By Piyush Kumar
Day 0 of Shaastra 2015 began with ‘The Entrepreneurship Confluence’, which brought some of the biggest names in the realm of entrepreneurship to motivate and guide the students to ‘design their dreams themselves’. Held at the ICSR Main Auditorium, the event consisted of two panel discussions – one on the ‘Startup Culture in India and Abroad’, and the other on ‘Starting up vs. Job security’. The first panel comprised Kris Gopalakrishnan, vice-chairman and co-founder, Infosys and Anand Rajaraman, co-founder, Junglee Corp and former Director of Technology at Amazon, Srikanth Sundararajan, Helion Advisers Pvt, Ltd. and Vijay Karunakaran, CEO, Ingage Technologies. Moderated by Dr.Mahesh Panchagnula, Co-curricular Affairs Advisor, IIT-M, the discussion threw light upon the opportunities that await anyone who is willing to take the plunge and start up. The discussants also told the students that more and more venture capitalists and angel investors are looking forward to invest in budding ventures in India considering its massive talent pool.
The second discussion, with a panel comprising Uma Ghurka, former president of COWE, Laks Krishnamoorthy, Director, Reporting Centre of Excellence at PayPal India, Rajiv Lochan, MD & CEO at The Hindu and Kedar Kulkarni, an IIT-M alumnus and co-founder of Hyperverge (a startup incubated at IIT-M) and moderated by Sandhya Shekhar, CEO at IIT-M Research Park focused on the challenges of starting-up and also provided valuable insights on ‘intrapreneurship’.
The correspondent managed to have a quick chat with Kris Gopalakrishnan and Rajiv Lochan, both alumni of IIT Madras, on matters relevant. You can read T5E’s previous interview with Anand Rajaraman here and read a report on a talk he delivered earlier on campus here.
Q: While there are a significant number of investors waiting to invest in emerging ventures in India, aren’t the inflows dependent upon the current financial environment? Is it a safe bet for aspiring entrepreneurs to ride on this wave?
Kris: The answer is both yes and no. Yes, venture capitalists (VCs) do take the long-term investment scenario into account but these funds once created continue to operate over a period of 5-7 years. So, there might be significant lag between the current scenario and what the VCs are actually looking for. It is related but with a significant lag.
Q: What is your opinion the career choices that engineering graduates are making these days?
Kris: There is a dearth in the number of high-quality engineering graduates. Every industry wants to recruit these students and it is good for these students as they receive multiple offers. If the industry is not competitive, it will not be able to recruit them. For instance, if there is significant investment in infrastructure, civil engineering students will find attractive jobs in related fields. At present, finance and banking jobs remain most preferred not just because it is lucrative but also because the industry is competitive and the growth opportunities are higher. As the economy grows, which in India’s case, would be at the rate of eight to ten per cent over the next few years, every sector would grow and there would be a shift towards core engineering jobs.
Q: How would the startup culture change India over the next few years?
Rajiv: Looking at the next 20 years, I see a golden era of Indian civilization. There is going to be enormous wealth creation considering the resources we have. As everyone would like to have a larger share of this growing pie, we need to make sure that our values of honesty, justice and fairness are kept intact. When I was growing up, the largest scam was the Harshad Mehta scam of around 1700 crore. Now, with every single year, the zeroes in the figure are just increasing.
Q: As the CEO of The Hindu, what is your strategy to tackle the fierce competition both on print and on the web?
Rajiv: We are going digital — it is the future. The next gen would not flip but swipe –however, despite all the changes taking place, we would not compromise on the content. Print media is dependent upon revenue but we believe advertisers would come where there are readers and today’s readers are not willing to accept nonsense. Our policy on pricing reflects that. It does not matter whether our competitors are pricing at rates that are atrociously low. Our content stands out and readers are willing to pay for that.