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After IITs, second-rung engineering colleges picking up on startup trend

Journey of an Entrepreneur

Founder and CEO of Freshdesk, which recently raised about Rs 317 crore ($50 million) from Tiger Global Management, Accel Partners and Google Capital, the company’s fifth investment.

  • This is how Mathrubootham, an engineering graduate from SASTRA University in Tamil Nadu’s Thanjavur district and an MBA from the University of Madras, started the San Francisco-headquartered company that provides customer support software and tools to clients.
  • Girish Mathrubootham had his first brush with entrepreneurship in 1999, just a year after finishing his MBA, when he started a training company that specialised in teaching coding languages to his friends, students and graduates.
  • At a time when the dotcom bubble was about to burst, his company was making profits.
  • But he went on to work for software product company Zoho for nine years, before returning to entrepreneurship by launching Freshdesk, an enterprise company that is now counted among the most successful startups in the country.

The Start:

  • “At that time, even placements in companies were not at all that much. I had a friend who travelled from Thanjavur to NIT Trichy to apply for companies that were visiting their campus,” said Mathrubootham.
  • Did college play much of a role in his startup journey? Not really, said Mathrubootham. But things are different now, he said. Magic words such as ‘startup’, ‘entrepreneur’ and ‘funding’ have penetrated college classrooms, with students looking at their ideas and inventions from a business perspective, and colleges getting bullish on capturing this entrepreneurial spirit.

Giving Back:

  • Mathrubootham and his alma mater, now called Sastra University, tied up to introduce a range of courses as part of the curriculum, to not just prepare students to become entrepreneurs but also arm them with the skills and knowledge required to work in a startup.
  • The courses, which will be rolled out this year, will involve social media engagement, digital marketing and management tools, and new coding languages such as python.

The IIT-IIM Buzz ?

  • Mathrubootham has shown that it is no more just the IITs, NITs, IIMs and other such ‘premier’ institutions, often viewed as startup hubs with high throughput, that are doing their bit towards fuelling founders.
  • Secondrung engineering colleges, those that form the larger chunk of the engineering talent pie in India have slowly, yet surely started introducing organised methods of promoting entrepreneurship among students.

Other famous Entrepreneurs

  • Nitin Kulkarni, director at Centre for Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship, BVB College of Engineering Technology (CTIE BVB-CET) in Hubli, Karnataka, launched a four-week non-credit programme where students were given a seed amount Rs 500 of “The only condition was that they had to sell whatever they had made or built. No matter what, finished or unfinished,” said Kulkarni, whose organisation currently incubates 27 companies, of which five are run by the college’s students, and whose programme has now been adopted by three other engineering colleges in Dharwad, north Karnataka. “Who said success can’t come out of such colleges? We are striving for just that,” he said.
  • Unitus Seed Fund-backed LabinApp, a 3D interactive virtual laboratory tool that allows students and teachers to perform science experiments on computers or mobile devices, and BioSyl Technologies, a company that offers research equipment for companies and institutions involved in the life sciences and biotech industries, are two such success stories of BVB.
  • Companies such as Campus Tiger and investor networks are actively scouting for entrepreneurial talent among second and third-year students of these tier-II and tier-III colleges. Native Angel Networks (NAN), an investment facilitation wing of the Madurai-based Nativelead Foundation, has approached over 10 such colleges in Tamil Nadu with student-engaging entrepreneurship programmes.

Source ET


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