‘An ecosystem needed to nurture SMEs’

Mentoring has become a way of life for S. Shyam Sekar, who nurtures an ambition of supporting 100 start-up companies in five years. He has already logged nine, ever since he formed Startup Xperts, a business and growth consulting firm that supports start-ups and small and medium enterprises in India and abroad. On a brief visit to his hometown, Shyam shared what made him think globally and act locally.

Mr. Shyam’s fascinating story is about his flight from a conservative Madurai to the world of risks and opportunities. “Here, we are averse to failures. We always nurture a fear of failure in us,” says Mr. Shyam, who had his schooling in Harvey English School and TVS Matriculation Higher Secondary School. After completing B.E. (ECE) in Regional Engineering College, Jaipur, he worked in various leading companies in Bengaluru, handling IT. After 2000, he jumped ship and landed in international marketing. In 2010, he was deputed to the US “though I never had a fascination to live outside India.”

The dream of entrepreneurship was aroused while doing an executive management programme in ‘Negotiations and competitive decision making’ in Harvard Business School. He returned to India to pursue his dream, as an entrepreneur and mentor. He is currently the chief mentor and strategist in Startup Xperts founded by him in Chennai.

Looking back at Madurai, Mr. Shyam says, “The quality of education it provided was exceptional. Fundamentals are laid very strong in a school like TVS. As a city, Madurai provided a launching pad for building up on my fundamentals.” For him, the strength and weakness of this ancient city is its culture. “A good culture that comes with lot of conservatism.” People here are averse to taking risks, as against those in the US, which is predominantly a risk-taking community, he says.

Mr. Shyam advocates a qualitative change in the eco system. “Students should read a lot, especially personality development books that will transform them as individuals. Competitions should be conducted in schools to showcase innovative ideas.”

The State government should come out with a specific targeted agenda, which could be measurable, for the SMEs. An ecosystem should be created to grow the SMEs. This should include incubation facility, mentoring and venture capitalists. He was happy that Thiagarajar College of Engineering had already come forward to provide incubation facility for start-ups.

Mr. Shyam can be contacted at shyam@startupxperts.com.