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ISB grads choose to tread own path

December 26, 2007 12:27 IST

Seeking employment in a company, preferably an MNC, may be a cool idea for B-school graduates, but there are also those who are "crossing the line" by becoming entrepreneurs with a difference.

Many of those who refused to stay back in the comfort zone of ready employment are exploring opportunities hitherto untouched. While some have to go through the grind, a few others taste success in their brief stint.

Solstice 2007, the alumni reunion held at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, recently presented over two-dozen such alumni-turned-entrepreneurs to the class of 2007 to provide them with an opportunity to learn and get inspired.

Anuradha Agrawal, a 2002 graduate, started community kitchens almost a year ago in the slums of Ahmedabad. She has now turned it into a profitable venture much to the surprise of many, including the visiting professor and moderator of the event, Atul Nelkar. About 30 community kitchens, comprising 30 families each, are currently working. She now wants to take this number to 100 in the coming months.

 "Each family on an average spends Rs 70 on their food. While we save Rs 15 from this amount by way of bulk purchase of ration and vegetables, half of it is passed on to the families and the rest is spent on maintenance of the kitchens. Community kitchen also saves fuel for these families," she says.

In the process, Anuradha is transforming their taste-based food habits into a more healthy diet.

Equally innovative is the idea of Vivek Pahwa, the class of 2006 student and a second generation entrepreneur, who launched a website for second marriages. The website boasts of 20,000 registered users wanting to go in for a second marriage. Changing life patterns in the country would further add to this list in future, says Nelkar in a lighter vein.

Gunjan Aggarwal, a student from the class of 2002 , saw an opportunity in vocational training. Her firm, Avsarr, a job opportunity platform, is now training young boys and girls in financial services to cater to the requirement of three banks. A typical 7-9-day training is enough to make them employable in areas of helping the banks expand their current and savings accounts.

 "We need not impart knowledge in behavioural psychology to these people. A short training is enough to develop necessary skills," she says. And her idea is working.

Ashish, also from the class of 2002, with 15 years of service in the Armed Forces, now offers technology and a platform to address risk and intelligence. According to him, every business now needs to address the issues of real risk, not just business risk, after the terror attacks in the US and elsewhere brought the security issues into the realm of overall planning of a company.

One reason why most of their batchmates did not become entrepreneurs is found in their experience. Right from raising seed capital to convincing the clients of their products, form a potential entry barrier.

 "It is very difficult to convince the companies to try out our products as they generally look for established brand names," Venky Natarajan, who is into design services for industrial equipment, opines.

A few of them including Nitin Vyakaranam, who started Tax Yantra, a web-portal to provide tax compliance services, and Anuradha Agrawal, launched their startups while working in different companies. This helps them pursue their line of activities in the initial years.

To address entrepreneurial issues of its alumni, the ISB is going in for raising resources and networking to take forward its prime motto of creating entrepreneurs for the country.

Ajit Rangnekara, deputy dean of ISB, said the institute would soon create a cell to address the entry barrier issues being faced by aspiring entrepreneurs. A couple of venture funds are also expected to be announced by the ISB in this regard. This apart, it is also planning to announce a venture fund for social enterprise initiatives in a couple of months.

B Dasarath Reddy in Hyderabad
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