Entrepreneurship is a tough road which needs proper planning and focused goals. Chirag Kulkarni, co-founder, CEO, C&M Group, talks about being a serial entrepreneur, importance of incubators and ways to fund a start-up, in a conversation with Neha Arora
Q. You began your journey as a serial entrepreneur by opening STR. Do you think serial entrepreneurship is difficult to implement in India?
A. I became a serial entrepreneur because I saw multiple problems and I wanted to figure out a way to fix these problems. Serial entrepreneurship is tough because you have to face lot of challenges. For e.g.; I have teams in companies like STR, Bingo and C&M group, one will go crazy in handling all of them. I personally don’t have time and patience to work with all the teams. Hence, what I believe is let’s solve the problem first and if turns out to be a business then it’s great. I don’t think that it’s difficult in India and easy in US or vice versa. I just think that it’s a difficult thing to do. But programmes like incubators will help in implementing serial entrepreneurship.q
Q. What’s the impact of incubators on entrepreneurship?
A. Entrepreneurship is a lonely world; you are doing something which nobody else is doing and it’s one of the toughest things to do. Being a part of an incubator is like being in a community, there is a certain sense of belonging. That’s where the benefit comes from. The best part of incubator is that they help to network and work with other entrepreneurs. For e.g.; I am running a company and you are running a company and we are sitting in the same incubator space.
Q. What all things a young entrepreneur should keep in mind before starting a consulting business in India?
A. Consulting is different from an e-commerce business like Flipkart, Snapdeal or Zomato. As an entrepreneur, I advise lot of companies. I have realised that it’s important to find out the value proposition of me and other consultants. I have an experience in operations which most consultants do not have. That’s how a problem in a market gets solved. Consultants are like doctors who should be able to diagnose a business and figure out best ways to look at it. As a student, you need patience, persistence, consistency and an expert to guide you. Always remember that it’s not the amount of years of experience that matter, it’s the quality. My mantra is that you have to fail. Failures are important in any field.
Q. What is the best source of funds for a start-up business?
A. The best companies in the world like Virgin, Microsoft and Apple use bootstrapping. None of these companies look for venture financing and they set out to be role models. Start-ups require hustle. It’s a negative term in India, but in the US everybody hobs on hustle. For e.g.; if you want to buy an iPad and you don’t have $200, you have to figure out a way to buy it in the most ethical way. Lot of times, investors are not going to be prone to that concept. Venture capitalists are looking for a billion dollar company. My suggestion for every start up business is to use bootstrapping as a source of fund.
Q. In case you were to start a new business what would that be?
A. My first choice of industry would be education. In India, lots of people still don’t have access to education. Furthermore, there are problems with online education where interaction is very limited. I am trying to crack into that space as well. Healthcare is my second choice. Obesity is rising in India and globally. I was 50 pounds overweight. The doctor put me on high blood pressure and high cholesterol medication. I believe they should have said that instead of taking painkillers let’s get you on a workout plan. Doctors should be consultants. Suggesting medication does not solve the root problem; it only alleviates it. Financial Services is my third option. I am very curious and bullish about this. I think financial literacy is important. In fact, US financial crisis was caused because banks gave loans to people who couldn’t pay them back.
Q. A piece of advice for our readers?
A. Lot of my relatives did not let me do business because of ‘what if something happens’. So, my advice is that stop focusing on what may happen and focus on doing it. Secondly, our society doesn’t give importance to you if you can’t get 100 marks in exams. This is absolutely wrong. It’s imperative to know your strengths, building on them and finally locking them up. Lastly, everybody says follow your passion but I think in a slightly different way. For e.g.; I am passionate about singing, but I can never sing like ‘Shankar Mahadevan’. In addition to your passion, you should also choose an area where you can put your efforts. Be passionate about what you want and follow where your efforts are.