1. What do you think are the qualities of a successful entrepreneur, and do you consider that an MBA degree is necessary for becoming a leading entrepreneur?
According to me, the most important qualities to become a successful entrepreneur include tenacity and openness to feedback. Tenacity is required for the rough times when things are not going in the direction the entrepreneur wants them to. Openness to feedback is required to improve the product or service that the entrepreneur is working on because there are times when the entrepreneur gets so engrossed in his product/service that he stops seeing the viewpoint of the customer who will actually use the product.
2. What embarked your interest towards starting up your own venture?
Coming to N.S.I.T., I realized that the practical component to studying was greatly missing from our curriculum. This problem is not limited to N.S.I.T., but is inherent in the course curriculums of most engineering colleges in India. This led me to explore ideas on how to provide practical trainings to engineering students which could supplement their university education which finally led to the inception of Appin. Interestingly, all this happened while I was in my second year at N.S.I.T. and the students at N.S.I.T. were my first customers!
3. What were the problems you faced in this direction?
As I mentioned previously, I started Appin in my second year of undergraduate studies. That had its own share of problems – also known as college s.tudies! So I had to maintain a tight balance in between running the company and passing semesters! On the business front, we faced problems like any other startup of managing the limited cash, developing product, acquiring our initial customers and retaining human resource.
4. How do you justify the importance of networking by relating it to some anecdote of your life?
I had published a book aimed at promoting entrepreneurship titled “Make The Move – Demystifying Entrepreneurship” in 2007. Sabeer Bhatia (Founder, Hotmail) wrote the foreword for the book, while eighteen other entrepreneurs and Dr. Abdul Kalam wrote their views on entrepreneurship for the book. While I did not expect anything from them while they were writing for the book, it gave me a chance to know them personally. Two years later, as I am planning to return to India post my MBA, many of these business leaders have been very forthcoming in talking to me about their businesses and helping me make decisions for my own career.
5. Some points a budding entrepreneur should consider in this phase of global recession.
“Keep your cash burn low” – it is important to be stringent in today’s time as it will be difficult to raise capital and opportunities to earn revenue will be slower than usual.
“Bootstrap, rather than raise VC money” – if you are planning to raise venture capital, try going the bootstrapping route.
6. What is your message to the young and creative students in campus?
Be dynamic – think on what you want to do post N.S.I.T. and work on that from now. As I said before, this is the most risk free time you have to explore new avenues.