Entrepreneurs become what they are for several reasons and if you have faith in your dreams and ideas, then it’s never too early to start. Aparna Shivpuri Arya, got to know this and much more from Uday Singh, after he was recognised as an “inspiring young entrepreneur” by SME Advisor Middle East.
Uday, a budding entrepreneur, is a senior at the Philips Academy, Andover, USA. Philips Academy is a preparatory school and was founded to provide education to bright young minds from all over the world.
Talking to Uday, one cannot help but observe that he is acutely aware of the opportunities that have been given to him and has worked hard on making something out of these opportunities. Talking passionately about his school, the Philips Academy, Uday believes that being elected as the President, in March 2011, provided him with a platform to put his ideas to action and execute them.
Elaborating more on his entrepreneurial startup, he said that he got his first idea in his freshman year, when he realised that it was not easy to order food on campus and students didn’t know where to order from, and what options were available. Andover has very high restaurant density and the Academy gave him the opportunity to create www.andovertakeout.com, where he collaborated with local restaurants and created discount deals. Uday put the menu of the restaurants online and students could access the Website and know what eating options they have. At the same time, it gave the restaurants free publicity.
The Website has done well with 16,000 hits since its inception and a lot of students use it. Moving forward, Uday has a lot of innovative ideas. He said “We are in the process of building another Website called the Andover Exchange, which is something like an eBay for prep school.” The idea came to him when he was leaving for holidays and did not know what to do with his stuff and he realised that most students didn’t know either. So he is working on setting up a site, where students can put their stuff for sale and the highest bidder gets it.
Thinking about his other entrepreneurial startups, Uday went back in time and told us about his “Big Blue Bikes.” In his sophomore year, he and his friends noticed that it was very difficult for students to keep bikes on campus. They gave it some thought and came up with a plan to rent cycles on campus. So they found a bike vendor who was ready to rent for two hours and thus came the idea of the Big Blue Bikes. They applied for a USD 10,000 grant, which was approved by the Abbot Association Academy.
Uday found a local vendor in Andover Cycles, and it was a first-of-its-kind deal and for the vendor it was a win-win situation, since it got him free publicity and more sales.
While for the bike venture, they got the funding from the association, the Website for the restaurants has been funded by Uday and his friends. He added that not much funding is required for the takeout Website because it’s non-profit Website and is not very expensive to run it. The only work involved is to go down and meet restaurants and they encourage students to do that since it is great for students, who want to have some entrepreneurial experience.
The Website was initially accessible to only the school but now is open to all; however some deals are restricted to only the students.
When we asked him if there are any basic rules that he has learnt along the way, Uday was quick to point out that he was taught to always write down an idea. “You should always write down your idea. Whenever you see something and wonder ‘what if it was….’, then write down the part after that ‘if’ because sometimes that part can end up to be something awesome.”
To create an idea is not about sitting and intentionally thinking about ideas, but noting the thought down every time something innovative strikes you. The second part is feasibility. Once you have a great idea, you have to know if it’s possible to put it together and how feasible it is.
And he emphasised about not giving up. “There will be a lot of bumps. For instance, we ran into a difficult situation with our bike venture and as a result lost our subsidised store and facilities. We were stuck with the problem, of who will supply us with these rates and hours. So we decided to change the whole model, rather than making it hourly rentals, we changed the offer to monthly, term-long and yearly rentals, since we could not maintain the bikes anymore. For us that was a huge bump and we wondered if we should shut it down. But we didn’t want to and we looked around and we thought of getting student mechanics, who could volunteer to maintain and service the bikes.” And this is how Uday said, they overcame this hurdle.
With so much done, in such little time, Uday definitely has a long way to go and he has a lot of dreams and ideas, one of them being that when he returns for his school reunion ten years hence, students will still be riding the big blue bikes. Touché to that!