Everybody has a 'wow' moment and if one is lucky, several of them during a lifetime. i'm possibly one of the few really privileged ones who meets amazing people literally most days of the year. which means i have a treasure chest of wow moments. but i can tell you this,- if i were asked to pick this one heirloom which i will want to pass on to the future generations, it will easily and uncontestably be 2nd jan 2010 at TCS campus in Hyderabad at the TATA Jagriti Entrepreneur Yatra. nothing had prepared me for what i was going to experience here. i will post pictures as soon as i get some of them from the organisers.
Jagriti is a foundation involved in a number of developmental activities but this train journey is the brainchild of Shashank Mani and if you want to know more about how and why he designed this yatra, just pick up his book : India : A journey through a healing civilization, published by Harper Collins.
In 1997, Shashank conceived of an idea to discover India beyond her sophistication (his words) and urbanity and experience her home-spun 'genius' (again his words). he called it Azad Bharat Rail Yatra. this was the germination of an idea which is all poised to open the floodgates for an upbeat entrepreneurial india. it has now morphed into a train journey for practising and aspiring young entrepreneurs from what they call the Middle India, middle not in the geographic or class sense but in the economic sense.
Shashank, Raj and Revathy (whom unfortunately i did not get to meet as she had stayed back in Chennai) are responsible for designing an experience for the entrepreneurs which will stay with them for the rest of their lives. This is an 18 day train journey through the length and breadth of india, where people from different climes and cultures travel together, discover reach other and in the process manage to hold a mirror to themselves. 400 young vibrant hungry unmolded minds coming together, meeting entrepreneurs of different shapes and sizes and hues, understanding the challenges of being an entrepreneur, not to be daunted by them but to convert them into a laundry list of do's and dont's. god what a moment!!!
let me start the story from the beginning.
a couple of weeks ago, i received mail from Ananth Krishna who introduced himself as the co-ordinator of the Yatra and invited me to be a panelist either in Kanyakumari on 28th december or in Hyderabad on 2nd january. i chose Hyderabad.
i had heard of this train journey last year and i was completely delighted to be invited to be a small part of it this year.i mentioned it to Hemant of NVI and he said he'd love to come for the event.
Hemant and I were in another meeting till three and at three thirty we walked into the reception of TCS at Hi-tech city. the security guard manning the reception just pointed to an area behind him and asked us to proceed there. we did and nothing had prepared us for what met our eyes.
we walked out of the reception into an open atrium built like an amphi theatre, steep and cascading, with stone steps going all the way down, interspersed with bushes and trees. on the steps were some 400 odd people, youngsters, bright eyed and bushy tailed notwithstanding the ardror of a train journey, waiting expectantly, as if they were in Woodstock, waiting for their favorite rock band to perform!!!
i got goose bumps just looking at them and believe you me, for a minute i was tempted to turn on my heels and run for dear life from there. what is it i can i offer them that will make their eyes twinkle more, what do i have in me that can make them hungrier and wilder? what can i say to them that will inspire them,- these were the big questions that came flooding my mind and for a moment i lost it and just wanted scoot out of there.
but the goose bumps took over thankfully!!! and hemant and i walked down the steps in awe, in humility, in anticipation. and our several wow moments began.
since last year Tatas and CNBC have been phenomenal partners on this event and on the panel were Dr Krishna Tanuku, ED, Wadhwani Centre for Entrepreneurship, ISB, Mr Mohan Rao, State Director for Small Scale and Khadi Industries Commission and myself. The discussion was moderated by Suresh Venkat, Exec Producer, CNBC. The subject for discussion : funding for small entrepreneurs.
i wont go into the discussion here, i will post the dates on which the event will be broadcast on CNBC and you guys can catch it live.
suresh turned out to be an intelligent, witty moderator, not one of those who talks more than those he moderates!!!and we covered a whole gamut of subjects. this was followed by a Q&A from the audience and i was astounded at the questions that were asked. my favorite of course was from an overseas participant who said : everyone talks of what investors look for in the entrepreneur. what should an entrepreneur look for in an investor!!! my answer to this i shall blog separately :)
once the discussion was over i was mobbed completely and can you believe it, they asked me for my autograph!!! on t-shirts, on paper, on their palm!!! i was dying of embarassment and i kept saying why do you want my autograph, i am no celebrity, i'm just a teacher and god no one listened.
at the end of it all, i was completely exhausted and completely, overwhelmingly enervated!!!
shashank, raj and ananth? how can i ever thank you enough? may your tribe increase.
Nandini is a traveling teacher who teaches entrepreneurship in several ivy-league business schools around the world including Princeton, LSE and NUS overseas and in India in IIM–A, IIM–B, IIM–L and ISB. From being just a word in the dictionary six years ago, it has now consumed her whole being.
In July 2010, she founded CARMa (Creating Access to Resources & Markets), (www.carmaconnect.in) with a lofty ambition: to change the karma of entrepreneurs in India.
She writes a regular monthly column for the magazine, Entrepreneur. It delights her no end that it is from smaller towns that aspiring and practicing entrepreneurs reach out to her after reading it.
She is a TED speaker.
Her best-selling book Entrepedia – a Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming an Entrepreneur in India, has touched the lives of many a start-up entrepreneur in India as evidenced by the no.of mails she receives every month. She cherishes them all but her favourite is from a 77-year old retired business man, who wrote to her saying ‘I’m angry with you that you didn’t write this book 40 years ago when I started my business.