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‘Tough phases govern the success of any start-up’

Making millions in his first-ever venture, Apeejay alumnus and entrepreneur, Kumar Sambhav, shares his learnings



Creating something new isn’t easy. It requires hard work, dedication, sincerity and teamwork. Besides, it takes a courageous person to try hands at something that was never done before. Such is the story of Kumar Sambhav, who thrives on challenges and has launched many new businesses. His vision and expertise has led ventures such as ‘The Testament’ and Avenue Growth, to mention a few. At present, he is a Founding Member and Business Head at MSMEx, a company that provides support through handpicked experts and professionals to Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

In the following interview, the dynamic professional talks about his journey. Read on edited excerpts from the conversation.

Please walk us through your educational journey.

My entire schooling was at Apeejay, Saket. Then I pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical and Automation Engineering at Maharaja Agrasen Institute of Management in Rohini till 2015.

So, how and when did you realise your calling for start-ups?

It happened during my college years. In about a few months of entering college, I became certain that Engineering wasn’t something I enjoy doing for a career. So, I decided to change direction. At that time, the obvious choice for me was to seek a Management degree. But still, I had an instinct to try something different.

Besides, I always had a natural inclination towards writing. I was part of the editorial board of college too. So, I planned on developing that further into a business. The idea was to launch a tabloid called ‘The Testament’ for the entire university for which I partnered with my then classmates, Nishant and Avneesh Khanna. Gradually, it became profitable and was regarded as the first successful entrepreneurial venture of the college in its history. I continued to work for it in the initial few years of my career till I branched out to a different company.

Very interesting! Do tell us more about ‘The Testament’ and your role in it.

Honestly, I can trace back my writing skills to school. That’s where it actually came into shape. After school, I actively began to contribute articles for the college magazine. And then, one of the teachers connected me with another student. Soon, we both wanted to scale up the initiative and make it into a full-fledged business. So, we decided to gather a team of aspiring writers, editors, and creative designers for it. Gradually, four printed verticals of the magazine came into being and they were widely read by one and all. We followed a paid subscription model and created a student-based community in no time.

After that, we also opened another opportunity for students to access corporates through us. As part of it, we provided students opportunities for paid internships in numerous companies and that became big! Our start-up story was also featured by YourStory Media in 2016.

What have been your learnings after launching these ventures?

I feel that there is a long way to go for me. Up until now, I have learned a lot. The formative lesson is: Tough phases govern the success of any start-up. If you are able to handle the bad times well, keep yourself emotionally, mentally, and physically stable as well as enjoy great working relationships with others during that rough patch, then they are likely to end up in a good place. I say this because such days tend to come often in an entrepreneurial role. So, to be able to manage the heat, is most crucial. There are many situations wherein you will have to take the brunt and to be able to pull through it, is a great thing!

The other lesson is to keep pivoting till you get it right because predictable success is a thing of the past. The ecosystem is changing quite rapidly so what can work beautifully is one’s ability to forge a change and be observant of what’s clicking. Till the time something makes sense, do it. But don’t hesitate to try something else.

What does a regular day look like for you?

I start by 10 in the morning and the first few hours consist of the most important tasks of the day such as consumer-facing meetings, team adaptation decisions, etc. After that, I move onto innovating, creating new strategies and preparing some content for marketing. The later part of the day is mostly set for follow-ups and meetings with the internal team to plan our future targets. Broadly, it remains a mix of regular but critical tasks paired with 20 percent of the time devoted to creative endeavours.

Do small businesses have a better chance at making profits now?

Absolutely! To give you a figure, we have more than 6 crore MSMEs in the country. Out of this, 99.5% are in the micro category that makes less than 5 crores of revenue annually. Whereas, in other countries, this number is less than 80% or so. Further, this progression from a micro to a small or medium enterprise has been very sluggish in India. But now, with the advent of technology and the internet and propensity of people to learn, innovate and absorb new technologies showcases an upward trend.

In addition to this, the second generation of entrepreneurs are open to bringing in new ideas, processes and systems for development and expansion of their ventures. So, the future looks promising.

For new entrepreneurs, your advice?

Aspiring entrepreneurs should definitely go for it! Don’t get bogged down by the process and try to give it your best shot. You must have an appetite for taking risks. If you are ready to spend a few months without a regular salary, it will be worth your time. Trust the process and remember, until your last attempt fails, you have not failed.

How were school years at Apeejay, Saket?

The school was a closely-knit community. Till date, my best friends are from there and I meet them often. I remember all my teachers dearly who encouraged me through the way. They made me realise my true potential. A thing that stood out was my ability to write which was encouraged by everyone at school and that became the formation of my career later in life. Overall, students had enough canvas to paint on there and I will say that I owe my successes to Apeejay, Saket.

Mrini Devnani is a Principal Correspondent and Marketing Coordinator at Newsroom. She covers student achievements, conducts interviews, and contributes content to the website. Previously, she served as a Correspondent specialising in Edu-tech for the India Today Group. Her skill areas extend to Social Media and Digital Marketing. For any inquiries or correspondence, you can reach out to her at [email protected]