When Nurture Meets Nature


That sweet, elusive elixir that drives life

And they say, that success lies in “mentoring”!

Arjun had Krishna, the Indian cricket team had Rahul Dravid and Saina Nehwal has Pullela Gopichand. So who are these Krishnas, Rahuls and the Pullelas and what role have they played? The answer is obvious, knowing how tremendously successful their mentees have been. They have played the crucial role of a mentor, and made that vital difference between success and failure.

Startups are much like unfought wars, in a hugely competitive arena. Which means, that even before they have really taken off to test the waters they are supposed to sail on, they could falter and eventually fail. This perhaps could be avoided, had they been mentored.

The startup ecosystem, thus, has mentoring as an integral component and is rife with veterans like Google and Hay Group, to light up the mentoring scene. Mentoring starts when a business idea is born and is serious enough to be converted into a business enterprise, and goes on to “Demo day”, when the idea is ready to be showcased to the VCs and other funding agencies. Mentoring could be done free of charge or it could be equity based.

In May 2015, Google initiated its second round of mentoring startups, in Bengaluru, through “Launchpad Week”. This is a part of Google Launchpad Week, the flagship event of the Google Developers Launchpad Program. This is a unique mentoring program, run across several cities, for local startups.

The Bengaluru event had veteran leaders including those from Cisco, Adobe Systems and RedBus as mentors among others.

The mentors too, on their part, were very choosy about the startups that were to be mentored. From 150 applications, 16 startups were chosen, who would be mentored in areas like product strategy, user experience (UX) and user interface (UI), technology, marketing, business development and presentation skills. Apart from Bengaluru there were a few from NCR, Hyderabad and Mumbai.

Along similar lines global management consultancy, Hay Group, under its NextBig100 programme, will mentor 100 selected entrepreneurs from India. They are expected to benefit from the rich experience and networking of the mentors, senior leaders of Microsoft, InMobi, Snapdeal and Hay Group. Parallel events were organised in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi.

Some of the startups which will gain from the guidance will be Competition Buzz, Zooter, Beatroot, Krave On, The Online Yogi, ShutterSteam etc.

Recently, Uber along with Invest India has announced its uberEXCHANGE program to mentor Indian entrepreneurs. This is deemed to have a twofold effect; provide a shot in the arm to Modi”s Startup India initiative and to strengthen ties with international entrepreneurs.

To substantiate the claim that mentors indeed breathe oxygen into the life of startups, the storyboard is replete with stellar examples.

Reputed serial entrepreneurs K Ganesh and Meena Ganesh, have invested and mentored startups including Must See India, Bookadda, Delyver, Blueston, and BigBasket.

Speaking of BigBasket, Bengaluru, when it was launched in December 2011, by the founders of Fabmart, it had a workforce of 100, catered to 200 orders per day and was valued at $10 Million by 2012. As in 2015, it boasts of an 8000 strong workforce, catering to 27000 orders per day and is valued at over $ 300 million.

Another example is RedBus, the startup which has revolutionised the way bus tickets are being booked in India. From a non-existent idea and business in 2007 to becoming the largest online bus ticket reservation platform, RedBus currently has around 700 employees, with 26 offices across 24 states and is valued at $600 million.

Started in 2010, and valued at above $ 900 million, Snapdeal owes its stupendous success to the MD of IndoUS Venture Vani Kola, confesses Kunal Bahl, founder and CEO. As the company depends a lot on its workforce, it was crucial to manage people well and her mentoring skills in the early days, has put Snapdeal way ahead of its competitors. It has grown from just 30 people to 1500 in a couple of years.

The mentor-mentee relationship, sometimes, could be like the Indian traditional relationship of a guru and shishya, and at times like family. Some mentors, who are also investors take keen interest in the daily running of the startup, advising the startup on diverse matters from strategies, to managing people and guiding the startup during an acquisition. In general the relationship is close and friendly, with a lot of trust and care must be taken to maintain it.

To wrap this up, I feel Mark Twain says it all in these beautiful sensitive lines, When we set about accounting for a Napoleon or a Shakespeare or a Raphael or a Wagner or an Edison or other extraordinary person, we understand that the measure of his talent will not explain the whole result, nor even the largest part of it; no, it is the atmosphere in which the talent was cradled that explains; it is the training it received while it grew, the nurture it got from reading, study, example, the encouragement it gathered from self-recognition and recognition from the outside at each stage of its development: when we know all these details, then we know why the man was ready when his opportunity came.