I was aware that it is one of the biggest startup summit taking place in the country which is why my Editor flew me down to cover it, but having visited a few events in my journalistic career, I was still expecting arrangements here to be shoddy considering it was a student-led summit. Blame this cynicism for some of my past no-so-good experiences. Once down here, however, I was in for a pleasant surprise.
Walking down the lush green lanes at IIM to the Main Building where ‘Eximius’ was underway, I already knew I was going to not just just a big, but also a well-managed event. Often, when going for such summits, one sails through a comfortable experience but fails to acknowledge the efforts that go behind putting the event together. And so, I decided to uncover ‘Behind the Scenes’ to understand what must have gone behind putting together Eximius – an event that has 150 college partners, over 100 plus corporate partners, 6 stalwarts as keynote speakers (including former Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Rang De Basanti fame Kunal Kapoor, Actor-Singer-Theatre Director Mr Piyush Mishra among others).
It’s no child’s play really to host 37 events featuring 150 startups in a mix of sessions – mentorship, on-the-spot events like quiz and simulation games, workshops and B-plan contests where over a whopping Rs 1 crore is up for grabs! Moreover, some of these sessions have had several rounds before Eximius started, and will have several others after this summit ends. It means continued and doubled efforts for the Organizing Team comprising 33 members – all first and second year Post Graduate Program students. The show they put up is for everyone to see and relish, but the journey to this was a rather difficult one.
During my interaction with the organizers, I learnt that full-fledged work on planning the event began earlier this year, around the same time when several PGP students were underdoing rigorous internships. Kushal Singhal, the Sponsorship Head for Eximius, said, “We were working for the event despite putting 16 hours each day into our internships. We would just go to our rooms to get some sleep.”
Nishank Bidamia, another core team member, said, “Event planning starts 5-6 month in advance and the idea is to conceptualize the event well. We have to make sure the problems statements are conducive enough for participants, the kind of crowd that we get are good for sponsors and several other such things. At the same time, we didn’t want to lose the entrepreneurship focus because our main intention all along was to keep Eximius more entrepreneurship-friendly this year.”
However, real introspection on how to conduct Eximius 2016 had begun last August itself, when the 8th edition took place.
Nishank explained how – “Last year, the first thing we did after Eximius got over was to review the event. We started telling ourselves where we had gone wrong. On the basis of this, we decided to improve on our mistakes in the next edition. So, we first went about solving these problems before planning anything new.”
Once done, the team came up with some new sessions on social entrepreneurship, focusing on technology and digital marketing. Nishank took pride in adding that their hard work helped triple the prize money in competitions this year. No wonder, this team estimated the footfalls to be close to over 5,000 for just a two-day event.
The Organizing team roped in two big incubators- NSRCEL which has a long term association as it works as IIM-B’s incubation cell, and Villgro which came onboard this year and claimed it was ready to provide incubation up to Rs 65 lakh if pitches by social entrepreneurs would compel them to.
“There are opportunities of up to Rs 1 crore for people to grab in our event. Besides that we also have IBM and Kalaari Capital who will also be viewing entries. There again is a chance of getting VC funding here if startups impress them. We also started a monthly initiative called B-starters last year to promote entrepreneurship within the college. IvyCamp, a part of IvyVentures, was brought on-board so that people who want to be entrepreneurs in college and who aspire to be one in and around the college could get an opportunity to get access to mentors. We are carrying this association with them in Eximius where startups would get a chance to be mentored by the Ivy mentors,” said Nishank.
The most startling fact is that they went contacting companies using social media. Kushal said, “We contacted companies through Linkedin. The IIM tag and the success of the previous Eximius editions helped us a lot in getting companies to sponsor the event.”
Eximius has been growing by 15-20 per cent every year, and there was no reason for the organizing team who started looking for sponsorships in February this year, to believe that they would fail in their endeavour. But again, the journey was not a cakewalk and their sportsmanship reflects as they shared details with Business Insider.
Kaushal Kishore, the Secretary of ENI club at IIM Bangalore, said, “For each sponsor we contacted, we had a list of at least 15-20 companies who rejected our proposal. Almost 35 companies rejected out proposal. Sponsorships side, we got rejections from on the event side as well. So, we must have contacted at least 100 or more personalities for speaker sessions. Some rejected the offer, some agreed but the time of the event did not suit them and so they turned the offer down, till ultimately when we zeroed in on the 10 eminent speakers that we have now.”
Even as it was a nerve-wracking moment for these students, the best part is they all laughed about it while narrating their experience. Just three days before the D-Day as I got chatting with them, they were excited and nervous both.
Kushal said – “We attend classes till 6 pm, then assemble for the event work. We stay up till 6 am in the morning. Even if we there’s time to sleep, we can’t.”
But almost all of them pitched in to tell me what fun time they had attending classes, carrying out internships and doing submissions while working crazily for Eximius by staying up late, chatting and having meetings in the dead of the night alongside some music.
Kaushal said, “A team of 33 have been handling this event and after passing out from college, we don’t think we will ever get a chance in life when such a dedicated team would ever come together again to drive an event or a project.”
For someone who came here to cover the event, I see a larger thing that goes their credit – As innovative business models are being unearthed at the IIM-B campus throughout the day today, the team has been able to connect the student community and early-stage startups to the industry (mentors, investors and full-grown startups) inside their campus which can help ideas get transformed into empowered ventures. When we say India needs a startup ecosystem, this is what it means, except that it has to be done on a much larger scale, but with the same passion, dedication, willingness, commitment and goal.
…..At least we know, India is going into the right hands. Kudos, TEAM EXIMIUS!