The world knows Avelo Roy as a serial entrepreneur having built 8 successful businesses in the US and founder of Kolkata Ventures.
But there is a hidden story behind it. During the global recession of 2009 when everybody thought there would be no investments, he braved the rejections of 300 Venture Capitalists before eventually getting funded for his start-up in the US and went on to script a success story that would continue to inspire generations of entrepreneurs to come.
Roy feels that crisis offers the best opportunity for the entrepreneurs if they are dynamic in their thinking and understand the need of an hour.
Chalgenius managed to interview him regarding his personal life and how he sees the current situation for start-ups during pandemic.
Here are the excerpts from the interview.
First of all tell us something about your childhood and family?
My childhood days were spent in Kolkata. I studied at Calcutta Boys School. I was a normal student. But I was shy and introvert.
You wrote a letter to Bill Gates and he gave a reply. Is that true?
(Laughs) Yes, I wrote a letter to Bill Gates when I was in Class VIII requesting him if I could be his partner in his company because he was the only entrepreneur I looked up at that point of time. He was very kind to respond and said that yes, grow up, may be in a few years. But that incident planted the seeds of entrepreneurship in my mind. Later I went abroad for higher studies.
How your family inculcated leadership skills in you?
I grew up in a family where my mother was a politician and my father was a businessman. My great great grandmother was Sarojini Naidu, the nightingale of India. I saw lot of people coming to my house from cab drivers to ministers. But I was introvert and I wished that I could also talk like politicians someday. I saw my mother helping people in need and meeting people from all sections of society. She maintained her politeness and respect towards all those she met. I learnt leadership skills by seeing my mother speak with confidence in front of dozens of people.
You are very much inspired by Shrimad Bhagavad Gita? How that connection happened and how it changed your life?
When I was in a second year of college, I started my start-up but it was tough on personal front as my parents got separated. It was very painful phase of my life. I was always looking for spiritual answers and trying to understand spirituality. Somehow, I got my present mentor from ISKCON in Chicago who helped me to understand the meaning of holy book Gita and I applied the teachings in my life. It gave me a lot of motivation and helped me to realise that my father is God and I need to connect with him for everything ranging from power, knowledge and money. When Krishna is your father, there is nothing to worry. It made me bold, fearless and strong.
What are the teachings that young entrepreneurs can take from Bhagavad Gita in the present time?
Every entrepreneur has to face battle of mind, battle of family, battle to get investors and Gita gives you knowledge about everything from psychology to anger management and also how to communicate. It also gives you courage to face the battles with a right mindset and not bogged down with anger that destroys you.
Do you think that coronavirus outbreak has been a curse or an opportunity for start-ups?
An entrepreneur should never let a bad crisis go away because it is a great opportunity for him or her. When I was starting my start-up in 2009, unemployment was high in America, there were hardly any investments but still we went ahead. I was rejected outright by 300 VCs but eventually I managed to get funded. You know why? Just because everybody was having an opinion that no company will get funded so the competition was less and opportunities were more. Every time, there has been a problem, it is actually an opportunity as per the sayings of Bhagavad Gita. It is because others might to relax but a few would wake up and align with the problem to find a solution. Those are the people that will win.
How far do you think it is correct for start-ups to look for investment even before starting?
Some people think that investor’s money is the only way to build a start-up. A question should be asked to them whether they are building a business to raise revenue or simply to raise funds. So, what is the purpose of the business? A real entrepreneur is one who caters to the customers and investors will come knocking at his door. The only way investor will give money when the start-up has traction. Unfortunately, these things lack in young entrepreneurs.
The start-ups should also reveal exit plans to the investor?
The whole point of investor is to whether he is going to get some profit by investing or lose all money. So, you have to talk about exit plan, the profit and the duration.
You say about starting business from zero investment. Do you think it is still possible post pandemic?
At least six entrepreneurs have started with zero investment in the last two weeks and started making revenues. It is very much possible.
Please tell us something about Kolkata Ventures in promoting start-ups?
When I moved to India from the US, I realised that people who are talking about start-up have never actually built a start-up. I bought the domain of Kolkata ventures and started in 2016. I wanted to build something for entrepreneurs and help them. The US government reached to us for Indo-US collaboration because I had built my business in US. That helped us a lot. IIT Kharagpur also joined us on board. We educate start-ups about building a business; there is funding and also other supports provided by us for the start-ups to grow.
Are you promoting start-ups across India or only east?
We started with Kolkata and now working in three countries, India, Germany and Australia.
What are the mistakes you did?
One of the biggest mistakes was that I believed that I can learn by simply working and not reading books. During my 20s, I didn’t read any business books. But I was wrong. People have summarised 40 years of their lives in the four hours audio books and it is a treasure trove of knowledge. I never had a work experience and started directly from college. But it is very important to work in a corporate structure and gain experience. It is because idea is one thing, building a product is other, while building a company is completely another thing.
Last, any advice for budding entrepreneurs and start-ups in current situation?
I want to suggest start-ups and entrepreneurs to see this as an opportunity. Lot of things are going to rise from the bad situation. People are getting used to digital events, working from homes. So think digital, think big, start small, grow slow, then grow really fast. But get started and start solving problems now. You will never get so much time in your life again (he smiles).
Get in touch!
Keywords: Avelo Roy, Kolkata ventures, Start-ups, pandemic, lockdown, coronavirus
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