'Indian society not very encouraging towards entrepreneurs'
Gaurav Bhushan Sharma, an alumnus of IIM-Ahmedabad is a busy entrepreneur these days. His one-year-old start-up C2B Consulting, which is primarily a crowd-sourced strategy consulting firm today employs young graduates and aims to cater to the SME (small to medium enterprises) segment of the market.
Gaurav shares his journey and tells us how his life changed after one CAT exam.
I was a computer engineering student from NSIT Delhi. After my graduation, I worked with Microsoft as a software design engineer for two years before I decided to pursue my MBA.
I appeared for the Common Admission Test (CAT) in 2006 and scored 99.83 percentile. I received calls from four Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) from which I chose IIM-Ahmedabad.
I didn't join any coaching class to prepare for CAT as my work pressure didn't allow that. However, I had notes of leading coaching institutes, so I chose to self study. Besides the CAT, I also appeared for the GMAT exam in 2006 and scored well in it. And I must confess that preparing for GMAT helped me a lot to prepare for CAT as I found a lot of similarities in both the exams.
My advice to current and future aspirants of CAT and other management entrance exams would be that they should focus a lot on practice exams (mock tests). Also, I have observed that many candidates are not mentally and physically prepared for the test.
As for CAT, I think it's really crucial to be "in the zone" during the exam day in order to focus and perform better. I also believe that self-confidence and a calm mind is as important as your aptitude in clearing this exam.
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Image: Gaurav Bhushan Sharma
'There are also days when you don't get enough sleep'
Before going to IIM-A, I had lots of expectations and I knew that those two years are going to define my professional career ahead. I expected immense amount of hard work, learning and challenges. And I must say IIM-A didn't disappoint me at all.
If I look back at my IIM-A experience, what stands out is the peer learning I got. At IIM-A, you are surrounded and competing with the best minds in the country. That very environment motivates you to go beyond your limits and stretch yourself.
I still miss the animated discussions that used to take place both inside and outside the class. As they say "Human mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions."
Another distinguishing point of IIM-A is the quality of faculty. Most of the faculty members at IIM-A are world class and are passionate about teaching. They come with a wealth of practical experience which helps us to see things in an entirely different light.
I can still recollect the experience of solving case studies in class. While presenting our independent analysis, most of us believed that we had touched upon every relevant point in the case and then our professor will interestingly present an entirely different angle that none of us could think of. Each day was a revelling experience.
However IIM-A is not all academics. There are variously talented people around you -- for you to learn and inspire from. There are also days when you don't get enough sleep. But IIM A teaches you to pursue your passion even during such rigorous schedules.
For instance, I was part of the IIMACTS club (Dramatics Society) at IIM-A. I still remember the days when we would prepare for the one act play after midnight for the final competition at MICA. And the joy and feeling of ecstasy when we won it is beyond expression to me.
In short, IIM A taught me to work hard, stay focussed and enjoy the moment.
IIM-A also inculcated the entrepreneur inside me. I can proudly say that the spirit of entrepreneurship lines in the genes of IIM-A. The biggest testament of this fact is the increasing number of entrepreneurs that have come out of the hallowed portals of IIM-A.
From my own batch, more than 15 of them have turned to entrepreneurship. I was greatly inspired by a number of my seniors who left their high paying jobs to pursue their passion. That's when I knew that one day I will give it a shot myself.
Image: Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad
'I gained knowledge on various aspects of running a business'
I completed my PGDM while majoring in Finance and Strategy in 2009. After my MBA, I worked with a few strategy firms before starting my own venture.
My first job after completing my MBA was with a financial engineering company that wanted to expand their operations in Europe and South East Asia. As part of the strategy team, I was instrumental in the international expansion of the firm.
In my next stint, I worked in the strategy team of an Indian corporate house. As part of my role, I worked very closely with the promoter and gradually learned how to run and sustain a business. I also gained knowledge on the various aspects of running the business, right from devising strategies, fostering strategic alliances, motivating the sales team, hiring key employees, joint ventures to raising funds etc.
Handling these multiple responsibilities helped me understand the intricacies of running a business and also helped me understand the importance of right networking within the business fraternity.
Now, that I was confident, I decided to venture into entrepreneurship. Me, along with my friends (batchmates from IIMs) decided to take the plunge and start our own venture. We started an innovative crowd-sourced strategy consulting firm (C2B Consulting -- www.c2bconsults.com, www.classroom2boardroom.in) that focussed on the Indian SME (small to medium enterprise) sector.
C2B is a unique venture where talented management students from the country's top tier b-schools come together on one platform to provide consulting to country's small and medium enterprises to make them more competitive, transform and grow their business.
This service meets dual purposes –-- while the country's SME segment is exposed to the services of country's best management brains, which is otherwise almost impossible for them to attract/hire, at the same time, management students get the platform to execute their classroom learnings.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh
'Not receiving your salary at the end of the month can be quite disturbing'
Well, as easy as it may sound to you, our initial days were filled with difficulties and challenges.
We realised that not receiving your salary at the end of the month can be quite disturbing at times. Just like every start-up, we indulged in many trial and error situations. There were many failed attempts; there was also anguish, pain, blood and sweat.
The biggest challenge we faced was the societal pressure. We realised that the Indian society is still not very encouraging towards entrepreneurs. Even families, relatives, and friends fail to understand why any one would leave a highly paying job to start a venture from scratch.
During these troubled times, it was my fellow entrepreneurs from IIM A who were of immense help. Moreover, the network of IIMs also acted as a door opener in many cases. And slowly, but steadily things started falling into place.
Today, we are just one year old, but in the past one year, C2B Consulting has helped many SME's in solving their strategic issues by engaging students across the country.
We have also expanded our service offerings and simultaneously also our reach with our international tie ups. It has been a great story so far but there are many frontiers to be captured. In Robert Frost's words, we have miles to go before we sleep.
If I have to give a message to someone who is reading this, I would say: you have one life and trust me it's filled with risks, risk you are not even aware of. So, rather than worrying about failures and risks and what other people would say, I would say, simply follow your passion.