Almost a decade ago, when startups and entrepreneurship were not the buzzwords, two young boys from Madhya Pradesh decided to write their own fate. Indore boy Ayush Agrawal and Harshit Shrivastava, a native of Bina, Madhya Pradesh, met in Kota for the first time in 2009. Little did they know that they would end up making some crucial decisions in their life together.
After preparing for the IIT entrance exam in Kota for two years together, Harshit and Ayush both joined IIT Kharagpur in 2011 with AIR 1423 and AIR 2913, respectively. Harshit joined the mechanical engineering dual degree course, while Ayush was in a five-year mathematics and computing degree.
Harshit, 29, said that he had a fair bit of clarity by the end of the first year that entrepreneurship was his way forward. “We started working on a wearable device in college itself and had some early success in building a prototype that was recognised across many startup platforms. It was an exciting time for wearable gesture technology, and I felt that it was high time that I dropped out of college to scale this up,” he recalled.
For Ayush, things were a little different. While his goal of getting into IIT was clear, he had no idea of the academics or the post-IIT career scenario.
“In my first two years, I clearly understood that software engineering was not my cup of tea. Meanwhile, I joined the college fest’s organising committee, where I met people from varied backgrounds, ranging from CEOs, HRs to college administrators. I realised that I really got a kick from being on the front, talking to people. While I was still not clear on how to convert this into a career option, my ‘aha moment’ came when I discovered entrepreneurship, ” the 28-year old told indianexpress.com.
While the duo developed Nimble, a wearable gesture recognition product, they started to feel the need to put in more time into exploring the market. “We felt the need to pursue this full-time and be in the ecosystem to scale it up. Initially, we did not think of dropping out because IIT Kharagpur had introduced a semester withdrawal programme around the same time where student entrepreneurs could take a sabbatical for a couple of semesters to pursue their startups,” Harshit said.
Consequently, they became more invested in the startup and ended up missing their lectures, semester exams. That’s when both of them finally decided to dropout in 2014.
Dropping out is still a very conventional path, said Harshit. “Ideally, when a student joins IIT, there’s a set path. Undergo internships; get a placement offer with more than a decent package at the tender age of 22. Dropping out receives a lot of scepticism from all around us,” he added.
While Harshit’s parents were supportive after the initial worries, the decision to dropout did not go well with Ayush’s family.
“My parents were confused and they wanted to understand what dropping out really meant. They weren’t very supportive initially and thought that it was just a hobby that I was chasing after. After a couple of years, when things got better on the business front, they finally understood my reasons for dropping out,“ Ayush added.
After dropping out, the duo began looking for use-cases for wearable gesture recognition technology and then collaborated with four or five companies on various projects, the majority of which were related to logistics and supply chain.
“While working with these companies, we discovered that the largest manufacturers and e-commerce companies have little or no visibility of trucks plying for them. Unlike in the B2C space, where customers get a minute-by-minute tracking of the Swiggy delivery boys, there is no real-time tracking of trucks carrying products worth crores, ” the duo said.
Then, they built a multimodal visibility platform covering shipments via all modes – road, rail, air, and ocean. In the past four years, they have helped more than 100 enterprises, such as Philips, Bridgestone, Diageo, Flipkart, Mahindra Logistics, and Instamart, to bring visibility and digitisation to their supply chains. Their company, Intugine is currently valued at Rs 250 crore.
The IIT Kharagpur dropouts advise students to think before making the decision to drop out. “College is a great time to try out a variety of different avenues, and get a sense of what each of those really feels like. If starting up is your thing, there is, of course, no need to drop out immediately. While you are in college, let the idea brew and take off as far as it can. If college starts to become a major bottleneck, do not hesitate to take a call,” the duo said.