Are investors interested in backing student entrepreneurs?

For a student entrepreneur, capital remains a hurdle to starting up. These days, access to an investor is less of a challenge, thanks to the networking ability of those at educational institutes. Be it a specialised programme or an incubator, networking with investors to create a platform for interaction is a primary focus for all.

However, for student entrepreneurs, engaging the interests of an investor with a business plan is quite another story. “Venture capitalists (VC) will invest in a business plan that is viable and scalable,” says Sanjay Anandaram, managing director, JumpStartUp Fund Advisors. “And for the creation of such a business enterprise, you need a robust ecosystem,” he adds. In this regard, India has come a long way. Market conditions and dynamics play a huge role in the creation and sustenance of startups and these conditions are only now coming together. However, it still has a way to go, but, the pace and quality of change is only accelerating, so, the future looks considerably brighter.

Anandaram states that in India, interest amongst VCs with regard to student entrepreneurs is still low. He outlines several reasons for this; foremost being the lack of exposure and experience such an entrepreneur typically has. “Investors are interested in backing an entrepreneur who is savvy, about the market and business and has experience. So, whether the entrepreneur is a student or a 50-year-old professional is immaterial. What matters is if the person has what it takes to deliver on a promise,” he says.

While speaking of the support systems a student entrepreneur has in India, Anandaram is appreciative of the number of individuals who are now taking active part in the process. “Several people, be it investors, industry bodies, related groups, are showing tremendous interest in this space,” he says. As for the educational institutes and their progress, he feels that they should cut some slack. “If you compare an Indian institute to say, Stanford, you must realise that their process has evolved over 80 odd years whereas in India, the process is much younger,” he adds. However, he does feel there are certain areas that need improvement. Two areas that he addresses specifically are – educational institutes improving industry linkages and increasing focus on soft skills such as presentation and persuasion skills amongst entrepreneurs. Anandaram concludes on an optimistic note, “The momentum amongst student entrepreneurs is definitely increasing and a lot of interesting ventures will come out of it.”

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Sanjay Anandram has close to two decades of experience as an entrepreneur, investor and advisor to venture capitalist funds. He is actively involved in mentoring startups and some of the organisations he is associated with are CustomerAsset (ICICI Onesource/Firstsource), Jareva (Veritas/Symantec), Netkraft (Adea Solutions), Netdevices (Alcatel), and Aarohi (Emulex). He currently heads JumpStartUp, an early stage venture fund which has a keen interest in India.

He also teaches the Business Plan Workshop as an adjunct Professor at INSEAD business school, Singapore and serves as an advisor to NSRCEL-IIM B.