The tale of a startup – from Gania to Europe
Start- up is the name of the game in Entrepreneurship as it is a good time to be an entrepreneur in Asia’s third-biggest economy. Startups are hitting new highs in terms of their valuations. Global investors are ploughing funds into the sector and culturally there is a greater acceptance of entrepreneurship in the country, inspiring Indians to try their hand at setting up the next potential billion-dollar company. Ten years ago, we were only talking about IT startups, but now it cuts across everything, ranging from e-commerce to fitness to art. The home-grown success stories of startup ventures like Flipkart, Swiggy, OYO and many more are adding to the attraction for future entrepreneurs as more and more of them jump on the startup bandwagon.
All this is true and thriving today. I am sharing the journey of two people who have defied all odds and have turned into a big company. These two people are not top university graduates. They dropped out of school in Grade IV some 27 moons ago, ran away from home at Gania in Nayagarh district of Odisha. These two boys, best of childhood friends moved to Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha in search of a job and life, without much ambition but a hope to bring the improvement in their lives. These estranged helpless urchins could not do much, and hence, opened a tea cabin in a prominent place in Bhubaneswar. They started selling tea and biscuits in Jaydev Vihar, a thoroughfare area with a paltry sum of Rs. 1800. But life has its own plot so strongly set that without even knowing, the actors, characters keep falling in place and destiny calls the shots as an ace Director. Such coincidences of sorts, were two stories of start-up merged, happened in 1992, way before it had become a lingua franca and a way of life.
In 1992, I was a lecturer at Maharishi College in Bhubaneswar. I started an Industrial Training Institute in a rented place with 12 students and two staff with a seed capital of Rs.5000 ( $100 at that time). I kept observing two young chaps who ran a tea shop just outside the institute. I would see them while entering and coming out of the institute. I was occupied with making both ends meet, running an institute after quitting a job and giving a fillip to technical education in Odisha during those days. I did not mark them regularly but when I did I had long and interesting conversations with them. Most days it would be a nod of acquaintance or a wave of hand. I learnt they were not educated and urged them to become attendants in ITI. I remember the words very vividly. They are engraved in my photographic memory.
“I don’t want to join as ITI will not work for long. You are there today and tomorrow you will be gone. My tea shop is a better proposal. ” the boy said.
” The tea shop is managed by both of you. You can work in shifts. Work for your own shop and work as attendant part time. ” I explained. After much of convincing, they agreed. They didn’t agree to my proposal only, they agreed to the change in their life for good. Even I didn’t know what was the fate of ITI at that point of time. But I took the risk of convincing them and they took a risk of trusting a novice. Both the parties were at it’s worse and there was no fall from that point. If anything could change, it would be rise and shine. It’s easy to take decisions when you have nothing to lose.
Fast forward to 1997. In 1997, when KIIT started as a full fledged educational institution, I persuaded them to start catering to the hostels. They did not want to join. They had not imagined ever to work at that scale. I provided them seed money seeing their entrepreneurial abilities and experiencing their aptitude and loyalty. One took boys hostel and other took girls hostel catering charge. Their career started from this point and there is no back gear. They grew with the growth of KIIT, KIIT group of Institute and this part of Bhubaneswar. They faced initial hurdles of reducing costs by not compromising with the quality.
Fast forward to 2018. They have a huge staff. One, Tutu Danga caters to 10,000 students and Shesha Deba Swain caters to 8000 students. The struggling boys of yester years have become millionaires today. They have a plush bunglow in the plush locality of Bhubaneswar. Their catering is brilliant. They have been operating meticulously for the last 25 years without any complaint against them. KIIT hostel food gives the experience of home and mother.
What has not changed is their nature, attitude and humility. They are still as humble. They have opened dispensaries, fund education of poor children and help the needy and engage in social service in unimaginable scale. They have retained the lessons from the past and empathetically help the underprivileged. They have changed their villages.
Shesha Deba Swain has ventured into Politics. He is the uncontested Block Chairman. In the Panchayat Election(local body election), he contested by putting 8 Panchayat Samiti Sabhyas. He has won all the 8 seats.His victory is amazing. His stride from a traditional roadside tea cabin to numero uno caterer in Bhubaneswar to small steps into politics is incredible.
Recently, they visited me after doing Europe tour with their families. They brought me gifts and while they were showing me the gifts, I was mentally remembering their struggle and rise. I, at once, could see a steep rise from Rs.1800 business to an unprecedented business worth crores. Like KIIT encouraged their growth as Entrepreneurs, they have incubated many such enterprises. What inspires and makes me is happy is their social bent of mind because everyone spends money for themselves, but who spend for others experience real happiness. Money definitely gives happiness if it’s spent on others, and thats what is the core of Art of Giving.
There is no formal education or golden rule of Entrepreneurship. Education just polishes the enterprising quality. It’s with patience, risk taking capacity, perseverance and good intention, one can make a business thrive even with a meagre seed money. Tutu and Shesha are such examples who shine bright to prove that despite being drop outs like many other big magnates today, they can prove their mettle through their honesty of efforts.