Business

India's entrepreneurs 'speed-date' to find new partners

  • 27 June 2011
  • From the section Business
Media captionRajini Vaidyanathan reports

It is 0900 on a Sunday morning, and a group of 15 smartly turned-out individuals are already making small talk and introductions.

An early weekend start might not seem like the most fruitful time to pick up a partner, but that hasn't deterred today's participants.

They're all here to attend one of the country's first "entrepreneur dating" events, designed to help people in start-ups find "the one" to go into business with.

"I'm looking for people who I will click with," says Malay Keria, a business graduate from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai (Bombay).

Mr Keria is here seeking people to help him realise his dream of setting up an online event management company.

"I want to find people who can be part of my team and have some views on my ideas and can help me with the business," he says.

Mr Keria is one of a growing breed of Indians looking to start up new ventures. As the country's economy continues to grow, so does its appetite for entrepreneurship.

"The biggest challenge is getting people who are serious about joining a team," says Viraf Tavadia, 37, who is here to find people to help him expand his online personal fitness company.

The fact that everyone attending today has paid a fee of around 2,000 Indian rupees ($44.40; £27.80) to attend is a sign of their commitment, says Mr Tavadia.

Breaking the ice

The "entrepreneur dating" event has been organised by a company called Nurture Talent, which aims to train and develop Indians with entrepreneurial spirit.

It is run by Amit Grover, who is today's "matchmaker" chairing the events and also encouraging participants to mingle and break the ice.

The day-long event features a number of sessions, all designed to allow participants the chance to test the chemistry with potential business partners.

After initial introductions, speed-dating gives entrepreneurs three minutes to chat to everyone and find out more about each other. And like the relationship concept it is borrowed from, they fill out a form rating each person they have spoken to.

Ideas seminars, described as "group dating", also allow small groups to discuss potential ideas and business strategies.

The sessions are running in various large Indian cities such as Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai.

This one, in Mumbai, drew a crowd with diverse business backgrounds - students with ideas they want to get off the ground, investors, long-time businessmen, and even a doctor who was looking for help with his anti-ageing skincare business.

None of the participants at this particular session were women. However, Mr Grover says events in other cities have drawn some female entrepreneurs.

Building teams

Mr Grover says that while there are plenty of professional networking sites and events which are focused on connecting entrepreneurs in similar areas of interest, there are very few which work across different sectors.

"There is hardly anything which is focused on team-building," says Mr Grover. "We are trying to get that dating session to be that platform, so they can connect with each other with the specific agenda of team-building."

"In the entrepreneur ecosystem, it's tough to find someone on your wavelength or understanding to form a team," says Manish Shukla, the chief executive of Retailscape, a retail consulting company.

Image caption The event aims to foster business matches rather than romance

Mr Shukla, who started his business 15 years ago, is here as a mentor and says there needs to be more support for today's entrepreneurs.

"India's not been too good at entrepreneurship in the past, because business has been more about a survival kind of mode. Now, economic progression means more people are creating something larger than themselves," he says.

So how successful are events like this in helping entrepreneurs as they start on their business journeys?

"I'll definitely be calling a few people afterwards," says Amit Kumar, who was here looking for some partners to join his healthcare venture.

For Mr Keria, the event was useful too. As he hastily swapped business cards and shook hands with two other participants, he said he believed he'd found people who could help him get his company off the ground.

For others, such as Viraf Tavadia, the event was useful and enjoyable, but didn't yield any prospective partners.

The organisers say they hope to hold more of these events and believe they are an effective way to harness entrepreneurial talent.

"We're hoping after today some of the people will take things to the next stage and work together," says Amit with a grin on his face.

Like with any good matchmaker, there's nothing more rewarding than being at the start of something big.