Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mentoring helps finalists polish business plans

Education is not a barrier to becoming an entrepreneur and this statement is aptly supported by the profile of the 254 participants who are part of the final shortlist of The Power of Ideas programme. A good 40% of the finalists have non-professional qualifications only. They are graduates, postgraduates without fancy management degrees and those who have done certificate courses to supplement their graduate degree.

G Sriram is a graduate based in Bangalore who feels education does help in innovation. He is working on setting up a brand new venture, which will manage IT infrastructure and offer services on Software as a Service (SaaS) model. “We are at the proof of concept stage and we need money to make it production ready,” he says.

At the group mentoring session, Mr Sriram was impressed by the experienced
line-up of mentors on the stage and the session helped him clear many doubts. “I was confused about financial projections for the next three years,” says Mr Sriram. He got guidance from a mentor at the session. As the session ended, he was clearer about why angels invest in different ideas rather than just going to tried-and-tested investment avenues like real estate or stocks.

Now he, like many of the other short-listed entrepreneurs, is looking forward to the one
on-one mentoring where he intends to polish his business plan further. “There are many blanks to be filled,” he points out.

Gaurav Yadav’s father, like many other Indian parents, saved close to Rs 15 lakh for his son’s higher education. An entrepreneur himself, he was very supportive when his son decided to utilise that money to set up a business that he had in mind for some time. The father
son duo dived into it and Gaurav designed a network which will connect educational institutions across India. “This will have a mix of social networking, social learning and administrative tools for institutions,” says Mr Yadav. What is unique is that unlike social networking sites, on Yadav’s network, every institution will have separate administrative rights.

At the mentoring session, Mr Yadav got clarity on how to pen down his concept neatly for the elevator pitch. It seemed to have worked and he made it to the final 254. For him, he says, one-on-one mentoring was the most impor
tant part that he has been looking forward to. “I will get to clear my doubts. Every budding entrepreneur has doubts, on expansion, challenges, building a team and the like,” he says.

He has already tested his network with 45 institutions in Kanpur and is now looking for funds to expand outside Kanpur. Having a professional qualification is great, but not having one obviously does not impede a person from launching into his dream business.

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