My spout on the traffic in Old Mahabalipuram Road,Chennai

Today evening I found myself in IIT Madras Research Park which is near Tidel Park in Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR) in Chennai. OMR tops the list of places in Chennai I hate going especially during evenings, other places in cities like Chennai have traffic problems, but OMR in my view is a just long stretch of parking lot with intersections every few metres. For lakhs of people living in areas either side of OMR there are only two roads connecting them to rest of the city (Tiruvanmiyur Junction & Madhya Kailash Junction), obviously these two are huge bottlenecks. In sensible satellite townships around the world, Infrastructure (roads and train) are first build before people relocate, in OMR (to be fare Gurgaon in NCR is equally worse)  the city corporation has no program even in planning stage to build better connectivity for people working/living in OMR. Everyday thousands of buses owned by IT companies including Infosys, Cognizant, PayPal, TCS & hundreds of others, ply in the road ferrying their people adding to the traffic nightmare during peak hours.

As a result, traveling to Singapore from Chennai for a meeting is easier than commuting to OMR. I will find every excuse possible to avoid any meetings here and luckily it’s not often I am made to come here.

Entrepreneurship amongst Gen Z

How did I find myself today evening in OMR?. It started like this. Last week my phone rang and a lady spoke “Mr. Venkat, we are calling from TiE Chennai secretariat, as a charter member will you be interested to review the presentations of students for TyE program, sometime next week“. I immediately accepted the invitation and that’s what brought me today to TiE Chennai office, which is inside IITM Research Park in OMR.

Students presenting in TiE Chennai office for TyE

Students presenting in TiE Chennai office for TyE

When I reached here in the evening, Praveena of TiE Secretariat explained about the TyE global program. Around the world TiE Chapters work with local schools in identifying students with an entrepreneurship thinking, coach them over months and give them an opportunity to present their ideas to charter members in each chapter. Each chapter sends the shortlisted finalist (1 team from each city) to the finals of TYE Final event, this year it’s being held in Atlanta (USA) for a cash prize of US$10,000. TiE Chennai has been doing workshops and coaching programs for last many months by Prof.Sankaran Raghunathan and others. For today’s review there were two student teams, the students were from Standard (Grade) 9 to 12, meaning they are between the ages of 14 to 16 (max). Having seen few of the investor pitch festivals in recent months and conducting for two years a “Talent Hunt for ideas” in my company, I was not expecting much from students. Oh boy, how wrong I was, made me realize how conditioned mind colours your view!

Two teams showed me their ideas. One was about running for-profit therapy programs for special needs children and the other was to offer streamlined repair services.  The kids showed me well designed Presentations,  well thought out P & L projections and have done reasonable research on the background of the problem they were trying to solve. I was amazed at the level of skill they exhibited in terms of their communication, Microsoft Excel knowledge & overall confidence. Amazing!!. I shared to them, quite frankly I don’t find this level of skill & clarity even in adults (say aged 25-30 years) I have seen in my industry & around. If this kind of entrepreneurship thinking is with youngsters (Gen Z) at school level in “conservative” Chennai, a city known for advising students to go with “safe” jobs, then Prime Minister Modi’s Make In India dream is going to come into safe hands.

I only had two suggestions for the two teams who presented. To work on weaving a story around their idea, see how you can trigger listeners emotions to grab their attention, once that’s done, rest of your presentation becomes easy. Second, don’t get into operation details too much at this stage, no one will be expecting operational processes from kids, that part can be complimented by adults around you.

All the best to them and thanks to TiE Chennai for inviting me for this.

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