So, you have this fantastic idea that you think will be the next inMobi or you and your friends have developed a fast and cheap method of detecting the Covid19 infection even in asymptomatic cases. What next?
A thousand questions must be going through your head…can I finish my degree and still chase my dream?…I don’t know anything about running a business, how can I do this?…Will anyone take me seriously or will they think I’m just a kid? Etc. etc….
The good news is, if your idea has merit and you have the passion to make it successful, come hell or high water, then you can be the next Flipkart!!! Oh, did I mention perseverance and ability to take risks, you will need lots of both of those qualities.
Firstly, courtesy NITI Aayog, Department of Science & Technology and other Central and State Government schemes, it is quite likely that your college itself will provide you the initial support you need. Secondly, the Indian entrepreneurial ecosystem is now well-equipped and ready to accept young entrepreneurs like you. Here are some stats to show why –
- “With 30% entrepreneurs start businesses with just a high school diploma and 17% percent starting right after their bachelor’s degree, trends clearly state that early entrepreneurs entering the ecosystem doesn’t let this factor play any bearing on profitability”
- Based on a recent Nielsen study, 54% of Gen Z attributes its inclination towards entrepreneurship as their aspiration
Your first port of call should be your college, which may have resources, courses and other facilities to help you in your entrepreneurial journey. In fact, some of the courses and project work relating to your startup may actually count as credits towards your degree. Take maximum advantage of such facilities.
But a lot of what you will need to do shall rely on external resources.
The following will provide a guide-path to you for starting a business venture while in college:
Initial Research and Networking
Your idea must solve some problem or create a new offering to address someone’s need i.e. fulfil a market requirement. You can begin by doing research work on your idea and the problem it solves, attend online workshops, interact with professionals and businesspeople that you can establish contact with to find their views and challenges they foresee. The information gathered will be of immense importance as this will give you insights and enable you to fine-tune your idea into an offering.
Armed with a workable idea and driven by your ambition you are set to take the offering to a larger community for validation. Your extended family, friends and college network can help you to get more real-world feedback. It would also be of great value if you can become a part of a business association or a community related to your field to build a support system as you establish and grow your start-up.
Building a Network is very important to channelize your idea as well as market it later.
Getting co-founders and joining a Start-up Ecosystem
Business has many parts and you may not be adept at handling all. Teaming-up with like-minded people who believe in your idea is a great way as brings complementary skills and talents. If your co-founder is a friend who you know and are comfortable with, it’s even better.
The India Startup ecosystem has a multitude of virtual and class-room based start-up events, ideation workshops, mentorship programmes, talk shows and panel discussions and this is the time to attend them and enhance one’s learning. Sandboxes are also available to test your ideas and get practical results.
There are leading incubators, such as Zone Startups India, who tap the college going segment for a student accelerator programs that shall teach you the basic skills you need to succeed.
Resourcing, mentorship and initial funding
To build your product there are various resources that are available at colleges either free or at a subsidised cost. Read the books from the library, reach out to your faculty for advice and validation and make use of the available technology and infrastructure like computers, internet access, labs, wi-fi, campus space, etc. Development of tech products and services like web/mobile application development, software solution, etc. can easily be managed with minimal infrastructure.
This is also the time when mentors who have had experience in handling technology, running businesses or from a related background can be reached out to for help and guidance. The role of a mentor can often be the difference between scaling and failing.
Another key resource is an initial corpus of funds for basic product development and validation. Family and friends are usually the source of these funds and you and your co-founders can reach out to them for support.
Product Development and Business Model
The next step is to build a sample product or service and do a field test using your community and network. This is called the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and is the first step in product development. With this you have set out to address a market need either for end consumers directly or for other businesses and enterprises.
With the success of the MVP, making of a business plan is required comprising the business model and strategy execution steps. A Lean Business Model Canvas is a good tool to plan for a start-up venture as it helps the founders analyse all the required aspect of their business.
The next step is to define the product-market fit, do test-marketing and conduct pilot projects to implement the product or service in a live setting with real customers. These are the stages which test the real grit of entrepreneurs as are foundational to the start-up business and once the product-market fit is available with a successful pilot, the scale-up is not far.
Fund-raising and Business Plan Execution
Successful start-up founders not only believe in their offering but are able to convince others to believe in them. While doing so it is important to keep in mind that majority of the people you talk to will remember stories more than statistics.
This is a skill which must be developed as it is key for gathering resources to build the business, which includes early stage funding from seed and angel funds.
With the resources in place, the execution of business plan can commence with setting up a business entity as per the laws of land. Defining the target segment, putting the channel and marketing strategies, building vendor networks and the team, deciding on the pricing and operational aspect and making financial projections are some of the planning steps.
It is a good practice to set targets and milestones as they serve as guiding lights.
The network that you have built so far can be engaged to provide continued advice and guidance along with that from the mentors.
Develop a habit of winning as success is the best provider for the motivation to strive even higher.