Pushpinder Singh Dhaba, founder of Brand Wizards and director of TAN Advisors Pvt. Ltd, is Al set to make Punjab the startup destination of the country. The state, he says, has the potential and manpower, all it needs is a push. And he is doing his bit to deliver it. Raakhi Jagga speaks to him about his journey.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I was born in Amritsar, and travelled a lot while growing up.
An introvert by nature, books were my best friends while growing up. l won several awards, medals and honours representing my school and college for debates, declamations and other activities. I was also honoured with college colour and college roll of honour for my co-curricular achievements from my alma mater SCD Government College, Ludhiana, from where I graduated in business administration.
I started my career as part of Kotak Life insurance, which eventually became my first client.
As a brand consultant and corporate events professional, l had the privilege of working with brands like Bharti , Airtel, Reliance, Arvind mills, United Spirits ltd and many more.
With my focus on the dynamic nature of business and the influx of technology, l also became interested in startups. How startups operate, how they try to create unique solutions and how they raise funds. I spent a lot of time with founders, mentors, investors and startup evangelists to learn the intricate details. I always wanted to help budding entrepreneurs and encourage students to become job creators. This led me to set up ‘Incubator’, the first private funded startup incubator-cum-coworking space. During this time I along with my friends realised that we have to create something bigger and sustainable if we really have to make an impact.
For this, l along with my friends, mentors and eminent professionals created region’s most vibrant and dynamic angel network – TAN Advisors Pvt. Ltd.
I am a director consultant and regional trainer of BNI Ludhiana and Jalandhar.
I am also the founding president of Ludhiana startup association.
It’s through these organisations, l also realised the value of networking.
Where are your roots?
My family comes from a lesser known village near Taran Taran, Sarai Amanat Khan. My great grandfather was in the army, my grandfather was in Income Tax Department and my father retired from the State Bank of India.
I have spent most of my childhood in Ludhiana, Amritsar and Delhi. I grew up listening and reading about our Gurus, their sacrifices, heroics, which instilled great respect for the cultural heritage and legacy of Punjab in me.
This was also one of the important reasons for me and my friends to help and grow startup ecosystem in Punjab.
We have conducted hundreds of workshops and sessions throughout Punjab to help and support the startup ecosystem here.
What made you start this company ?
My entrepreneurial journey started with Brand Wizards, one of the pioneer brand consultancy and corporate events agency in Punjab. During my initial experience with Kotak, l realised there is a scope for integration of last mile consumer buying behaviour through direct brand intervention. Experiential marketing strategies gave amazing results and this helped in making some of the best corporates as our clients. With my brother Gaurav Bir Singh joining me, we were able to successfully implement the last mile sales conversion strategies, which helped in establishing Brand Wizards as one of the most prominent agencies in north India. After this there was no looking back for us. With complete in-house solutions, services and facilities we added more products and this led to formation of BW events and marketing services, a leading corporate event management agency with offices in Punjab and Delhi NCR. We have now diversified into technical education through BW Technologies.
TAN Advisors Pvt. Ltd. was envisioned as an organisation that would work towards the growth of startup ecosystem in the region. The angel network was initiated by me and my friend Nitin Jain, with focus on value addition, handholding and collaborative growth of all stake holders. We conducted personalised surveys in lot of colleges to understand requirements of the youth and how we could enable them for the challenges to come. Keeping this in mind we started region’s most prominent incubator-cum-coworking space to support students and help them work in their ideas.
Later we realised that the real requirement of the region is of real success stories, real heroes who have really made it big.
We again pivoted, from ideation and support system we got support of like-minded mentors, investors and evangelists, helping us all come together and start TAN Advisors Pvt. Ltd.
Why did you choose this region for your pilot
Ludhiana is land of entrepreneurs, there have been outstanding success stories which have made the nation proud. Best of brands in the country find their roots back to Ludhiana or Punjab. But now the dynamics are changing, next revolution will be the startup revolution.
In terms of startups, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Delhi, Gurugram, Pune, and other parts of the country have raced ahead of us.
We might have missed the bus but the onus to take Punjab forward is on us.
My mission is to create entrepreneurs, our colleges should be breeding ground for next generation of business innovators. Youth should be made aware of the opportunities available in India. Rather than going abroad for greener pastures, our future generations should create opportunities in India.
Punjab led the green and blue revolutions, played amazing role in industrialisation. Now we want to make Punjab the next startup hub. We have everything ready in Punjab, only thing required is positive intent, right motivation and real success stories.
The rich cultural heritage of Punjab deserves efforts from us all, it might be easy to make a living abroad but it will be a much more rewarding experience here. We are playing our part
Challenges you faced while setting up the business.
Challenges are part of any entrepreneur’s journey. We also had our own fair share of challenges.
Whenever one tries to start something new, even the system becomes sceptical.
When we started, logistics were a big challenge as we were trying to be a pan India agency based out of Punjab. We realised that business professionals from Ludhiana don’t have any direct connectivity and this acted as a major challenge.
When we started our incubator cum coworking space, it was very difficult to bring people onboard due to business model apprehensions.
During our college sessions we realised that the students with clear vision and goals were planning to go abroad and majority of students staying back were not very clear about their future plans, almost everyone wanted to opt for a good job but it was very hard to find youth aiming to create something of their own and become the next big business tycoon.
Investors in the region are very different from the tech savvy investors from Bengaluru or Hyderabad, it becomes very difficult to explain the valuation and processes involved and the rationale behind 1 or 2 % equity for the amount being asked.
Initially even the state government felt that it would be better to utilise all the state resources for Shivalik valley region rather than spreading things too thin but due to dynamic leadership and timely actions things have started improving.
There were numerous challenges and road blocks but we are still growing at a phenomenal pace. One major learning for us was to use each challenge as a stepping stone, clear vision and perseverance will ultimately lead you to your destination.
Plans for the future
We intend to grow and take our organisation global by 2025. We are already executing projects in offshore destinations but now we want to have our foothold in more than five countries.
We have entered into sports events and have created couple of properties, which will be shared by mid-year on national level.
As an angel network we are on our way to have an investment fund of Tan for startup investments.
We have planned pitch session and are scouting for good investable startups to invest in.
We see good investments are coming in Punjab, if the state policy remains stable with progressive outlook, we see no major challenge in Punjab becoming very strong contender for the next slew of unicorns.
What are your expectations from government ?
Our expectation are very simple:
Stable and clear vision for startups, with ease of setting up business.
Curb on roadblocks for foreign direct investments in startups.
Single window clearance for startups.
Simplification of IPR process and more awareness regarding the same.
Industry relevant mentorship opportunities for struggling startups and handholding process.
More opportunities for grants for deserving startups.
How do you de-stress?
Books are my best friends and the only hobby l have ever cultivated is reading.
I love reading and collecting books. Music is food for my soul, retro Hindi and English pop is something which l always have on loop.
To de-stress l love long drives, cooking and trying new desserts.
Occasionally l binge on Netflix.
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