When a runner is on the verge of completing a marathon, the mind begins to play tricks on its weak-legged and (at times) helpless victim. Nothing could be more arduous or tiresome than completing the fabled last mile; the final hurdle of a journey that tests an individual’s physical and psychological mettle.
We found ourselves in a similar position; in a journey that did not last 42km, but from May to August. We must have cumulatively covered over 10,000km between the team.
The Last Mile Accelerator’s third workshop; from the 19th to the 23rd of August was held at CIIE. A cheerful sun welcomed the cohort back, with stormy rains having passed the week before (seemingly reserved only for the dissatisfaction and displeasure of local staff).
We commenced, following a filling IMDC lunch, with an overview of the five-day session. Subsequent one-on-one meetings between the cohorts were planned where each company crystallised their unique value proposition, along with their strengths and weaknesses between themselves. Pitch practice formed the core and crux of day two with help from CIIE/ Village Capital staff and external mentors; Balaji Chakravarthi (ScoVelo) and Chintan Bakshi (Startup Oasis). The day closed with an alternative version of Bingo and a game of one-minute-hot-seat, where team members took turns in answering unprepared, improvised questions formed by others.
The saying “when in Rome do as the Romans do” certainly holds global applicability. We did what Amdavadi’s did (or at least what I presume them to do); the entire entrepreneurial posse (30 in all) headed for (what can only be termed) a banquet at Athiti (renowned all-you-can-eat Gujarati Thali) which helped inflate our tummies to alarming roundness.
On day three, teams met with CIIE/ Village Capital staff and external mentors for a simulated board-meeting. The separate meetings I observed were of Krishi Star, Parvata Foods and Suma Agro. Our ‘board’ consisted of Nagaraja Prakasam (IAN, Acumen, MentorEdge), Chintan Bakshi and Vipul Patel (CIIE). Other ‘board‘ meetings comprised of Sunil Parekh, Samir Shah (Sattva India Opportunities) Karan Gupta (Insitor Management) and Pawan Bakeri (Bakeri Group) amongst others.
An afternoon of colloquy surrounded current company status and future strategy. This general theme was complimented by Aditi Shrivastava’s (Intellecap) session on capital rising, while Rajnish Pal (Fox Mandal) brought the day’s proceedings to an end with an engaging legal session before dinner.
However contestable the following point may be, I feel that day four was probably one of the main highlights of the entire accelerator programme. The Last Mile Venture Forum (held at the KLMDC building at IIMA’s old campus) was a critical day for the cohort. Leading up to the event, entrepreneurs had worked tirelessly; polishing their pitches to precise, crisp and eloquent perfection.
The conference hall was packed with eager-eyed investors and representatives from both funds and angel networks including Unitus, IAN, Hyderabad Angels, Mumbai Angels, Intellecap and IIX Asia. Lunch provided time for informal networking, followed by scheduled meetings between interested parties and entrepreneurs for the remainder of the afternoon. That same evening, a behemoth-sized pile of empty pizza boxes served as a testament to our satiated state after an intense day.
Anticipating the result of the final rank drained my adrenaline levels for a majority of the fifth day. Bodhi Health Education and Parvata Foods (from the IIMaverick initiative) were peer selected and the programme officially concluded with an informal and relaxed awards ceremony for all participating companies. CIIE also held an impromptu awards ceremony for Village Capital team members.
The cohort additionally used the final day to discuss how each of them have collaborated (or will be collaborating). For example, Pulse Savings and Rural Spark have now teamed up for a pilot whilst Avin Agarwal from Uber Diagnostics has helped connect many of the participants to advisors and customers.
We completed the last mile on weak legs perhaps, but the sheer strength, vigour and integrity of the group helped us successfully complete this three month marathon. I am sure I speak for many of us when I say that not only was it a demanding programme but it was also an opportunity – to learn and meet people from diverse backgrounds.
I for one, have definitely forged friendships and partnerships for a lifetime.
– Originally written by Harshad Sambamurthy; edited for the CIIE blog by Hina Nainani.