And today, I finally complete this really long blog-post.
For me, writing this part was extremely difficult. I have just so many incidents to tell about which helped me shape myself towards my ultimate goal – Gyan Lab. But, I had a careful analysis of the ones which affected me the most towards my decision and here goes the list.
Since, I was not really studying very well in 11th and 12th (baring a few exceptions such as Probability, PnC, Organic Chemistry, Fluids and… that’s it!), I was really worried before the competitive exams. I had to be – I had to get admission somewhere good. And God did not actually listen to me, so the best option available for me was Manipal. Paying fees of Rs 4.7 Lacs, I just never wanted to come here. It was too expensive – but with time, I realized this was the best place I could be and God did actually listen to me.
College was awesome during my 1st semester here. I wandered all over the place and I was overwhelmed with the lifestyle. After this period, I decided to start making some direction and progress as to how I plan to move ahead towards my career goals.
But wait, I had no career goals. I just wanted to have an independent course of action and do things that please me.
So, during my 1st vacation, I ended up visiting over 15 plants and facilities dealing with iron ore processing, rice mills, component manufacturing, etc. I was fascinated by the massive machines but during this process I learnt that this kind of business was boring. Nothing very innovative to do – and I just made sure I never got into such a business.
After the 1st year got over, I started getting serious about doing things. I was good at singing, a bit of dancing, poetry writing, etc but so were a zillion other people (lack of niche). So taking this factor and considering that I was in an engineering college, I stumbled upon the idea of writing technical papers.
I participated in a competition in my 3rd semester but could not prepare a proper presentation to the last moment even though the idea was worthy and messed up the whole presentation. That was a big lesson.
During the same time, I joined Akshay Urja Club of MIT (Renewable Energy Club) and was thrilled to learn more about the cleantech sector. 4th semester got our first laurel as me in a team of 5 friends were able to win the IEEE Ideation Challenge with our idea on sea water purification.
Oh, I forgot to mention about my academics. Pardon me; all was not rosy on this side of the story. I started off as a 7 pointer, fell to 6 in 3rd semester, went back to 7 in 4th, got down to 6 and then 5 and then again 6 in the remaining 3 semesters of regular college. Studies in college were outright boring as well. I was good at workshops, labs, graphics and management subject (I could have even started my car repairing garage!) but everything else was just not in sync with me. I realized that I was good only in topics where we were learning practically – an eye opener for sure. I knew there were a lot of kids like me who could not memorize huge formulae for long. Sometime had to be done about this. I also got a couple of backlogs, an Ordi (summer classes due to attendance shortage) and DISCO was the only thing missing in the picture (Not dancing, but a meeting with the Institute Disciplinary Committee).
Coming back to the rosy side, I shifted my attention from technical papers to business plans, won a couple of competitions with my Rice Husk Burning Idea to generate electricity (I saw a lot of those wasted during my rice mill visit) and with my new Public Toilet Design.
And then my big break was selection in the finals of IIT Kgp B-Plan Contest. When I told my HOD about this, he got pissed off and told me that I was poor in my studies, had poor attendance and should leave such activities to the ‘Academically Superior’ kids! In fact if it were not for my awesome parents, I would have missed it. They convinced the HOD and I was allowed only to win an award there for my revolutionary toilet design (I had read 700+ technical papers and over 100 journals in various topics including plastics and polymers to get there). It was a life changing event. I started believing in myself.
During the same time, I became the President of the Renewable Energy Club which was then known for its lack of funds, membership and female presence (that too in Manipal), decided to do something big and start the first renewable energy fest in Manipal – Synergia. We pulled it off successfully, got major sponsors such as Texas Instruments, SBI, etc, got over 400 students to participate, took the events to school kids as well and all that with 1/3 of the money that we got as sponsorship. We also got funds, members and female presence in the club.
I also managed to scrape through a Research Scholar position in Glasgow. Working with British people, living with people from 40 coutries gave me solid perspective and pick up good qualities of so many cultures. It was fascinating!
People started respecting me for my skills in business plan events, I mentored a few people as well (which seemed silly to me) and gave my business plans freely to people only to realize one day that a bunch of guys had presented my idea at a major event in a major college without my permission. Lesson learnt. Period.
And,then came placements. No company wanted me. But the good thing was that the feeling was mutual – I didn’t want them either. It was at that moment when we decided to bring Gyan Lab and ADD-on-GYAN to the world and make a real difference. We won at our college B-Plan event, an award at the University Business Plan event – and knew it in our hearts that this was the precise idea I was waiting for all my life. I knew this company would need all skills I had learnt throughout childhood.
And we became the 1st student start-up company in the history of Manipal University (err, not a great achievement, but it had solid sentimental value, my friends). And we kept winning awards and accolades in Spain, IIT Kanpur, IIM Bangalore, GSEC Washington, NIT Surathkal, Economic Development Forum, and others. We were working with kids, it was the most pleasant experience in the world – making learning fun! Every session I took at Gyan Lab reminded me of how thoroughly lost and bored I was in school. It motivated me, urged me to move further, and I kept doing so till today.
And that’s the story my friends. A quick recap of lessons learnt in this phase of childhood:
1) Value of investment is not a problem as long as Return on Investment is good (Manipal Fees)
2) Identification and working on a niche is important for success
3) Let no one, no one ever tell you that you are useless (least of all your HOD)
4) Academic excellence is in no way the decider of excellence in life, it could be one of the guiding parameters, that’s all!
5) Never give out your secret ingredients to idiots – they will try to copy and beat you
6) To be a good leader, you must prove yourself. Lead by example, people will follow you (Akshay Urja Experience)
7) FOLLOW YOUR DREAM – ITS PRICELESS! Let your thoughts, not society, govern you
8) Excellence takes time to come but if you never try it will never come (ADD-on-GYAN experience – still moving towards excellence – no clue as to when will I find it)
So, that’s all I had to say. I guess this post was a bit too long but these memories are fresh in my head. We won at Dell Social Challenge and ET Power of Ideas at IIM Ahmedabad. Working with 5 schools, 500+ kids, we are happy about the progress in work. We are on course to change many, many lives – and hopefully that time would come soon.
In short, I am living my dream. I am finding solutions to my own problems. I do not know whether I would be successful or not but I would always be proud to say, “Atleast I tried, and tried hard”.
Written by: Priyadeep Sinha (CEO & Co-Founder of ADD-on-GYAN; Creator of Gyan Lab; Good Entrepreneur in Making; Mech Engineer by education only; Creates activity based learning modules for school kids for a living)