‘Biopreneurship – A roller coaster ride’ – Mayank BhardwajApril 26, 2016
Hi! My name is Mayank Bhardwaj and I am the CEO of Rapture Biotech Group.
My father has been in the hospitality business,and as such the prospects of business always fascinated me.One may say that the seeds of Entrepreneurship had sown in me in my school time.But as easy it may sound on paper,the life of an entrepreneur is one hell of a roller coaster ride.
Here are 3 phases of my Entrepreneurship journey with each phase bringing up its own new challenges and excitement.
The Idea Phase-
After School I started pursuing Btech from Biotech stream.In college I was an average student, but a curious one. I generally asked my faculty about industrial uses of subjects in engineering syllabus like: Biostatistics, Enzymology and many more.While sometimes I got my answers.more often than not answers did not satisfy my curiosity. I always wanted to drop out from engineering to do something interesting,but my parents didn’t allow me, so I continued my studies.
Coming back to the point,on most weekends one would find me alone in hill stations like nainitaal, seeking peace and concentrating on how my journey would take off. I also was an avid reader of various Entrepreneurship magazines ,in hopes of of honing up my skills.
Fast forward to 3 rd year of college,I came to realize the plight of biotech students.You can hear everyone saying “Bahar bahut scope hai(International opportunities are good)” but no one had a clear cut idea of what it exactly meant,and as such after the bachelors’ degree, they had no idea,where to go.It was at this moment the idea came to me- Starting a Biotech and Pharma Career counseling cum skill development setup.
Everybody knows how this works out.An Engineering student summons an idea.He meets with his colleagues in canteens and other community places.Most laugh it off, Other’s joke about it ,and only a few are there who actually believe in you.
So,being alone all I could do was keep researching until I would be ready to start by myself.After college, I joined a biotech startup in Lucknow,and came to know about the basics of running a business.After several months at the job,I quit telling myself,it’s time to start something of my own now.
So I started working on another idea import and selling of medical devices,and manufacturing of syringes and other medical disposables.Again the same story everyone faces.I went to my parents,pitching my idea,and my father told me,that I was too young to start my company,so I should either pursue a job or work with him in his own company.
But I was adamant on my path.I started looking for opportunities elsewhere.Pitched the idea to some of my loaded friends from Agra.Some of them agreed to invest and motivated me to go forth.One even agreed to invest an amount of 30 lakhs,and I was overjoyed.Night After night went on preparing business plans.Imagine doing this on a 256 kbps dialup network,where the page load time is much more than the time you take to consume the content.
I borrowed MBA books, from my older cousins,trying to make sense of whatever I could.During this phase I had nearly 30 notebooks and 50 chart papers full of business plans and revenue model.Finalizing everything,went back to my friend,and to my shock,he wasn’t interested in investing,or more accurately his parent’s weren’t.Went to pitch the idea and confront the parents on why the sudden change in plans,and what I was informed was,one of their distant relatives started a biotech startup and it went downhill.I was advised that,I was young and held a good degree,so I should look for a job in a prestigious MNC.
“MNC’s work out,Indian companies don’t” ,was what was told to me.
This went on for several months.I would always be able to convince my friends,but never their parents.Society at this point had took its toll on me. The ever curious neighbors started enquiring about why I was at home after college?I had to tell everyone I met that I was looking for a job as the reality would only make me a laughing stock.I had to stop meeting relatives as,I had no satisfactory answers to their career questions about me.I did not have a clear cut idea of where to begin with my entrepreneurship journey,and several times it crossed my mind,that maybe others are right,and I should actually take up a job.
But then again the seed had been sown from the start,and I figured out I had nothing to lose and even if I fail,I can proudly boast that I am a failed Entrepreneur. It took me half a year of frustrations and failure to realize,if I want to do something,I would have to start it on my own.
A Humble Start
At the age of 24 ,with INR 42,000 of my deposits(from the job period) and 30,000 loaned from a friend I took off ,starting with 3 purchased computers and 1 personal in a 2 room(1 room office,and one training facility), set up a Bioinformatics training center.
The name – Rapture Biotech,which I had coined during my convincing days 6 months back.
‘Rapture’ means Feeling of extreme happiness.
Hired 1 staff, a counselor cum Bioinformatician to be at the office, while took reign of the marketing requirements.
Meeting with colleges for training tie-ups,promotion and planning strategies is how my days went.But as they say,every day in Entrepreneurship is a new challenge,and so I encountered.While facilitating tie-ups with college faculties,I was often told I was too young,and as such they prevented their students for coming to us,not sure what we would offer.We were told we are not mature enough to train students. Many faculties straight up denied meeting me. But students started to visit initially for career counseling and few in numbers for training.
Innovation is the key to success. A unique feedback system where students rated the staff, and they were incentivized on the basis of their rating, helped us enhance user experience, and eventual word of mouth publicity led to increased footfall and us going into profit. Moreover students loved to drop by for free Career counseling.
Even at this point,the neighbors didn’t stop with their taunts,some said I run tutions,others pictured me running a computer training institute.
Moving forward,while the bioinformatics training was going great,large demandfor a wet lab setup was there.Now the biggest challenge in setting up a wet lab is the extremely high costs of Biotechnology instruments.A single instrument like Laminar Air flow used to cost about 50,000 at that time.Looking at my bank Balance,which was just near a lakh,I took out 70,000 and purchased the bare minimum instruments for wet lab, mostly test tubes and chemicals and Quality Analysis and Quality Control training were introduced.But in biotechnology you can’t go far without a Laminar Air Flow.At this point my parents were ready to invest in my business,but I thought against it, intending to work without the responsibility of someone’s else money.Loaned 50,000 from a friend of mine,and bought it.Over the top marketing practices,and good response resulted in booming business.Our unique training module where we had training,skill development and industry implementation clubbed into one,coupled with tie-ups with colleges and biotech companies made us a news in the domain in Agra.We even provided better job prospects due to over targeted modules.
Everything was going good,and then a new challenge arrived!!
In 2012,the competition in Agra soared high,and the number of trainees became less,and as such scope of expansion was negligible.This is the time,I had to take a hard decision,Winding up everything and shifting to Noida to the next phase of my journey.
The Expansion phase
Consider a 26 year old guy,all alone,took a bus to Noida,and starts looking up for sites to set up his empire.Now you know how location search,in NCR works.Long days of site visits and multiple calls to brokers,found me a location in sec 10 to set grounds for my dreams. Since I had only limited amount of funds to spare,and autos in noida are costly,I would often be walking multiple kilometers to bring in office supplies,and that too in scorching heat. More often than not afternoon meals were skipped.Me and a friend of mine took charge of marketing and often went to Greater Noida for colleges tie-ups. Life was busy.
The operating cost of the office was 60,000/month,and after 2 months of burning on the reserves, only 12,000 were left in the bank.If in the coming month enough students for training wouldn’t turn up,I had no clue what to do.
Fortunately ,the marketing in Agra,and the traffic on our website,made sufficient students turn up to keep us rolling.
Days later,research made me realize that scope in manufacturing of research kits was huge,and on consulting with scientists in the field,I found that the opportunities were also big to import and sell them.The routine went like this- Morning in the office for training and marketing until evening;evening back at home for a little rest and then 10 p.m back at office forovernight research of importing,and video calling potential prospects(Due to timedifference this had to be done at night).This schedule continued on for days till the point I got myself sick for more than a week.
Finally We got Import Licenses and hired staff,and I went personally to government labs to exactly understand the scientists’ requirements.User satisfaction is most important in business and that’s was the point of focus I kept.
Apart from Importing and selling,we also started manufacturing two research kits of our own,which are going good in market.We were scaling our business on both dimensions training (number of students and corporate training) and Product sales.
The Scenario Now –
Having two Franchises in India of Rapture Biotech and a constant stream of trainees and good feedback, one might say I have accomplished my dream of being a successful entrepreneur.But As I already said,everyday Is a new challenge,just a year back our new venture ‘Bioteknow ‘didn’t perform as well as expected.
Sometimes even giving it your all,might result in failure,but you still don’t quit.The story with Bioteknow was that,theoretically it was perfect with good business models,multiple revenue streams,and a strong social network,and we even launched it big. But what we realized once it didn’t show results,that we were focusing on doing too many things at once,and hence had to give it a pause.A year since,we are relaunching Bioteknow,in a different more focused format,and hope for the best.
Transcending from research to diagnostic kits for diseases are our plans for the near future. Also we would be interested in working in Personal Genomic Field.
Looking back to my Story I would definitely say Biopreneurship or rather Entrepreneurship is one hell of a roller coaster ride.To the coming wave of Entrepreneurs I would definitely say one thing-
“It is better to start now because it is never too early. It is important to self-motivate and believe in oneself. There is no failure in entrepreneurship. It is either a success or a delayed success“
And Yes I am a Khiski Khopadi.
Visit – rapturebio.com