What is cooler than a rockstar strumming his guitar at a college fest? “A budding entrepreneur pitching his startup idea at our B Plan competition,” says Brijesh Bharadwaj, Student President of the Centre for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani. “Entrepreneurship has become cool on campus; our B Plan competition, Conquest, is now one of the most sought after events.” The recently concluded Conquest received over 500 entries, the highest since it was launched in 2004 with over 85 percent entries coming from students.
The trend emerging out of B Plan competitions across the country seconds Brijesh’s view. Eureka, Asia’s largest B Plan competition, run by the Entrepreneurship Cell at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, crossed the 2000 mark, a 100 percent increase in entries from three years ago. This year, IIM Calcutta’s i2I Business Plan competition engaged 265 teams and 1100 participants from institutes in India and abroad. First-timers Symbiosis Centre of Information Technology, Pune, which announced Srujan, their first B Plan competition last month, has already received 200 entries from aspiring student entrepreneurs.
Students: The new entrants
Until five years ago, working professionals, in age group of 25-28, were top favourites at B Plan competitions. In recent years, the spotlight has moved to students. Seven out of nine winners in the last three editions of Eureka were students, and Harshavardhan, E Leader at IIT Bombay E Cell, attributes it to the “growing skills, knowledge and confidence of the students as budding entrepreneurs-developed through their participation and experience on their campus E Cells.”
“Earlier, students were clueless, they were ignorant about terminologies and didn’t even know the difference between an idea and a plan.” “Today there are a whole range of programs, workshops and activities available on the campus, run largely by trained entrepreneurship faculty and E Cells, which prepare students for entrepreneurship from fundamentals like idea evaluation to advanced support like hands-on mentoring,” he adds.
|Amrita Healthcare win the B Plan competition Conquest, at NEN founding institute BITS, Pilani|
For example, BITS (Pilani) runs the Spark New Ventures elective course that helps students develop a structured approach towards building their idea into a business plan. NEN Faculty Coordinators at SRM University, Nisha Ashikan, V M Ponnaiah and Anuradha Parakkat guide every participant with their executive summaries before the competition. The E Cell at IIM Calcutta runs Ascent, a business plan writing workshop that helps students evaluate and present their business ideas, and also teaches them “the VC language”. The E Cell at Jai Hind College, Mumbai, connects successful entrepreneurs in its alumni network to aspiring students for mentoring B Plans.
Poyni Bhatt, NEN Faculty Advisor and Chief Administrative Officer of Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, IIT Bombay, who has been observing B Plan competitions for the last ten years, agrees. “There is a definite shift in quality and maturity among student participants. Not all their startup ideas are feasible, but they do their homework and come prepared to tackle the jury,’ she says. “I also find that they take the platform seriously; they look at the contest as an opportunity to validate their startup idea,” she adds.
Member institutes of NEN are also tapping into the growing NEN community, comprising over 500 of India’s top academic institutes, 1200 faculty leaders, over 3500 E leaders and over 400 student entrepreneurship cells that count more than 70,000 members to drive participation and access resources including faculty development courses on business plans and business models and a 1200-strong pool of mentors and experts. “The change in the mindset, and the growing interest in entrepreneurship-related events in the last few years has been motivated by the activities of the NEN community,” feels Dr B V Phani, NEN Faculty Advisor and Coordinator, SIDBI Innovation and Incubation Centre at Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur.
|Conquest in progress at NEN Fonuding Member institute BITS, Pilani|
A serious game
Institute-run B Plan contests have evolved from a competition of business ideas to a professional startup competition. With IT-based proposals diminishing, and new sectors coming in -– cleantech comprised 40 percent of the entries at Eureka last year, Conquest received 54 entries in rural healthcare while Jai Hind College received several social ventures. Aspirants are looking at B Plan contests to access focused specialized mentoring and funding to convert their plans to startups.
Contestants no longer care only about cash prizes; what they are after is integrated support: funding, mentoring, connection to investors, networking opportunities and incubation support, believes Mafla Mudgal, E Leader at IIM Calcutta. “It is the qualitative gains that matter,” he says.
Organizers too demand performance and growth from the winners. “The Rs 21 lakh prize money offered by Eureka is released in installments over the year, depending on the progress and performance of the three winning startups,” reveals Harshavardhan.
While the growing interest and awareness of B Plans have benefited the community at large, it is the participants and winners that stand to gain the most. Keshav Laxman’s one line idea grew to become a prize winning B Plan this year at Conquest, thanks to the mentoring support he received since November 2009. He is all set to launch Haplaw, his online legal advice and listing portal, soon. “If I now look at my initial plan, I wouldn’t recognize it. My mentors, including Anurag Jain, Vice-President of Dell Services, helped me recognize critical loopholes and rectify them,” says Keshav.
More articles on www.nenonline.org. Content provided by NEN
written by franck muller watches, March 01, 2011
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