Startup Saturday: Take up challenges for new business models, says Ravi Pandit
Ravi Pandit, KPIT Technologies chairman, talks to HT about the challenges that starups face and the solutions found to overcome the obstaclespune Updated: Feb 09, 2018 20:47 IST
There is a lot to learn from this modest, humble man who started out as a chartered accountant and ended up starting his own IT company, KPIT Technologies.
Today as chairman of this large conglomerate, Ravi Pandit goes beyond the job of being chairman, he seeks to do as much as he can for society, in terms of helping the environment and nurturing innovation. Here he tells us what his outlook is on entrepreneurship and innovation.
Technology has thrown up huge opportunities
“I may not be able to give you the exact picture of entrepreneurship as it’s been quite a while since I have spoken to young entrepreneurs. But what I can say is that things have changed for the betterment.
“Never before has there been so much opportunity to do things better or differently. And technology has played a huge role in this. There are so many new avenues for work.
“Take the automotive industry for example. Electric vehicles are changing the way business is being done. Shared transportation has disrupted the entire scenario. Auto companies are now looking to invest in ride-sharing since they know in the future their customers will be these ride-sharing companies.”
New Business Models
In addition to this are changed business models. A few years ago you could not operate a taxi service without owning vehicles or provide accommodation to guests without owning rooms.
Companies like Airbnb, Ola and Uber have shown how this is possible. I’m told that e-commerce is not doing too well these days. There is not enough money for such ventures.
I feel it is the difficulties that make a startup stronger and more sustainable. It is when you have less cash, more challenges that you put on your thinking cap and look for solutions.
So it’s time that startups take up the challenges and opportunities that new technologies and new business models are throwing up.
Government’s role in supporting startups
Well if you ask me, the startups are not government business. Government jobs have always been seen as secure, safe jobs. And that is alright for people who seek security.
That is the exact opposite of what a startup does. An entrepreneur takes risks, brings about changes in the way business is done. Stability, security mindset is not likely to lead to innovation.
Why should the govt get into all this? In fact, I think if at all the governments has to do something it should be something like the present govt did with the Hackathon.
All ministries were asked to come up with problems that could be solved using IT and these were presented to industry. Within 24 hours we had to come up with a solution. And the companies did it.
In fact, about 20 products that were the result of the Hackathon are in use currently.
If the government has to do something, this is it. It should throw up challenges that people can then work on and that is what KPIT does.
Since the last four years, the company has come up with a contest for college students. We pick out areas where we need solutions like energy, mobility betterment and safe driving. We invite all the colleges in India to participate. In fact we have reached out to colleges in 22 states this year.
Around 12,000 registrations from 600 engineering and science colleges in India. Out of this, 30 teams have been shortlisted on the basis of novelty, affordability and commercial viability.
Also we have set up a jury headed by Mashelkar, international scientists and some industry experts who will judge these product prototypes.
The winner will get a cash prize of Rs 10 lakhs and with the help of venture captalists and industry heads these ideas and products will be nurtured into a business.
In the past, we have seen path-breaking products that have come out of this competition.
For example the IIT Kharagpur team last year developed a portable charging device using jute as a precursor rather than expensive graphite that is currently used.
Secondly, the team Alpha Gears from Mangalore Institute of Technology who created a frictionless gear transmission system for vehicles using polymagnets. There is so much talent in our country that all we have to do is challenge it.
Advice to Start-Ups
Like it’s always said I would ask all entrepreneurs to be close to their customers. Because when you are close to them only then you will understand their pain points, or figure out ways to improve the product they use in their daily lives.
For it is the job of an entrepreneur to be able to solve problems in ways better than others. Also business models are changing. You do not need physical assets to start a business and this is an opportunity.
So the Red Bus provides transportation without owning buses. This really enthuses me for it means much more than just a business model.
It means that with fewer assets in use, we would need fewer materials, less cement, steel, less energy, and so on. This is good for the environment. So I think we are moving in the right direction.