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This coffee club has start-ups on its menu

Pravda Godbole  |  Pune 

Jhanavi Honap had an idea that she wanted to convert into a business. What she lacked was expertise and some experience to bank on to run her own start-up. That’s when she took help from Pune Open Coffee Club. Today she is one of the many successful entrepreneurs in the city.

Pune Open Coffee Club or POCC is a free-form organisation which exists on the web and helps budding entrepreneurs realise their dreams. Started by four entrepreneurs — Anjali Gupta, Navin Kabra, Harshal Vaidya and Santosh Dawara — POCC is based on a concept that started in London and now exists around the world. The Open Coffee Club is a regular, open and informal meeting place for people involved in start-ups.

The two-year-old organisation was started to encourage entrepreneurs, start-ups, developers, start-up advisers and investors from Pune by organising real-world informal meetings to chat, network and grow.

Close to 1,900 members belonging to the club meet once a month at a coffee shop to discuss topics like how to go about forming a company, the legal basics for every entrepreneur, understanding venture capital and the world of investment, and how to use the web to effectively market and sell products and services.

Professionals from different backgrounds like medicine, law and IT are a part of it, though predominantly entrepreneurs, mentors and venture capitalists are involved.

“Apart from regular discussion sessions, members voluntarily organise seminars, forums and expert talks at their own expense, as there is no sole source of funding that we have. We keep raising money through different programmes to keep it going. This is a community-driven group, so people here have their own motivation,” Dawara told Business Standard.

POCC has an arm that helps with recruiting people. It goes to students in colleges who may not have got any job offers through campus placements. It also gives companies or entrepreneurs a chance to recruit from the club. That way there is a healthy flow of demand and supply in the city.

“What we also do is to look at students who could not get placed at all, who may lose time without a job. We provide them interning options with some start-ups. It benefits both, as start-ups may not be able to hire talent at one go and students will get to earn while gaining some experience,” adds Santosh.

This recruitment drive, called Tech-Start, is conducted twice a year by the club, with some companies helping them through the offer of a venue for it.

Corporate giants keep struggling with innovation. When expanding operations or launching new project, they find it difficult to use their existing talent. The corporate entrepreneurship engine run by the club allows companies to tap into the network of entrepreneurs and invite them to run new projects for them. Since the investment is made by the company, the members have nothing to lose and both profit from this win-win situation.

New and inexperienced entrepreneurs are often unsure about whether or not their idea will work out. POCC believes that no idea is a bad idea. Members — or even outsiders — are free to present their idea to an expert panel consisting of industry insiders and experienced personnel. The panel then examines the idea thoroughly and offers help on matters like how to market the idea, how to improve on it and, if need be, helps the entrepreneurs to obtain further guidance from well qualified people.

POCC is willing to collaborate with older companies and is also open to scaling up this model through a franchisee system. But, in the meanwhile, it is doing its bit to provide like-minded people an open house to come together, learn from each other, exchange ideas and extend help too.

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First Published: Tue, March 30 2010. 00:30 IST