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Friday, August 22, 2014

ArchestrA | Where Form Follows Function

Being an architect isn't only about construction, it's about creating wide spaces with small spaces.

As quoted by the famous Frank Lloyd Wright, A building is not just a place to be but a way to be.

With the brimming desire to expand on the “ways”, the genesis of ArchestrA started with the joint efforts of Architects turned Entrepreneurs Anu and Chanchal Bhattacharya.

An excerpt of the interview with these budding entrepreneurs.

An entrepreneur by accident or Intent? Where did the idea come from?

we are entrepreneurs by Intent, deliberate actions towards entrepreneurship and zeal for it. We are entrepreneurs, thanks to God, because of all the favors, guidance and encouragement we have received that were essential to start us up.

Shed some light on your Background? Why did you start your company?

We started our company due to lack of opportunities for creative work in the current day architectural firms which require you to go through the regular rigmarole of starting up as a drafts-person-architect, and by the time you get to actually execute any of your creative contributions you wouldn’t be surprised to see some
grey hairs on your scalp. That was not the main reason, although one of the reasons. We find that there are too many reasons people can give not to be an entrepreneur than why to be one. So instead of listening to the Naysayers, we decided to live it up and live our dream.

Anu and Chanchal Bhattacharya
Your first steps. How long did it take to put together ArchestrA? What does your start-up do?

We designed a small eatery/restaurant as our first step for good friends of ours. We started with Interior design and Graphic design jobs for contacts of ours and put all our zeal and enthusiasm into it. That, we found, was the fulfillment our business gave us and our clients. We progressed into architecture and that being our actual profession is what we are looking to foray into along with Interiors, Landscape and Graphic design. ArchestrA took just one night’s interval to put together, and this includes the printing of the visiting cards, website domain purchase and the making up of the partnership. But the actual thought was ruminant in our minds for more than a year before we took the step.

Greatest challenge. What has been the hardest part of the startup experience so far?

The greatest challenge is to pay for a space to set up a business as the rents for business spaces for architects in a respectable neighborhood is quite high. We have done our groundwork; literally! And looking forward to set up the office this year!

What are you up to now, and what are the things you're working on?

We are working on Interiors for residences about 3500 square feet in extent, the architecture for apartments and quite a few logo design and graphic design jobs. We also have a 3D printing business and us being one of the few owners of a 3D printer in Bangalore, look forward to advertise ourselves to any architecture/model-making/mechanical engineering firms who might require a 3D printed models for all applications from display pieces to working toys.

Where do you see ArchestrA 5 years from Now?

We see that God is with us, and going with this pace, we have taken the limits of our path. We are looking to employ more architects, engineers and draftspersons soon and also are ready to take on investments.

Any piece of advice/word of caution, you would like to give to readers And soon to be starting up founders.

Make up your mind to start up soon! Doing is the best (and the only) way of doing!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Inventrom Robotics | A Goa Based Robotics Company

Inventrom Robotics, a Goa based company, was started by Mr. Pranav Pai Vernekar while he was in college in 2011. He, along with his friend Mr. Vinayak Joshi, both alumni of Goa Engineering College designed their first product, ‘The TechnoBoard’. After an MBA, he started his career with IMRB, but soon he left his job to follow his passion for Robotics Technology.

To make money is easy. Changing the world to make it a better place is the difficult part.’  With this quote, Mr. Pranav Pai Vernekar summarizes the driving factor behind his leap of faith to start this company.  It doesn’t take a geek to conclude that this Goa meets Engineers meets Robotics venture is one of the coolest startups of the country and here is why:

From their first product,  TechnoBoard which is a Robotics R&D board to the current under working Minion Bot, Inventrom Robotics has come a long way in its working and popularity. They have received a Patent by the Indian Government for Zau Wireless Programmer, the first in the world of its kind.

So Far, So Good : While their product device, TechnoBoard has already sold more than 200 units others like the Zazu wireless programmer, Topping Pi and Minion Bot are to be launched over the next few months of this year.

They love sharing their expertise via conducting workshops, which also acts as their major revenue generator.  Their corporate client list for workshops include bigwigs like TCS (Tata Consultancy Services), Chowgules, NETZSCH, PSL (Persistent Systems Ltd.) among others and they have successfully trained over 1500 engineering students from renowned institutions like the IIT's, BITS, BVIT etc.; garnering positive responses from all over.
Moreover the levels of the workshops vary from the basic ones like RoboWorld; designed especially for kids right to the advanced levels like the Invent-O-Pi and Internet of things, pertaining to an Engineering student and working professionals. So as long as one has an interest in Robotics and its geeky functionings, they have something for all.

An Interview with the man himself and his team :

A robotics company?  Wow! Very out of the box. What inspired you to get into the tech world?

Being an engineer, technology always fascinated me specially robotics. I built my first robot in my second year of engineering with two of my classmates. It was a simple white line follower and an obstacle avoider. During my final year with the same team I built a much-advanced robot, which could be controlled over the internet and transmitted video over the net. In fact, it was so heartening to see a similar robot in the TV series Big Bang Theory a few months later.

While we were in the final year of engineering me along with my friends started a Robotics company by name Accipion. We even conducted a few workshops, which generated capital for our product development projects. However the final product never materialized. Though it was a great experience and lessons learned there came handy while starting up Inventrom.

What kind of relationship do you share with technology and gadgets? If it is a strong one, give us an instance/ an invention which drew you to the world of robotics? Do you directly get involved in the development of the products which your company engineers?
Most of my time in the day is spent with technology. There have been a lot of inventions that have been inspirational. From various Apple products, TESLA Cars, even the TV recording technology like TATA Sky Plus. They all make our lives beautiful.

Yes. I am completely involved in the development, especially in the product design phase. My task would be to understand the consumers and accordingly plan on the features and services. I also take up few programming tasks if required, though my main focus is on product design, sales and working on the overall strategy of the company. I am very lucky to have a team of extraordinary engineers working with us at Inventrom who look after most of the electronics, mechanical and software design and implementation part.

You did your Engineering in electronics and telecommunication, quite understandable that this love for technology evolved partly from there. But an MBA thereafter? What made you go for higher studies in management?
A lot of times people have questioned me that why MBA if you had to build an engineering centric company or why engineering if you had to do an MBA. I have realized that knowledge of both is essential for success. Engineering skills as well as business management skills have to go hand in hand to ensure success. Both are depended on each other. A good salesman will find it very difficult to sell a bad product while a good product will not sell if the communication to the customer is not good. It is only when different skills come together that you are able to create products that are magical.

How does a typical day at work look like for Pranav?
I start my day in the office at 8.30 am. This is the time when I plan for the day as well as we plan the tasks for the team for the rest of the day. Post that the tasks vary based on the requirements for the day. I mostly have to look at product design, financials, marketing etc. One good part about my life at Inventrom is I get to be home for lunch and also manage to take a short 10-15 minute afternoon siesta.

We are in the office generally till 6 pm. Normally I also code for about 1-2 hours post dinner. It’s my stress buster. At the office, we have a very casual environment. We do not have a specific dress code. We are fine with employees walking into the office in shorts and a T-Shirt. We have comfy chairs as well as a bed for those who like to work lying on the bed. We also have a refrigerator where we store snacks and lots of ice cream for all employees to have any time.
Team Inventrom
You are young and you are already doing some phenomenal work in the field of robotics. Do you ever feel age to be a challenging factor while you deal with clients? If yes, what are the few ways you combat them?
Oh yes. It does. A lot of times I have to deal with customers or suppliers who are almost twice my age. Though the best part is a lot of time being young is considered positive in the technology world. Also, I have realized that people are quite supportive and since the startup scene is developing in India in a big way so people do understand the issues and support you.

When I was in studying in GIM, I was part of the Ribandar Talks club where I had to interact with lot of prominent people. This experience came handy when we had to meet people to propose our products.

What marketing techniques did you employ as a startup to get noticed?

We used to write a lot of articles in newspapers. The newspapers also gave us the credits for the same. The social media has been a great help too. In addition, we used personal calling and E-Mailing to individual customers. Due to our good work with workshops currently three-fourth of our workshop sales are driven by Word of Mouth.

Tell us about the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far? Also, what’s the one thing that has worked for you, and would suggest other entrepreneurs try as well?

The biggest challenge has been in product R&D. We faced issues due to lack of guidance and had to learn the hard way with financial losses. For example - We did not know the best company for PCB printing around and ended up initially with some who did substandard work. We decided to bear these losses ourselves instead of passing to the end user to ensure better service to our customers. Our focus on working capital instead of just the assets and investments helped us a lot.

Budding Engineers learning the nuances of Robotics
Near Future plans?

We are primarily looking at launching the Minion Bot by the end of this year. Our main focus till next year will remain on the Minion Bot promotion and marketing and ensuring sales of the same. We are also launching an online store to increase sales of our R&D products. In the coming six months we will also try to raise finance through investors.

Any noteworthy accomplishments you’d like to mention in the startup journey so far?

We have managed to have an extraordinary team. Most of the guys at Inventrom could have easily got plush high paying jobs and even now regularly get offers. However, they continue to have a bigger vision and work on their dream making the world a better place through robotics.

We have also so far been self-funded which is a great achievement. This has helped us in keeping with our vision of providing better products to the world without having the pressure of profit motives.

Do you think Indian B-schools are doing enough to create a committed job-makers? You have seen both sides of the coins- a job seeker as well as now, a job maker. What are a few things that you think come as crucial along with being a responsible job maker?
I feel there is a lot more to do to create committed job makers and entrepreneurs. Most of the B-Schools have focused on placements and getting jobs with higher salary rather than focusing on better profiles and a job where the students can contribute in making the world a better place.

I believe the most important for being a responsible job maker is perseverance. A lot of people think that a failed startup is cool. However, it is important to not give up easily and try longer. As it is said what differentiates successful entrepreneurs from unsuccessful ones is that they did not give up.

Any message to your juniors who are raring to lead? Ones with big ideas and dreams in their eyes.
Take up a job that you love to work on. Since they are going to spend a major time of their life on their job it is very important to choose what you enjoy doing. Rest everything automatically falls into place.

Also, do not be part of the mad competitive rush of higher salaries and higher paycheck. Take some time and decide what your long-term goal is. Where do you see yourself when you are 60-70 years old? Then plan your career accordingly. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Beeing Social | Beeing All The Way

Well folks, this ain't about a 'bee-movie' , but about those guys who have made social media blossom into a garden of flowers for people like you and me. The "Beeing social" is one such startup venture by 3 'bees' - Abhishek Rajpurohit, Abhishek Mittal and Harssh K Vyaas. The firm caters to a wide variety of services ranging from customizing your social media presence, search engine optimization, online reputation management to branding and PR and loads more. Based in Mumbai, this firm provides the best mix of IT and social media which is at the best interests of their clients.

When asked about their initiative, here's what Abhishek Rajpurohit had to say-

What made you take up and pursue such an idea?

Initially, when we were working for other digital marketing agencies, all we could see was big clients. Also the fact that the area of startups, which is actually a very powerful tool was left out. At that time, there were no startups on social media mainly in the field of digital marketing, so we decided to fit in and start working towards carving out a new cliche' for ourselves, becoming a brand while branding others as well.

Abhishek Rajpurohit
Abhishek Mittal 
So why a "bee" ?

Well,you see the honey bees are one of the most skillful and social creatures.That's why we call ourselves "bees" . We are smart bees! :)

Harssh K Vyaas
How has been the ride so far?

We started out 22nd Dec,2012 as a startup initiative and then with time and experience, we evolved into a firm which is totally devoted to its clients. Overall, it has been a roller coaster ride!

When you guys first started out what kind of challenges did you face? Also, what type of clients did you get back then?

Getting sponsors!! It was quite tough for us to appeal the sponsors to back us up. Added to that was the issue of limited finances and supply of clients. But we emerged out of that phase after struggling against all the odds that came our way. Eventually!

As for our first clients, it was mostly fellow startups ..... small startups like us and students who helped us progress.

How has the progress and response been so far,according to you?

The progress has been tremendous. We started out small, we are just a year and 4 months old and today, we have a quite commendable client list which ranges from small to big clients, all alike. So the progress has actually caught up with our expectations and the response has been good so far.

Then again, this is just the beginning; we still have a long way to go!

Your firm already deals with so many spheres of social media, what can possibly be in store for clients in the future from your firm?

So far, we cover Social Media, Online reputation management, Online Branding and Online PR. Not to mention SEO, Google Analytics, Viral Marketing and Google Adwords. We also venture into Online Media Buying. In a way, one can say that we are all in all, a complete solution for everything that our clients need.

Then again, we have only learned to spread our wings, we still have to go a long way so as to venture out into the world. As of now, we are planning to include more such services in our firm and "bee-ing out" to expand our honeycomb.

Any last words of wisdom for our readers and would-be startup founders?

Basically, if you are into startups, then just go with it. It might be as rough as a storm, but once you pass that phase, it will make you feel good! The key to surviving that storm is solely patience , even when you are having second thoughts about it.

Other than that, money should never be the motive behind any startup. You can have a startup if you want to but if you have it just to make big money, then you are wrong. Eventually, you might be a big earner, but money should not be the only motive for opening a startup. It's your passion for your startup that'll help you and the venture grow and maybe in future, give you what you expect.

So you heard him folks, Bring the passion into your startup's fashion! ;-)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Youthikaa | Youth for Interaction, Knowledge, Awareness and Action

An oft repeated cliché goes like this- “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” It embodies everything we dare to believe in- hope, passion, tenacity, determination and the desire to succeed. Unfortunately, only one in a thousand wearied out, broken and bent travellers finish their journey. The other 999 odd unfortunate souls give up or are forced to give up, due to a host of reasons ranging from insurmountable obstacles to plain loss of interest and enthusiasm, brought on by failure or, as mentioned above obstacles deemed too difficult.

Having established this very obvious fact, we delve into the Indian context of establishing a Non Profit Organisation from the scratch solely involving the youth of the nation. We are young, we are free, we are passionate, and we are determined to change the sorry state of affairs all across the country. Our fire is usually ignited in the aftermath of a horrific incident that stirs our innards and brings forth the fire inside us. Some of us even sustain it for long enough to actually do something about it. We set up organisations, organise protests and try to do our bit for the upliftment of the nation. However, like the 999 unfortunate souls, most of us just give up at some point or the other. Having said that, very few among us, still hope to reignite the flame for change even when the going gets tough and all that they have worked for, seems to fade to oblivion. Vinay Bahety is one such soul.

Vinay Bahety is just like all young entrepreneurs. He wanted to make a difference, but in the Social form. His initiative was fuelled by a burning desire to take up social issues focusing on political peace and work on them using lateral, parallel and creative mediums. A triggering event led to the coming together of equally driven friends and starts Youthikaa, an NGO as an amalgamation of vigour, passion and a consciousness towards the country. The initiation of setting up Youthikaa was triggered by the bomb blast at the German bakery bomb blast in Pune that occurred on 13th February 2010 wherein 4 Kolkatans lost their lives, one of them being their close friend. As they say until it hits you, one doesn’t sit up and act. Youthikaa was a NGO set up for and by the youth to generate civil awareness, the need to get involved in the legislative system and use all forms of creative mediums to empower and enable the youth in doing so.However problems pertaining to sustaining an NGO are complex and deep-rooted, and the effort to address them brings with it a whole other set of challenges.

Vinay Bahety, General Secretary of Youthikaa, Lately, share’s their experiences earned and lessons learned.

You are an Advertising Professional who went from a BBA student to the General Secretary of an NGO organisation. How did this Great willingness to serve with and for the Youth come about?

Youthikaa was set up in memory of the victims of the Pune bomb blast in 2010 and with the motive to spread awareness among the youth. Engage them in social and civil issues, take a stand, and be opinionated. Most importantly empower the youth by giving them a platform where they could channelize their energy into positive outcomes for the society's welfare at a macro level and their own conviction of things at a micro level. The need of the hour was for the youth to take up issues and ensure they are solved. Much like the ALM concept or community welfare abroad. We need to be the change we want to see.

How did Youthikaa as an NGO come together and what projects did it take up?

Post the bomb blasts which occurred on 13th Feb, 2010 we had organised an apolitical peace march attended by over 2000 students in Kolkata on 21st Feb 2010. This initiative took place simultaneously in Mumbai, Ranchi, Pune and Jaipur on the same day. The idea was to trigger a nationwide movement. The overwhelming response and the discussions we had at the venue of the march led us to believe that there were a lot of young school and college students who wanted to do something. They just needed a common ground to come together and ideate. We collected the database of all the attendees and then went on to register Youthikaa (Youth for Interaction, Knowledge, Awareness and Action.) as an NGO under the West Bengal Societies Registration Act.

We have so far conducted various projects involving the youth of Kolkata and also the specially enabled and the under-privileged children in an attempt to generate awareness. Our first project was conducting an art workshop – RAAS for school and college students. The 6-hour workshop was conducted by eminent painters of Kolkata. To mark the 150th anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore the theme was "Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high - Peace and the young mind". The paintings where then showcased and the winners felicitated at a fund-raising musical concert held on 15th August, 2010. We have further organised inter-college short film making competitions, art exhibitions and dialogue sessions, events for underprivileged kids etc.

From a growing NGO making its presence felt all over, Youthikaa proceeded to close down on within a span of 2 years. What changed?

Youthikaa has faced quite a few upheavals in its functioning, the biggest issue being the gradual diminishing of interest of the members. What we realised was the because of the incident, the emotions were strong among people and they were very active. But such a platform cannot look at immediate result oriented activities. It requires a lot of tenacity and time to set things in motion that too when you don’t know the impact and outcome. Gradually people started getting busy with their lives and it became quite a task to encourage people to play an active role and encourage corporate to fund initiatives.

One more problem was to accept the losing interest of people and still keep striving. We eventually shut the NGO down in 2012. Youthikaa which was an identity for a lot of people started losing its own identity.

Is reviving Youthikaa on the Cards? If yes then what changes in approach would you incorporate this time around?

I certainly cherish a dream of reviving Youthikaa and its there on my bucket list. I feel it still has a lot to offer. With the emergence of the AAP, I feel people are a lot more conscious in their roles towards their society. I want to convert Youthikaa into a young firebrand of cultural and ideological exchange.

Being working in the advertising has opened doors for me where I can utilise both the creative and corporate mediums to broadcast social messages.

One important change in the structure of Youthikaa that I would strive to make is converting it into an entrepreneurial venture which has a revenue streaming model. It should not be bogged down by lack of funds or marketing. I want to build it into a brand similar to Kala Ghoda Festival or a NH7 and use all creative mediums to explore and express. In advertising where we continuously strive to innovate and clients also often harp on the need to focus on developmental marketing in campaigns, Youthikaa would start a wing to collaborate on the same.

His advice to other start up founders is simple yet motivating, “If you are passionate about something, you should go for it. You may not realise your goals in the short-term but you need to hang on. Because shutting it down is the easiest way out.”

Friday, March 28, 2014

Prestimo | Making Memories More Special. One Shutter Press at a Time.

Prestimo is a Wedding Photography company started in Delhi by a young founder duo who possess a keen eye for detailing and a passion for blending photojournalism and storytelling to elevate personal memories to a narrative art form.

Founders: Aditya Nath and Rajat Gupta

An entrepreneur by accident or intent? Where did the idea come from?

Actually it’s hard to pin it down to one single cause. I think it was a combo of both accident, and intent. The idea came out of the need for funds to finance this very expensive hobby. I mean both of us brothers are Baniyas, not just by name but by deeds too. We thought it was high time that this hobby started paying for itself because we’ve invested a lot into it from our end already.

Aditya Nath and Rajat Gupta

Shed some light on your Background? Why did you start your company?

Talking about our backgrounds, we both have the kind of educational backgrounds that would mark us really high up on the Indian marriage market. My brother AdityaNath is a Chartered Accountant while I,Rajat Gupta, am an Engineer, and am currently pursuing higher education from IIT Delhi after having worked as a Bridge Designer for a year and a half.
We started Prestimo because we were very passionate about photography. I mean, agreed, neither of us have any formal education in photography, but then I don’t need to be specifically educated to realize what looks good and what doesn’t. In fact, some of the best and most successful businessmen have had no formal education in their respective fields. Take the example of our dearest Mr. Ambani, or the guy who started the “Rekha! Hema! Jaya aurSushma! Sabkipasand NIRMA!!” Not the advert guy, the actual Nirma dude. Basically the point I’m trying to make is that the lack of formal education in a certain field gives you a certain amount of edge over the ones who have that. You are less tied down since you are not mentally bound by the rules as you are unaware of them, and quite honestly, nobody has ever really done something extraordinary by sticking to the rules. Also, photography is madness, so technically there is no space for rules.

Your first steps. How long did it take to put together Prestimo? Whatdoes your start-up do?

There is one saying that I believe in firmly, the first step is indeed the hardest. In this case, the first step basically meant overcoming the mental hurdle of low self confidence in the beginning. As I said, neither of us brothers had had any formal education and so it took us a good long string of constant praises from family and friends and then a big front page feature of one of our pre-wedding shoots in Delhi Times, to understand that what we enjoyed doing, we were also quite good at. It was one fine October night,that we, after having gone about doing free photo-shoots for friends and families, and their friends and families at Weddings, Pre-Wedding traditions, 50th Anniversary celebrations, at places in and around Delhi for about a year or so, that we finally convinced ourselves to start a Candid photography business. We are candid photographers, who work at subsidized rates and with magnified passion and shoot couples in love, little kids, products and events.

Greatest challenge. What has been the hardest part of the start-upexperience so far?

We capture precious still moments. That’s the simplest thing and yet the most complicated. Most people are not so comfortable in front of cameras. They feel overly conscious of their pouts and hands on the waist poses. Even more so with their significant others in the same frame. And here comes the challenging part of our job, which we also take a lot of pride in being very good at. Making them laugh and feel comfortable around us. We crack lame jokes at each other’s expense and do stupid stuff just to make them feel more comfortable with themselves. It notonly helps them but also makes our job a lot easier because they are now more open to whacky execution ideas than ever before since they start seeing us as friends and not photographers. Usually we’ve seen that photographers are pretty emotionless people who try to do their job with the most minimalistic interaction but we feel better working our way.

Another huge challenge isthe fact that people don’t understand the value of a photographer and the significance of good photographs which only a good photographer can capture. While people are willing to spend lakhs of rupees over décor and venues, they are not willing to spend on a good photographer. They do not realize that among all the things you spend on during a wedding, the photos are the only things which will last forever. But thankfully, this notion does change once they actually see your work. Fortunately, the younger generation also understands this better. So the future seems bright.

What are you up to now, and what are the things you are working on?

Currently we’re working on coming up with new and innovative ideas for our next assignment. Every shoot, we try and come up with something we have not done before or we haven’t seen others doing. Basically what you would call building one’s USP. I mean, what good is a candid photographer, if all they ever do is try to catch that natural smile while you were sharing a joke with someone in a gathering? There must be something that we too bring to the table. We, as photographers, must do something to reduce the stress that the bride and the groom are going through. Honestly, weddings are very stressful for both the bride and the groom and the Indian weddings especially more so considering how long they last with the many ceremonies that they consist of. In midst of all of this, if we ask the couple to step up toour blinding flash lightsetup and do the most clichéd and awkward poses in the history of (wo)mankind (we’re not sexists), then we’re not helping them in any way and we should rather move out of their way.

Where do you see Prestimo 5 years from Now?

We hope to diversify into a lot of other fields by the end of 5 years. We wish to make a big name for ourselves in product photography and corporate shoots. We enjoy shooting people, especially those in love, so we want to keep on doing that and also that is something we specialize in. We also aspire to get into fashion photography but that’s sometime down the line, perhaps towards the end of those 5 years.

Any piece of advice/word of caution you would like to give to readersand soon to be start up founders.

If you are passionate about something, just go get it. Don’t think about Plans A, B, C,or D because if you do that, you are not committed to your own idea. You have a foot outside the door ready to leave even before you’ve completely arrived. To cite a movie, as stated in“Dark Knight Rises”, “You can’t make the jump with that rope around your waist, even if it’s just there for your own safety!”

Secondly, don’t let earning money be the motive of your venture but at the same time, figure out a way to get at least the bare minimum to make it feasible and to survive on it. Essentially, don’t get greedy but get enough to survive.

Stay hungry stay foolish, hungry to meet new people and foolish enough not to stop yourselves from trying something new.

Facebook: Prestimo

- Karishma Singh