Peer mentoring: Entrepreneurship in the new normal

By: |
May 31, 2021 2:00 AM

ASCENT Foundation enables growth-ready entrepreneurs across India to scale up and adapt to the new normal through self-facilitated trust groups

Harsh MariwalaHarsh Mariwala

An entrepreneur’s journey is always interesting. However, it can also be a lonely, long road, especially during the current challenging time. The Covid-19 second wave has taken a heavy toll on human lives and businesses alike. Mindful of the fact that many businesses are in survival mode, ASCENT Foundation, a not-for-profit initiative of Harsh Mariwala (chairman of FMCG major Marico), is playing a key role in extending relevant support to its members and the larger entrepreneur ecosystem through the crisis, by means of peer learning and peer support, and strategies to fight the pandemic.

“ASCENT started as a Mumbai chapter in 2012 and expanded to Chennai in 2018. With a vision to impact in large numbers and enable ASCENT support to entrepreneurs across the country, I always wanted to go pan-India,” says the Foundation’s founder, Mariwala. “The pandemic introduced us to a new normal and having witnessed the ease with which members adapted to virtual meeting structure, ASCENT launched the all-India chapter in April 2020 with members from across the country being part of a trust group that meets virtually every month. Increase in the number of applications and interest shown from tier 2 and tier 3 cities validates the need of a platform such as ASCENT for entrepreneurs across India specially during times like these,” he adds.

“ASCENT is designed as a peer learning platform for growth stage entrepreneurs and leverages the power of collective and enables entrepreneurs to share experiences, ideas, insights through self-facilitated trust groups and an extended network of enablers,” says Archanna Das, head, ASCENT Foundation. The trust groups have 10-12 non-competing entrepreneurs in a similar scale and stage of business who act as a sounding board for each other.

Now, a quick look at some of the success stories in recent times. A first-generation entrepreneur in the IT industry and a member of ASCENT for over eight years now had to face bankruptcy in the year 2018. With his entrepreneural journey coming to a halt, he decided to step out of his trust group. However, members of the trust group requested him not to exit and be a sounding board for them. With support and motivation from the members, he restarted his business and is today running a profitable business.

Again, an entrepreneur running a brick-and-mortar company was very satisfied with a 20% growth in his business. However, his trust group helped him identify his blind spot and see an opportunity to disrupt his own business and start a cloud enterprise. This pivot has proven to be fruitful for the entrepreneur.

In the last eight years, ASCENT has onboarded over 680 entrepreneurs as members (from more than 2000 applications received) who are part of 59 operational trust groups in Mumbai, Chennai and all-India chapters. The composition of these trust groups indicates a 46:54 split between manufacturing and services industries; 42% family businesses; 10% women entrepreneurs, with altogether 65-plus diverse industries represented. “The aggregate annual turnover of the ASCENT members is more than Rs 27,000 crore with individual member turnover ranging from Rs 1 crore to Rs 2000-plus crore.”

ASCENT has actually become stronger during the Covid crisis. “In an effort to extend relevant support to our members and the larger entrepreneur ecosystem through the crisis, a survey was conducted among the members of the cohort and an Entrepreneurial Toolkit was designed from the 144 (27%) responses received, with challenges and strategies to fight the Covid-19 pandemic with respect to employee salary, cash flow management and challenges in working from home, etc,” says Das.

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