Ahmedabad: Gargi Agarwal, the daughter of a kirana shop owner in Jamshedpur, has taken no part in the job placement process unfolding at the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A). “I do not want to be an i-banker or consultant,” Agarwal, 22, said, naming the most coveted and high-paying career choices among many of her peers. Instead, Agarwal, a proclaimed Harry Potter addict, plans to go back to her hometown and launch a private school.
This week, as most students here donned black suits and nervously prepared for gruelling interviews and group discussions, Agarwal remained in the salwar kameezes she prefers anyhow, offered support to friends—and mulled over her business plan. She is among the few but growing number of MBA students opting to go into business for themselves, a decision fraught with risk but unlimited possibilities. And unlike many entrepreneurs who worry over funding and seed capital, Agarwal knows she has a secret weapon—“I have the IIM-A tag,” she said with a laugh.
Indeed, venture capitalists are trolling around the country’s most elite institutions, namely the IIMs and Indian Institutes of Technology, to support start-ups. When Vinod Dham, the US investor and former Intel executive known as the “father of the pentium chip,” launched his venture firm in India earlier this year, he flew to a number of business schools and IITs, and selected one student’s project to work on a personalized search engine for funding.
“There is explosive growth in entrepreneurs. Students are getting into different sectors such as education”, said Nishant Chandra, a graduate from the 2006 batch who is recruiting for his company at IIM-A this year. Chandra says that while only seven graduates in his entire batch struck out on their own, now, at least five students in every dorm are dreaming of their own ventures. “They are confident that even if they do not succeed, they have the profiles to crack a job anytime”, he said.
On campuses, students hone their ideas by participating in business plan competitions. Mitesh Karia, a student of Delhi’s Faculty of Management Studies, got a call from a Bangalore-based fund with an offer a day after participating in a business plan contest. Karia wants to launch a chain of fast-food outlets, starting with one in Kolkata.
Some students enter business school, confident in the knowledge that they may skip placements, figuring their double degree will allow them to marry business skills with the technical knowledge to launch their own ventures. IIM-A students Akshat Khare and Ravi Pagaria hold engineering degrees from IIT. The two have teamed up with Amritpal Singh, a batch-mate and a doctor, to launch their own venture: to produce low-cost electricity using sunlight and optic fibre cables. They sound confident of hitting the market soon with a prototype of their product. Entrepreneurs also help the institute gain repute—both years down the road and immediately.
In the current batch at IIM-A, Gargi Agarwal is joined, ironically enough, by the student placement coordinator Devashish Chakravarty. His, and another student Vineeta Singh’s decision to turn down big salary offers to launch a line of women’s inner-wear created ripples of awe across campus. They’ll team up with two other students in their batch to start the business.