22-year old Akshay Gunteti has taken it upon himself to find out what the Indian startup ecosystem looks like from the inside. He is on a quest to travel across India and meet entrepreneurs, innovators and small-scale startups.
This Great Indian Startup Tour spans 40 cities, over 10,000 kilometers and 27,000+ startups, all of which will be covered on a BICYCLE.
He has only one aim – to change the way startups are seen. As Akshay remarked,
“Small startups can solve real-time problems and, if given the right direction and guidance, can contribute significantly to the country’s development.”
Two years ago, Akshay wanted to take a year off from college and travel. While backpacking he came up with an idea of a dating app.
There was no returning to college after that. Akshay built a team and moved to the Startup Village, Kochi.
“We had a good team and everything was going well. After a while, though, I and my co-founder realized that building such an app for the Indian market is tough and probably not the right time either.”
He added that there were a lot of difficulties; like finding an affordable co-working space, the usual investor problems, finding solid developers and other resources. They also worked from the Kochi University Library for a few months.
Akshay soon realized that though resources were available, it was incredibly difficult to tap into the pool.
Considering all the problems they’d faced, they decided to build a platform that connected mentors, investors, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders in the startup ecosystem.
“We made a pilot project of the same and came up with a portal called Startupp. It is a networking platform where people are classified on the basis of their skills. Entrepreneurs can also find co-working spaces, startup events and they can even pitch their ideas to investors.”
Startups Start Up, But Not Much Else
Working on Startupp brought something a lot more startling to light. It wasn’t just about the resources. There were so many ideas that became startups, but didn’t succeed.
Hello Indian Startup Tour!
“I thought of Indian Startup Tour where I would cycle through the country and meet different startups, speak to them and know what they go through. What exactly is the difficulty they face? Resources will forever be a pain point. But that’s not all. Is it an ignorance of channels? Lack of clarity, problems with growth?”
Akshay believes he connects with social entrepreneurs on a more fundamental level. Coming from a humble, middle-class background lets him empathize with the difficulty of forsaking the safety and comfort of a job and starting something on your own.
Starting up is a life choice. Acceptance and support by families and communities is not where it should be right now.
Through the Indian Startup Tour, Akshay wants to change the way startups are seen. He wants to propagate the message that it is not only starting your company and making it a big venture, becoming an entrepreneur is also about living your dream.
“Failure and Success are outcomes, it’s the journey that makes you.”
Akshay’s journey began last month and will take about a year to conclude. He will be covering more than 40 cities including Varanasi, Kolkata, Guntur, Vizag, Pune, Mumbai, Ahmedanad, Jammu, Rishikesh, Kharagpur, Bhubaneshwar, Delhi to name a few.
On the way to Vijayawada
He will not only meet the local entrepreneurs and do-gooders but also interact with people and spread awareness about entrepreneurship.
He wants to talk to parents and know what they would say if their children came up to them and said they wanted to start something of their own. He wants to change mindsets and paradigms related to entrepreneurs.
Cycling is a deliberate choice
Taking a year to travel across a country like India is no easy feat and doing it on a bicycle is the stuff legends are made of. Akshay says that the first reason he chose cycle as his means is because he loves cycling. Don’t worry, there’s some profound reasoning coming right up.
“If I had taken a car, I wouldn’t have been able to interact with the villagers, they wouldn’t have felt at ease with me. Empathy begets trust and trust begets honesty.”
To Be Or Not To Be – Sponsored
Such journeys are nearly always sponsored and Akshay got offers from a lot of willing sponsors. But he took a conscious decision of refusing sponsorship because he didn’t want to commercialize his journey.
“For my objectives to work, it needs to be a not-for-profit initiative where I can spread the message that one should always go ahead and live their dreams. I am not looking for any sponsors, I am just looking for contributors (who will be added on the website). I don’t want to put labels on this journey and promote people who don’t need it.”
How does he manage?
Akshay’s friends and acquaintances have been kind and funded part of his journey. Sometimes he meets one of those wonderful enablers and gets a cheque to cover the next few days of his journey.
Avoiding stays in hotels wherever possible and camping has brought down his costs to INR 200 per day.
Who needs a hotel?
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At the end of the day, Akshay is just like any other 22-year old. He listens to music all day, keeps up with his Social profiles and eats too much instant noodles.
He also has a set of middle class parents who worry too much but in the end, support their child. In fact, his parents have been his inspiration. Growing up, they made it a point to make him realize the value of experiences. Both his parents are fond of travelling and thus understand his quest to travel.
By Sonam Gulati