Entrepreneurship is the ‘hot topic’ all around the world that fascinates many. It generally means starting a business and earning money and is associated with the ability to improve standards of living and to create wealth, but it is derived from a French word ‘Entreprendre’ which means to do something or to initiate. So, initiation was the major theme in the entrepreneurship panel of Glocal International Teen Conference 2019.
Asish Thakur, the Executive Director at Glocal Pvt. Ltd moderated this panel discussion and talked with three different panelists from India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
The panelists were: Mr. Lakshay Chhabra from India, 18 years old entrepreneur and co-founder of Jhutpat Logistics (a local delivery and courier service); Mr. Iftekhar Ahmed from Bangladesh, 17 year old inventor who invented ‘Braille Board’ and Mr. Swornim Shrestha from Nepal, a 19 year old entrepreneur and also one of the top 6 finalists of Wai Wai Glocal Teen Hero-2018.
The gist of the panel discussion is below:
Moderator: Good morning everyone! So, we’re talking about entrepreneurship here. And everyone wants to be associated with that word. But do we really understand what it means to be an entrepreneur? Before I ask my panelists, is there anyone who has an answer to that?
(raise of hands) yes, please
Audience 1: Thank you, sir! For me, entrepreneurship is a process that finds creative and innovative solutions to the problems that are prevailing in our society. So many things like innovation, creativity, and leadership come when we talk about entrepreneurship.
Moderator: Great! Now, before I let my panelists introduce themselves, I want to ask them what entrepreneurship for them? Who is an Entrepreneur? Swornim, you can answer.
Swornim: I think it is about making changes and also about making money.
Iftekhar: For me, it is to solve real-life problems. If all of us have some little problems, then with little effort we can help solve those problems
Lakshay: Well, as you said everyone wants to be an entrepreneur as it looks very fascinating to you, speaking from a personal experience. But when I really got involved in entrepreneurship, I feel like an entrepreneur is someone who can fetch an opportunity out of any problem. We see problems as opportunities and build something out of challenges. So, yeah the tag of an entrepreneur comes with a cost if I be honest with you. You can even lose friends but it is something worth it.
Moderator: Alright, Great! So, from what we’ve heard, it is about making change and money and also losing friends (laughs). Okay, so the word entrepreneur comes from France which means initiation. But the word is coined with business and money. So, would you term a teacher to be an entrepreneur?
Swornim: Well, I think it depends on what he does in the class. A teacher should teach students in a practical manner and making them truly understand concepts. If they do that, then yes, they are entrepreneurs.
Moderator: Hm, so would you term a doctor to be an entrepreneur? Like, do you term the doctor who first did a brain surgery an entrepreneur? Iftekhar?
Iftekhar: No, I don’t think so.
Moderator: Lakshay? What do you think?
Lakshay: As, you clearly said, it is all about initiation. If you’re an initiative, you’re an entrepreneur. Even teachers in classrooms can be entrepreneurs. They come up with different ideas to do their own things innovatively. So, yeah, I’d call them entrepreneurs.
Moderator: Perfect! Entrepreneur in simple terms means doing something new. So, I’d like you to introduce yourselves along tell our audience what the new thing is you’ve initiated which makes you call yourselves an entrepreneur. Let’s start with Swornim.
Swornim: I have been involved in this organization called ‘Tinybits Foundation’ where we help people learn different things by ‘educating by making’. Another one is this website I am involved with which is an e-commerce website called ‘Pahilo Deal’ where we want to revolutionize online shopping experience and change how people think about e-commerce in Nepal.
Iftekhar: Well, I’d like to introduce myself with the help of a story about a person. One day I was in my class and couldn’t see anything and couldn’t read anything. This made me think about how blind people read and write. They have this huge barrier when it comes to reading which made me research about it. I met this young guy who lost his vision at the age of 3. He told me that the government are not providing them the special kind of books with braille lettering. This is probably because these special books cost a lot. It costs thousands of dollars to buy such books. Then, after understanding the status quo, I promised myself that I’ll solve this problem. I started learning programming and within a year I made a $70 IT device called ‘BRAILLE BOARD’ which is a computer that blind people can use. This computer contains thousands of books and even tools like calculator and alarm. They can even navigate location via this computer. So, to sum up, I’m just this 18-year-old software developer from Bangladesh who wanted blind people to get as much facilities as we do.
Lakshay: Hi I am Lakshay Chabbra, an entrepreneur from India. I am a co-founder of this delivery company called ‘Jhutpat Logistics’. ‘Jhutpat’ basically means very fast and Indian audience can also relate if we use Hindi name We came up with this idea in a business competition for young entrepreneurs where we came up with this plan in one of the sessions. We were thinking about what new things we can do and what is missing. One of our mentors said we don’t have to create something new but can do something old in a new way. From my personal experience, I had difficulty in delivering some items from one place to another, especially in a city like Delhi. There were companies which provided the same delivery service, but they weren’t fast enough. So that’s how we came up with the idea of ‘Jutpat’. This organization has helped me find a purpose.
Moderator: Great! Okay, Lakhsya, you live in Delhi which is one of the busiest cities of the world. What makes you think your team can initiate something and become a success in a city like Delhi?
Lakshay: When we initiated, we were just figuring out some problems. Even when we were in the sessions of the competition we participated; we were told to point out some of the problems we were facing. So, when you asked about how we are doing this in Delhi, I believe it’s because of our method and our passion for our work. If we weren’t passionate about our work or didn’t have faith in our company, we wouldn’t be successful. This passion is important for every endeavor, not just entrepreneurship. Likewise, we also need to be courageous enough to experiment and risk.
Moderator: Alright, so my next question to Iftekhar. How has your team supported your invention and work of ‘Braille Board’? How have you involved them?
Iftekhar: ‘Braille Board’ is just a device and my journey doesn’t start with this device but with just a software. A software that would help them and provide them education. I made the software in 2 months, but the problem is, it was very difficult for blind people to comprehend the nuances of the software. While I was working with the team, the majority of them were concerned about getting paid rather than solving problems. It is very difficult when they don’t share the same passion as yours.
Moderator: Okay, Thank you. Swornim, you have connected education with what you are doing. You have gone to schools of Sindhupalchowk which is in a bit of a rural area from your organization. Can you give us some insights on how have you been linking entrepreneurship with education?
Swornim: Talking about how and when did I come up with this idea, I went to every teacher where I studied, and they were very supportive and eager to help. After that I went to different schools to help them have practical education. But when I went to different schools they said ‘no’. But I believe in turning a ‘no” into a ‘yes’. That motivated me to work.
Moderator: Great! All three of them told us what motivated them. When it comes to entrepreneurship, we have multiple stakeholders and players. We need people to make your ideas a success. So, people are the most important aspect of entrepreneurs. Some people support you whereas some become the reason for your failure. So, choosing the right ones to execute your ideas is very important. So, how do you choose your people? Let’s start with Swornim
Swornim: Well, I have also done the mistake of choosing the wrong people. When I was so motivated to start the work and I did the mistake of choosing people in a hurry. I think we need to take some time to understand people and their motivations very closely in order to welcome in your team.
Iftekhar: I think choosing people is the most important part of any entrepreneurship journey. Currently, I am working with three mentors. They help me with their experience and help me make decisions. So, I think we should choose people not just from our experience but the help with our mentors who provide guidance to us.
Lakshay: I certainly agree with you when you said we need to be wise when choosing people. But I think people who become the reason for your failures are also equally important because they are the best sources for our learning. People who have different opinions can teach us a lot. They can put us on the problems that we were not expecting and even give out solutions that we might not have thought of.
Moderator: Perfect! Yes, failures do come with learning! Now’s it’s the interaction round with the audience. I give the floor to the audience.
(raise of hands)
Question 1: So, my question is, being a teenager, it is hard to get funding to start your startup company. How did you manage it? This question is for anyone who’s willing to answer.
Lakshay: Shall I answer? Okay, my family isn’t very well off. So, I am someone who had ideas and visions, but the financial situation dragged me down. I used to ask questions of funding to every businessman and mentor I met. Initially, there’s this business concept of 3 Fs. They are- friends, families and fools. (laughs) Well, you have friends and families who support you. Then, there are fools who fall for your ideas and probably get invest in your ideas. (laughs). Jokes aside, you can also cut down your personal expenses and save pocket money. It might be little but will definitely help have some money.
Moderator: Okay, next question.
Question 2: Hi, as someone who runs a startup company here in Kathmandu, I had a question about multitasking. I just completed this book called ‘The one thing’, where the writer says that multitasking is a myth. But on the contrary, Lakshay, in the panel, supported multitasking. So, is it a myth or not?
Lakshay: Thank you! So, when I was in grade 11, I had all these ideas in my head but along with that I also had to focus on my studies. I was also giving tuitions to children for some pocket money and I also had to attend my classes. In grade 12, I took the class of mathematics which has extremely difficult. It was in grade 12, we started our venture. I did multitask then and I do multitask now. Nowadays, I go to college and also go to the office to see over my business’s operations. I am also preparing for Chartered Accountancy. My days are very hectic, and I have to multitask to complete all of my works in time. Thank you.
Question 3: Previously, our presenter said that we need to have a co-founder to establish a business. So, do you think it is necessary to have a co-founder by your side for businesses to thrive?
Iftekhar: There is one thing I forgot to mention in my discussion before and I think I can answer your question now by saying what I missed earlier. So, in my team we have a visually impaired person who has helped us immensely and without him, our invention wouldn’t be possible. He is a software developer. Not just him, there are many visually- impaired people who are helping us because they understand the problem, I’m trying to solve more than anyone. So, it is important to have team members who are dedicated and carry the same vision as you.
Swornim: Okay, so talking about the co-founder and team members, I agree with Iftekhar when he said we needed people with the same vision. I worked in the field of education which needs a lot of dedication. We need people to work for the upliftment of education rather than financial benefits. So, we need to learn to understand people who carry the same visions as yours which takes time. I don’t suggest you to randomly choose team members because it is going to harm you in the long run.
Moderator: Great! Next question?
Question 4: Do I need a business plan to run a successful business? How do I successfully implement the plan without any experience?
Lakshay: I think before starting anything, you need to have an idea in your head. You also need to research on what the customers need and what’s the necessity of the people. Talking about the experience, in the business world we have two points. One is experience and other is cash. Take the experience first and then cash will come follow you. We have so many aspirations, but we don’t step into the business world thinking we have little to no experience. We need to step into the real pool of challenges to get the experience which is vital. You will encounter a lot of failure while gathering experiences as well. Do not fear to fail! You must try things and and execute your plans even if you fail several times. If your passion is unhinged even after those failures, then you need to continue.
Moderator: Any further questions?
Question 5: Can differently abled person can be an entrepreneur? How can we motivate them?
Iftekhar: As someone who has worked with differently abled people, I can assure you that they have this brilliance within them which is unexplainable. I’m in awe every time I watch them do their work. I don’t know how they are so very focused. They also have this amazing creativity and can innovate things by themselves. I believe that they have the potential but because of the unfavorable infrastructures, they are not able to succeed the way able people are able to succeed. They can definitely be successful entrepreneurs with the help of favorable resources.
Moderator: Yes, great! Of course, people are differently abled, and entrepreneurship is all about doing something different. Any more questions?
Question 6: When we talk about business, profit is the first thing that comes in our mind. How to make your businesses make great impact and time make profit at the same. So, as a budding entrepreneur, do we need to focus on the impact or the profit? If it’s not profits, then how do we sustain ourselves throughout the journey of our entrepreneurship?
Swornim: So, let me tell you a small instance. One person asks another how did they reach that level of success; the other person says good decisions and when asked about how he made good decisions then he said bad decisions. The thing we need to do is try small. If you fail, fail small not fail expensive. You should try your idea on small market and move on to the bigger markets. You can make an impact on the smaller market first and see if it works or not. If it doesn’t work, you can change your business model and twitch few other things. Even our team started with visiting small educational institutions and experimented with our ideas. We found out it was impactful enough which led us to approach bigger educational institutions.
Moderator: Great! Yes, I agree that good judgement comes with bad experiences. Now, I don’t want to take any questions further from the audience. But I have one last question to all of you. How are choices important to your life?
Lakshay: Choices play a very crucial role in your life. Whether be it choosing an educational course or your aim, you need to have a passion for it. If you don’t have passion, then you can neither add value to your life or to your society. It will be just for the sake of it. You have to respect your choices whether it is about partnership or collaboration or your friends. It is important to make the right choice about all of these things. You need to link passion with the choices you make the most out of your choices.
Iftekhar: There are so many organizers here and I believe they are successful in their own life. But they prioritized to manage this event and chose this conference in particular. You chose it because they wanted to create an impact upon the society and that is where they get satisfaction. So, satisfaction is very important aspect to look into when you make any choice.
Moderator: Swornim, can you answer the same question?
Swornim: I’ll give you an example of a choice I had to make last night. I have an exam in two hours. I had two choices last night: I could sleep or study. I chose to go to bed (laughs) and yes, I’m aware it’ll affect my life. There are so many little choices that we make which affect our lives in a way. These choices can also add different perspective in our lives. So, we need to be mindful about our choices.
Moderator: So, when we talk about society and entrepreneurship, we constantly make different choices and we need to respect these choices. Also, as an entrepreneur, we need to prioritize what we want to do rather than what society tells you to do. So, I’d like to end this discussion in this short note. I thank all the panelists for their time!