Friday, April 25, 2014

My first visit to IIM Ahmedabad

I watched 2 States movie a few days back, and the story revolves around a boy and girl who meet at IIM Ahmedabad, one of India's finest and world's best management college. I could vividly remember my first visit to this beautiful college in the beginning of January, 2010 (I am an MBA from IIM Indore, but that story is for some other day ;-)

I had recently resigned from Onida and started Nurture Talent Academy, when Pranay Gupta, who was the Co-CEO of CII-E IIM Ahmedabad invited me for being a judge and mentor for their finance conclave and business plan contest. There would be many exciting entrepreneurs and investors present, he told me. But my excitement was higher to feel the environment at IIM A, more than networking with people! I had been to Ahmedabad a couple of times earlier too (once on a field visit at Asian Paints, and another for a field visit at Onida), and was really impressed with the love and respect people out there give you, but did not get a chance to visit IIM A. No wonder, I was quick to say yes for the event.
It was just an hour by flight from Mumbai and when I landed in Ahmedabad, I saw another friend joining me at the airport on the way to the college - Anand Lunia (currently venture capitalist at IndiaQuotient and earlier at Seedfund). The 1 hour journey from airport to IIM A was wonderful. Anand is a story teller, and has worn hats of an entrepreneur, VC and angel investor in his short life. He is among those investors in India who will say no or yes instead of "we want to see more traction" or "send me regular updates about your progress" types!

And finally I landed at the new campus where CIIE was headquartered. I met Pranay, and took a quick guided tour to meet the incubatee companies. I recall meeting Vmukti which was working on a virtual meeting platform. And there was a travel venture, which I have somewhere in my archives. I also made friends with Kunal Upadhyay, CEO of the incubator, and we instantly connected on our common passion of entrepreneurship development in India.

Then the main action started - we were led to one of the classrooms where few startups were waiting to present before the judge panel. The judges included Hemir from IDG, Mihir from GVFL and few others along with myself and Anand. For next couple of hours, it was great fun. I saw exciting presentations from few startups like Exergy, iDubba, Khojguru, MSI Biotech (some of these are huge successes today in their respective domains while others have moved on to other big things). In one of these pitches, the entrepreneur said he is looking for 40 crores valuation, and the investor replied, "I dont even want to talk to you". The situation got tensed for a while :-) One of the best things I realized is most of the event was being managed by the students, there were hardly any faculty involved - and I think this is the first step any college can take to be among the best.

Once the pitch sessions got over, we went to take a look around the campus. A quick architectural observation - it has lot of open spaces. The famous Louis Kahn Plaza is one of the most interesting landmark, with many stories around it. And what a coincidence - it was here that I saw Chetan Bhagat (IIT IIM alumnus and a famous author). He was casually strolling the place, and I quickly took his autograph - I guess if it was today, I would have taken a "Selfie" and uploaded on Facebook ;-)

While other judges left for the day, I chose to spend some time with startups and students at the canteen. Most of them had the same question - how to get a job in a VC firm? Ofcourse, a couple of years later when I went their again, the tone had changed to how to become a successful entrepreneur! The best discussions happen when you order a Maggi in the college canteen.

In next 4 years, I visited nearly 400+ colleges, and each was a different experience. By the way, I do not think IIM A has the best designed campus - I think that honor goes to NID Ahmedabad, and another one that comes close is SCAD Engineering College in Tirunelveli.

But I should use my heart more than my brains - I love my alma mater IIT Delhi and IIM Indore. Next time, maybe!