KGEC E Cell recently played host to Mr. Vishal Kumar, CEO and founder of learningwhiletravelling.com on the occasion of Egnition ’19,the freshers’ orientation program of Kalyani Governement Engineering College’s Entrepreneurship Cell. He did his bachelors from IIT Kharagpur and post-graduation from UBC, Vancouver, Canada. He had worked in oil and gas industries in Canada, Singapore and Indonesia. Not sure about pursuing an MBA and after visiting many B-schools in a 100-day world tour itinerary, he dropped his MBA plan and invested his savings in his startup. He has been to 25 countries to date. Mr.Vishal’s brainchild the International Startup Enrichment Tour” aims to help all startups get a global platform to extend their cross border trade, investment and network. He is also working on establishing E-Cells in schools and colleges where LWT is supporting the students from ‘idea’ to ‘incubation’ (zero to one). The startups from these colleges gain a lot of exposure while traveling and participating in various national and international e-summits at different parts of the globe.
Here are some of the excerpts :
KGEC E Cell: What is the inspiration behind this startup ?
Vishal Kumar: Having travelled a lot (25 countries, till date), I see myself as an upgraded person after each travel. Travel can be used as a means for a person to upgrade themselves. A person who has travelled a lot can learn about different cultures and can change his way of thinking. Scholarship in the form of flight tickets is a very good motivation for youth to experience foreign culture and this will change their mindset and eventually upgrade India.
KEC: Why have you chosen Singapore as the city ?
VK: I used to live in Singapore and it is a well developed city with many amenities. So, instead of connecting Mumbai and Bangalore (cities which were more developed) to Singapore I decided to connect Kolkata and its surrounding areas because of higher growth. Also, it is not very far from Kolkata and the travel is inexpensive. Singapore is also a very good role model for India and there is a lot of encouragements for startups as well. This will boost tourism and entrepreneurship in both countries as well.
KEC: What according to you does it take to be a successful entrepreneur?
VK: A successful entrepreneur has to be self motivated because there is no one to motivate them through the tough times. You might be feeling low everyday for a variety of reasons – starting from inadequate supply of money or the people who are working under you are unable to follow you. So, there needs to be a consistent drive, zeal and passion from within to tide over the tough times.
KEC: How do you deal with hardships and failures?
VK: That’s an interesting question : If the world laughs at me, I’ll laugh back at them later. Entrepreneurship is a great leveler. Even someone with an IIT tag has the same chances as that of a non IITian and there is no edge whatsoever. You must be willing to accept whatever comes your way as it is the same playing field.
KEC: That is the most demotivating thing for us, because we are not from an IIT
People do an MBA to wipe the sin of engineering
VK: People do an MBA to wipe the sin of engineering. So, if you can create a startup you can upgrade your overall life. So, definitely trying is the main factor here.
KEC: Please share if you have any successful incidents.
VK: Initially, for our pilot project we had a Bangkok trip which consisted of around 20 – 30 people, for a duration of 3 days. It was a very hard task gathering that many people who would turn up because everyone thought that our free trip was a scam, with hidden terms and conditions. Later, we were able to gather around 70 people for a semi sponsored one week trip to Singapore. We had visa issues but then everything started to fall into place.
KEC: What are the things that you would like to achieve in the future?
VK: We would like one representative from every school and college in India for our foreign trip. We would give them the option of all 200 countries. Getting young people into entrepreneurship early is the key to maintaining a viable startup ecosystem. Due to parental and societal pressure kids do not get an opportunity to be an entrepreneur. Our main motive here is to groom young people early on topics such as sales marketing and finances such that they are not a job seeker, but a job giver.
KEC: What were the initial hurdles you had to overcome ?
VK: Capital was not an issue for us because it was a bootstrapped venture. The main hurdle was that many people did not believe in us because they thought that it was a scam. It was very difficult to get people on board with us. Later, when we became successful we were called for TV interviews. So, now the coin has flipped.
KEC: What was the Singapore trip all about ?
VK: It was all about getting all the strangers under one roof. Everyone gathered at Kolkata and we started giving them different activities. The B-plan contest started on the plane itself. It was followed by lectures at various colleges at Singapore and conference at Marina Bay Sands, a 7 star hotel. There was also an optional Kaplan certification course and pitching plans at the Singapore Chamber of Commerce. Participants also met the Transport Minister of Singapore. So, overall it was a mesmerising experience for everyone and especially for those who were out of India for the very first time.
KEC: Please describe your business model.
VK: We follow two kinds of business models: The Jio sim model which is a freemium based model where we give away free tickets to the participants; the other, IITJEE kind of model where a lot of people pay an application fee and very few people get selected. So, we will give away the tickets as a prize of a very high competition and we will get the revenue from the application fees itself. So, ultimately we will be going for a merit cum means scholarship. We are also trying to introduce entrepreneurship into the school and college curricula such that the cost can be covered by an educational loan.
KEC: Last but not the least, are you hiring ?
VK: Although, we are not hiring full time people we do have positions for summer interns. These are creative positions that will require negotiating skills to get sponsorship from corporate companies as well as the Government. They need additional skills such as sales, marketing and they need to be able to execute the trip. We will eventually hire a team for all 200+ country’s program which totals to around 500-1000 people.
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