July 30, 2007

MBAs who has made the start

The 23rd July edition of Business World has a piece by Rashmi Bansal that showcases the various startups that MBAs of top B-schools of India are promoting. A few excerpts:

....Prakash Mundhra is enjoying giving them a high. His company, Sacred Moments, makes ‘puja kits’ for Diwali, an idea he conceived as a student at Symbiosis Centre for Management and Human Resource Development (SCMHRD) in Pune. “My marketing professor, Shivram Apte, rejected the idea totally,” says Mundhra. “We had long arguments — he didn’t think there was a market for it.” Prof. Apte was wrong. In its first Diwali season — October 2006 — Sacred Moments sold more than 10,000 puja kits and achieved a turnover of Rs 35 lakh. “I took a risk,” grins Prakash. “But it has worked out.”


Yet, he was in a dilemma. He went through the placement process and accepted an offer from ICICI Prudential. “In the meantime, I entered six business plan contests and won five,” he says. “I became more and more convinced about my idea — which was now a ‘puja kit’ — and four days before I was to join my new job, I sent the HR head an e-mail declining the offer.” Thus, Sacred Moments was born. The Rs 50,000 cash award from Zee helped in the initial research and formulation stage of the product. “I calculated that another Rs 3-4 lakh would be enough to start off.” He already had half the amount in hand — prize money from business plan contests. The balance, he raised from family and friends.

....A one crore salary be damned, the buzz is about the guys who opted out of placement, because secretly, almost everyone craves to be in control of their own destiny — to be an entrepreneurial rock star.

But, like the proverbial struggling artist, you may need a ‘day job’ to support yourself. Anoop Radhakrishnan, Zerin Rahiman, Shivakumar R, Abhisar Gupta and Sandeep Ramesh all graduated from IIM Lucknow in 2006. They formed UniAxess Healthcare, which focused on the relatively unorganised field of medical tourism. However, in its first nine months, UniAxess had no revenues. “We decided to go a little slow and analyse the market,” says Ramesh. “No one has really cracked this business yet, and we wanted to avoid pitfalls.”

Meanwhile, the bread was buttered by taking on consulting projects through another company they had formed called IndigoEdge. “Solvency is the key to survival,” says Ramesh. “Do anything that will pay the bills (for the first year at least).”

...Meanwhile, if consulting assignments are coming in from unexpected quarters, no one’s complaining. IndigoEdge or UniAxess, the team is willing to play chameleon if it makes sound business sense.

That’s a sentiment Mansur Nazimuddin certainly identifies with. The 28-year old IIM-A graduate (class of 2006) made headlines when he spurned a $100,000 pre-placement offer from Deutsche Bank to start a mobile gaming company. Tigertail Studios remains Nazimuddin’s merry muse and his daring dream. But for now, he’s poured his energies into a different kind of proposition — ‘Brewhaha’ — a real-world hangout that marries the fun of playing board games with the flavour of excellent food. Situated in the Koramangala area of Bangalore, Brewhaha is a joint venture with Mansur bringing in his love for games and Sreeram Vaidyanathan (IIMA batch of 2005) providing the passion for food.

“Entrepreneurship is about postponing short-term gains for a long-term bonanza,” grins Sreeram. A home and family support in the city means basics are taken care of, thankfully. “We’ve really enjoyed the process of creating something that users are so passionate about. It is a labour of love. But at a fundamental level Brewhaha fulfils the need to ‘do something’, which is potentially a very big business.”

The bottom line is, entrepreneurship is all about dealing with surprises. Bowing to the winds of change, yet standing tall and proud through the storm. You might hit a boundary with your first shot. Or stand at the crease with your eye on the ball and determination in your heart. You might return to the pavilion, but return in style in a second innings.

Check out the full article here.

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of information and networking services to the Private Equity and Venture Capital ecosystem in India. View sample issues of Venture Intelligence India newsletters and reports.