courses)?: There are, apparently, no courses in our curriculum that are pivotal to entrepreneurship. So, Samar suggests that a budding entrepreneur should engage himself in extracurrics such as getting involved in the Axlr8r or robotics club or doing marketing for Rendezvous. These activities will introduce you to new experiences and help you grow. Similarly, Communication Courses, sales courses and personal development courses should be embraced, in order to learn the trade of dealing – something which is extremely important according to Ravi. Moreover, Ravi feels that working with a startup, rather than a high profile company, gives you the first-hand experience necessary to gain a greater understanding of the complex world of entrepreneurship. For instance, when Rishi asked him about his new group, Definition Crew, Ravi suggested that he should try and collaborate with media and arts startups such as TVF, as they can provide an excellent learning platform.

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