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Saturday, February 26, 2011

How to become an entrepreneur at a young age

Serena Williams

How to become an entrepreneur at a young age


A 'teenager' company
Of the youth, by the youth, for the youth. That is how a start-up firm by a group of teenagers from Mumbai proudly describe their company.

The brain child of eighteen-year-old Samayak Chakrabarty, Electronic Youth Media (EYM) offers an array of personalised services. EYM launched a social networking portal in February 2008. A one-stop destination for the youth, this portal will also offer online advertising and research services. The idea is to offer companies with ideas and concepts to market their products. EYM has received a good response with an average of 1.5 million hits on the portal every week.

"One needs to think differently to succeed," said Chakrabarty, a first year mass communication student at Jai Hind College, Mumbai. One of India's youngest CEOs, he believes in the power of his strong business model and has successfully managed to enroll about 100 teenagers in the company. For him work is a passion, not a compulsion.

"Two years ago three of us, myself, Bhavyash Agarwaal(director, EYM) and Vatsal Thakkar (director, EYM) decided to start this venture," Chakrabarty sid. His mantra is not to mint money, but create value, great services and be known the world over. Money comes secondary for this off-beat, ambitious and cool CEO!

"I am not a topper. I don't believe in rote learning. What we learn from the textbooks for degrees is just for the resumes, I learn more from the newspapers. Most of our academic courses like BCom, HSC, SSC are all outdated," says Samyak Chakrabarty in an interview. So what is it like to become a teenager CEO? Read on. . .

Electronic Youth Media. How did it begin and what is the idea behind such a venture?

I always wanted to do something different, unconventional. There is no fun in following the conventional jobs. I believe that the media, Internet and the marketing industry is booming now and we hope to capitalise on this huge opportunity. Initially, I discussed my plans with two of my friends, Bhavyash Agarwaal and Vatsal Thakkar. Today, we have a strength of about 104 employees. All are on our payroll.
What services would Electronic Youth Media offer?

Electronic Youth Media will have a social networking site, We are currently studying user's likes and dislikes and finding out newer and simpler methods to attract youngsters with exclusive features.
We also have an online advertising and research agency, 'Concrea.' The idea is to offer companies with ideas and concepts to market their products. We have talked to people across the industry. We have got a good response. Since we are young, it is easier for us to understand the market needs better.

We will create advertising strategies and media plan for clients. We will be looking at brands whose customer base comprise 16 to 28-years-olds.

How to become an entrepreneur at a young age

A student CEO
How do you plan to handle outsourcing of jobs?

Ours won't be normal BPO operations. We plan to handle the whole thing differently. We will give personalised services to people in the United States and Europe and thus have hired professionals. It is challenging, as we need to convince people, build trust and work efficiently. If a person in the US needs his accounting work done, we will do it at a competitive rate in India. We have competent people among us to handle such stuff.
How do you balance ork and studies? Do you have a brick and mortar office?

I am doing my first year Mass Communication course in Jai Hind College, Mumbai. We find time for work as well as study. I have just finished my semester exams. It's all a matter of getting things done. We all work from home. Our employee base is diverse as we have people from different streams like banking, commerce, business administration and mass communication.
How are you as a student? How important is education for an entrepreneur?

I am not a topper. I score 60-70 per cent marks. I don't believe in rote learning. What we learn from the textbooks is just for the resumes, I believe more in informal learning, I learn more from the newspapers.

Most of the courses that our academic system offers like BCom, HSC, SSC are all outdated. I do read a lot to be familiar with finance, markets, trading, etc. Education is important for an entrepreneur. But rote learning will not help. It is very important to be knowledgeable.

How to become an entrepreneur at a young age

A student CEO
How does it feel to be one of the youngest CEO? Don't you think it is a huge burden to start such an initiative at such a young age?

It feels very good, however, I don't believe in such titles. My idea was to start early and do things at a young age rather than wait till I am 50 to start a new venture.
So where do you see yourself at 50?

I don't want to keep such benchmarks. I want to do a great jobs and excel in whatever we do. More than revenues, I want my company to be successful and reputed. I would rather like to be known for our work, than as a Rs 1,000 crore (Rs 10 billion) company.
What would be your major revenue generators?

We are looking at advertising and content-based revenues. Stock Talk is a new feature on the portal. In about six months time we will launch an artificial online share trading platform in association with Kotak Securities. Youngsters can learn about stock market strategies. I don't want to disclose more details now. We will also offer online tutorials.
Our market research agency has got a good response. We have bagged an order from a sports goods company called Orthofit within two weeks of the launch.

How is the portal doing? How many users have registered?

We get about 1.5 million hits every week. We are getting a good response, with more than 3,000 registered users so far.
How many people have you recruited? Since you all work from home, how to you manage work?

We have recruited 104 people in Mumbai. We have plans to open offices in New Delhi and Chennai. We will be hiring more people there in the next three months.

How difficult was it to start an initiative like this?

It was very difficult to convince people about our idea and get finance. But once we crossed the first hurdle, it was easier to get things done. We had several rounds of discussion with senior people like financial advisors and banking experts before we decided to take the plunge.

How to become an entrepreneur at a young age

It's not an easy job!
Do you find it difficult to deal with the older generation, employees or business associates or rivals?

Initially, it was hard to get people to have faith in us and believe in the business model. Since all of us are teenagers it becomes more difficult to convince people about the feasibility of the business plans. We do a very good research, because people try to test us. But since we have a good understanding about the subject, we can prove that we have a good knowledge base.
How has your family supported you?

My father, who has a media background has been very supportive.
What kind of investment did you make while setting up the company? How did you arrange the finance?

The initial funding of Rs 20 crore (Rs 200 million) was pooled in by 26 entrepreneurs who came together for the venture. People who have faith in our business model from the corporate sector have also helped us with the funding.
What kind of revenue/profit do you foresee in the coming year?

The gestation period is about six months. EYM expects to touch Rs 60 crore (Rs 600 million) by 2011, this is based on the business model that we have worked out. We see revenue coming in from the market research agency. We also plan to offer exclusive services through our youth networking channel. We have heard many people say that Orkut and Facebook are a bit complicated. So we are studying the market to offer simpler and better services.
For online transactions how will you ensure security?

We will do a proper background check of all users. We will convince our clients of efficient service and will work it out well.
What kind of problems do you face?

It is very difficult to convince people to join a venture like ours. Retaining them with us once we have hired them is another big challenge. But it is exciting to work with a young group. This is the time when people like to hang out and have fun, so to get work done is also a big task.
Since all of you work from home. How is the performance evaluated?

We evaluate people on the basis of work done. The tasks assigned are performance based. We also give them deadlines so that work gets done on time. We have divided people into groups of ten. Every group convenes a meeting during the weekend.

How to become an entrepreneur at a young age

A passion to work

Not many people like to take risks though they may have great ideas. What drives you?

It's a passion to work, work differently. There is no fun in doing conventional jobs. This is a very exiting time for the media industry, we see lot of big opportunities and it is great to be a part of it.
What are your views on economic slowdown, inflation in India and US? How do you plan to sustain the company at a difficult time like this?

The economy is going through a recession, the economy as a whole is suffering. Prices are zooming but this has not affected the media industry, nor the rich. The rich are getting richer and spending more. So it is all the more challenging for marketers to sell their products aggressively. This will turn out to be a great opportunity for us.
Internet is also a booming media and I don't think the recession will have any impact on the Internet or the marketing sectors. The US economy is going through a troubled phase but it will be on track. The Fed rate cuts should bring respite to the economy.

What do you think about India's talented youth?

Talent is a very subjective issue. A commerce student may be more talented than an IIT student. Just because you score 99% in your exams, you don't become talented. A lot of people in India are academically oriented. Most of them are left brain users (analytical). It's is very important to use both right and left sides to be creative and analytical.

How to become an entrepreneur at a young age

And miles to go. . .
What are the qualities that an entrepreneur must have?

One must have a good business model. A great business model or plan is very essential to succeed. One must have excellent team management skills. Even if it is team of five people, it is difficult to manage a team so you have to be geared up for that. You must also have people management skills since you have to deal with lot of people, you have to impress people and make them believe in what you do. Finance is a major issue. One must get a good funding. You should have a passion and drive to get you going.
What is your success mantra? You make it sound very easy?

Work is a passion for me rather than a compulsion. There is no formula for success, you have to put in a lot of hard work, believe in yourself, have faith in whatever you do. I make it sound easy because if you think it's difficult it makes things tougher. It's better to believe that we can do it and works towards achieving our goal.
Advice to budding entrepreneurs?

There is a general belief that young people can't do anything. You must go against this and prove what you can go. The initial steps will be difficult but never give up. You have to break the barriers and strive for excellence.
What are your future plans?

We plan to set up a film production house and a football league for youngsters.
What are your interests? How to you spend your spare time?

Now it's just work, work and more work. However, I like reading, music and going for long walks.


India's top sportspersons, 2007
The hockey team

Back to winning ways
It was a year hope for Indian hockey.
Under the guidance of a new coach the eight-time Olympic champions salvaged a slice of lost glory after failing to make it to the semi-final of the Asian Games in Doha and ending up 11th among 12 teams at the World Cup in Germany in 2006.
Former Olympian Joaquim Carvalho's no-nonsense approach and straight talking harnessed the team to three podium finishes, including a title-triumph at the Asia Cup in Chennai.
Carvalho's persistence with youth paid off as the team thrashed Korea, which finished fourth at the World Cup, 7-2 in the final of the seventh edition to finish unbeaten in the tournament.
In fact, it was a third place finish in the eight-nation Sultan Azlan Shah Cup at Ipoh, Malaysia, in May that provided the stepping stone for better days ahead. The team then proceeded to Antwerp for the Champions Challenge in a bid to qualify for the Champions Trophy. Though it couldn't, it did extremely well, beating England twice to finish third. The only defeats were against New Zealand and Argentina.
Carvalho's forthrightness also brought monetary gain for his players. Irked by the 'step-motherly treatment' meted out to them by the central and four state governments, when compared to the sops given to cricketers after India's triumph in the Twenty20 World Cup, he objected to the announcement of cash awards announced by Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and the state governments of Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Karnataka to the cricketers while ignoring the title triumph of his wards in the Asia Cup.
'Why are our hockey players orphaned? Why are our politicians biased towards hockey, the national game?' he asked.
His angry demand was heard and the above-mentioned governments rewarded the players handsomely; even commercial houses chipped in.
When he took over as chief coach he scotched speculation that his appointment was a stop-gap arrangement and declared he would quit if his team fails to qualify for the Olympics.
'I have set goals for myself,' he said. 'The Beijing Olympics is just over a year away, but my goal is to get the team qualify for it. If I fail to do so, I will quit and will not wait to be given the boot.'

Anup Sridhar

Shuttling with success
India woke up one rainy August day with a new sporting hero to talk about.
The telephones at the Sridhar home and the Prakash Padukone Academy, both in Bangalore, were swamped by interview requests from the media.
Badminton has always had an inconsistent relationship with the country of its birth. Prakash Padukone, Pullela Gopichand and Aparna Popat are wellknown names, yet the game lacks a following. Its success stories have been few and far between; even before the country starts warming up to its shuttle heroes the excitement dies down.
Anup Sridhar's performance at the World Badminton Championships was one such brilliant spark. The talented and temperamental Banglorean, who had reached the semi-final of the Asian badminton championship earlier this year, burst into the Indian consciousness when he beat Indonesia's Olympic gold medallist Taufik Hidayat.
He followed it up with the scalp of the then world number 16 Hafiz Hashim of Malaysia to enter the final eight of the world championships. But, with that marathon three game (21-19, 18-21, 21-15) match taking the wind out of him, he, however, fell to top seed and eventual winner Lin Dan of China.

Sridhar also attained a career-best ranking of 25 in the Badminton World Federation's November ranking list.
The ace is now looking for sponsors to keep his presence on the circuit.
'It will be very difficult for me to train and play tournaments abroad without any financial backing. I have already spent so much this year from my pocket,' Sridhar said as the corporate world -- including the IT giants in his hometown Bangalore -- showed little interest in his awesome exploits.

Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok

The Southern Speedos
Motor sport had a certain tryst with India in 2007.
Outside of the seat-edge thrill of the championship race between Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, India, a massive country with little stake in Formula One, began to find its feet in the speed business.
And who better than the fastest Indian on wheels to firmly hold it!
Coimbatore's Narain Karthikeyan, left, made a historic drive at the Zhuhai international circuit in China, flying the Indian car to its first A1 Grand Prix victory. The Indian driver had given up the test spot with the Williams F1 team to shape India's fortunes in A1 and he once again emerged a winner.
While Karthikeyan bid good-bye to F1 for the time being, Karun Chandhok has his first taste of it. The 23 year old from Chennai was called up for a test session with Red Bull Racing and drove alongside the likes of Michael Schumacher and David Coutlhard during the weekend at Circuito de Catalunya in Barcelona.
Chandhok was rewarded for his impressive performances in the GP2 series. The former Asian champion won the sprint race at the challenging Spa Francorchamps circuit in Belgium with Durango Corse. The victory earned him praise from F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, who has tipped Chandhok to follow Karthikeyan's steps into motor sports' biggest competition.
To complement Karthikeyan and Chandhok's success on track, progress also brewed in the Indian paddocks.

Flamboyant businessman Vijay Mallya bought over the Spyker team and renamed it Force India. Though the car hasn't received flattering reviews, Mallya is determined to put out a competent team for the coming season.
India's promise as one of the biggest markets bore testimony as Ecclestone made sure that the country stages a Grand Prix by 2010. Formula One signed a 10-year deal with Indian company JP to build a race track in Greater Noida in a bid to bring the first race to India.

Sania Mirza

Fitter, stronger, higher
Success, injuries, controversies, acclaim. Sania Mirza had her hands full in a year that saw her climb to a career-high of 27.
After a disappointing 2006, Sania came back fitter, stronger, and better-prepared.
She started the year with a blazing run at the Hopman Cup, and, in Rohan Bopanna's company, helped India beat higher-ranked teams like Croatia and the Czech Republic.
Just when her fortunes started to turn on the WTA charts, injury struck, and she was confined to a wheelchair with a knee injury.
With the demanding clay season ahead, the 21 year old got back to her feet just in time. Her return to the circuit after almost three months wasn't promising as she crashed out in the first round in Morocco. But Sania added mettle to her credentials as she won the first round at the French Open, breaking the Parisian jinx that most Indians have found impossible to shake off.
After crashing out in the second round to Russia's Nadia Petrova at Wimbledon, Sania truly gathered steam on the hard courts in the US, in the run-up to the year's final Grand Slam.
Seen before as a talented player who somehow couldn't put it together against the bigger names, Sania produced a streak of upsets that had the tennis world take notice.

Tatiana Golovin, Patty Schnyder, Shahar Peer, Dinara Safina, Martina Hingis. All ranked in the top 25, all falling to the Indian's new-found tenacity. Sania later admitted that winning against defensive players like Peer and Schnyder was an indicator that her performance is 'maturing.'
Despite making three semi-finals and one final in the year, she was unable to claim a title that has eluded her since her home triumph at the 2005 Hyderabad Open.
Post-US Open, her results showed a clear decline -- losing in the quarter-finals at the Japan Open and first-round exits in Moscow and Zurich. Another injury -- the wrist this time -- saw her bring an early end to the season.
The brief sabbatical from tennis didn't keep her off the front pages though. The rumour mills grinded into action as soon as she mentioned Shoaib Akhtar as one of her favourite Pakistani cricketers. She was also linked with a Pakistani tennis player and a Bollywood actor, as the focus shifted away from the courts.
Decemeber saw Sania in trouble when she shot advertisements on the premises of Hyderabad's Mecca Masjid. Cases were filed before she apologised.
Being a star is not new for Sania, but she is beginning to understand the consequences of stardom.

India's top sportspersons, 2007

Ruling the chessboard
The lightning kid. That's how Viswanathan Anand was referred to after his spectacular success as a junior.
Though the Indian ace made rapid strides on the 64 squares board, to be rated among the world's best, he only achieved the position of numero uno this April.
In more ways than one, 2007 was a landmark year for Anand.
Triumph at the Linares-Morelia tournament in March ensured him the top spot in the Elo ratings -- only the sixth player to be ranked No 1 since the birth of the rankings in 1970.
Then followed the ultimate honour. In September, he won the FIDE World Championship in Mexico and became the undisputed world champion.
A 20-move draw against Hungary's Peter Leko in the 14th and final round gave the 37-year-old from Chennai the crown. Battling with seven of the world's top chess players, Anand won four of his 14 games and drew 10 to emerge the only unbeaten player in the competition.
Anand's place in chess history is assured. As far as his significance among his countrymen is concerned, it would suffice to say that in the last 20 years -- since 1987, when he became India's first Grandmaster -- 16 Indian men have attained Grandmaster status, but when it comes to winning major tournaments, chess aficionados still look up to the charming genius from Chennai.
Viswanathan Anand is truly a class apart.

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