- Into action
- Into action
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The first part of the iSPIRT programme focusses on making the participants understand who they are and where they stand.
When 35-year old Prabhu Stavarmath was laid off from work last year, he decided he was going to become an entrepreneur. Developing a SaaS (software as a service) product for gyms seemed like a great business idea to the fitness enthusiast. He roped in a co-founder and started working on the idea.
When he found out about the free pre-entrepreneurship boot camp conducted by software product think tank iSPIRT, he applied. But, unlike a regular mentorship programme, this was a 10-week practical course aimed at preparing potential entrepreneurs to the challenges that lay ahead.
Manjula Sridhar, a two-time entrepreneur and iSPIRT partner, is one of the anchors conducting the boot camp.
“A majority of entrepreneurs get carried away by the success stories they hear that they start going after models and theories that might not work for them,” she said.
The first edition of the programme, conducted on weekends between March and May this year, was mostly attended by mid-career executives with entrepreneurial ambitions.
The first part of the programme focusses on making the participants understand who they are and where they stand, so that they can see if their idea matches their action. The second part teaches them how to approach the customer, how to collaborate and how to convince the customer to invest in them.
Based on the scientific model of entrepreneurial thinking called “effectuation”, the entrepreneurs are guided to do things that will let them make money immediately rather than doing things with a hope of getting something later.
“It is grounded, sensible entrepreneurship – with the goal of making money instead of getting funded,” Sridhar said.
According to Deepam Mishra, chief executive of i2india Ventures, people with entrepreneurial experience giving a clear picture of what it looked like would allow new entrants to embrace the failures and changes that the path brings.
“Having a group of likeminded people who have done similar things is extremely important, often more important than investment or advice. Most ideas come from entrepreneurs themselves. Having a good sounding board can remove emotions from reality,” he said.
For instance, the programme forced Stavarmath to take a hard look at himself and his idea. On the ninth week, he gave up on his first startup idea. It did not match his skills and financial capacity.
“Many people have a notion that startups are something you could just do. You don’t really think practically and see if it will go anywhere. That is because the idea is so enticing, it blinds you,” he said.
Emerging strong from his failure, in just a few weeks, Stavarmath started bookacan.com, which provides speedy delivery of hygienic water cans to offices and households in Bengaluru. Unlike the previous time, he believes that he can manage this business and drive it towards success.
While there are a lot of avenues to guide entrepreneurs in technical and managerial areas, there are hardly any that help manage themselves. “There are so many instances of entrepreneurial depression and that part is often ignored,” Sridhar said.
She, along with fellow anchor and iSPIRT volunteer Prasanna Krishnamoorthy, made sure that the boot camp gave equal focus to personal development.
On the first day of the course, all participants were asked to convince three strangers to give them Rs 1,000. Madhav B, 30, who attended the camp to gain insights on entrepreneurship before joining his wife in her startup, found the activity very useful as it taught him that anybody could be approached.
“It is like an intense rejection therapy. What an entrepreneur definitely has to be is shameless and courageous,” said Sridhar.
Milindh Naik, who held senior managerial roles at companies for many years, said: “I had no clue how to be an entrepreneur and my previous venture failed. The camp helped me understand the concept of affordable losses, which drives decision-making in our lives.”
He found a session dedicated to the art of asking very useful. “We as a culture, like to give. We are very sceptical to ask. As an entrepreneur, you must learn to ask,” said the 44-year-old, who now runs Chikitsak Lifesciences which takes healthcare to rural markets and has raised the first round of funding.
“Watching these entrepreneurs change and start making things happen made me realise that any kind of person can become an entrepreneur,” said Krishnamoorthy. “The sort of business they start might change, but it all comes down to just the skills.”
The course is open to anyone who has a business idea and is serious about taking it ahead. Only 10-15 participants are selected to attend one batch. The application process is open for the second edition, which will commence in August.