An Overview of Pecha Kucha Night #17: Creative Entrepreneurship

Last Thursday’s Pecha Kucha Night was an incredible amount of fun, with a really different and diverse set of people telling their stories. The theme, Creative Entrepreneurship, was wide enough in scope to include both, people who are creative and artistic and have built businesses around their talents, as well as people who’ve taken a really creative take on entrepreneurship and have devised unique ways of supporting the ecosystem. Videos of all the presentations will be released soon, but in the meantime, here’s a small taste of the presentations that evening.

Gautam Sinha, founder of Nappa Dori, kicked off the evening with an excellent presentation about his journey thus far. He talked about how, after studying fashion at NIFT Delhi, he worked for a couple of years at a design studio, designing Christmas ornaments. Even though this went well, it wasn’t something that really excited him. And that was when he had the opportunity to work with belts, and discovered his love for leather, starting him on his journey to founding Nappa Dori.

Leather served as the inspiration for Nappa Dori

Mitali Kalra of Crostini Cafe spoke next about how she was inspired to set up a health food cafe in India, especially because most of the existing choices for dining out tend to focus on being indulgent, not being healthy. But there’s no reason why tasty food can’t be healthy. Mitali also spoke about the challenges of setting up a new business in India. This includes managing workers who aren’t all that manageable, training them to work in the way you would, and then of course, dealing with all the infrastructural challenges like plumbing and electricity.

Crostini cafe focuses on making healthy food tasty and easily available

Arpit Agarwal, co-founder of the Headstart Network, spoke about the business of Innovation in India. He talked about how, in India, systematic innovation is not the key driver of economy – it is more about what works in the here and now. That is why jugaad is the most commonly found, commonly written about and most commonly celebrated form of innovation, even in the international business press. Arpit gave several examples of systematic innovations that were developed in India but had no uptake, highlighting that even if we’re producing some groundbreaking innovations, we still have a long way to go in consuming them.

Jugaad is still one of the most popular takes on innovation in India.

Prashant Singh, founder of Signals, spoke next about how he decided to embark on his entrepreneurial journey. He would spend a lot of time thinking about what it meant to be an entrepreneur, deconstructing what he knew about successful entrepreneurs and trying to isolate the lowest common denominator within all these stories. Through this exercise, he came up several factors that were common, out of which he was able to aggregate the properties he didn’t yet have: the ability to teach himself new skills, have self-discipline, and make use of new opportunities. Once he decided to actively work on these, other things began to fall into place, resulting in the actualization of his entrepreneurial goals.

A slide from Prashant’s presentation, showing his state of mind at the time.

Rajat Tuli, co-founder of Happily Unmarried, talked about how he came to found the company. He had always been fascinated with advertising, and after studying Marketing and Communications, he worked at an advertising firm for a while. While he was there, he realized it really wasn’t as much fun or as exciting as he’d hoped it would be, and that he didn’t want to spend a large part of his life doing something that didn’t make him happy. This was when he decided to start a venture of his own, along with his partner Rahul, to make a fun gifts for young Indian people, which became Happily Unmarried.

The young India that Happily Unmarried caters to

Kethaki Nair, who is a Fellow at Teach for India, also works for Generation Enterprise. She talked about her work there, which involves teaching low-income youth various aspects of entrepreneurship, from making a business plan to developing their idea, getting funding, and much more. There are also less tangible things to teach in entrepreneurship, including values like teamwork and how to be resourceful and sustainable. These kinds of values, in fact, are not just useful for building businesses, but also for building community, strengthening interpersonal relationships, and for imparting such soft learning to young students.

Kethaki with her class of young students

Nikhel Mahajan, founder of Audio Ashram, Radio 79 and several other offshoot venture including a magazine and a cafe, spoke next, not so much about being an entrepreneur, but about pursuing your creativity and vision. He talked about the three ‘S’s that are most important: Satsang, which is having the company of the right people, Satguru is the goal, and Sadhana is working to achieve that goal. Besides this, Nikhel also talked about how he didn’t quite fit in at school or college – in fact, he was expelled from both – and preferred to spend his time painting and listening to music, which became both his passion and his inspiration for all that came next, including the birth of Audio Ashram.

Spirituality, the paranormal and the alien all serve as inspiration to Nikhel’s music.

Anand Vemuri, co-founder of 91 Springboard, a co-working space and startup incubator that’s only been running for a couple of months now. He talked about how the idea developed over some time, starting with the fact that they wanted to work in the incubator / early-stage startup space, but wanted to be really involved, and not just signing checks. A lot of the early research, talking to different startups, showed them that everything can be done in India, but that it can take longer and be a little harder than it needs to be. 91 Springboard, then, helps startups overcome some of these challenges of funds, legal issues, even space, and works closely with early-stage startups to help them conceptualize, build and launch their initiatives.

91 Springboard’s co-working space can accommodate 150 people, as well as cafeteria and an arcade game.

Hanumant Khanna, co-founder of the design studio Quick Brown Fox, was our final speaker. His presentation covered three great challenges of being a designer and working for someone else, which include time, or the lack of it, the lack of ownership for the things you create, and finally, the lack of inspiration you sometimes feel in a 9-5 job, working under a deadline, and so on. After a few years of working under these constraints, he decided to start his own venture with his partner, Sujay. And this, the importance of having the right partner, who complements and advances your own talents and skills, was the biggest takeaway from his presentation.

However passionate you might be about your work, escape is just as essential for maintaining your sanity.

As mentioned, videos of the presentations will soon be released. However, this time around, they’ll take a little longer because of the long weekend coming up this week. Apologies for that, but do watch this space for more updates on the next Pecha Kucha Night!

About Ayesha Vemuri

Ayesha Vemuri is responsible for thought leadership and outreach efforts at CKS. She has undergraduate degree in Visual Art from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where she also studied such varied subjects as biology, literature and the humanities. At CKS, she is responsible for curating the Design Public blog, managing our various social media platforms, organizing Pecha Kucha Nights and contributing to the intellectual content of the Design Public Conclave and other CKS initiatives. Find her on twitter at @ayeshavemuri.
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