Monday, March 16, 2009

Entrepreneurship @ Prof. Sunil Handa

How often have you been mesmerized by a speaker? How often have you wished that a seminar would never end? I'm sure it's not too many times...

But with Prof. Sunil Handa, that is exactly what happened. He has an ability to make you think and rethink. When he speaks about entrepreneurship, he can bring even a snail out of it's shell, to challenge the world. I remember his words - "Be aggressive, Be assertive... Do not ask, Take it! The worst that could happen is that you will be told no." It would be IMPOSSIBLE to bring out the atmosphere of that session through this blog-post, but I'm just gonna let my thoughts flow...

Prof. Handa started off by asking people what stops them from venturing on their own.

When he asked why many of us would want to work for a couple of years before starting a venture. Some of the replies which came out were:
1. I'd work for a couple of years to earn some capital (seed money) for my business.
2. I'd work for a few years to increase contacts and create a network.
3. I'd work some time to gain experience.
4. I have to pay back my educational loan.
How many of us give the exact same answers? Who are we kidding? As Prof. Handa said, the only reason is - "Tumhari phatti hai!" With his extremely frank style, he dismissed each of those bluffs one by one:

1. Seed Money - Two Years - How Much??!!
On evaluating his earnings over 2 years, one of the participants here, "Nemo", said that he'd probably save about 2-3 Lakhs (he undervalued himself TOO much, the downturn has really psyched people out...). Isn't that a bit too little for capital money? Guess what the Prof had to say.... I'll give you a loan for 3 lakhs (zero interest) when you finish your studies. Work on your venture... If it clicks, you can pay me back the principle, otherwise forget about it. He had just one condition... Immediately write a letter to the Placement
Cell telling them that you're opting out of Final Placements!! Did he accept the offer? Well, would you have? Let's face it - many out there are just too unsure about how much risk they can take.

2. Work to increase contacts:
Prof Handa drew this diagram on the board and told us, "During the next 2 years, you will be that small white dot in the huge organization.

Do you think you're gonna build contacts with the boss of another company?". Let's face it, he was right again. Kutte ki dosti Kutte se hi hoti hai. lol ... I guess that rules out number 2 also. Prof. Handa gave the example of one incident when one of his students got an appointment with Mr. Dayanidhi Maran for half an hour which ended up getting cropped to 5 min. A small window of opportunity opened during that brief visit and Prof Handa said he slid through in that one-millionth of a second. Essentially, he wanted to prove how you must be aggressive, and the fact that you don't need work experience to create contacts. You might just see a vacant seat at a table of esteemed personalities. Go grab the chair!

3. To gain experience
According the Prof, you don't gain any experience at your 2 year job. Even if you do, you'd learn far more working on your own venture. So this reason is again pointless and just a myth.

4. To pay back educational loan
This is where Prof Handa spoke about "The Circle of screwed Indebtedness". What's that?? Well, it's essentially a vicious circle of loans... You know, loans taken to pay off previous loans. And the saga continues.... The prof was ready to give an offer here as well - To pay off our loan till we can pay him back, if we'd agree to start our own venture.

Why exactly are people afraid??
When OD told the Prof that jobs were safe and comfortable whereas entrepreneurship was risky, he made a complete mockery out of him. He told us that it was the over-protective behaviour of many parents and at times their non-terminating government jobs which gave us such perceptions. For him, it was obvious... Venturing out on your own was the absolutely safer bet, and then again, he asked..."Don't you guys want to be rich?" Oh that qs. triggered another drama when one of us said, "Money isn't that important, I just wana chill out and enjoy life." Bad thing to say to Prof Handa. Another person got sent to the crusher.

Let me tell you
a bit about "The Sunil Handa":
Born in a simple family, Prof Handa and his brother jumped into entrepreneurship early and with just Rs. 15,000. They soon owned over half a dozen pharma factories and had to their names a whooping 1200 Crores (1995). However, that was when life took a turn for him. A dispute and business split with his brother left him devastated. It took him numerous months and visits to all the saadhus (pendulum babas, magneto-therapists etc.) whom relatives referred him to, before he could come out of the depression. When he finally did, he kind of retired from his busy entrepreneur life, and started Eklavya School in Ahmedabad. For the past 17 years, Mr. Sunil Handa has been teaching a course called "LEM" (Labrotary in Entrepreneurial Motivation), at IIM Ahmedabad, a course which he says has no book, no notes, no quizzes/exams, practically no pedagogy. Just a few lectures and a whole load of one-to-one sessions. And his students he calls LEMmers. Prof Handa said that around 200 of his students are entrepreneurs today; people who interact with him very regularly and seek guidance on numerous issues.

There were
two main entrepreneurial examples which the Professor gave:

The first one was of Mr. K R Rao, one of Prof. Handa's own batchmates at IIM Ahmedabad. (1977-1979) This lad was a true social butterfly at that time; someone who many didn't even remember during their silver jubilee reunion (2004). But with "Orchid Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals" under his sleeve, Rao's net worth is over Rs. 3000 crore today. Though Mr. Rao was a B.Com-MBA grad, he was a true visionary.

Moving on to the next example, Prof. Handa spoke about his teaching career's first entrepreneurial student, Mr. Narendra Murkumbi. This lad's first idea was that of manufacturing a Neem Insecticide in Belgaum. Though Prof. Handa was apprehensive about the idea initially, he was assured of its success after speaking to an international neem expert, Dr. Gupta at ICRISAT. Though the product turned out to be a great success, the customers were farmers and hence the Receivables on his balance sheets were huge. It was in 1995 that Narendra came up with the idea of buying old sugar mills and starting production of sugar. Prof Handa told him that he was crazy and that sugar was meant for people in the upper echelons of politics. But like many entrepreneurs, Mr. Murkumbi was willing to risk it. He went on with his plan and today he is the owner of one of the world's most scientific state-of-the-art sugar mills, Shree Renuka Sugars Ltd. Not only that, he was also featured as one of India's new bilionaires by Business World. One interesting thing about Renuka Sugars is that they use co-generation to produce their own energy (using the waste, bagasse which comes from sugarcane). No electricity is purchased from outside. When Murkumbi explained the idea to Prof Handa, he said, "When god created sugarcane, he put enough energy in it to bring the sugar out of it."

Flirting with Ideas
After numerous success stories, Prof Handa told us that we must face reality, and it's not necessary that your first venture becomes a million dollar lottery. You have to experiment..."Flirt with different ideas" and eventually one of your plans will click. For some it's the first... for Prof Handa it was the 7th.

One on One Interaction
It was after the first session that Prof Handa decided to interact with a few participants who were interested in entrepreneurship. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity as well. (Thanks Jalan...). It was nice speaking to Prof Handa for about 25 min where we discussed certain patchy ideas that I had in my mind. He had so much to share and I could've sat there forever. But time is one thing you don't get when you need it the most. Anyways, I guess we all hope to interact with him again in the future. Let's see how much effect such talks have on IIM Indore's participants, and how many of us venture out on our own some day....

Some recent ventures by IIM Indore alumni:

OurOwnBook: is a user driven writing community started by 2 participants from IIM Indore's Class of 2008, Dhruv Bhushan and Anubhav Jain. is based on the revolutionary concept of Collaborative Book Building (CoBooBu). It brings together users, who wish to write, in an interactive and collaborative form to develop a storyline which would be published as a book. The two co-founders believe that Anyone Can Write. In fact, most people are desirous of being able to write an article, story, poem, blog, anything. They hope to someday see their names on the front page of a book. The only limitations are the lack of time to sit down and write hundreds of pages or the opportunity to be able to get a best seller published. OurOwnBook overcomes both.
How it works? OurOwnBook provides a brief storyline. The users develop the story collaboratively by appending to the already existing content. The moderators continuously review the contributions while providing cues, to develop an interesting plot. Once the storyline
is completely developed, they get it published in the form of a book. All contributors are recognized as co-authors of the book, making it "Our Own Book".

Fire up: is a revolutionary e-learning portal for Management Entrance Training. It has been designed to help the students fraternity crack the toughest management entrance examination, CAT, to qualify for admissions to the IIMs and other top B-schools in India. It is the brainchild of Mr. Vineet Patawari (IIMI Class of 2008) who spurned lucrative seven figure job offers to devote himself to his burning passion of expanding the learning horizons with new emergent technologies.

Ask Bima: is another one of Patawari's innovative online ventures. It is an online insurance information and application portal serving both investors and advisors.
It offers investors a platform to compare independently and choose the best life and non-life insurance product.


Gunjan Karun said...

Awesome post Ravi.
I being an entrepreneur and understand each word of Prof Handa when he talks of risks and rewards and the way he busts all the myths.

Thanks or sharing.

Raghav said...

Thanks Ravi Bhaiya for sharing such a nice inspiring blog . These are the real problems many geeks face and then they endup in high salary jobs like Google , MS but are reluctanct to do the same work independently for themselves .

Also , good to know they none of your IIM friend is doing something in Robotics ;) So , there the competition is less :P I ll try :)

Vijay Khaitan said...

The problem is all of us want to live in comfort zone. What Prof Handa has said is nothing new or enlightening. Tell me how many of you after hearing his speech will be inspired to go for enterpreneurship.

Kartik said...

Great post dude.. N prof. Handa hit the nail on its head. I face those cautious protective advices every now n then whenever i even talk of goin on my own sometime. Btw myownbook's a rockin idea.. Bbc featured something similar in its show.. Click.. In the webscape section.. Not sure if its the same site.

Piyush said...

wow!i feel both lucky n unlucky..unlucky to not hav a chance to hear handa sir but lucky to collect few of his pearls of wisdom from ur blog..thanks a lot bhai..keep blogging :)

Dheeraj Suthar said...

Hi Ravi,
Nice article.. hv read so many foreign authors about entrepreneurship but its rare and more relevant to read an Indian's ideas on this subject (well not arvind adiga as in White Tiger :)).
Keep sharing...
Dheeraj Suthar
aka Sher Khan

P.S. I have now shifted to my own site :

Anonymous said...

Awesome post dude.. Was truly helpful :)

Debashish Brahma said...

Good Post.Congrats.

Amin said...

Hi this is Amit here, from FLAME(Foundation for Liberal & Management Education-Pune). I specialised in Marketing & Entrepreneurship. Even we had few sessions with Mr.Handa, and infact even I was lucky enough to have a one-to-one interaction with him for abt 25 mints. It was amazing, guess what I got a placement offer from a co in Pune, a Job which I wanted to do, but left it and joined my family Business and have started to take it to next level, and apart from this I am opening a Gaming & Hookah Lounge over here in Hyd and the best part is im working with Tata Business Services simaltaneously. All this came from those 2-3 hours spend with Mr.Handa. All d Best to you & hopin u chose Entrepreneurship.

Rohit Sinha said...

Hi, I am looking for Sunila Hand's contact number or mail id, if u have any info ragrding him can u fwd it to me This is regarding how to plan out m path for my first idea it would be great help,

Ajit said...

hi ravi
this is kumar ajit a elect.@comm eng.
its a nice u know i have personally met sunil sir dated 9th dec.what u have written were exactly the words of sir.definetely todays youngsters ki fhatthi hai.really sir aag laga dete hai.i had 4 hr meeting.i m from indore

kunal said...

Hey, if possible please send me the contact details of Prof. Handa. It will be great if he could visit our NMIMS campus in Mumbai.
mail id:

Ashish said...

I can understand what you might have experienced...we had a similar talk by Prof. Handa

at IIT Kharagpur

Shiva Jangid said...

Dear Sir,
I am very much inspired by you, Nd i am planing to do my own. I prefer to do my own, rather job.
when i will be successful businessman i will meet you one day.