Guwahati! This place takes me down the memory lane having spent most of my childhood here. It has been over 8 years I left this place to explore this massive world. Every time I visit my parents in Guwahati I see the opportunities here (and also a massive market for any kind of a product). As events unfolded in my life I was lucky to find an opportunity to conduct Guwahati’s first event on entrepreneurship (that’s a long story in itself on which I will hopefully write a blog) in 2014 – Let’s Startup. That event opened so many doors for me – it gave me the confidence to do things fearlessly and introduced me to a few super awesome human beings. It was only because of this I was able to pull off Startify and take an exit (Read how we scaled up Startify here). From that day I have been in touch with a couple of startups and try to meet them every time I am in Guwahati. Post that event along with few of the entrepreneurs we took up the initiative to further build the ecosystem and started a community – StartupAssam and recently we started an angel network, BRAIN. It’s surprising how one event can bring a change to the ecosystem and for me personally.
Whenever I have a chance to be home, I go into hibernation for a few days. The enjoyment of lazing around, enjoying the home food and being around my family. These are all the things I miss while staying alone in an unknown place where millions are running after unknown things. After a few days, when I cannot further postpone my catch-ups – it’s time for the more hectic and exciting part of my stay in Guwahati. I get this question a lot, on what I do in those ‘catch-ups’. Being one of the secretive kind, even my mom does not have a clue of my time when I am not at home. Like my friends she (might be) doubting that I am out on dates. So, I just wanted to jot it down for those who might be interested and for myself to read after a decade. This is one of my super busy days at Guwahati with the entrepreneurs before heading back to work at SocialCops in Delhi.
Session with people twice my age. It’s 14th July and I am taking a session for five to six startups on Scrum and on being more productive. At SocialCops we have been following Scrum for over half a year and it’s working to an extent. So wanted to share some hacks and learnings around it. This is exciting for me as most of the attendees are double my age, with years of experience. I love how they are open to learning newer things from a “millennial” in his early 20s. This brings pressure, the pressure to provide value to them for the time they are investing in but also gives me the opportunity to learn from them. After a 2 hour intense session with a lot of questions thrown at me, it came to an end. Questions like how they can follow scrum in a team of 50 or what the drawbacks of scrum are had no direct answers and these questions lead to a productive discussion. A few of them also shared what project management techniques worked for them. A very fruitful session in all! The other thing such sessions do is introduce me to entrepreneurs and I love knowing their passionate stories and brainstorming with them.
Conversation with an entrepreneur. After a few post-session conversations, it was time to head for my next catch-up with Ankita the founder of SwagLok one of the better-known customized products’ startup in Assam. Meeting newer people broadens my perspective and teaches me something new. With her, I was amazed at how prepared she was for the meeting with a list of questions and topics to discuss on. She had newer ideas on things she wanted to start, and some interesting suggestions on how to grow the startup ecosystem. We also had a great discussion on different marketing and branding options for her startup. She had earlier stayed in Bangalore for a while, so knew the growth happening outside the NE and had a vision to be BIG (something which is missing in most entrepreneurs in Assam). I was the one talking for the majority of the time, sharing my story and experiences – I need to be a better listener and need to ask better questions! Two hours flew by and it was time to head for the third commitment of the day.
Brainstorming on growth strategies. By this time I was exhausted and brain drained. Luckily Dinesh, the founder of Edugenie had organized a pizzaget-together with the entire team, Yayyy! I have been in touch with him for over 4 years now – from the time we organized Let’s Startup in 2014. Recently, he paid me for the growth strategies and brainstorming sessions! Wohooo! One of my first “consulting” fees. With Dinesh it’s more of business and less of philosophies. They have been running Edugenie for more than 5 years and creating an impact in the education sector. Their content is their USP, as it should be and have a strong team for it. They have been constantly growing, just the problem being unstructured organic growth. Hence, the discussion with him was more around internal processes to follow and ways to better productify things and grow rocket fast. They have been doing multiple things, like running an experiential learning center, conducting teacher training (they trained all the govt. teachers of Nagaland) and organizing WOW workshops. Saying “no” to opportunities is difficult and that was one of the problems they were facing. Structuring their products and deciding their brand image seems to be the biggest challenge.
Making new friends with children half my age. I was high on adrenaline. The excitement when I throw ideas or perspectives which the entrepreneurs haven’t thought before; taking them back, forcing them to think. That feeling is surreal! I was half dead by this point of time, though super excited for my next meeting. It was with class 6 to 8 kids. Farida is an entrepreneur running a learning center under CueMaths. She wanted me to talk to her students. I was so underprepared and did not know what to expect. They were about 8 or 9 of them sitting nervously in a classroom and staring at me as if an alien had walked in. Gradually they opened up and started sharing their thoughts. I remember one of them saying, “Everyone becomes an engineer, doctor or a chartered accountant, but I want to do something BIG for humanity.” I was taken back by their thought process and how maturely they were talking. Never had I imagined that I could be good at having random conversations and giving “gyaan” to middle-school students. At the end of the hour, I could see some happy and dream-filled faces. I had definitely made a few friends 🙂
Gathering knowledge. I received a message from Pranjal da, who was one of the attendees of the productivity session and her 12-year-old daughter one of the student’s I just spoke to. He earlier headed the HR department at Vodafone and wanted to discuss his ideas around productivity and planning frameworks. Yay! Was time to gather knowledge and learn from his experience. He explained how bigger companies hired and fired and measured employees and also about his time in automobile companies before joining Vodafone. After a quick 30min catch up in a cafe, I called it a day!
What a day! The experiences and knowledge I gathered in these 12 hours were out of the world and I am sure a 2 year MBA would not give me. These days are exhausting and tiring undoubtedly, but each catch-up being such a differently unique experience that it’s impossible to cancel any one. I consider myself incredibly lucky to get the opportunity to have these catch-ups. Every time I am here it’s the same surreal feeling with different experiences and different people. Till the next time, I am back to these mysterious “catch-ups” and “meetings” in Guwahati! I don’t know if my life will be fun or a funny one.
My life will be fun or a funny one!