“KGP built me, my character, life-long friends, capacity to think in a certain way, to enjoy life. In short, KGP was paradise on earth! KGP ka tempo high hai!”
My 4 years in IITKGP paved a way of thinking that has helped me carry through in my life. The analytical process when you’re trying to solve a problem, when you’re trying to debate with your friends, when you’re in your class or when you are managing people to work under roof, with one aim yet different perspectives and the hierarchy you follow in societies equip you with the tactics needed for facing the outside world. The simplicity and the maturity of the environment KGP renders in every individual makes sure that you are known for the quality of your character, ideas and discussion. Whether you’re “bhaating” with your friends or with anyone else, it doesn’t matter, you are known for the quality of your work.
Also, one very special thing about KGP is that false pride is called out very easily and early, this contributes a lot to one’s character and perspective. When you are in an environment with people who are better or as good as you automatically your quality of thinking improves substantially and your attitude changes. Many other colleges might offer that but I can say that the way KGP offers it is invaluable and in the way you face life after you move out and that helps as an entrepreneur. Firstly I feel that institutes like IIT KGP should have as many entrepreneurs as possible. India as a country needs more entrepreneurs, job creators, and innovators than just doing 9–5 jobs, listening to somebody, and working for someone else. I know as a fact that I and most alumni want to see KGP be more successful than any of the other IITs and anybody else in the whole world. In that sense, I think that our network should be leveraged to a greater extent to create an ecosystem in which the alumni and students can work together to produce and enable young KGP entrepreneurs.
One of the barriers to being a young entrepreneur is the taunting question in their head asking what if their idea isn’t good or what if I can’t raise funding and this barrier is a major factor which restricts more and more students from entering entrepreneurship. Of Course many will fail but what they will learn as they fail will be invaluable for the rest of their career and since everyone is in the start of their 40 to 50-year career, they can afford to lose a few years and if you’re an entrepreneur you’re likely to work the rest of your life so I think it’s a risk worth taking and the KGP alumni should help and manage the risk they are taking. This is where our initiative KGP STart-up Alumni Connect (STAC) comes in.
KGP being an isolated area from any metropolitan city has a very inactive state of response from the off-campus world for entrepreneurial aspirants. For example, Bangalore has got a more entrepreneurial ecosystem than KGP. In KGP the ecosystem is restricted to what IIT Kharagpur has to offer. But in cities like Bangalore, there are many incubators, accelerators, etc. So clearly an entrepreneur starting in Bangalore has more doors to knock on compared to an entrepreneur starting in KGP. One way to mitigate this is now that people are habituated to talk on a virtual platform, to some extent that barrier of connectivity can be overcome. Nevertheless, I don’t really see it as a barrier. I have a feeling that in the post COVID world, a good part of all will revert to meeting face to face, listening to the pitch, sensing the entrepreneur’s body language, and so on. All those things which people are comfortable in evaluating will matter and a place like Bangalore will hold a higher advantage than a place like Kharagpur but a KGPian entrepreneur should see it as a challenge more than a handicap in their journey as an entrepreneur. I am sure KGP can offer a few things that may not be available in Bangalore. At Least some access to theoretical technology may be available because you are getting the preference of the institute. So there may be some advantages and some disadvantages but the disadvantages are more like an obstacle rather than a dead-end. As an aspiring entrepreneur, I was not an exception to face these unaddressed conditions. But as it is said — “Calamity is the true touchstone to a man” and the biggest takeaway from KGP is that you learn to adapt with unusual circumstances and try to figure a way out to get out of your obstacles on your own. There have been many decisions that I had to take during and after my stay in KGP and the journey towards entrepreneurship.
When I joined KGP I wanted to study and go abroad, I was from the 1987–1991 batch, Electrical engineering, RP Hall. When I came to KGP I thought I’ll go abroad and do higher studies. As I studied more and more of Electrical Engineering I found that I wasn’t having much affinity towards it but developed a newfound keen interest in Management. This got me interested in pursuing an MBA and attempted CAT. Unfortunately, I didn’t perform up to my expectations in CAT so I then took a job at TISCO and worked there from ’91 June till ’93 May. Then I joined IIM Lucknow and passed out in May-April of 95 after which, I joined P&G and worked there for 3.5 years. This was when I realized that I wasn’t cut out for a corporate job as I couldn’t find myself listening to the boss all the time. I had my mind and wanted to do everything my way. While doing sales summer training in Pondicherry, I came in contact with many stockists, distributors where you had to try and sell products door to door, store to store. I found that many stockists, distributors, and wholesalers were running their own business and were making a lot of money by just doing that and they didn’t have a great education. They had a basic sense of what the market needed and what product they needed to stock and based on this basic knowledge they were making more money than what I made in P&G which was considered as a hot job at that time and was quite a well-paying job.
So I think my lack of fitting into the corporate world and this inspiration of seeing many people socio-economically well and doing better than what I was doing and enjoying life. So I thought I should also move to entrepreneurship.
One thing that struck me was that you can never make more money than your employer, it’s like that basic rule or the corporate world and I was looking to make money so I felt it is better to be the employer. And I decided to take the clutch.
I was connected with the alumni association and wanted to do something and we came up with KGPSTAC. KGPstac stands for KGP and STart-up Alumni Connect (STAC) and is a new initiative to use the vast KGP Alumni network and help start-ups by KGP alumnus succeed. It is a young organization started by the Bangalore Chapter of the Alumni-Association. It was more because I was connected with the alumni association and wanted to do something so we came up with KGPSTAC. Since I was an entrepreneur myself I could relate to many of the entrepreneurs passing out of KGP in terms of what they would be looking for, what they would be missing, what are the areas you know like that Donald Trump’s speech where he said there are known unknowns, unknown unknowns, known knows, unknown knows so you know many a time you don’t even know that you should know something. And someone who has been an entrepreneur will know those blind spots of a freshly minted KGP entree so I felt many people would come to me and ask me to evaluate my business plan and help them. So I felt that we could use the KGP Alumni network and tap into it for using their experience and their desire to help KGP entrepreneurs to their benefit. Then we formed a small team and as a team, we got an idea of interviewing well known KGP entrepreneurs.
There are broadly 3 areas that STAC has identified for realizing this goal in the near term. First is a Functional Guide where alumni who are experts because of their deep knowledge and experience in specific domains work closely with a startup to help them succeed and solve their problems. For instance, an entrepreneur may have a lot of technical background and has an idea to base his start-up but does not know how to go about getting a product-market fit. And here’s where a KGP alum can help. Next is what we call STAC-Market Access. The core idea is that our Alumni can act as Beta customers to KGP start-ups and guide them in the way. Any start-up knows that after family and friends, their first port of call is a KGP alum, and there is little to no hesitation to call and spend time with a KGP senior. So STAC Connect helps connect start-ups with alumni for purposes of sales. The last was what we called STAC-Connect, where we connect new and aspiring entrepreneurs to seasoned and experienced entrepreneurs talk and interact with them. This helps build and foster a community. With support from the Students’ Alumni Cell and E Cell, we were able to reach out to entrepreneurs and students and saw a great turnout. We have interviewed a lot of entrepreneurs who have graduated from IIT KGP and the same have been featured on our youtube channel. This is just the beginning of a long journey, and we think with the support of Alumni and IIT Kharagpur, we will be able to help in making our KGP entrepreneurs more successful.
— Krishnaraj | 1991 batch Electrical Engineering | Rajendra Prasad Hall of Residence