It is a warm Saturday spring afternoon, and the air is almost electric at Delhi’s Thyagaraj stadium as queues form outside the gates.
The excitement isn’t for a sports event. Those who’ve turned up at the stadium on March 5 are here for a unique expo-style exhibition. Inside is an army of students from Delhi’s government schools. They are here to pitch their ideas to investors and venture capitalists and seek both capital and mentorship.
The mega event — the Business Blaster expo — is the next step of Delhi government’s entrepreneurship mindset curriculum, launched in September 2021 wherein some 300,000 students received Rs 2,000 each as seed money to build on their proposed business ideas. Now 775 of those students, split in 126 teams, have made it to the expo in the hope of taking their entrepreneurial dreams to the next level.
In a separate meeting room, investors sit down with team leaders of projects they are interested in, working out deals. At the end of the day, 200 Letters of Intent are signed. But first, the investors get a demo on the business ideas. At the end of the hall, a siren goes off from time to time. Turns out the sound is emerging from a stall selling security alarms for home.
A few metres away, at Stall No 68, visitors sample a healthy powder made from date seeds but which tastes like coffee. Among them is marketing professional Ritesh Jain, whose mother saw the project on the Business Blasters TV show and was intrigued by the concept. “It seems interesting and I am keen on seeing what their business plan and total addressable market is,” says Jain.
Mystique Dates, the team led by Soofee (he uses only his first name), a Class 11 student from government co-ed senior school in Nangloi, is seeking Rs 40 lakh to build its base and help with deliveries outside Delhi, besides developing a unique brand image.
“We have worked very hard these past few months. A lot of investors have shown interest and I am very excited for where this will go,” Soofee says.
Buntings run across aisles as rows and rows of booths display various creations — from simple concepts like LED bulbs to motorised wheelchairs.
“It is a wonderful programme and I have seen many innovative ideas today,” says Ethiopia-based entrepreneur Shobhit Jain, who flew to India two days ago specially for the expo. “I am looking to invest in ventures that have seen a growth in sales over the months and those that have an impressive future vision.”
Among the ideas that’ve piqued Jain’s interest are Gaming Beast, a five-day mobile gaming tournament platform by Keshav Siharwar of Vikaspuri, block F, government co-ed senior secondary school, and Divine Creations, a made-to order art project that looks to selling handmade paintings such as Madhubani art online. Both these ventures are hoping to build a global audience.
By mid-afternoon, just as the event is starting to slow down, Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who also holds the education portfolio, begins meeting students at each stall. The excitement returns.
For Heena Aroora and Ritin Agarwal of FundVice, a Noida-based investment banking and private equity firm, the expo has brought a wealth of innovative ideas. “I think what we’re seeing here is amazing. A government platform that provides these students ample opportunities and exposure to the entrepreneurship ecosystem,” says Aroora, FundVice managing director and founder.
“The expectation for money is small, and what these students are really asking for is guidance and on-ground mentoring,” says Agarwal, the director and co-founder. “The students here are doing the hard work of finding the most cost-efficient ways of doing business and are putting in the hours. It is impressive, to say the least.”
The duo is willing to invest up to Rs 10 lakh in different projects. One of the projects that has caught their eye is Glorious Greens — a 100 per cent organic fertiliser.
Created by Nikhil (he uses only his first name) and his six-member team, the fertiliser is made with cow dung, bone meal, mustard cake, leaf waste, and neem cake powder. Manufactured at a cost of Rs 30, it is sold at Rs 60 per kg. So far, the team has sold fertiliser worth Rs 27,000.
“What impressed me about Glorious Greens is that the students understood that plants need varying amounts of nutrition during different seasons and the team customises the product based on the time of the year,” says Aroora.
The team is seeking Rs 1.20 lakh from investors to help expand the business, which will include leasing a piece of land where they will be making the fertiliser.
“It is an amazing initiative, and you have to commend the Delhi government for it. At 18 years, these students are trying to create a livelihood for themselves and others. From simple, local businesses to very creative and tech savvy innovations, these kids have a lot to offer,” says Anuj Grover, a professor at the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Delhi (IIITD).
Grover was fascinated by students at Stall No 30, Fashion Star, where MD Faizal and his team of six students from Sarvodaya Vidyalaya, New Rajinder Nagar, have fitted Bluetooth devices into everyday accessories like rings and sunglasses.
“It can help you be safer,” says a visibly excited Faizal. “Instances of phone snatching are quite common these days, but with our rings you don’t even need to hold your phone while talking to someone. Just hold up the ring to your ear. It will also make you look quite fashionable, I think,” he adds. The team that sells one ring for Rs 600 is seeking Rs 5- 8 lakh as investment and saw interest from almost 20 investors.
With the Letters of Intent signed, the Business Blasters incubation cell at the Delhi Skill and Entrepreneurship University will now take the conversation forward.
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