A JOURNEY OF THOUSAND MILES BEGINS WITH A SINGLE STEP
Interview with Prashant Kumar | CEO, BPSP Consultants
Prashant is first generation entrepreneur who believes in value creation. He is an MBA from Asian Institute of Management, Manila and has won numerous business competitions across the globe.
How were your days before you started your business (in detail)?
Before kick starting this venture, I was like any other college going student who wanted to do a lot in his life but had a fear inside whether to take the risk of entrepreneurship or choose a safer path of being in service.
In my family and close relatives, everyone in my age group was either preparing for their medical (MBBS) examination or engineering entrance examinations. In a situation, where you fail to crack any of the entrances, the only choice left was to go ahead for a general graduation degree course. Thinking about entrepreneurship was like thinking about landing on moon. Though I thought about many ventures when I was not able to crack engineering entrance examinations like small shop, saloon etc. but those were just thoughts and I never tried for that thinking it is not my cup of tea.
I still remember, when I first talked to my father about my intention of starting up my own company. I have seen an unseen exclamation mark preceded by “what”. He then bombarded me with number of typical questions – what are you planning to do? Where you will start it and how you will arrange the funds for it? Do you really know what you want to do? And so on. My family has a strong belief that strong education leads to long-term success.
I consider myself as a hard worker, whether it is work or studies. I do things wholeheartedly. After completing my schooling I worked hard to prepare for my engineering entrance examinations and in parallel, I was also enrolled into a BSc degree course from Ranchi University. I had a bad habit of studying at night after 10 pm usually. A typical day started with classes in the university followed by independent coaching classes and then at least 6 hours of overnight studies. I hardly slept for more than 4-5 hours during those days.
The lifestyle changed completely when I got enrolled in a rigorous Bachelor of Planning degree program of School of Planning and Architecture. But one thing still remained the same, studying during night. College days were just fun. I worked a lot during my college days and earned a lot (as compared to many of my classmates).
I remember, when I came to Delhi on 2nd August 2003, my father gave me Rs 1200 as a pocket expense for the whole month, which includes food, travelling, stationary, printing, clothes etc. I barely survived the first month, many times skipping my lunches and traveling by DTC buses. Within a month I have seen the flamboyant lifestyle of many of my classmates. Next month I asked my father for Rs 2000 and his response was, “what will you do with this much of money, you know your father has limited means and I need to finance the studies of other three siblings and arrange money for your elder sister’s marriage too”. I had no answers but to keep mum. Sooner than later I realized, if I have to survive and live my life like others, I have to earn a lot. This was my inspiration for dedicating a large portion of my time doing part time work.
Were you interested in becoming entrepreneurs even while studying?
No one in my family and in close relationship has ever taken up entrepreneurship. When I was in my 10+2, I was not a smart kid though I worked hard but continuously I was facing failures in all my competitive exams. At some point of time I wanted to quit engineering and have started my BSc (physics) from Ranchi University. But as a final call, I attempted AIEEE, which could be said as a turning moment of my life and a starting point of my entrepreneurship journey. I was admitted to School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi and since my early days I started working in parallel to my studies with many consulting firms. During my bachelor’s degree, when I was working part time, I always asked my bosses “Sir, you are so smart and have such a good network in the industry, but still why don’t you start a company of your own?” The most common answer was “buddy, you are very young, complete your studies first and then you will get all your answers. Once you will have responsibilities of your family on your shoulder then only you will come to know, why didn’t I started my own firm”.
Though at that time it was hard to understand that my curiosity to ask those questions to my bosses was only because I was fascinated to become an entrepreneur.
Did you have an entrepreneurial background or the B-school atmosphere gave you the idea?
Neither I had an entrepreneurial background nor did the B-school atmosphere give me the idea. Everything was planned before starting this venture.
I spent a lot of time with my partner thinking about the services, which we should focus on, as well as the potential clients whom we can approach. Finally in January 2009, we registered our company. We never had an entrepreneurial background. After registering the firm, we hardly received any positive response. In the field of Consulting if one is not having grey heir, they are not considered as a consultant at all. When we went out looking for some job in consulting for our newly registered firm, then everyone had the same question to us “don’t you think you are two young to advise us?” At that time we understood that though we have registered our firm, but we must complete our master’s degree from a reputed university as well as gain a handsome experience before that.
I worked in a private management consultancy firm Feedback Ventures Private Limited and my partner worked with Municipal Corporation of Delhi in order to gain an experience of both the private as well as government functioning. After three years of experience, we both decided to go for our Master’s Degree courses. I chose MBA Degree of Asian Institute of Management, Manila (Philippines) whereas my partner chose an Environmental Management program from Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.
Both of us after completion of our Master’s degree program straight away started working with our registered company BPSP Consultants Private Limited.
When did you start thinking about starting an enterprise?
When I completed my bachelor’s degree from SPA, except for few colleagues in my class (hardly one or two) many of them were interested in going abroad for future studies or being employed with a reputed Multi National Corporation (MNC). In an environment where one can hardly think about starting his/her own venture, we a group of four had made a bold decision of starting an Urban Planning Consultancy business. Though the idea was crude but we four approached a Chartered Accountant for registering the business entity (roughly around in year 2006) when we were in third year of our bachelor degree.
I still distinctly remember the response of the Charter Accountant who after looking at us just said “I respect the ambition that you people have in your mind, but I have seen many companies falling apart just because they were in hurry to register a firm before even knowing whether the partners understand each other or not. You people are very young and soon after you come out of your college, you will find it difficult to take this ambition forward. If you four after 6 months of the completion of your degree course come back to me with the same proposal of opening a company, I would not charge you people a single penny”.
We four took this incidence as a joke and moved forward, but once we finished our degree, four of us hardly talked to each other. Two of the four become so busy in their personal life and job that they hardly ever thought about our plans again. After formally registering our company in January 2009, we both started working on the strategy of getting good quality jobs.
Did you have to think twice before quitting a well-paid job?
Quitting a job is like destroying your mental calmness, perennial flow of income, annoying your elders and most importantly leaving behind luxury of weekends and holidays. But I had no fear because I never applied for a job once I completed my MBA. After more than three years of my job, I went for my MBA as per the plans and after completing it in Dec 2011; I straightaway started working on my new venture.
There were times when many of my friends tried to convince me that I am wasting my MBA degree by starting this venture and I can easily get a six-figure salary from day one. Many of my previous bosses called me for a vacant post in their respective companies but I never allowed the thought of job to capture my mind. It is not that the thought of six figure salary and a settled life never attracted me, but I always stick to the initial plan ignoring the time to time distraction which my closed one thrown at me.
You might have got several ideas. How did you zero in on one?
Both my partner and I belong to a middle class family and asking our parents to sparing even few Lakhs of Rupees is like asking a Taj Mahal from them. Thus we had no choice, but to think about an idea where we can start the business without even spending a single rupee and earn a handsome amount to invest in another business plan of ours. We had no other way but to think about a business where we can receive a mobilization advance and then kick-start the business. Urban Planning was one thing, which falls under Consulting but has a shortage of professionals in the industries. We had made up our mind to start this consulting business. But during my MBA degree, I studied about subjects which best suited for management consulting. Thus the idea got further refined and we started working in a domain of financial advisory, urban & regional planning and transportation planning.
With how much capital did you start your venture?
No seed capital was involved in starting this venture.
Co-Founder | Tantra Consultancy Services & Leadership Projects for Bihar
Author | Dreams of The Mango People
Shaper | Global Shapers Community, World Economic Forum
MBA | Asian Institute of Management