Global Entrepreneurship Summit organized by the student-run e-cell. For the uninitiated, IIT KGP is considered one of the top technology schools in India, and it is located in the Eastern part of the country, not far from the city of Kolkata.Today's roundtable was jointly organized by the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur (IIT KGP) and the 1M/1M program as part of the former's
I have visited IIT KGP many times over the years, and each time I see a marked improvement in the energy and momentum at the campus on entrepreneurship. My 1997 recruitment visit met with tepid response, with the student body largely interested in multinational placements at the time. But a subsequent visit in January 2009 saw a massive change: the students were excited about entrepreneurship.
Today's roundtable was yet another step forward: the students have started producing interesting, viable business ideas, and some are even validating them successfully. It gives me great satisfaction to observe this evolution, and play a small role in shepherding these young entrepreneurs along.
Before I start discussing the businesses, I'd like to highlight the role the National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN) has played in developing the e-cells at 470 different schools and colleges in India. NEN is part of the Wadhwani Foundation's efforts at entrepreneurship development, and it is great to see how pervasive their success has been. I spoke to Ajay Kela, the CEO of Wadhwani Foundation recently, and got a feel for the breadth of their investment.
The challenge ahead for NEN and the academic institutions in India is to now take the massive interest and enthusiasm that has been generated, and harness it to produce a large number of successful companies.
Today, at IIT KGP, we caught a glimpse of some of the budding heroes of 21st century India.
First, Piyush Bagaria from IIT KGP pitched mobHUB, a learning management solution with extensive simulation and visualization capability that he proposes to sell to science and technology educational institutions to empower faculty to produce rich media content. Piyush has got some early encouragement from a couple of schools in Calcutta, and while he needs to expand the scope of his validation process, there are some interesting nuggets in his core idea.
Optimum Mobility Services
Next Lakshman Pasala from IIT KGP presented Optimum Mobility Services, a fleet routing and optimization solution for cab companies, their current validation segment, followed by logistics companies operating trucks, etc. Two cab companies have already validated the idea, and OMS is on their way to signing up more cab companies in India as beta customers. Clearly, the solution offers some concrete value, and conceivably, OMS can look at the global market later on in their evolution. The notion of Indian companies bringing software technology to the Western market at dramatically lower price-points is one that I have highlighted on many prior occasions.
Then Gaurav Dahake from IIT KGP pitched BUYHatke, a penny auction site that is considering three primary segments with a consumer-to-consumer e-commerce business model: net-savvy housewives, IT and BPO professionals, and college students with Internet access. My feedback was that the company needs to enter the market in a business-to-consumer mode because the logistics infrastructure in India is not at a point where a c-to-c business can thrive. A B-to-C business, on the other hand, can use Flipkart's logistics infrastructure, and have a better shot at success. My other feedback was to focus on one of the three segments, because everything else - from customer acquisition, to merchandising, to PR, to SEO would work better if the segmentation is tighter.
Univect Education Solutions
Next Parth Pachoir and Udayan Pandey from IIT KGP presented Univect Education Solutions, a social network for parents, teachers, and students in second and third tier Indian cities, to support online expert networks, mentoring programs, knowledge sharing, etc. The team is short of Computer Science expertise, and is looking for a co-founder to add to their pack. I like their focus on second and third tier Indian cities, and they have already started pilots in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
Then Nishant Koul from IIT KGP pitched TransTag, a RFID solution to help check car-theft in India. Well, Nishant's idea, to achieve success, would need the cities to install RFID readers at every street-corner. This is impossible to consider as realistic in the near term. Nishant would turn grey by his mid twenties if he hangs his hat on this idea, so I discouraged him to pursue it. Instead, he should turn his talents elsewhere.
I very much enjoyed getting a peek into IIT KGP's entrepreneurship action tonight, and look forward to working with other campuses - both in India, as well as in the US, Europe, Asia, and Latin America - on similar programs.
You can listen to the recording of today's roundtable here. As always, I would very much like to hear about your business, so let me invite you to come and pitch at one of our free 1M/1M public roundtables.
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IIT photo by zimble thimble