A coffee club that nurtures entrepreneurs

Six months back,24-year-old Shardul Mohite quit his job as a software engineer at a time when many of his colleagues were fighting to hold on to their jobs.

Written by Arun Jayan | Pune | Published: July 29, 2009 12:08 am

Six months back,24-year-old Shardul Mohite quit his job as a software engineer at a time when many of his colleagues were fighting to hold on to their jobs. The reason was he wanted to turn an entrepreneur.

These are early days yet,but with a growing list of clientele,extending to as far as the UK and the US,Mohite now feels he has a successful model on his hands. He confesses it was Open Coffee Club (OCC) that played a major role in getting Webnoise Lab,his start-up firm,rolling.

Though not a venture capital entity as there is no funding,OCC helps many start-up companies like Webnoise hit the road running. Started in April 2008 as a platform to boost entrepreneurship in the country,the club now has 1,050 registered members in Pune. It has a similar number of members in Bangalore and Chennai. It also has presence in Kochi,Kolkata,Delhi,Mumbai and Hyderabad.

“The first generation entrepreneurs share with the next generation details such as registering a company,managing HR and marketing of products. The sole aim of the club is networking of like-minded people and helping them grow their business. Participants are from fields like information technology,biotechnology,hospitality and retail. We meet every second Saturday of the month and around 50-75 entrepreneurs including prospective ones take part in the meeting,” said Santhosh Dawra,coordinator,Pune chapter of OCC.

The club also invites specialists to deliver talks on diverse topics that eventually help in managing their company better. “Now we are a team of eight and most are youngsters. We are now working on a product called Do-Bill-It,an invoice-based application for individual creative freelancers,which is a niche segment. Nurturing an innovative product comes with a lot of risk. But we are not worried as we can approach any member of the OCC for advice,” said Mohite.

The maiden OCC was flagged off in Chennai in August 2007,taking the cue from the OCC model started in London in February 2007. “We formed the Chennai OCC with 25 members and now the number has crossed the 1,000 mark. True to its name,first we used to meet in coffee houses but later when number increased we opted for larger venues. In Chennai we have helped many start-ups,” said OCC co-ordinator Siddhartha Govindaraj,founder and CEO of Silver Stripe Software Pvt Ltd,who,along with Vaidhy Mayilrangam,chief technology officer of Serendio Software,started the OCC in Chennai.

Amrinder Singh,co-ordinator of Bangalore OCC,said there are youngsters from rural areas who sold their bikes,laptops and even cell phones to get their ventures rolling.

“The notion that OCC is all about urban elite youngsters is wrong. There are people who are successful and those who are still struggling to make it. Here we talk about building,sustaining and scaling up businesses. We are voluntarily trying to help those who want to start a business. It’s a platform for sharing,helping and learning and we have more than 1,000 members,” said Singh.

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