March 15, 2012 | Deccan Herald

Entrepreneurship turns a new leaf with India’s Gen Y

In India, age does not define entrepreneurship, as certain young college students have shown

They are the businessmen of the Gen Y, who believe that successful business ventures could readily bloom if one has the idea that counts.

When 24-year-old Saurabh Katar, a student pursuing post-graduation in Bangalore, recalls days when he first began his venture in Delhi to modify and sell exhaust systems for Royal Enfield motorcycles, he says he had no idea that his products would someday be exported abroad and fetch him two patents.

This is the story of Sans Inc., the only company in India that produces modified exhausts for Enfield. Katar’s products are exported to Canada, Malaysia, the Middle East and also to Australia. His factory in Delhi churns out his dream products for the 350cc and 500cc beasts.

“The thump is amazing and so is the fuel efficiency, when Sans Inc’s exhausts are fitted,” says Katar. With products ranging between the reasonable range of Rs 1,200 to Rs 1,900, Katar sees a great future ahead. For him, the most important thing to take his business forward is to keep prices within the convenience of customers. Saurabh is one of the 30 student entrepreneurs recognised by a joint effort of Tata First Dot along with National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN).

This effort is India’s first mentoring and recognition platform for student startups, a unique initiative that promotes, mentors and showcases India’s most dynamic and youngest entrepreneurs. The programme consists of multiple strands and is a combination of workshops, competition and showcase, mentoring and ongoing support from the community. This year, 30 shortlisted ventures including the 10 winning entries will be provided professional mentorship via NEN for one year and an opportunity to network with entrepreneurs, angel investors, mentors and experts.

Another unique venture that came out in this initiative was a student-owned cafeteria called IBMR Chatter Box. The uniqueness lies in their revenue model which they had developed when it came into being in 2009. The students of IBMR College were promised dividend in return of their investment. They had then, managed to gather Rs 56,000 and as every year they pay investing students a dividend of 12 per cent on amount invested.

“In 2012, we are planning to increase the dividend rate to 20 per cent as the cafeteria has seen a steady growth,” says Ananda Padmanabhan, who along with Dhiraj Sharmah and Sujal Bhainsal -all MBA second-year students manage the canteen.

Every year, the management of the cafeteria is handed over to the next batch of students to run it for a year.

Over the past three years, students across NEN member campuses and beyond have started companies without waiting till graduation. Simply put, these student entrepreneurs have struck out, learning, growing and even making money. This year in Chennai, the Managing Director of Tata Industries, Kishor Chaukar, said, “Entrepreneurship is absolutely essential if the country is to address the issue of unemployment amongst the youth.”

Then there is Planmyhealth.com, a website by IIM Bangalore students Sandeep Raj and Abhay Paliwal, which caters to people who are unable to travel to pathology labs for tests. This company after enrolment of members, sends paramedics to collect and send their blood samples to seven labs across Bangalore with whom they have a tie-up.

“Our aim was to deliver healthcare services at the patient’s doorstep and I’m happy that Tata has recognised us for it,” said an elated Raj.

Another example of a successful venture honoured by the Tata, NEN initiative is that of Bangalore-based Arihant Marketing which forayed into the business of printing invoice receipts for few IT companies with a meager capital of Rs 3,000 and has now grown to the extent of churning out a revenue of Rs 6-8 lakh per annum.

“NEN builds the entrepreneurial eco-system on campuses, and we are delighted that the nominations received for Tata First Dot are pointing to a greater incidence of entrepreneurship among students,” said NEN Executive Director K Srikrishna.