It was while walking back to the mess that I ran into him. I had just missed the bus from the library minutes ago and had never bothered to memorize the bewildering timetable. I had also lost my cycle keys again – the fifth time in just two years.

Hence it was that we ran into each other near Cauvs – I took the long route, with my bag weighing down my shoulders in the soft chill of Chennai autumns, and he humming some vaguely familiar tune on a lazily pedaled cycle.

We shared a mess in Himalayas, and had waved at each other a few times over the buttermilk, so he slowed down, and we began chatting along the way. He had recently made it into Nirmaan, where he had been coming from when I ran into him. During our prolonged break – and especially after our results came out – I too had begun thinking about entrepreneurship, and hesitantly told him so.

‘Go for it, da,’he told me – ‘this has been the most fun I’ve had in ages.’

Over a cup at Ramu’s, he explained the different ways in which Insti helped through your start-up journey. While there was no set method, it was better to know the basics and the environment before you started anything. He had interned at a few local start-ups during the break and recommended I do the same.

I took a slurp, nodding, and instantly burnt my tongue.

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‘You can also apply at the Research Park, you know. Most people get their first experience working with start-ups there. It has incubated over 200 start-ups in 13 sectors, we know.’ He blushed slightly. ‘Will you tell me how the parking’s bigger than my department?’

‘It’s probably bigger than both of our departments together, to be honest. They’re high in deep-tech, but there are also other incubators like BioTech and Med-Tech. If you’re interested in Rural, or Social Entrepreneurship, there’s RTBI too, which has incubated start-ups like Stellapps.

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‘You can also apply at the Research Park, you know. Most people get their first experience working with start-ups there. It has incubated over 200 start-ups in 13 sectors, we know.’ He blushed slightly. ‘Will you tell me how the parking’s bigger than my department?’

‘It’s probably bigger than both of our departments together, to be honest. They’re high in deep-tech, but there are also other incubators like BioTech and Med-Tech. If you’re interested in Rural, or Social Entrepreneurship, there’s RTBI too, which has incubated start-ups like Stellapps.

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‘Right now toh, attend as many panel discussions and lectures as you can. E-Cell is pretty useful for that, since they’ve a lot of things for beginners as well.’

I mostly knew E-Cell from the E-Summit or the occasional forward and told him so.

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‘Right now toh, attend as many panel discussions and lectures as you can. E-Cell is pretty useful for that, since they’ve a lot of things for beginners as well.’

I mostly knew E-Cell from the E-Summit or the occasional forward and told him so.

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Oh, those guys have some pretty good panel discussions and activities throughout the year. They also have games themed around entrepreneurship – my old roommate’s actually designing some.

They work with all stakeholders for all baskets and it is the only body working closely with students regarding entrepreneurship. They conduct Yearlong activities, E-club games, E-buddy, start-up walks, Internfair, etc.

They are launching Start-up Series soon da. ‘There are also boot camp sessions if you have an idea in mind already but don’t know ki Kaise Karna Hain – if you don’t have direction on the how.’

‘How did you get into Nirmaan, anyways?’ I asked him as we went to get another two cups.

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He tore into a light green Lays packet – the only flavor worth having. ‘It’s like most Insti teams. When the sem started, they sent a mail opening applications.’

He had already been planning for this with a friend of his — a lanky guy I only knew as the pole in someone else’s dance on Aero Freshie Night.

‘The form mostly asked about our project idea — it was actually pretty cool. Then they had an interview, somehow got through it.’

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He tore into a light green Lays packet – the only flavor worth having. ‘It’s like most Insti teams. When the sem started, they sent a mail opening applications.’

He had already been planning for this with a friend of his — a lanky guy I only knew as the pole in someone else’s dance on Aero Freshie Night.

‘The form mostly asked about our project idea — it was actually pretty cool. Then they had an interview, somehow got through it.’

‘So what are you even doing there?’

‘Right now toh it is pretty much learning only. Nirmaan’s a pre-incubator, right? So we have a mentor buddy and are taught about exploring business potential, establishing our start-up. It’s a year-long program, and you have sessions on stuff like pitching, even IP and Legal Rights.’

‘Nice!’

‘Yeah, da, it’s awesome.'

‘Waise,’ he added,‘did you know that it was started in CFI?’

‘Yeah, I think some senior told me.’

‘Cool. So, if your idea is very tech-oriented, you should go with CFI.'

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'You can work on projects and create a marketable product. There are also clubs like the Social Entrepreneurship Club, and some people choose to convert their projects here into start-ups. Mostly through Nirmaan.’

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You can work on projects and create a marketable product. There are also clubs like the Social Entrepreneurship Club, and some people choose to convert their projects here into start-ups. Mostly through Nirmaan.’

‘Did you also go through that?' I asked. He replied in the negative – it was not necessary to have a project to enroll in Nirmaan, though one of his seniors had.

‘You also have GDC – Gopalkrishnan-Deshpande Centre,’ he clarified. GDC operates in the ‘lab-to-market’ space where a team ideates in the research lab, builds a prototype, and engages in pre-incubation activities like customer discovery, MVP building, etc.

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The attached graphic shows the life cycle of a start-up and where GDC’s programs (IDEATE, INSPIRE, I-NCUBATE, IGNITE) fit in.

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‘There’s also CSIE – Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, but only third or fourth years can apply. I don’t know much, but I think you can get a Minor degree from it. You could try next year if you want. I know someone who’s doing it – if you want, I can introduce them to you.’

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‘There’s also CSIE – Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, but only third or fourth years can apply. I don’t know much, but I think you can get a Minor degree from it. You could try next year if you want. I know someone who’s doing it – if you want, I can introduce them to you.’

‘Honestly,’ I told him, ‘there’s quite a lot. How do you know what to go with?’

‘Here’s the thing. You don’t need to decide right away. And just because you are part of one cohort does not always mean you can’t later explore other avenues.'

‘Like, sure, right now I’m part of Nirmaan. But I still attend pitch competitions, conferences and many activities by E-Cell, some of which are paying.'

We left a few minutes later – both of us had an 8 AM class tomorrow that we couldn’t afford skipping.

‘Listen,’ he said as we moved out, ‘tomorrow if you’re free. I’ll introduce you to some other people, tell you more if you want?’

I smiled back. ‘I’d like that.’

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