An Overview of Pecha Kucha Night on Entrepreneurship

Last Thursday was the 16th Pecha Kucha Night in Delhi, and what a night it was! Ten entrepreneurs from different stages of their journey came to share their stories and insights into what it means to be an entrepreneur in India. It was probably one of the most interesting, fun and also touching evenings, since all the speakers talked about their journeys from a very personal perspective. As last time, videos of the presentations will be released shortly, but here is a very brief introduction to each presentations, just to give you a taste.

Abhinav Sinha of Eko kicked off the evening with a presentation that focused on how entrepreneurship isn’t nearly as risky or frightening as people often make it out to be. He took us through his entire journey from when he was a child and got terrible grades in his report card through to the founding of Eko. Throughout, he talked about how despite setbacks and some hard times, the experience remained fun as well as rewarding. In fact, he now earns more than most of his peers at college, so obviously entrepreneurship can be rewarding in the conventional sense as well!

Entrepreneurship isn’t all risk and no fun, says Abhinav

Satyarth Shaurya Singh, founder of Lights on Films, spoke next, describing how it was that he decided to start an independent filmmaking company. He talked about how he always knew he wanted to work with film, but didn’t have a direction as to what he should focus on, until he realized he could focus on something he was passionate about: music. Lights on Films became a way that he could focus on the music even though he wasn’t a musician. One really interesting point he made was the huge importance of social media today, and the fact that his company essentially started on facebook. Great news for young entrepreneurs who can’t invest in a website yet!

Make friends, not contacts, advises Satyarth

Gaurav Malik, who runs Nuru Energy in India, spoke next about his journey in getting involved with alternative energy and attempt to solve the problem of ‘energy poverty’ in India. He also talked about some of the necessary skills to being a successful entrepreneur, in particular the skill to be able to convince people – especially funding agencies as well as your team – about the enterprise you’re setting out to build. Gaurav’s presentation was also particularly inspiring since it demonstrated the massive opportunities for social innovators in India to make a difference.

The human-powered generator is much more efficient than solar power.

Goonjan Mall, founder of, followed with an absolutely hilarious and extremely entertaining presentation. He used video games as an analogy for the entrepreneurial journey, where you have to go and rescue the princess, defeat monsters and collect as many coins on the way as you can. He talked about the many hurdles he faced with getting his company off the ground, including such barriers as people stealing the prasad en route, and how he overcame them. He also talked about how people assume that there’s some magical secret ingredient to becoming a successful entrepreneur, but like Po the Panda found, there is no secret ingredient!

The crowds and long lines at temples were the inspiration for

Zahara Giselle Nedou followed with a very insightful presentation into her passion for luxury brands and how she was able to take it forward and actually start a company that would allow her to explore that passion and take it further. But, despite her love for the work, it is constantly an uphill battle when you’re a new company in a world with so many established competitors. Everyday can be a struggle when you’re starting out, from convincing clients to finding the right team to work with. But the important thing is to just keep trying and working, and to remember that if it all came easily, it probably wouldn’t be as satisfying or as much fun!

Great advice from Zahara on sticking with it, trying hard, and following your passion

Ajay Chaturvedi, founder of HarVa, spoke next about how and why he decided to start a company focused in rural India. He studied and worked abroad in finance and banking, and during that time traveled to several places in rural India. He was struck by the fact that agriculture is still the mainstay of the people, but that farmers are often struggling to maintain their basic subsistence. Thus came HarVa, which focused on rural empowerment for the farmers as well as the women, using technology to help them with financial security. More importantly, they did this in a way that was self-sustainable and owned entirely by the community. Again, another inspiring presentation about the many opportunities for social innovation in India.

Social innovation can be tough : Not only do you have to convince investors, you also have to convince the community.

Adhish Duggal, co-founder of Bakubot and the Glyph t-shirt company, followed with the story of how he came to start the company, and the many things he needed to learn on the way. As a designer and creative person, one of the greatest things he lacked was the ability to think along business terms, to come up with a business model. He talked about his first attempt at selling his products at the recent ComicCon in Delhi, where he produced a few thousand t-shirts but sold a few hundred. While that’s actually a pretty great outcome for the first attempt at retail, it is a humbling reminder that it’s good to have great expectations, but that you have to stay positive even when they fall short.

The massive crowd at ComicCon, where the Glyph t-shirt company was launched.

Vimlendu Jha, founder of the NGO Swechha and the upcycling company, Green the Gap, spoke next about his journey. He talked about how entrepreneurs are no different from anyone else, and often fall into their path almost by mistake or coincidence. His own journey as an activist for the clean-up of the Yamuna began when he graduated from college, from a need to do something meaningful as well as a passion for theatre. This led to work with NGOs, with the UN, and finally the founding of Swechha and then Green the Gap, which aimed to actually do something with all the waste, as well as create more livelihood opportunities for people. He talked about how there are always ups and downs, and that it’s important to continue to follow your passion despite pitfalls and barriers.

The clean-up of the river Yamuna, from where Swechha and Green the Gap were born

Madhav Kaushish, founder of a new educational startup called SmarterGrades, talked about the many different aspects of setting up a company. It often begins with a conversation over drinks – just think of how many great ideas you’ve come up with over a few beers with friends – but then you actually have to develop that idea. You have to narrow it down and focus on something specific, think about what would really be viable, build a team who can make it happen, and then prototype it, fund it and launch it. Along the way, Madhav gained and lost people in his team, worked with advisors, mentors and friends who helped him develop the idea into something practical, and is now at a stage where he’s looking for further funding, or perhaps even the sale of his idea. Definitely makes a great story and it’ll be interesting to see how the company will evolve.

SmarterGrades is designed like a game, so you earn points for each exercise, and the colors indicate where you stand

Ashmeet Kapoor of I Say Organic gave the last presentation of the night, an inspiring story of how he founded a company that was aimed at bringing the food ‘closer to the fork’. Ashmeet works with organic farmers in different parts of India and aims to connect the food producers more closely with consumers, along with empowering farmers and giving them access to fairer prices and processes. As an initial step towards establishing the company, Ashmeet spent time actually working on a demo organic farm to see if the model was sustainable, where he also worked on the land himself. Following that, he returned to the city and worked on developing a network of both farmers as well as organic food buyers, something that has seen a lot of success in the year or so that it’s been around. As someone who often buys produce from I Say Organic, I have to say I’m super happy he came up with such a great idea.

Absolutely gorgeous organic produce that is delivered conveniently to your home.

As I mentioned earlier, the response to this particular edition of Pecha Kucha was so overwhelmingly positive that we’re planning a second edition on Entrepreneurship, which will be held on the 21st of March. Stay tuned for more information!

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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