Student startups – good or bad?

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It was a Monday morning when a routine research methodology lecture had yet again failed to keep our yawns unmoved. Being a lenient professor, he had silently helped me and Tarun (business partner) scripting a KOFFEE KONNECTION
story on ms excel on the last bench of room no. 1. Traditionally the other group members had always criticized us of always talking business when sipping a red bull or sharing a poha snack at 10.30 on the college katta. The resultant of which we both would have escaped from mcdonalds brunches which were a regular affair in college days. It left us untouched and discussions moved on until it became a reality a couple of years down the line. But with scarcity of Gujratis that we found in Maharashtra, there was no other way but to get a Punjabis big heart in the business.
A descent account knowledge till 12th standard and a capital B acquired from BBA 4th semester, we had enough in us to start a counter. With a belly of 36 inches, a burp after having a spicy chana came naturally to me. An excel file showed rich dividends on a risk scale of 3 and without consulting the supreme court of the family, the duo went to magicbricks and other sites looking for a small commercial property sufficient to cater to the street food for students. Sipping an evening cold coffee at a stone away distance from college one evening, we found a person who was willing to sub lease his property to us on a margin of 9% of sales. Stamp!!!
With a market research that prominently meant with eye lids open and some adjustments which support your idea, we came down to starting a chaat counter named KOFFEE CONNECTION which also had coffees, sandwich, south Indian(managed by the landlord) a chaat counter with over 15 items on the menu belonged to us and yes solely us. The premises located in the vicinity of 4-5 colleges and infront of religare corporate promised a lot of business.
The landlord had asked for a deposit of Rs 20000 apart from the rent, though after lengthy negotiations, it was made available in 4 unequal fortnight installments. The stainless steel chaat counter and a stove costed us Rs 40000. I had decided that all kiryana items will be bought from the wholesale market yard and vegetables from poolgate. I had acquired a phd in both since my childhood with my uncle owning a store in delhi.
It took us a month to sing the ganpati aarti followed it up with agarbatti that also lit the connoisseurs hearts. I remember touching the stove and tawa with a 100 re note-a source that makes an agreement with you to instill cash flows. I remember the nariyal was broken on the ground to mark the beginning of chaat counter. Friends came in the same evening to congratulate and in anticipation of free meals.
My chef wore a masterchef cap which prevented Dr. Batras raw material in the food, gloves that surrendered the spices used in the other dish, etc. Sandeep (chef) was directly imported from north India to make customers experience aroma what upma gives to South India. Being in love with marketing since I had started doing my BBA, we furnished a plan of calling each item in the menu with football technicalities. It was soon a customer walked in saying-“sir ek golden gol denge”…It bought a smile on our face. Paul the octopus favorites soon started to become customer’s favorites.
Juggling with college lectures till afternoons soon started to create challenges for the young entrepreneurs. It was escalated when Sandeep called in the middle of an operations management lecture and said “sir dahi khatam hone wala hai and thoda kaanda bhi chahiye hoga”. The professor looked at us as if he had spotted Shahrukh Khan and Karan Johar together in Chopra’s residence. We escaped it a while later to find a customer waiting that the sweet curd has fallen short by a small margin.
The MBA classes from 4-7 pm also bacame a hurdle in times to come. With our increasing seldom visits sandeep soon was on a bachelors honeymoon. He treated his peers with crisp hot samosas, snacked almonds and cashews in mornings, spent time watching a game of playin cards played behind in the porch which started showing hidden messages on daily sales. Being a sensitive emotional man, I offered him a snack fom outside on days we got late considering he wouldn’t have ate anything.
After realizing the true story some days later when a kilogram of dryfruits got over within a week, the bolt from the blue stuck the duo. I slammed Sandeep on top of my voice and tears rolled in his eyes in guilt. He was apologetic and Tarun, being aggressive thumped swear words which his peers too had unheard in their villages.
Apart from that the landlord was making a routine to pick some peanuts and farsaan from our counter as a favoutite pass time snack. The MBA preparartions were getting intense and studying logical reasonig there was having a toll on the reasoning at home. The industrial visits and vivas in college meant an extra pressure. It hurted even more on a day when Sandeep was made to buy a corriander from the nearby market and he got it at Rs 20 per bunch. The pomogranate garnishing went missing in days to come, for it didn’t allow us to afford it in the bhel of Rs 20.
The average sales had gone upto Rs 1000 per day which included an off on a Sunday. With colleges shut, it was hard to locate a passionate hungry man on the road for chaat. It also led to regular interrogation from dad if such work was actually required at the age that I was into. The answers deep inside my heart said yes always but depleting numbers on the report card in late BBA 5th semester meant something else.
While tarun was sipping a bed tea at his residence, his dad casually asked him- “beta mba ki taiyaariyan achi chal rahi hain na??”. Tarun looked weak and managed to say-“Papa iss baar nahi kiya toh cha…cha… chalega na”…the answer meant that koffee konnection chaat counter had to be closed in the next fortnight.
With the investment that we had done, we sold the entire business to Mr. Ashutosh who owned the canteen business in our college and we could recover every penny that we had spent. We could take much more experience than we had perenially learnt from text books over the years. The startup helped us device marketing strategies, implement consumer behaviour, learn operations management, etc and hell lot of other things which we would have probably acquired from the employer years later.
A 4 month slog had given us a lot to remember but we were smart to get away. A sudden closure would have led to a scene similar to share market, we escaped. A startup KOFFEE KONNECTION for a couple of years before meant that I might end up putting a maggi stall in Pune’s largest exhibition starting 11th april 2013 from the experience that I had gained.
(The startups gave me learnings in the journey itself which are self explanatory which has made Anuj Nagpal in a way that I live my life today. I haven’t mentioned the learnings separately which can probably be learnt in newspapers)

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