E-Cell Societies, Fueling Startups for Marathon

Date:   Wednesday , February 03, 2016

IIM Calcutta is a fully autonomous business institution and the first Indian Institute of Management to be established. It offers several postgraduate and doctoral programs in management as well as a suit of executive education programs.

When I was a five year old kid, I dreamt of becoming a pilot; at seven I wanted to join the police, a teacher at 10, a cricketer at 12; and by the time I was 15, I was sure that I wanted to be an engineer (which I eventually became). Presently I am in my mid 20\'s and I am aiming to be a successful entrepreneur. I realized that with age, the number of letters in my dream profession were increasing and their concepts were getting even more complex. I still remember the day I heard the word \'Entrepreneurship\' for the first time. I was in my first year of engineering when Irfan Alam, a social entrepreneur who transformed rickshaw industry in Patna visited my college to share his entrepreneurial journey. It was a one hour session after which I had three questions in my mind. \'Entrepreneurship\' - what\'s that? What does an entrepreneur do? How can I become a successful entrepreneur? Answer to first 2 questions were pretty easy as I googled it out in five minutes. Although it\'s more than five years since that session, I am still not very clear about the answer to the third question.

I am sure that there are thousands like me who want to be a successful entrepreneur, but doesn\'t know a clear way forward. Since the startup culture in India has grown exponentially in last five years, people have started to look at entrepreneurship as a career. Going for entrepreneurship is risky as it demands lot of sweat, sacrifices, time, money, and other resources without guaranteeing anything in return. It gets even more risky when someone wants to establish a startup without knowing the procedures, the kind of efforts it takes and without proper mentorship. People do have wonderful ideas which have the potential to transform society, but they don\'t get proper mentoring or guidance to convert their idea into a business plan. Startup is always about finding a market gap and establishing a business plan to bridge it, but there is a huge gap of providing expert mentorship/guidance/platform to these budding startups so that their idea can safely take off. Entrepreneurs need an ecosystem which can help them at every stage starting from polishing their idea to getting funding from venture capitalists.

Currently, I am a member of entrepreneurial society of a premiere b-school and heading all the events related to entrepreneurship. E-Cell, as we call this society, is a student run club which tries to provide a complete entrepreneurial ecosystem to students/budding entrepreneurs. E-Cell organizes varied range of activities like business plan competitions, entrepreneurship summits, providing incubation opportunity to selected startups, helping them in getting funding from partner VC\'s and many others.. E-Cell leverages its knowledge partner networks to conduct workshops, seminars, guest lectures, knowledge camps and other programs. In short, E-Cell is trying to promote spirit of entrepreneurship among students throughout India.

Just like E-Cell in my college, there are E-Cell bodies in many other colleges who have a good network of knowledge partners, funding partners, and expert mentors. E-Cell bodies organize multiple workshops/seminars to encourage and motivate students to opt for entrepreneurship. It conducts hackathon events like startup weekend which invites nascent ideas and provides them an opportunity to build up a business plan around their idea in two days. It also helps in getting right set of business partners, the funding partner\'s makes events even more exciting by providing initial seed funding to some brilliant ideas. Most of the teams who participate in hackathon event gets a good understanding of b-plan around their idea and participates in many business plan competitions. Almost all E-Cells organize a business plan competition to invite people with structured b-plans to participate and get opportunity to pitch idea in front of VC partners. Events like Entrepreneurship Summit invites prominent entrepreneurs, speakers who speak about their experiences and encourage younger generation to take a leap of faith and go for entrepreneurship. Many colleges have their incubation units which incubates some of the best ideas in their competitions and provide them funds, better network to take their idea to next level. It has become a lot easier for a good startups to get funding as many venture capitalists are interested in investing in good business ideas which come through events conducted by E-Cell societies. Last year, Ideas to Implementation, an IIMC business plan competition provided a seed funding option of Rs.50 Lakh and an opportunity to pitch business plan in front of partner VC\'s to the top 3 business ideas of competition.

E-Cell societies still can\'t exactly give you a perfect recipe to become a successful entrepreneur, frankly speaking nobody can. But it can certainly provide you the best possible mentorship/guidance, platform to prove worth of your idea, opportunities to get funding for your startup. These societies are doing commendable job in creating a conducive ecosystem for budding entrepreneurs. But they are run by students and have a small budget to organize events, workshops, and seminars. They need help of big corporates to come forward and help these societies to run smoothly and extend services to other nearby colleges and schools. Corporates like Tata group are involved in promoting entrepreneurship as they have partnered with IIM Calcutta E-Cell team to organize social business plan competition Tata Social Enterprise Challenge (TSEC). We need a lot of other corporates to come forward and help societies like E-Cell to promote spirit of entrepreneurship in society. E-Cell bodies should try to take this concept to school students as well. Conducting a workshop or seminar for them might be helpful to take an informed decision about their career choices.