-Dr. Shubhra Chakraborty
It all started when Reliance came to our college SCMHRD’s campus for the grand launch of Reliance TUP. I had a vague idea about the competition before, but the actual scale and the grandeur of the event became eminent during the campus orientation. The Reliance aspire session was led by the Reliance team, consisting of eminent people from different verticals. Their enthusiasm was infectious and soon we found ourselves getting excited about the campus finale too. We were explained about the format of the competition where 1 campus winner would be chosen from each of the top 25 business schools and then they would battle it out amongst themselves to emerge as the ultimate winner. Winning the finals seemed like a tall order for us so we started focusing on the immediate next step, which was the campus finals.
The teams were swiftly formed and ours consisted of 4 members, Prakhar, Prachi, Nilotpal and me. We were a very well-balanced team and had specific strengths and core competencies that complimented each other in the fields of finance, marketing, product development, and technology. And then the grind started. Late nights, missed meals, hair pulling (I was in serious danger of going bald during those days!), arguments, moments of despair, moments of pure joy when we found a solution or discovered a breakthrough after hours of brainstorming, moments of camaraderie, moments of uncontrollable laughter, moments of doubt, moments of us pulling each other’s leg, moments of finding creative ways to get attendance and complete assignments (it’s called jugaad guys! A crucial learning of MBA!), moments of playing a ‘specific’ song on loop that was actively disliked by one member, moments of mocking each other, moments of fiercely defending each other, moments of being each other’s support system and moments of being there for each other. Now that I look back at my journey, it is these small moments that have stayed with me and have become the most cherished part of my entire experience.
The format for the campus round consisted of a video submission elaborating our business idea followed by a pitch presentation. This was the first time any of us were trying our hands at video making and editing. Prachi, our creative in-charge let loose her inner Satyajit Ray and drove us all crazy for hours obsessing about things like ‘frames’, ‘shots’, ‘resolution’, ‘frame rates’ etc. but her hard work ultimately paid off as the video turned out well.
The campus finale was just one day after our mid-term examination so it became a challenge for us to balance our studies and prepare for TUP at the same time. So we went on for days like zombies, surviving on 2-3 hours of sleep. The eve of the campus finale finally dawned. Around 13 teams from my campus had been shortlisted and our team was the 7th one to go on stage. While a team would walk up to the stage, their video would be played on the big screen. But during our turn, the unthinkable happened, there was some technical glitch due to which our video malfunctioned and had difficulty playing. I remember I was standing on stage and I felt like everything was happening around me in slow motion. Then the video ended and it was time to go on stage and present. That, I think was a defining moment because we had to pull ourselves together and give our best no matter what. Then finally the results were announced and we had won the campus finale. I couldn’t hold back my tears on stage (courtesy of which most of my pictures of the prize ceremony have me with my face all scrunched up!).
Now the stakes were even higher as we were not only representing our college at a national level but also competing with some amazingly talented teams from the top-25 Business schools of the country. We had around 3 weeks to prepare ourselves for the grand finale to be held at the Reliance corporate park in Mumbai. All the teams were allotted mentors to guide us with our business plan. We were extremely lucky to get the guidance of Mr. Abhishek Prasad who really helped put some aspects in perspective. Having worked as a doctor in rural Madhya Pradesh, my project revolved around finding a local, sustainable and affordable solution to severe acute malnutrition prevalent in the interiors of Madhya Pradesh. And I worked towards that dream by developing a product and creating a league of micro-entrepreneurs out of rural women by developing a community engagement based model of social entrepreneurship. But never ever in my dreams had I imagined that I would get the opportunity to showcase my idea at such a grand level and I will always be grateful to Reliance TUP for making my dream come true.
On the days leading up to the finale, I have flashes of memories of frantic brainstorming, running around and tying up of loose ends, giving the finishing touches to our ppt (although how much ever we tweaked or polished it, it never seemed enough), but more than all of this, I am left with glimpses of people’s kindness, which left a lasting impact on me. From seniors to batchmates, to faculty, to even the security guards of our campus who had to lock up after us at odd hours of the morning day after day after day, each and every one of them had contributed in one way or the another. I remember one instance where Prakhar and I were going crazy, figuring out the distribution model of our business in rural Madhya Pradesh down to the minutest detail, at 3 am at night in the winter month of January and our security guard came and offered us piping hot tea.
Two days before the grand finale, we were taken to Mumbai by Reliance in style. Before the actual finale, there was a whole day where we got to experience the ‘Reliance immersion program’. We arrived at the plush Beverly Park Guest House and were shown to our rooms where we found goody bags waiting for us. After a sumptuous breakfast we were taken to the Reliance boardroom (which is the biggest boardroom in Asia) where we were addressed by the CXOs and other dignitaries of Reliance like Mr. Ashwani Prashara, Mr. B. Srinivasan, Mr. Vipul Shah, Mr. Sunil Dutt, and Mr. V. Subramanyam. Each one of them talked to us about the different verticals and industries Reliance operates in (I was genuinely surprised by the sheer reach of Reliance industries, it has a presence in literally each and every industry!). We were shown around the entire reliance corporate park and got to visit and get a first-hand experience of Reliance retail. In the evening we were taken to the GenNext Hub where we were guided by Mr Rajiv Vaishnav and Mr Amey Mashelkar. On returning back for dinner, a fun surprise awaited us in the form of a flash-mob of very talented dancers who danced to an energetic medley of songs and many of the contestants also joined in.
The day of the Grand Finale finally arrived and when we entered the presentation hall, we were struck by the size of the stage and the entire arena. The tables were very tastefully decorated with flowers and tiny flags with our college’s name on them. The finale was live telecasted on jiotalks channel and had huge studio lights directed at the stage. We felt like we were inside a movie set. Our slot was 14th and coincidentally the finale date was also the 14th of February. I felt butterflies in my stomach as I mounted the stairs of the stage, but once our video started (which did not malfunction this time and played seamlessly), things went smoothly from there. We were able to answer all the questions from the jury panel and the next thing we knew, the audience was clapping and our turn was over.
Then came the best part of my entire RelianceTUP experience. We were taken to the boardroom again and this time we got to pitch our business idea in front of Mr Mukesh Ambani himself. The excitement in the air was palpable and we broke into resounding applause as he entered. What struck me most about our interaction was how much he cared about the impact that was made by the businesses and how much he truly believed in the policy of ‘doing business by doing good’. He talked about how today India is at the forefront of the world’s innovation renaissance and how we as a generation have a huge role to play in its progress. His words left a lasting impact on all of us.
Then it was time for the final results. First, the 2nd runners-up were announced, then the first runners-up and finally the turn came for them to announce the winners. We sat there with our fists clenched and our heartbeats resonating in our ears when our team’s name (YODDHAS from SCMHRD) was announced and the entire hall erupted into wild applause. We looked at each other in joy and one of our team members (I am not allowed to say who) had tears streaming down their face again. Our watch had finally ended.
Out of the many things the entire Reliance TUP experience has taught me, the most important lesson I would like to write about is FAITH. Have faith in yourself, faith in your abilities, faith in your teammates, faith in your idea, faith in the divine and a firm faith that if you truly give your best (in spite of the million things that go wrong or don’t go according to your plan), you will truly have a tale worth sharing someday.