Here are five things I did, which, in hindsight, have helped me much later in my entrepreneurial life.
I completed my MBA at IIM Bangalore more than a decade ago. It was, without doubt, one of the best decisions of my life. I have visited many MBA/engineering campuses since then, and every time I visit, there’s only one message I have for students—make the best use of the time in campus. Here are five things I did, which, in hindsight, have helped me much later in my entrepreneurial life.
1. Get to know all the folks on the campus: It does not matter whether it’s your batch mates, juniors or seniors. Ashish Goel (my co-founder) and me would know every single one of the folks (it helped that during our time, batch sizes were closer to 180 people only). They will become your first customers, well-wishers, investors, employees, etc. And it’s proved time and again that all the folks we got to know in campus have helped us in abundant ways through our life.
2. Participate in extracurricular activities: I would be part of every single extracurricular activity in campus—be it full-time membership of the management fest and the systems club, in addition to helping in the control room during placements, and helping build the first version of the alumni website, orientation CDs, cultural festival, etc. Ashish was pretty much involved in many of these clubs, which gave us the first sense of creating impact for a wider audience. Club activities help you understand team dynamics and experience multiple disciplines of work. These are useful when you put together a diverse team in your entrepreneurial life.
3. Build something from scratch: It could be an app that’s a side project. It could be a social initiative you are passionate about. It could be a new club you want to contribute to. It could be getting people together for a cause. It does not matter what it is—the campus offers a great risk-free, non-judgemental environment to create something from scratch and test it. The real world is far tougher. So utilise the time in campus to create something from scratch and experience the potential highs of what this may provide.
4. Study these subjects well: You learn a bunch of courses in campus, including some hard core finance and marketing courses. And many specialised courses around retail, market research etc. Some of the generic courses that I believe help me even today are: (a) Statistics 101 (and using XLS well), (b) business plan generation, (c) core marketing, especially segmentation, targeting, positioning, (d) business communication (or making PPTs, writing good emails, presenting to an audience), (e) basic HR courses around people psychology, organisational building and culture, and (f) any course that teaches core negotiation skills.
5. Don’t get perturbed about your grades or placements: The bottom line is you have to fail in something—whether it’s a particular subject, or not getting your dream job in summers or finals. Put in your best effort surely, but if you don’t make the cut for something that you originally believed you totally can nail, the failure may bite hard but is far better handled in campus than much later in life. So it’s okay to get that bit of heartbreak and not getting your dream job. If your end goal is to do something entrepreneurial, any good experience in an internship or job will help you start off and the ‘failures’ will make you far more resilient.
Much of the above—except maybe point 4—holds for undergraduate courses as well. At the end of the day, make sure you have enough fun doing all of the above. If you are not having fun, then you are anyway losing the plot. Campus days are the best time of your life, before you get to a full-fledged job or entrepreneurial journey or whatever else your calling beckons. So make the best use of the same.
Rajiv Srivatsa is co-founder & CPTO, Urban Ladder