I’ve made up my mind that I’m going to write a definitive guide to inviting me as a guest/speaker/judge at ‘professionally’ organised events. It will be put up on this blog soon, so that the next time someone invites me (I hope), I will first direct them to that page and only if they’re confident of agreeing to my demands (which are very basic, by the way); I’ll say ‘yes’. Let’s just say, I’m going to be a little harder to get. Not that I’m too important, but my intention is to have great memories of every event that I attend. If you think I’m important enough to be invited to your event, I deserve a VIP treatment. I say ‘yes’ to the invites because I like getting pampered – and I’m totally frank about it. So the organisers can’t go wrong there! More on this, in my ‘Invite Big K’ guide which is coming soon.
So, a very important engineering institution had recently invited me to judge their B-plan competition. I asked to arrange for a pickup and the guy showed up on a 2-wheeler! Aha! He then risked our lives without my consent; while jumping the signal and driving through the busy road at at least 60 kmph as we entered the college campus. I’d never have appreciated the importance of the disk brakes in bikes. I quickly figured out that he must have been the ‘first year’ junior who was hired on the last minute to do the escorting job. He parked his bike in front of a building and asked me where was the venue and I answered him by raising both shoulders. He then made a quick call with his shiny new phone (Galaxy S3?) and discovered that the arrangement was made in some hall.
As he guided me through the building, I quickly figured out that the organisers were organising the event for the first time, and had not consulted their seniors (they were the seniors, I later discovered). The hall was totally occupied with my co-judge. Certainly, entrepreneurship is yet to find its glory in our society. We introduced ourselves and began discussing our role in judging the business plan competition, our own ventures etc.
We were then told that there’d be 8 teams competing and at the end, we’d meet a group that got totally angry because the organisers had rejected their b-plan from reaching the finals. But the team thought that their plan was amazing that it just can’t get rejected. We agreed to meet that special group once the 8 finalists had presented their plans.
I asked why no one else was allowed inside the hall and got an answer that some of the teams want to keep their plans totally secret. This was acceptable and we continued with just two of us inside the hall along with the presenting teams.
One by one, the teams would walk-in, offer their brick-thick business plan documentation to us and then go reading out the slides. Being ‘engineer’ can have its own downsides – you get ‘too technical’ in your presentations. That happened with most of the teams, we were wondering if we were judging a b-plan competition or a technical paper presentation contest. Some of the teams had really good ideas and answered our questions confidently. Some took our questions as ‘criticism’ and walked out with an angry look.
Some (mostly the final year folks) were already ‘placed’ through campus recruitment and were participating because ‘entrepreneurship’ is ‘cool’. My focus was on evaluating whether the teams had really ‘thought’ their business and not just presenting for the heck of it. If you are participating in a business-plan competition, you simply can’t escape questions like “If Tata Or Reliance or your competition begins offering what you’re planning to offer – what’d you do?”. That question returned blank faces from most of the groups.
There were few dedicated ‘entrepreneurs’ too, who were indeed doing what they were presenting. They were really impressive! Selecting the winning groups wasn’t difficult at all.
What I liked was – entrepreneurship is finding its place in engineering colleges. But out of every 1000 people who talk about entrepreneurship; only 10 might just become entrepreneurs and only 1 or 2 will become successful ones (will setup a self-sustaining, profit making & wealth distributing system eventually).
A tip for the first time event organisers: Get some help from those who’ve done it before. It helps! All the best. I’m there, if you need me.