Entrepreneurship Summit 2021 – “Sustain to Attain” organised by Entrepreneurship Cell, IIT Madras

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Entrepreneurship Summit 2021, IIT Madras

Presented by Westbridge Capital, co-sponsored by StartupTN and powered by the IIT Madras Alumni Batch of 1990, E-Summit ‘21 was conducted by E-Cell, IIT Madras from 5th to 14th March. The IITM E-Summit is the only student-run ISO 9001:2015 certified entrepreneurial fest in India, adherence to whose norms E-Cell members confess was a distinct challenge. 

Every year, the theme of the fest is chosen to reflect the spirit of an important point in a startup’s lifetime. This year’s theme is ‘Sustain to Attain’, stressing the necessity of resilience, preparation and calculated decision-making in order to sustain through the do-or-die pivoting moments in a startup’s journey, and overcome them. 

‘The lockdown is just another phase in the E-Cell journey. It is an opportunity to flourish, to come back on our feet. Our experiences’, Heads Akshit and Ayush said, ‘reflect the resilience of India. And it is this India, that E-Summit 2021 gave voice to.’ 

Every year, E-Cell initiates a social campaign, broadening the scope of entrepreneurship in India. For 2020-21, the social campaign was Pankh – ‘Opting Vertical Over Horizontal’. Pankh focuses on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), empowering them to build sustainable business models and is aimed at enabling the growth of Indian MSME ecosystem. 

E-Summit attendees could participate in events such as ‘StrategiZe,’ a policy-making competition run in association with the National Institute of MSME, Hyderabad; and the ‘MSME Showcase,’ where unique MSMEs based around Rogan Art, Block Printing of Ajrakhpur, and Bidri Art had stalls. 

Last week, E-Cell also launched its flagship Entrepreneurship Insider – Issue V. This year’s issue is themed around DeepTech, and looks at the interconnectivity between tech innovations and mainline entrepreneurship. An entirely in-house magazine, all content and illustrations have been sourced from members of E-Cell. 

E-Summit 2021 Inspirit Lectures: 

E-Summit is characterised by its lineup of Inspirit lectures, where industry leaders from across sectors give talks highlighting their personal travails in grappling with the central theme of the summit. This year’s lineup included the likes of Groww co-founder Lalit Keshre; Rana Daggubati & Anthill Ventures’ Prasad Verma; Padma Shri Sanjeev Bikchandani; Deep Kalra from MakeMyTrip, and more. 

Keshre said that it was futile to worry about the competition over the customer. ‘You don’t need to beat everyone else – life is not about RG. First build your product, build your brand.’ Keeping an ear to the ground, he explained, was essential. 

Sanjeev Bikchandani, in his aptly named talk ‘Building Things That Last’, said that successful companies are built on deep consumer insight that dictates marketing strategy. ‘Your customer’s money is more important than the investor’s. If you provide the ends to an unsolved problem, you don’t need to sell your product. Customers will themselves buy it.’

Deep Kalra, whose MakeMyTrip is India’s largest travel booking company, emphasised resilience and judgment as the means to outlast a crisis. ‘Most calls are in shades of grey – you have no clue which one will end up better.’ The travel & tourism industry was drastically affected by COVID, making prioritizing safety and hygiene standards paramount. Nevertheless, he was confident it would survive. He suggested that entrepreneurs keep a time-frame of minimum 4-5 years in India. ‘A startup is like a series of sprints, and it needs the mentality of a marathon runner.’ 

Dipali Goenka, CEO and Jt. MD for Welspun India noted the importance of ethics and sustainability for an organization. ‘Businesses are not just businesses, but agencies of change’. She added that balance was important across the field – in identifying consumer requirements and meeting them with innovation. She said that pregnancy should not mean a death-knell for women. Stepping into the business world after a long stint as a homemaker, she also advised those returning to the corporate world to ‘roll up your sleeves and be ready to learn.’ 

Srinath Ravichandran from Agnikul Cosmos said that although tech startups have benefited tremendously from college interns, and the project ends, there are notable disadvantages. ‘Exemplary talent still feels like going to MIT and Silicon Valley is a better option than staying and building hardware in India. We have to make Indian hardware look cool.’ 

Yash Dahiya, co-founder of PolicyBazaar, explained that trust was essential in business. ‘Trust will be the most important currency you can carry (in the industry). And that trust will come from data.’ He told attendees to define their own notion of success, instead of relying on external validation. He explained, ‘no material possession is valuable by the sixth month.’ 

Other events and workshops: 

Over the 4 weeks of BootCamp, a mini-Startup Accelerator cum B-Plan Competition, early-stage startups were taken through a comprehensive roadmap, attaining the requisite expertise and skills needed to enter the market. Team Kitab won the competition, with their intuitive academics-oriented PDF reader. 

Unconference used market problem statements sourced from startups in Retail and AgriTech to host a case study competition and growth-challenge, testing participants on their problem-solving abilities and business acumen. Here, E-Cell partnered with Agri10X and Gully Network, who presented genuine problems and evaluated solutions. They have begun implementing winning case studies, by Team Phoenix in AgriTech and Team DeadWeight Loss in Retail Tech respectively.. 

The Growth Conclave saw workshops by industry leaders such as The School of Design Thinking, TheSmartBridge, Finstreet, Institute of Product Leadership and David Parrish, all oriented to answer crucial questions of the modern market – why the buzz? These workshops took holistic, experience-driven approaches to cover AI/ML, cryptocurrency, design thinking, product management, etc. 

Beyond its social initiatives, E-Cell also took up the charge of empowering college ecosystems across India with its Entrepreneurship Development Drive. ‘No one dreams of being an entrepreneur till their first eureka moment,’ E-Cell explains. The organisation realised that it was something that E-Cells as a whole could aspire for. This led to EDD, establishing a network of E-Cells across 11 colleges in India. Students were trained to run an entrepreneurship-focused organisation using 6 modules over the span of 8 months.

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