Nav Agarwal, an enthusiast for entrepreneurship & start-ups, shares what he has learnt from internship in his dream area of interest at TLabs Start-up Accelerator. Nav is a Metallurgical & Material Science Engineering student at IIT Bombay. Read on to explore his story.
I recently completed my summer internship at TLabs Startup Accelerator by Times Internet. Putting it in my perspective: it taught me more than I had expected from an internship of about 2 months. It feels like you are getting an acceleration in your life and you are on a great learning curve–both in terms of skills and attitude–that prepares you for the future ahead. I was surrounded by eight hot start-ups working day in day out. If you spend enough time with this firm and make the maximum use of the opportunity, you get to work with and know about a lot of entrepreneurs.
It all started when I was unable to figure out where my career was heading. I was pretty sure that I am not going to be an engineer (as opposed to myself getting an engineering degree from one of the most prestigious technological institutions in the country). My skill-set merely consisted of spending lukkha (read:productive) time with my friends in hostel rooms or class rooms, exploring random streets of Mumbai, though I did acquire a basic understanding of entrepreneurial ecosystem while working for The Entrepreneurship Cell at IIT Bombay.
It was first week of April, when all my batch mates were giving interviews for summer internship. Internship was like a latest girlfriend that time, and since everyone was getting one then why should I be left aloof. I was not sure which company to apply for. But somewhere in my mind, I was looking to explore the entrepreneurial ecosystem more. I knew I had to apply off campus because no such companies came to my campus. My end semester exams were about to start and I had to clear my courses as well.
Third week of May!
“Where should I wait for Mr. Abhimanyu” ?
“You can sit here for a while, he is in a meeting right now.”
(I could see Xbox and some multicoloured beanbags there.)
Abhimanyu- Hello Nav!
Nav- H..Hi Abhimanyu.
A- So, what all have you done as a part of E-Cell in your college?
N- I have conducted so….soo. I was the head of soo..oo…And.. !! (not sparing the uninteresting details here)
A- So you have pretty good knowledge of start-up ecosystem, right ?
N- Yes Sir, you can say that.
A- Congrats !! You are appointed as an Intern.
N- What time should I report tomorrow?
A- There is your table, just take a chair and you can start right away (pointing to a vacant space in their vibrant office).
And I was like “Oh really!”
I finally got an internship in a field I was actually interested in.
I started with full zeal and enthusiasm. My internship project was ‘StartupDash’. It was a multi city campaign where we had to meet curated start-ups over the weekend and connect them to industry experts. The first destination was Pune, and it was my first time in Pune (not literally). The event finished very smoothly and the city treated us really well. I still can’t forget that night where we knocked at almost all the clubs, pubs and breweries in Pune.
Then it was Mumbai (of course not really new for me as I study here) again. The city was never like before. This time with no academic pressure I was a free bird. I, along with my senior, somehow hopped around every nook and corner of Mumbai. And during our stay we came in touch with many mentors, investors and upcoming start-ups.
After Mumbai, our third destination was Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India. We were sitting in Costa in Koramangala and people had all sort of anxiousness.
“Yaar ye business nahi chalne wala hai tera” (This business of yours is not gonna work out), “Abbe isko bol ki thoda monetize kare” (Ask him to monetize) and so on. We were in a place where we could find like minded people. After having a quick lunch followed by a power nap, we headed towards our work destination. We finished the work early and enjoyed the city like never before. We knew that Bangalore had an amazing night life.
Then we came Delhi, it was time to wrap up. While I was figuring out which courses I should take in my next academic semester, I was handed over with my first salary. This was just the fun part of it. If I reflect back, everyday I was exploring a new ‘me’ within.
Here are few things that I had learnt which can make me a better start-up founder:
1. Warmth: TLabs core team members Abhimanyu, Abhishek and Deepti; all of them were empathetic. Small things like taking me out for a Friday night party or having a farewell dinner for me makes a huge difference. If your employees love you, they will love your company.
2. Hard Work: All of them were working hard and very focused for their portfolio companies. Team was preparing for demo day, so there were specific goals to hit by then. I understood in depth what it takes to run a start-up accelerator.
3. People: People here are immensely supportive and approachable. They left no stone unturned to make this an enriching experience for me.
4. Trust your employees: One of my biggest experiments was to show the team that social media can create buzz for the company as well as bring in conversions. They trusted me and let me experiment, by the end of the two months, a good chunk of the conversions came in from social media. When the boss believes in you, the employee feels empowered to show results and works hard to help the company.
5. Be Direct and Transparent: At TLabs, there are very few people on the team so there is no reason for the whole team to not know all about the company. I knew everything about TLabs; from partners to future plans, everything. Transparency helps to create a trust culture and removes reasons of doubts and misinformation.
6. Talk to Customers and Stakeholders: This is one of the biggest parts of running an accelerator–customers are startups. You will get to interact with a lot more start-ups from different parts of country and outside country. You’ll get in touch with various investors and mentors in the startup ecosystem.
What I could explain here in words is much less than what I have learnt as a person. My personal goals channelised with the spirits of the firm and help create a real positive working environment for me. Thank you TLabs for this unforgettable journey. All I would say is that through this internship, I have learnt how to live life.
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