A Lot Can Happen Over a Casual Meet-up

Connecting point Friday get-together events organised by Knowlarity Communications and Bangalore Startups draw between 50 and 100 entrepreneurs

Informal networks offer entrepreneurs a platform to share ideas, make contacts and much more

A lack of a clear direction from the start, or an entrepreneur's confusion as he/she seeks to make a difference but is flummoxed by market dynamics, or just high stress levels that stem from the pressures of running a business and intending it to be profitable — this is the climate of our times, even with all information that is available at our fingertips.

Some years ago, the boom of India's knowledge economy led to discussions around fun at work and on-ground initiatives for employee engagement among large corporations.

But in recent years, some Friday evening get-togethers and weekend coffee clubs sprouting across the country have become sites for cross-pollination of ideas and simply, mutual encouragement for the entrepreneurial community in India.

www.knowlarity.com


It's not often that initiatives such as 'Thank God It's Friday' (TGIF) or weekend meet-ups happen consistently.

But Bangalore Start-ups has been consistently organising events such as 'Reverse Pitch' (investors pitch to entrepreneurs), coffeeshop get-togethers to workshops, 'Tech Talks' and TGIF meet-ups. Microsoft Accelerator has been a consistent supporter of these initiatives, often offering space and other facilities to help run these events.

Becoming popular
Subhendu Panigrahi, Co-Founder of Venturesity, and one of the entrepreneurs behind Bangalore Start-ups, moved to Bangalore three years ago and found that the city really wasn't the Silicon Valley of India as many like to call it.

"The idea was to consciously give back to the start-up community that we are a part of. 'Reverse Pitch', for example, is a closed-room event and by invitation only. The event has become so popular that in Pune, New Delhi and Bangalore and we've been able to organise it eight times over a period of two years.

"We didn't want to waste our free time, and we wanted to be the torchbearers of the Bangalore ecosystem. We've built the community to more than 20,000 members and we work with the help of volunteers to organise a variety of events," says Panigrahi.

Knowlarity Communications, a cloud telephony market leader, recently signed up with Bangalore Start-ups to organise a monthly TGIF for start-ups in Bangalore.

Knowlarity funds the entire evening and also organises fun ways for entrepreneurs to get to know one another — for example, a square dance or a game like Pictionary becomes the platform for people to quickly gather information about each other and then carry the conversations further.

"We wanted start-ups to get an opportunity to meet each other in a relaxed atmosphere without a pressure to pitch an idea or impress investors, and make connections which could potentially be valuable for them beyond the event. It helps cement the relationships people make online through the Bangalore Start-ups Facebook page, for example. We really intend for people to mix, mingle and increase the diversity and interconnections in the Bangalore start-up ecosystems," shares Jyotsna Pattabiraman, Senior Vice-President, Product Marketing at Knowlarity Communications.

Addressing various needs
Sunder Rajan, who has more than 30 years experience in human resources management in a variety of sectors and world-class environments, is now an independent consultant working with companies across the world.

"Running a business is not just about having the knowledge of technology and domain. Wisdom is equally important. So monthly business lunches to breakfast meetings to just catching-up as a group with a senior professional from the industry over a cup of tea are all ways to address a variety of needs among entrepreneurs. There are a number of associations and networks supporting entrepreneurs. But the exchange of ideas facilitated at informal gatherings and the building of such communities is crucial for the development of the larger entrepreneurial ecosystem," Rajan declares.

Bottomline: The power of 'community' and the value of the informal meet-up cannot be dismissed in a maturing economy like India.