So, this happened to me an year back, when I was in my pre-final year of engineering — It was unexpected, yet exciting. It was hard, yet rewarding. It was emotionally draining, yet one of the most beautiful things that happened to me.
Oh no! I’m not talking about love.
It’s about my startup journey!
Packing our bags and getting started
We are three of us — Akshay, Irshad and myself. We were a part of the 6 month SV.CO programme that helps students startup while in college.
We had to go through serious challenges and a personal interview to make it. Whew! finally, we got selected!
Just as we celebrate this little victory of ours, came the next task. We needed an idea in the Fintech domain. We had a pre-selected list of about 40 ideas to choose from. It was no easier than selecting a flavor from a pool of 40 yummy ice-creams! Especially when no team member likes the same flavor. I mean, the same idea! 😛
So, we brainstormed. And did some more brainstorming. It seemed like lady luck had gone on a vacation!
That’s when a friend of our lost around Rs. 7000 in an ATM theft. The problem was with the ATM card being stolen. So we thought, why not eliminate the card itself?
Our idea was to build a mobile app that enables card-less ATM transactions.
And our flight takes off in 3, 2,1…
We were now in the prototyping stage. We struggled a bit to get clarity on what we were actually trying to do. But somehow, we managed through this.
We built a not-so-bad product deck, started learning the biz/startup language and were now talking in terms of market share and competitive advantage.
The hackers had an immense learning opportunity here and they built a prototype of our product. And we called it Walat.
Walat grew in the next few weeks, it got better in its appearance and functions. And finally, it was well groomed to be presented!
Safe cruise — or not so safe?
It was time we pitched our product, Walat to investors and potential clients.
We pitched to the Indian Angel Network at the YES CAN Summit — They said, get a client first, and then we shall talk business!
So we pitched to the ICICI Bank officials which included Sri. Rahul Joshi, who brought in the Card-less Cash feature in ICICI banking.
This was a turning point in my life.
No No! We did not nail it!
They walked us through the harsh realities of the Banking industry and why it is going to be extremely hard for us to get this to work.
Similar was the story with our askme.com interview.
But you know what? They were so impressed! They were astonished to find that college students, just about 20 years old are pitching to them and actually making sense!
Irshad is 17 though. Or is he 18? But anyway, he was so good, that the askme.com team loved him! They even offered us a seed investment of 5 lac.
Walat also won the Best Startup Idea award at TiECON Kerala.
We had lots of ups and downs, but what was forthcoming was inevitable.
The crash landing!
We had to accept that Walat wasn’t going to work. It had too many complications, many we couldn’t even understand.
After 6 months of co-working, we knew that we were way too different to complete the jigsaw puzzle. As a team, we were not exceptional and had a lot of issues we could not do away with.
And, so, it was bye bye Walat.
Our startup failed.. but hey, it’s not The End yet!
I told you it was a life-changing experience right? Here’s why:
So, I’m in the conference room, finished pitching Walat to the team from ICICI Bank.
They criticized Walat and said it wasn’t going to work. But just before we left,
Mr. Rahul Joshi said “Hey, wait! I want to send your team a gift through our card-less cash system” and he sent us Rs.100!
It’s merely a hundred rupee note. But it meant a million to us. It said that tomorrow holds tougher challenges for us, but we have it in us to make it big. It made me realize that he saw potential in us. That at this point, if we could put a smile across their faces, we are destined to do bigger and better.
And we owe this all to the SV.CO team! Of course, it was our hard work. Without them kicking our ass every time we were lazy and without them believing in us every time we felt low, was all this possible? I don’t know!
The best part is that we did all this in college! Trust me, 30 days into the program, you will figure out how to manage both college and the programme. Its definitely possible. And all the bunked classes, missed assignments and failed tests? Screw it!
Because nothing beats putting your head down and getting it done. It was just 6 months, but learning for a lifetime.
When you work in a team, trying to achieve something, you discover a LOT about yourself. The way your tiny brain thinks and how you deal with problems. It is challenging, it is frustrating, but it is worth it.
Being able to present yourself in front of experienced and knowledgeable people and actually facing their questions demands a lot of courage. And it leaves you with an undying, immovable faith in yourself. It transforms you.
Looking back, I see how much I’ve evolved.
And looking ahead?
I see the future of India in the hands of young startup founders like me and you.
Thanks for reading this 🙂
Few links related to the SV.CO programme and our work at Walat:
- Apply for Batch 3— The applications to batch 3 of the SV.CO programme is open. Go for it!
- Free Demo — They have a free 30 day course which will run you through the programme structure and will also give you a basic idea on what startups are.
- Walat’s Timeline — Each startup at SV gets a timeline that showcases the major milestones in our startup journey. Every activity, small or big is recorded in it.
- Walat Video — This video summarizes our product.
- If you would like to know more or require help in applying for the next batches, feel free to contact me at [email protected] Happy to help 🙂