Alok Ramsisaria, president of the Chandigarh chapter of The Indus Entrepreneur (TiE), honed his business skills in our very own City Beautiful by founding Grazitti Interactive, one of the top 20 PPC companies in India. A topper in his school, he ranked 20th in the Joint Entrance Examination in 1985. These days, he enjoys mentoring young entrepreneurs besides hosting TiECON, the annual conference of TiE. The passion to succeed, he tells Chandigarh Newsline, is the key to success in business.
What made you venture into business?
I was born and brought up here. I went abroad for studies, but came back to New Delhi. I always wanted to live in Chandigarh. Initially, I found a job with a friend who was doing really well but after some time it got boring. Since
there weren’t many job opportunities, I decided to start a business.
When did you set up the TiE branch in Chandigarh? What prompted you to do it?
I was a TiE Delhi member since 2003 and we always felt TiE was the only body which had the importance of nurturing entrepreneurship on its agenda. In 2008, eight of us got together and started the TiE Chandigarh chapter with the idea of promoting entrepreneurship in the city.
What do you think of the newly launched industrial policy of Chandigarh?
I think it’s a good first step. I have not looked at the policy in detail but the government is looking at challenges the industry faces and it’s always good. If the government is showing flexibility, it’s a good sign. The last time they put some focus on industry, we got an IT park, which is probably one of the best in the country. But we need more dynamism from the government; not just a policy but also its execution.
Chandigarh is seen as a city of the tired and retired, where do start-ups come in?
I am not so sure about that. I think Chandigarh has its own opportunities. The region has lots of engineering talent. We’ve got Punjab Engineering College (PEC), IIT-Ropar, and the University Institute of Engineering and Technology. We are also the hub around which 12% of pharma industries run like in Baddi, Derabassi etc. Hence I think it’s a very fertile ground for entrepreneurship. People tend to think of Bengaluru and other places, but we also generate lot of entrepreneurs. Players like TiE are important because we help create a fertile
How can the administration and the government give a boost to entrepreneurs in the city?
I think they need to implement more projects like the IT park. They must provide adequate infrastructure in the form of incubators, and ready-to-move-in spaces because the challenge is that real estate costs in the city is probably the highest in the country relative to its economy. In fact, Chandigarh is more expensive than parts of the Silicon Valley. This is where the government comes in. The best thing the government can do is to help us build hard infrastructure.
What are the changes in the entrepreneurial climate that you have observed in the last few years?
I think kids coming out of college today are much more interested in entrepreneurship. They are ready to look for other options, given the lack of jobs. In fact, there aren’t enough interesting jobs for a bright youngster. For instance, if a student graduating from an engineering college takes up a job in a call centre or in the service industry, he/she is underutilising himself/herself, for these jobs only require a simple graduation. Kids are much more open to new opportunities and are eager to become entrepreneurs. Their parents are also supportive. These are the big and positive changes for the growth of entrepreneurship.
What is the most important for an entrepreneur — a new idea, an investor or the street smarts?
A passion to do something. It’s not about an idea because in most of the big companies, the original idea was different from what the companies became. The ability to ride the rough only comes when you are passionate about what you are doing. It may not succeed as 99% of startups fail but a good failure will actually set you up for success. So I think the passion to succeed and do whatever it takes is really the only distinguishing feature between a person who makes it and one who does not.
What should the academia do to make students more job-ready?
The academia must focus on practical aspects. Practical training is vital to make up for the shortage of skilled labour.
What about block chain and artificial intelligence? Are you planning any projects around it?
I am not interested in block chain at all. I also have a different view on artificial intelligence. I feel there is a long way to go for India in this field. For example, in USA there are less people and more vehicles. They need people to drive these vehicles and so artificial intelligence could be useful there but it is not yet needed in India. Moreover, I personally feel artificial intelligence will result in a big loss of jobs. We are not working on any project around both these areas.
What is your advice to young entrepreneurs?
I think young entrepreneurs need to have their eyes on the goal while remaining grounded. Have the skills you need and make sure you keep acquiring new skills every day. You will need new skills to manage and keep growing at the same time. So young entrepreneurs need to be ready for change. Luckily, new age entrepreneurs are ready to change and accept new ideas. Be prepared to work hard to get desired results. Rome was not built in a day, neither are