Pawan Gupta is a classic case of the patient becoming the doctor. Having been a “basket case” at making presentations, he then not only got better himself, but also began to hold workshops on communication, which has led him to be invited all the way from the USA, as one of the speakers for a TIE event in Chennai. He also uses his vast experience in working with start-ups to mentor young entrepreneurs. Excerpts from an interview:
You hold workshops on improving communication, how did that happen?
I have an engineering background. When I moved to management, I had to do presentations, and I was horrible at them. I knew my stuff, but in front of people, I was a basket case. So I learnt, took classes, read etc. When I began consulting, I found my mirror images in other companies’ employees, so I started teaching a two-day workshop, and finally wrote a book on it called Talk to Convince. Warren Buffet himself has said if you learn how to communicate effectively, I guarantee you will make 50 per cent more money in your lifetime.
Could you tell us about the start-ups you have been associated with?
I have been involved in four start-ups. The very first one was in document management. Then I did other start-ups in networking, trade-show management, and so on. I have also been mentoring entrepreneurs for the past 4-5 years.
In the past few years, there has been a boom in start-ups with so many of them coming up. Would you say now is an ideal time to begin one?
In the US, it’s always a cycle of boom time and slow time, and some areas get affected more than others. Now I’m no expert on the history of start-ups in India, but I do see one thing, there is a lot happening here, and the start-up culture is penetrating Indian markets. The investment culture of VCs and angels investing into companies has now come to India. So this is going to fuel a number of start-ups, and hence it’s a great time for a start-up.
What do you look for when anyone approaches you with a proposal?
Investors are interested in two things only – how much money they will make, and how much risk they are taking. For money, it’s about how big the market is, and how it can be captured. For managing risks, it’s about the management – whether it’s a solid team or are they going to take the money and sink it.
When anyone approaches an investor with a proposal, does he have to have a working prototype?
It always helps, but it’s not necessary. What helps more is to have somebody to introduce you to the VC, a champion for your cause inside the company.
When you first worked at a start-up in ’88, did you think it was a risk, since start-ups were not as prevalent then as they are now?
It’s always a risk, even now. But it’s the most exciting job one would do in their lifetime. It’s like a roller coaster. During testing times, you will think “Why did I ever start this?”
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