An Interview With Devesh Chawla, The Man Behind Chatur Ideas

Devesh Chawla Chatur Ideas

Devesh Chawla, Founder and CEO of Chatur Ideas, is a mentor and investor himself and has worked with hundreds of startups including Catapooolt, Strike, Orbit Gamooz, Maaz Market, Market Pulse and many more. He also runs entrepreneurship programs across colleges and startups along with Mr Ajeet Khurana, Ex CEO of IIT Incubation centre SINE. He was a part of The Think Tank Series on IPR {Series 1} on ‘National IPR Policy – a way forward’, supported by MSME- Ministry of India.

(Source: Linkedin)

Excerpts from the interview:

1. What were your initial thoughts before starting Chatur Ideas?

In the words of Devesh Chawla “Way back in 2009 I actually wanted to start something which is quite similar to what OLA is doing today. But what happened during that time was that I went to meet a few people in the industry who were into tours and travels and taxi business to take an advice from them. All of them discouraged me saying you should not do his because at that point of time there was only one radio cab called as Meru and they told me that its lot of political money involved and you should not even get into this because there will be unions breaking your legs. So don’t do this until you have a political background. So I met another set of people, again very powerful and influential so-called mentor and I realized that even they discouraged me saying that it is not meant for you its only for people with a political background, have deep pockets etc. Then I got back to my job and I had a nice job there.

Then in 2011-12, I see in the news Bhavish Aggarwal, Ola cabs entering 1000 crores club. I was like this is not fair. Similar age group, similar background, similar model and he has no political background, no deep pockets, nothing and he can make it, I thought there was some problem that I was not guided in the right direction. So at that point of time, I spoke to Mr Dheeraj Batra, he has been the director of the IDEO, the director of Innosight Ventures, runs an incubator in Hyderabad and he is in the industry for last 20 years doing this. So I talked to him that- ‘Don’t you think we should create an ecosystem where we can get entrepreneurs, mentors, investors altogether.’ He said- ‘Yes it’s a good idea, you go ahead I’m there to back you‘. Those words were more than enough for me. While I was working with prime associates I started building this model offline where I was mentoring few startups, investing in a few and connecting them with a few of them and creating an entire ecosystem of what Chatur is doing today. After 4 years of hard work I finally put down my papers and started off Chatur Ideas.”

2. Who suggested the name “Chatur Ideas”?

“When I was starting the company I was thinking of some brilliant name that I could come out with like witty ideas or smart ideas. But then I thought that none of these things will connect with the audience. So I wanted a funky name which people can always remember and the word Chatur just struck in. I don’t know was it inspired with 3 idiots or not, not really sure but the name Chatur just struck. Then it was Chatur innovation or Chatur what? Then why not Chatur Ideas and that’s how the name came and it clicked with everyone.”

Devesh Chawla

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3. Tell us about the success of #BeAChatur Contest?

“We received more than 5400 entries. We had entries coming from all over India. We had more than 140 partners across India and overseas. We had 70 plus mentors-cum-investors for this. So what we did was that we invited entries from all across the country. We shortlisted the top 50 and then the top 10 and then gave them the benefits, connected them with the investors and so on. The feedback had been very positive for this.

Devesh Chawla Chatur Ideas

4. Everyone has a failure story to share. What was one with Chatur Ideas?

“There was this media company. I don’t know if I can take the name, a very big media company. They told us that they are going to give us a strong barter deal, it will run into multiple crores for our contest, similar to BeAChatur contest. We were supposed to do it way back when we were about to start it off. We really had put in a lot of time, energy and in fact, one of the reasons to have the confidence to actually put down to papers with this media firm where a good backing and good sponsorship is coming in was that we could make way for money to come in. So those were the plans and we had to put down the papers. We pursued them, they gave us a lot of hopes. For 8 months we had put a lot of energy and soul for that media firm to come on board, a very big one everyone has heard of them.

That firm was supposed to do the partnership and launch the contest but in the end, after 8 months they said a NO. The reasons I don’t know why. I think I know the reason but I don’t want to bad mouth anyone and they decided that they don’t want to do the contest with us.  I feel that it took me 8 months somewhere back to where we are but we picked it up, we caught it up and today we have 550 startups, 150 investors and credits to our name. So I felt that if that would have been there maybe we would have been much ahead of where we are, but no regrets.”

So that this story does not repeat with anyone else, what should a person do to save themselves? Should they keep a proper contract?

They should. What happens is these media firms, they are really big and the letter of intent is written in such a manner that they can back out at any moment. So I feel that is a risk that one has to be mentally prepared with. So how much you try to save, this is India and there are loopholes in everything you can take out. If it was the US, for the smallest thing one can sue someone but here it is different. So I feel that how much ever a person tries to handhold things and try to make it as power package as possible but things don’t always work in the right direction.

5. Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?

“I will tell you what are our Goals for next 5 years- On the Global Innovation Index, we see today India stand at the 67th no. and as Chatur Ideas I wish to take India to the Top 5 which means that in the next 5 years I see India reaching there, Chatur getting more and more, creating more and more entrepreneurs. For instance when we had created a mission that we want to work with 250 successful entrepreneurs at the end of 5 years. In fact, much before that, we had worked with 550 plus startups. We have passed our own benchmark that we had set for ourselves. So I feel the idea now is much bigger. It is to make more and more job creators in India than job seekers. Of course, the idea is to go international. For international, it is already happening with a lot of other partners”.

Devesh Chawla

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6. Is professional Devesh Chawla different from the personal one?

“I really don’t know about that. But at Chatur ideas I think my personal and professional is both the same now. So for instance, if you see my personal self, if I get a personal time to myself, I am more about a playful person, more relaxed person, more about reciting Shayaris and just being with friends and chilling out. But I hardly get that time for myself. So I think its more about being professional and less personal time but a little bit of difference is there.”

7. You were a part of The Think Tank Series. Tell us about the experience you had?

Congratulations on receiving the prestigious “ Mahatma Gandhi Samman Award” for playing a distinguished role in the entrepreneurship industry.

“Thank you. The Think Tank Series was the Constitution Assembly in New Delhi. It was held by Mr Surendra Tripathi who is the director for MSME. And there were a lot of senior people from the ministry and from big organizations. So I was also one of the panellist invited there to work on IPR policy for the country. So those guys gave their point of view from the company perspective as a lawyer, I gave it as a startup expert perspective, where what do we feel that needs to be done for startups and for young college students that can help them to secure their ideas and move to the next level with IPR playing a major role in it. So that was the entire Round Table Discussion where I was the part off.”

Devesh Chawla

8. Do you think people today are attracted more towards startup than working in a 9-5 job in major IT companies?

“I feel there is nothing called as a 9-5 job because if you look at anyone nobody leaves office at 5. Its a crime if they leave office at 5, even in MNCs they have to sit back late. The startup now ends being a fad. If you really see what is happening is startups have become less stressing than jobs because jobs actually make you work. There they are not funded, the revenue they make from the client, they have to run their businesses. But startups with the external funding you see a lot of startups having beers in their offices, having parties.

Earlier when startups started off the reason was to de-stress. There is a lot of de-stressing and less of stress. So I feel that people want to get in startups right now, they don’t understand the seriousness of what it is to have one because the success rate we know is not beyond 5% for startups. And I feel that people are getting into fad now, they want to be in startups but they should take a conscious call before getting into it because it is not that easy as it has become now due to the external funding that keeps coming in.”

9. The MagZone is a startup, a platform for writers to present their writings. What are some of your suggestions for us?

“There are three things which should be followed by MagZone which will make it reach infinite heights which is “Focus” “Perseverance” “Discipline”  and I would like to give example for all three.
First, Focus, if you know Mahabharat, Dronacharya was teaching archery to the Kauravas and Pandavas. He first called Duryodhana and asked him ‘ What can you see?’. He said, “I can see a bird hanging in the air, I can see some clouds, I can see some leaves and some trees.” He said okay fine you move aside. He called Yudhishthira and asked the same question. He said, “I can see the bird’s eye, I can see the bird’s face, I can see the bird’s feathers”. He said okay even you move aside. He then called Arjuna and asked the same question. He said, “I can see the bird’s eye”. He again asked him “What all can you see?” He again said, “I can only see the bird’s eye”. He said “Shoot” and he hits the bird’s eye. So focus is very important and we all know that Arjuna was the best archer of his time and today also startups can actually focus and that is very important.

Second, perseverance, if you look at Colonel Sanders, at the age of 65 after knocking 1009 crores he could actually start KFC, Walter Elias Disney knocked 313 crores. So I feel perseverance is another thing if MagZone continues doing it will make them achieve heights.

Third, discipline, when you get your funding I feel discipline has to be important because what I am seeing in a lot of startups is that when they get funded they lose the frugality and they start spending heavily and they just forget the discipline what they should follow earlier before funding which is completely different.

I think if these 3 things can be followed then it is going to take not only MagZone but other startups to different levels.”

Devesh Chawla

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Talking to Devesh Chawla made me realise that all a person needs for the success of an idea is his/her strong will to do it. Most of the times things don’t go in our favour but focus, perseverance and discipline can help an entrepreneur to achieve heights.

The MagZone wishes Chatur Ideas best wishes for their future endeavours and believes that the helping hand that Mr Devesh Chawla and his team has given to the young ideas out there will help India reach great heights.

Hope the young entrepreneurs out there will learn something from this interview. Drop your views in the comment section below!