Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rendezvous with an “Accidental” Entrepreneur

Department of Management Studies, IIT Madras was proud to host the senior VP of Walmart Global E-Commerce, Anand Rajaraman as a part of the MBA Invitation Lecture Series on 11th November 2011.  He is an alumnus of IIT Madras and co-founder of companies like Cambrian Ventures, Kosmix and Junglee.
The lecture was about his entrepreneurial journey, how he accidentally became an entrepreneur and then never looked back.  He started with a reference to the movie “The Social Network” and like the movie, his lecture was a series of anecdotes.
Anand captured the attention of the audience with the story of his two phased career. Phase I started with his pursuing B. Tech from IIT Madras, MS & PhD (from which he dropped out in 1996 and went on to complete it during the period 2000-2001) from Stanford in Computer Science. For his research project in Stanford, Anand had to create a virtual database by integrating data from multiple databases. He used corporate databases for this but was fascinated by the data available on the web and wanted to use it for his database. Internet inspired him to form a company with three co-founders and that’s how an academician became an entrepreneur. Anand decided to drop out of college to work on his inspiration and Junglee was born in 1996. The company had customers like Yahoo, The New York Times, The Washington Post, etc. It was acquired by Amazon in 1998 and he became the director of technology at Second phase saw him completing his thesis post which he became a faculty at Stanford in the computer science department.
His advice to the budding entrepreneurs was to be persistent, mantra being “If at first it doesn’t work…. pivot”. If the initial idea doesn’t reap too many benefits, twist the same idea around to capture a different market. For a start-up the first step is to get funds. Anand elucidated through an anecdote that how the chemistry between the co-founders worked for them for getting the funds in the initial phases of Junglee. Later, he along with one of his business partners started Cambrian Ventures, which identified companies for seed funding. Cambrian funded companies like Aster Data, which was started by his teaching assistant at Stanford and later acquired by Teradata.
During his speech, he also emphasized on the fact that how being an academician, entrepreneur and an investmentor helps him in creating ideas, networking with people and identifying trends. He said that being associated with academicians and regular interaction with them is very useful and advised us to be connected with IIT Madras after completing the degree.
After sharing his experiences from the past, he talked about his current work at @Walmartlabs in Bangalore. Anand quoted that there are two major technology shifts happening in shopping – Social Networking and Smart phones. The facility at Bangalore would create technologies and businesses in social and mobile commerce for shoppers around the world.
Anand concluded the lecture by saying that we are living in a data decade and almost all the data is in social media. He also answered a variety of questions from the audience. The lecture was full of interesting insights and shed light on how to be an entrepreneur.

Aditya Ghai,
Class of 2013

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