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In conversation with Mr. Prasoon Gupta

September 20, 2016
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Sattviko is a restaurant chain which fosters the Sattvik way of cooking, co-founded by IIT Roorkee alumni Mr. Prasoon Gupta and Mr. Ankush Sharma from batch of Civil Engineering, 2009. Recently, Sattviko has opened a new outlet at IITR ‘Sattviko Idea Cafe’ in the Multi Activity Centre. In this interview, Mr.Gupta shares his experience with Sattviko, the story behind the Idea Cafe at IITR and his aim to nurture and promote campus entrepreneurship at IITR.

WONA: How did it all begin, the idea of Sattviko?

Prasoon: As far as Sattviko is concerned, I feel very proud about things I’m connected with-my country, the institute I graduated from etc. But when you go out in the market, people only talk about the things that are not there, they don’t want to change things and bring those changes which they’ve always been craving about. When I left my first venture , I spent the first couple of months in the US, and one thing I was very clear about when I was there was that if I’m going to start a business, I’ll start it only in my country. That’s when we thought about Sattviko.

WONA: What was the motivation behind the Idea Café in IITR?

Prasoon: One thing that bothered me about IITR until a couple of years back was that no one used to talk about the entrepreneurship and innovatory ecosystem here. I remember I had come here for interacting with the first year students some years back. At that time, MAC was being built and someone approached me and suggested that why don’t I set up Sattviko here. It was a very vague idea as no one can expect a lot of money coming from IIT Roorkee, and as all of you are students we couldn’t charge as much as we normally do.

The previous year around April, I created a Whatsapp group which has now grown into a very famous group, “IITR Entrepreneurs” and has around 180 members right now. So in the past one and a half years, I’ve observed that people have started talking about the IITR Entrepreneurship ecosystem and that has happened because of the only reason that now we (alumni entrepreneurs) are together unlike before. We have a platform now. When we signed the lease for this restaurant in last September-October, I had a simple idea in mind. You see in foreign universities, people have a lot of informal discussions at places that, simply put, inspire innovation. In fact, If you go to Stanford, there’s a café where most of the prominent VCs from the silicon valley have informal discussions and interact with entrepreneurs. I felt that something of this kind should happen in Roorkee too and that people who want to innovate should connect with people who can help them innovate. Our objective was that the place we’ll create, will not just be a cafeteria but a place that can inspire ideas so that 10 years down the line you can say that I had this idea in Sattviko idea Café.

WONA: How do you plan to provide such a platform for entrepreneurship in this cafe?

Prasoon: My basic idea is to give the students a place, an environment and provide support, all the rest can be done by the students themselves, we’ve got very smart people in IITR. We would soon be launching a membership program but at this point, we’re selecting people and offering them membership. As I posted earlier, whoever in IITR feels that they have some specific talent, whatever it may be, they should come and share their ideas. We will try to connect them with the whole ecosystem of entrepreneurs. Once things start happening, we can get the process more organized. The cafe also comes with a conference room, a TV with internet connectivity to facilitate video conferencing and a discussion room

Bakar Room

WONA: Is the administration involved in these ideas of incubation and mentorship ?

Prasoon: See, this is a commercial space. I’m running a restaurant and I’m not selling anything but food. In general when you come up with a venture and go to incubation center and do all that stuff, there’s a lot of bureaucracy involved that hinders the actual process. I wanted it all to be free flowing and that no one should mind you doing what you want to and we could support it to some extent. The administration has been really supportive. A little bureaucracy is unavoidable, so is politics for Roorkee. We were given this place around 10 months back, and we’re opening up right now, so it’s not like we’ve not faced challenges. At one point, this project was almost shelved and had to be revived. In fact, I’m grateful that IITR has also given us the rest of the space on this floor.

WONA:What is your take on campus entrepreneurship in IITR?

Prasoon: You should have at least 150 entrepreneurs graduating every year, the number right now I think is around 10. Due to ventures like Startup India, startups now have national recognition and people know that startup is not a bad option.

WONA: Do you think Roorkee has any disadvantage in setting up an entrepreneurship ecosystem?

Prasoon: Roorkee doesn’t market itself. No one knows that the first guy in India to get Foxconn as an investor to his company is from here. There’s a guy named Gaurav Solanki, who writes scripts for Anurag Kashyap. So people from here have started writing books, making movies and are successful entrepreneurs. If we start to market IITR by taking all these things together, even though not overnight, but in 5-10 years, a big change will be seen. People have started hearing about IITR entrepreneurship, which never happened before. The administration itself conducted the GEC which had never happened before and we would like to repeat it this time also. The Director Prof. Banerjee and Prof Sandeep Singh, Dean Alumni Affairs have focused very much on Alumni connect during their tenure.

WONA: Any campus memories you would like to share with us?

Prasoon: Yeah. I have an indirect connection with Watch Out! too. When I was a first-year student, there was only one group that I wanted to get into, that was Watch Out!. I used to love writing. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get in. In my 3rd year, I was the convener of Thomso and you guys did a nice coverage and in my final semester here, I featured in the Almost Famous article in your magazine. I love the kind of fun writing you guys do.