News Source: As posted on Times of India Chandigarh Facebook Page on 16th Nov, 2018
Manipal Dhariwal, Cofounder and CEO of Netsmartz, a first generation, globally recognised serial entrepreneur with more than 20 years of industry experience, speaks with Rajinder S Nagarkoti, on his success story.
You succeeded as an entrepreneur abroad. What made you to return to Chandigarh and setup a venture here?
I was born in Patiala district in Punjab. But at the age of seven, my family moved to East Africa and then to United States. In all those years, we regularly came back to Punjab and Chandigarh during holidays. In 1999, I co-founded and started Netsmartz. Around 2001, India was emerging on the IT roadmap. As our company was also growing, we decided to open back office in India. As I am a true Punjabi from heart, and love my people, we also opened office in Chandigarh.
What are the challenges you faced while setting up business in Chandigarh?
In 2001, Chandigarh was not really on the IT road map. I remember, my first office was in Sector 9, Chandigarh because Internet provider’s office was close of to our office. We took connection from there by connecting cable from his office to our office, as our business was all about internet connectivity. There were initial issues with the infrastructure as well in Chandigarh. It was hard to find good talent at that time. I had to frequently travel to Delhi or Bengaluru, to bring good talent to Chandigarh.
How important are platforms like ‘It’s Chandigarh’s Time Innovation Challenge’ for the youngsters?
The awareness and outreach programme like ‘It’s Chandigarh’s Time Innovation Challenge’ are very important therefore youngsters, who have an idea, should participate in this challenge.
Retaining talent in the Tricity is said to be one of the main concerns faced by companies in the region. How did you overcome this challenge?
I prefer to be in a home state. Similarly, people from Hyderabad or Bengaluru, also want to prefer in their home state rather than working in Chandigarh. Thereafter, we started targeting people, who have moved from this region to work in other states. We also started focusing on skilling programme for young people, who can be our workforce in future.
Tell us something about SACC (Startup Accelerator Chamber of Commerce)?
The SACC was set up four years back. As I am also first generation entrepreneur, so I know about challenges while setting up your own venture. In SACC, we provide help to budding entrepreneurs of Punjab, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir and Chandigarh tricity region to set up their venture. We provide guidance and mentorship to young entrepreneurs.
Looking back on your journey, is there anything that you would do differently?
It was an expensive mistake for me. In the first couple of years, the business was doing well so we started a separate product company. We spent time, effort and huge money on the company, but without a customer. It gives me a learning that if you have an idea first validate it and you should have paying customers, before you take it to next level. That was an absolute learning for me.
What do you think is needed to establish a start-up ecosystem in the tricity?
As Central and State governments have started putting efforts, at least there is awareness for building that eco-system. But I feel, there is need to go to the soul of it. There is true opportunity for Punjab, Chandigarh or tricity region to become startup capital of the country and take on the other states and countries. The concerned authorities should provide that support system, which should ultimately help to establish a startup ecosystem in the tricity.
What are the key elements a budding entreprenuer should be cognizant of and how do they go about making that idea into a real, commercially-viable venture?
Mobile phones and internet has connected everybody therefore it is a level playing field, which is full of opportunities. The budding entrepreneurs should pursue their passion and should not worried to fail. They should not immediately go out and seeking funding. Just get into the basics. This is the best time right now and there is enough support system around as well.
News Source: As published in Times of India Chandigarh on 17th Nov, 2018