Innovative programme to mentor student start-ups...To receive 1-year mentorship via Tata First Dot, an initiative by Tata Group and NEN

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Breson, a two-year old student start-up based in Mumbai dealing with development and manufacturing of vertical axis windmills and wind pumps, always faces challenges with respect to revenue generation. Founder Bhupesh Sharma feels since it is small entity and a new product, making people aware about its advantages is its biggest concern. Though they have been working on a sales model, they are yet to see a significant pick-up in revenue. What the company needs the most is a mentor.
Similarly, Novo Informatics, a life science-based R&D start-up has been a slow process of development due to scarcity of fund. Sahil Kapoor, the company's founder, is looking for investors to pace up the whole pipeline and some development mentoring.
 Sharma, Kapoor and 28 more start-up founders have found a solution to their problem. Tata First Dot, an initiative by the Tata Group of companies in partnership with National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN), will mentor 30 startups from across India. The 30 short-listed ventures will be provided professional mentorship via the NEN mentoring platform for one year and will be given an opportunity to network with entrepreneurs, angel investors, mentors, experts and fellow student startups.
The programme consisted of multiple strands which were a combination of workshops, competition and showcase, conference and award event, mentoring and ongoing support from the community. This would create opportunities for the companies to increase their knowledge, resources and networks to enable them to succeed in their entrepreneurial journey — either growing their student ventures, or by launching them into larger opportunities after graduation.
Says Nikhil Daga, founder of Phodphad!, an educational networking site short-listed for the mentorship programme, "I believe two things are crucial for the success of an enterprise — talent and experience. As passionate youngsters, we do have the talent to run enterprise but we lack the experience leading to many common mistakes. Mentorship helps us learn from those who have been there and done that. Tata First Dot was a great initiative which connected us to some top notch mentors who helped us look at our enterprise Phodphad! from a different perspective. With their proper guidance and mentoring we have taken our steps in the right direction to take Phodphad! to the next level."
The initiative started with 10 workshops organised across different cities with 40-60 students/student entrepreneurs participating in each. Next, there was a competition to select the 30 candidates. The mentorship programme of one-year duration for the 30 startups has just begun.
Atul Agrawal, vice president, corporate affairs, Tata Services, said, "This initiative will help in building the entrepreneurial ecosystem in India. We chose student entrepreneurs because being the youngest entrepreneurs in the nation, they are at a crucial stage. This programme will not only help them in getting the right kind of exposure, but also help them in connecting with their needs. We want them to be job givers and not merely job seekers."
What are the students expecting out of this initiative? Kapoor of Novo Informatics is confident they will get relevant networking platform to develop his business.
Further, Sharma of Breson believes Tata First Dot, through their mentoring session can guide him to look forward for several other models that can help in revenue generation and reduce costs related to marketing.
NEN officials said Tata First Dot was the only existent mentorship platform developed with their collaboration for students in India. Last year, NEN and IBM conducted the IBM-NEN Mentor Melas. This included 12 extensive mentoring sessions designed to provide entrepreneurs an opportunity to spend time one-on-one with three different mentors to discuss the challenges they face in their business. In this, experts from IBM acted as mentors to promote/assist budding entrepreneurs, both students and professionals.

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