Vikas Khanduri, Founder & MD, Viva Voyages Pvt. Ltd.

1. What was the initial money while taking up entrepreneurship?

Ans: I started Viva Voyages Pvt. Ltd. with Rs.4 Lakh. I used part of this amount to set up the infrastructure and kept aside some money towards running expenses. I was lucky to have a good start and within the first three – four months was able to establish a revenue generation that could support my business expenses.

2. What motivated you to take up entrepreneurship?

Ans: Resigning from a senior, well paid position with a premier organization was not easy. My passion towards my profession and my consistent desire to surpass expectations has been my key denominator. However, as an employee one is driven by Company goals, policies etc. I wanted to create my own business and draw with a free hand; I wanted the freedom and the flexibility to work on my terms, towards my goals. Most importantly, I saw the opportunity of being my own boss and grabbed it!

3. What initial challenges did you face while taking up entrepreneurship?

Ans: The transition from an employee to an employer was not easy. While before my becoming an entrepreneur I had the ‘security’ of a handsome salary and perks, I now had to tone down my personal expenses and think before I spent. So, money was a challenge since I was to provide not only for my family but also fund my business. Although I had a small reserve, I knew capital investment was needed for the startup period. I was also aware of the unforeseen expenses and business challenges that could come up. Getting the right people on the team was important. Since my business was new, I was not an employer by choice as people want to join big brands rather than be a risk shareholder in a new company. I was experienced in my trade but my business model was not my core area of expertise. Hence, I had to deal with my competitors who were decidedly at an advantage.

4. What you think are the essential qualities required for successful entrepreneurs?

Ans: First, let me share what I think are qualities in all ‘successful’ people. And these are not specific to only entrepreneurs. Those who are successful in their careers are passionate about their work. They are focused, self-driven and goal oriented. They are positive in their attitude, confident and are hard working .

Being a successful entrepreneur means having not only the above mentioned but a few other qualities too. Businesses face risks and being an entrepreneur requires the ability to take risk and minimize it through exhaustive planning and market research. An entrepreneur must be open to learning and stay abreast with the ever changing market and consumer behaviour.

The ability to manage people is important. Building strong relationships with staff, suppliers and customers is important. Managing and maintaining accounts is vital. An entrepreneur must have the necessary skill of understanding finance and maintain a cost effective operating base.

I read RobertKiyosaki’s famous book,Rich Dad, Poor Dad and the rich dad’s quote stays with me till date. “Starting a business is like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. In midair the entrepreneur begins building a parachute and hopes it opens before hitting the ground.” If one possesses the right attitude, skills can be learnt. Experience makes one rich and works towards the making of a successful entrepreneur.

5. Entrepreneurship in India is still confined to students of premier institutes like IIM’s, IIT’s. How can this culture be extended to students of two tier and three tier colleges?

Ans: I don’t subscribe to this view in totality. I agree that a majority of students educated at the IITs and IIMs are confident and smart. They are more exposed to new ideas and since many come from affluent homes, have the courage to take risks. On the other hand, there are also those who get high paying jobs via campus recruitments and don’t go the entrepreneur way.

While there are students from second and third tier colleges who are probably not as exposed to the idea of taking the risk of plunging into becoming an entrepreneur but seek the stability of a job, there are also some amongst them who come from business families and start businesses. Their ventures might not be very big or fancy, but they too make successful entrepreneurs.

I also believe that times are changing fast and with the sad increase in employment and job instability, the idea of getting into a business is no longer so unfavorable or challenging.

6. What you think students have to take up entrepreneurship direct after their studies or after few years of experience in Industry?

Ans: This depends completely on the individual’s circumstances. If there is a strong support system in place in terms of capital and guidance, the sooner the student takes up entrepreneurship the better. When we are young the risk taking capacity is higher as there are fewer responsibilities. But on the flip side, if a student works in the industry for a few years with the clarity that he is doing so only to gain experience and will eventually start his own venture, he gains experience and know how at someone else’s expense. So, both options are ok.

7. How government can help students in taking up entrepreneurship?

Ans: The government should promote the already available schemes and introduce new programs that support small scale businesses e.g. zero interest/low interest loans, programs to educate and support new entrepreneurs, provide clarity on taxation laws etc.

8. Can entrepreneurs be created by training and mentoring?

Ans: The government should promote the already available schemes and introduce new programs that support small scale businesses e.g. zero interest/low interest loans, programs to educate and support new entrepreneurs, provide clarity on taxation laws etc.

9. What you think, entrepreneurship course should be inculcated in school education?

Ans: I think this is because most people get into a business to achieve financial freedom. They are attracted to the business world by the rich and successful businessmen they see as adverts. Seldom do people become entrepreneurs because of passion for the chosen field. And what is always in the background psychology is the ‘poor dad’ saying there should be security and that comes with a job!

10. Please mention few barriers in front of entrepreneurs in India?

Ans: Some of the key requirements to start a business are capital, a sound business plan based on comprehensive market study and knowledge of the trade one wants to enter in. Knowledge of competitors and consumer behaviour are also important to establish a sound business.

11. Please suggest how entrepreneur environment may be created in India?

Ans: We have many successful entrepreneurs in India. I am not referring only to the powerhouses but also to the small and medium sized companies that are contributing towards making India a strong economy. If we can create an environment where there is an easy access to these ambassadors of the business world by aspiring entrepreneurs, mentoring, success stories shared etc. the prospect of getting into entrepreneurship will not be as daunting. As already shared, the government also needs to encourage this sentiment with more concerted efforts.

12. Please highlight the entrepreneur scope in field of hospitality and tourism industry?

Ans: Hospitality is a vast subject and probably a very lucrativefield for entrepreneurship. This is one segment where the initial capital investment can be from staggering figures to almost minimal. As an example, let’s look at the travel industry. One can start a travel agency and what is needed is basic destination knowledge, good contacts within the trade and the mindset to tap the consumer. There are government initiatives through IITTM where one can undertake several courses at nominal fee. In case of inbound business, the government of India helps in providing related material brochures, maps and Incredible India website that offers exhaustive information.

With reference to the hotel, motel and restaurant business, there is demand and hence a market to cater to. Regional level growth, domestic destination awareness campaigns by the government are also fuelling an increase in number of domestic travelers and creating a market.

13. Please share few interesting lessons which you learnt while taking up entrepreneurship?

Ans: he journey is as important as the destination and I have learnt a few lessons in my humble journey as an entrepreneur. It is important to be positive and perseverant. There were times when I doubted myself and my business model. Some days were great and some moments were frustrating. I was on an emotional rollercoaster but knew this was my choice. I would re-look at my business blueprint, reassess the market and stay focused on my goal. It is important to be optimistic, hopeful and to believe in you.

It is important to keep an eye on the bottom – line. Ultimately, all businesses are based on and conducted for money. It is vital to not be a victim of overspending on unnecessary startup expenses but use resources in an efficient and effective way for achieving goals.

14. What support you expect from the government to be extended to entrepreneurs?

Ans:We have many taxes, lots of compliances and since these seem to be so complicated a lot of dependence on chartered accountants. Apart from the above mentioned initiatives, the government should be more supportive towards entrepreneurs and simplify processes. The websites should be more interactive with maybe an option for the entrepreneur to ask a specific relevant question after registering and then get an expert, legal advice straight from the department.