An Interview With Mahavir Pratap Sharma President of Rajasthan Angel Investor Network (RAIN)
Can you briefly describe Rajasthan Angel Investor Network (RAIN) and the offerings?
Mahavir Pratap Sharma, President of Rajasthan Angel Investor Network (RAIN): Rajasthan Angel Investor Network (RAIN) is a group of Angel investors in Jaipur interested in investing in early stage businesses, which have a potential to create scale. The members of the RAIN have had prior entrepreneurial and/or strong operational experience that they wish to bring to early stage businesses. They share a passion to enable more early stage businesses to create scale and value.
By focusing on startups, the RAIN will also address the current acute lack of funds available to early stage companies. The Group believes that early stage businesses require more than just money to succeed. They require close mentoring and inputs on strategy as well as execution. The success rate of early stage businesses can significantly be enhanced if such guidance is available on a constant basis. In line with this philosophy, the Group members collectively commit not just money, but also their time and expertise to investee companies. This document aims to evolve and spell out a framework under which likeminded members can “network” together and work synergistically to achieve certain common objectives in the above areas, while not requiring to operate under the more traditional but rigid models such as VCs, etc. At the same time, it is recognized that, in order to ensure longevity and scalability of this new model, there should be some minimum rules and operating guidelines laid down.
What do you currently do?
Mahavir Sharma, is an entrepreneur in the truest sense of the word, he exudes a passion in whatever he does, be it his Carpet or Jewellery business, event management, social upliftment, heritage conservation, leadership and mentoring, modeling or sports.
After his schooling at St. Xavier’s Jaipur, he went to the US and worked in the international trading market for six years. He has been in the manufacturing and exporting Handmade carpets, furniture and Silver Jewellery under the name of Oscar Exports (www.oscarexpo.com ) for the last 23 years. Now with an addition in Retail chain of stores under the brand name S. Raja (www.sraja.in) he has expanded into the Indian retail segment.
Now entering into the foray of developing Industrial parks he is at the helm of a recently formed company Jaipur Kaleen park Ltd, (JKPL) which is starting a first ever in India, an eco-friendly and totally non-polluting, Carpet and textile park near Jaipur. With a few of fellow charter member friends in Rajasthan he has become an integral part and a Co-founder of an angel investor network of Rajasthan, RAIN (www.rainjaipur.co.in) .
His latest passion is Event Management, Marketing and Public Relations and he has a company in the name of sWIShin ( www.swishin.in ) which creates a buzz each time it showcases its innovative and organizational talents. By being the founder member of TiE Rajasthan and the past president, he has promoted the values of TiE and Entrepreneurship in Rajasthan. He is currently been re-elected as the Trustee for 2 more years on TiE Global and is not only representing Rajasthan, but India on world’s biggest Entrepreneurship body. In the past 10 years he has been part of:- Jaipur Virasat Foundation (www.jaipurvirasatfoundation.org ) in various roles. President, The Rajasthan Carpet Manufacturers and Exporters Association for successful two terms. 1st Vice Chairman of the Carpet Export Promotion Council.
Can you summarize how your role has taken different dimensions as the company evolved?
What started with an intention of taking TiE and the entrepreneurial environment in Rajasthan forward has now become a full time consuming and a challenging role. With not only sifting through start ups and proposals, but also negotiating, mentoring, being on a board of few companies and then working with them to evolve and grow. It has been a full circle as when you thought you had been there and were done with the start up stage of your life, now you are dealing with young minds in a changed environment and starting to work with them again. It is an interesting and challenging role.
How has been your experience of reaching out to potential investors?
Yes it has been tough initially but now with the reach of our members, spending enormous time with academic institutes and creation of an incubation centre here, we have come a long way.
Tell us about the culture of your company. What insights have you had about culture as the company has grown?
The culture of the company is very educative and inspiring to all the members. When idea’s are proposed and the discussions that ensue and varied points of views that are shared, it creates such a learning and experience sharing experience for those present. It is as if you’ve lived a collective life of all present and experienced everything that they have all experienced and shared.
Who is your inspiration in business and why? Who do you admire?
My inspiration in business is not a person but a multitude of people who have been ever open to adapting to the changing needs of the business environment that they find themselves in. From a small shopkeeper in the neighborhood who used to sell small items of grocery in the late 70’s or early 80’s, to him adding multi brand products, to photocopying, and fax or STD/ISD, to now a computer and an internet café, and then slowly having a one stop shop for everything and surviving in times like today. Also people who have been far-sighted and innovative have always inspired me. People like Steve Jobs and many others who have had a vision, a goal, a plan and the will to execute have been very very inspirational in shaping in how I deal with life and business.
What are some of the difficulties you faced while building your product/ solution?
There have been great many difficulties in the earlier stage of life. But the biggest problem that I have faced is not in planning or thinking or executing or in success or failure, it has been not in envisaging the cash flow and capital requirements. They have been the biggest struggle at times and specially when a project was delayed. So this is what I tell everyone that I mentor and support that never ever stretch your finances, their always should be a back up for everything but for capex and working capital most definitely.
What is your advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
Never stop from adapting, evolving, enterprising, creating, thinking, listening from peers and past experience, sharing, giving, fighting and debating, admitting mistakes, trying not to repeat them, working efficiently, delegating, trusting, double checking, learning, moving and moving and keep on adapting…..
Looking back, are there things you would have done differently?
NO. I wouldn’t have been what I am without going through all the mistakes that I made. Am happy to be where I am keep making mistakes and learning from them.
What defines your way of doing business?
Trust and have confidence in yourself and your team and lead by example. Respect has to be earned one letter at a time. It is in your character in tough times that builds you as a person.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Dream big, be realistic, be ready for the worst case scenario and always keep a back up for a failed idea and some cash stowed somewhere.
Any other things you would like to share with other entrepreneurs/ VCs, please do feel free to key in your thoughts.
MAY WE ALL SUCCEED AND NOT RUIN OUR PHYSICAL AND CULTURAL ENVIRONMENT. ALL THE BEST.
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