21 December 2019, Founders Query – Mentors Advice:
Today’s Way2World Icon is Dr BALACHANDRAN, General Manager of Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) – Technology Business Incubator (TBI). He is a dedicated workaholic whose vision has brought many entrepreneurs to limelight. Dr BALACHANDRAN is a Professional in the field of Business Incubation immensely involved in the advancement of innovation and entrepreneurship.
Being a tool room expert since the start of his career, Dr BALACHANDRAN joined VIT-TBI in 2003. Keen to make a difference, He encouraged youngsters who were studying engineering to turn towards entrepreneurship. He started assisting StartUp ventures through Business Incubation support. The seeds sown then are reaping rich dividends ever since with more and more StartUps emerging from the campus.
One of the premier educational institutes globally, Vellore Institute of Technology, has a full-fledged flourishing StartUp ecosystem encouraging students Ideate, Innovate and Incorporate, completing the full StartUp Cycle under abled guidance. Dr BALACHANDRAN’s dedication can be visualised got his doctorate based on his thesis titled ‘A Study of Business Incubation Environment Influencers Impacting Performance of Incubates Ventures.‘
This Vice President of Indian Science Parks and Business Incubator Association (ISBA) has also worked on an initiative under UNIDO support for the development of StartUps in West Africa. Dr BALACHANDRAN took some time to chat with WAY2WORLD on the various aspects needed to create the right ambience on campus nurturing ideas.
What in your opinion is the right approach to encourage entrepreneurship on campus?
To encourage on campus StartUps is by providing an enabling environment through mentoring, opportunity identification & validation support and initial funding to kick start idea to proof of concept activities.
How should the management foster the StartUp Ecosystem in the institute?
By providing space and allied infrastructure, dedicated staff, incentivising initiatives of student start-up ventures, recognising and rewarding achievers and evangelising entrepreneurship through several programs and activities.
What are the essential components of a successful TBI?
The current format of TBI has moved beyond the space + business development services. Modern TBI’s provide access to mentoring, funding, talent and market support.
Since 2003 how was your journey till date?
The journey has been very rich in terms of learning and satisfying in terms of the outcomes of start-ups that have been supported through our VITTBI. Today, we have an enabling network of resources and mentors to support our start-ups. VIT management always been extending its fullest support for the effective functioning of the TBI.
What do you feel is the right mind-set of an emerging founder?
I sincerely believe that the cofounder(s) should have a killer instinct to move ahead in achieving their vision despite the challenges on the way. The more and more the founding team is committed for the purpose, the chance of failure gets reduced.
How to apply idea validation?
The best approach that I have seen is an early engagement with potential customers (even from the idea stage). The ideas that have been developed through closer interaction with the customers have minimal surprises when launched in the market.
Being a tool room expert how do you recommend design thinking?
Design thinking helps any individual to systematically innovate. My belief is that serendipity occurs more often to those who are prepared to think. Systematic innovation also reduces waste as lots of effort goes in the planning phase.
You are also a marketing expert, how do you feel today’s techie founders need to handle the marketing issues during scaling up days?
Scaling up requires different skills. If the founding team is unable to cope up with scaling requirements, it would be better to engage professionals. Ability to delegate is another trait founders need to embrace at the growth stage. As start-up activities happen with a lot of micromanagement, the transition is very important.
What are the most important pointers for nourishing an idea into an emerging StartUp?
Unless the idea has great IP potential, the founders should freely discuss the same with different stakeholders. Upon getting different perspectives, its better to develop a minimum viable product (through a Proof of concept activity) and take the same to customers for critical validation of the assumptions. Upon carrying out improvements through iterative development process, it is essential to understand the unit economics, batch economics and production steps. A cross functional team is essential to carry out different tasks at hand. Startups should predominantly focus on getting customers and generating revenues. Funding should be need based and start-ups should not rely only on external funding to start and grow.
Finally what is your advice to ideating founders?
Pursue your passion but take calculated risks.
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