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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Entrepreneurship Workshop by Prof. Sunil Handa

Yesterday I bunked a class of a top IIMB professor to attend a session by a top IIMA professor :p

However I was not disappointed. It was some of the first best sessions, I had till now @ IIMB. It was the Entrepreneurship workshop organized as part of the event Eximius, the Entrepreneurship Summit at IIM Bangalore.

How more motivating can a session be more than this! At the same time not with just only motivational gyaan! but also the hard facts and some cruel, real life things that can be expected from an entrepreneurial career.

Prof Sunil Handa started the session informally with an intriguing question "Why are you here? " After some intersteing answers from audience like "I have floated a company now; would like to get some tips on how to move forward", "to understand how it is like to be an entrepreneur from your experiences", "always wanted to attend a live session of the famous Sunil Handa" and so on... he started talking about our well know phrase:

"Oh Man!, again today I have to see the **** boss; I want to quit the job today!"
"I should not be working like a slave like this! I should do something different!!"

The thought provoking question he was continuously asking was "What is stopping you from doing these??"

The typical answers were:

1. Lack of competency & network
2. Social Obligations (barriers from kins)
3. Lack of investment power

He counter argued for each of these by mentioning his views which were truly thought provoking. Some of the excerpts:

Working in a company for 2-3 years will not help you to build a core competence or a influential network. Even if you are an MBA from IIM, you will just be placed as an employee, say as Marketing in charge for a product in a region for a country in the firm with many products, above which many groups & hierarchy. You will not gain much by working in the profile even for 5 years to start a firm; better you can start it straightaway. If you are adamant that you will start only after a couple of years of working, go for a challenging job; a self example he explained of taking up the CEO post after graduating from IIMA of a firm which was seized by bank because of bankruptcy.

I liked the way he kept on saying, "what are you? A Management Trainee! ; I am the chief executive; even if its a bankrupt company!!". The point he was trying to make was, even though he spent less than 2 years there, the experience he got was more than even if you work for 20 years! because you will have to deal with every aspect of the business; make the decisions & trade offs.

Some of the other aspects he discussed were on the number of partners, one should look for:

- If you are saying my partners are like minded; you will fail! What you require is those who complement each other. We need a visionary & an executor, a missionary!
- One person starting alone a company is not advisable since you will be just stretching yourself a lot. With regard to this, a person asked whether hiring all the best people out there and put to work will help? Professor's answer was NO: If that is the case World XI would have always won against any country; Coco cola would have been the best software company today; Infosys would have entered steel market today. The point he was trying to make is always not the investment alone matters; it is the core competency!
- 2-3 Partners is the optimum; More than that is like too many cooks spoiling the soup!

Next for the social obligations/barriers, his views were again thought provoking:

If you cannot convince your parents, kins; how are you planning to convince the customers, the employees, the Govt: .... You should learn the art of being cruel or professional or rude or adamant or whatever you call it! You should believe in your instincts. The couple of things I liked the most in regard to this discussion were:

1) Don't always try to please everybody. You will have to make some calls. Also don't sugar coat in your discussions thinking, "what the others will think about me!". Put what you want cut and straight. Also, learn to draw a line - make the other person understand couple of times, third time, literally kill him, if the person is not coming into your terms or find another way! to get what you intend to.

2) What your parents really mean, when they say "Son, business in not your cup of tea; why take risk". They say this because the way their minds are tuned because of their 9-6 jobs. However, you should understand that, they aren't really against business, they just want to see you as:
 (a) A happy person
 (b) Financial sound to some extend
 (c) A respected person & one who bring pride to them

So, as long as you can convince them that these are all possible by being an entrepreneur too, then what else you need!

With regard to the last point, that its tough for a middle class person to raise capital, he argued that, at the present condition, raising even 20 L is not a tough thing; If courage is there, anything is possible! He explained about his own journey and the Renuka Sugars' journey.

Some of the other aspects he touched were:

- Any market is infinite in a country like India. He touched the examples of sugar industry, the IV bottles & his company etc. It doesn't matters whether the industry is profitable or not; what matters is whether you are profitable or not in it.

Generally he advised, too much of calculations is not needed; some craziness and illogical thinking are required for entrepreneurs :)

Finally, he talked about women entrepreneurs, which he mentioned is even tougher. He advised either be solely concentrating on career or think something once the family is settled!

Even though the session was mesmerizing, I am not sure how far a middle class person can still take the huge risk, given a decent paying job out there.....

Some other posts on his talks/sessions:




ps: All the views/excerpts in this post are my interpretations/opinions only. It may vary for others!


  1. I am Vidya Sagar, presently persuing my B.Tech at IIT-Madras. I am the Coordinator for the Events team, C-TIDES, the Entrepreneurship Cell of IIT- Madras. I have gone through many blogs and i am really Impressed by the inspiring lectures delivered by Prof. Sunil Handa. As a part of Genesis, The Social Bussiness Plan Competition of C-TIDES,the Entrepreneurship Cell of IIT-Madras. we have a series of lectures to be held and we would like to invite Prof. Handa.;It would be of great use if any one could provide the contact details of Prof.Hunda (email Id if possible) - or atleast direct me the way to contact him.
    Waiting for a sooner response... please respond to : vidyasagarranganaboina@gmail.com

  2. Hey Vidya, I have sent you a mail...

  3. I am very much inspired by Prof Sunil Handa.If only i was computer savvy a few years back.