E-Biz Cafe meets Alok Kejriwal, Founder & CEO – Contest2Win

Hi everyone! I am delighted to present the first of our interviews with e-entrepreneurs we all admire in the series “Meet the E-Entrepreneurs” .

Today’s guest is a friend, colleague and someone I have had the pleasure of interacting closely with in the past –  Alok Kejriwal, Founder and CEO of India’s leading gaming site – www.contest2win.com.


E-Biz Cafe: Welcome Alok ! Please tell us a little about yourself – your schooling, and growing up years.

Alok: Thanks. I am a regular Mumbaikar! Born and brought up and always lived in south Mumbai. Went to Campion School, then Sydenham College where I completed my Masters in Commerce. However, I had also started working in the family business immediately after school so it was almost a dual degree for me – one formal and the other a practical real life one.

E-Biz Cafe: Where were you working before starting your business?

Alok: I was working with my father’s socks company – an exciting business since I had started exports there and due to the depreciation of the rupee, business had really started looking up. Also I travelled extensively throughout Europe to train on the equipment we bought from there, so that was really an added bonus to the job. 

E-Biz Cafe: What made you look beyond a 9 to 5 job and explore other avenues?

Alok: The suffocation of running a brick and mortar business, and the complexities of being in a family run business. I hated meeting the inspectors who came to the factory gates, or trying to convince my father and his brothers (whom I collectively called the UNO – given their slow decision making) to do things. I wanted to be able to operate a business that would not be tied down by the shackles of corruption and one that would allow infinite scale. The Internet seemed to be the perfect space!

E-Biz Cafe: How did you narrow down on your current business idea?

Alok: I was a keen observer of brand promotion and figured out a massive lacuna in that model. The world’s largest brands wanted consumers to become writers, and poets by entering competitions and then send their postcards to PO Box numbers that were impossible to remember! The ‘consumer’ in me was irritated, and the ‘entrepreneur’ in me was awakened. I had an epiphany that if I could solve this problem, it would be a worthwhile business to pursue.

Esentially, any GREAT PROBLEM IS A GREAT BUSINESS IDEA. That’s what entrepreneurs really gun for.  

E-Biz Cafe: What kind of skepticism and support came your way when you announced your intention to start your own business?

Alok: Most of the people I came across were big skeptics. This was a never done model before and hence there were major disbelievers. Professionals told me that advertising agencies would become barriers. Common people told me that consumers would tire out. Brand owners laughed at the name of my company (contest2win.com). Even some of the VCs thought the idea was so crazy that it wasn’t worth funding.

However from the same set of people were believers, and supporters also. Mainly the encouragement came from select brand managers who really thought that the idea was very innovative and would merit their brand buys. My internal belief never wavered and I kept pressing on … incidentally my Dad was a great supporter despite knowing well that if my business succeeded, I would not be able to spend time on his ventures.

E-Biz Cafe: Did you have a mentor in your early years?

Alok: I did have a couple of mentors in the formative years, and I believe that it is really important to have someone whom you respect and share a good friendship with as a mentor. The minute you involve yourself with someone who is larger than life and overpowering, the subtleties of mentoring go away and then its just taking orders.

E-Biz Cafe: What are the big issues that crop up for any fledgling business in the first year or two?

Alok: Motivating people to join you! Keeping costs at the bare minimum. Fighting hevayweights who suddenly discover your business and want to replicate the same. Being able to multi-task ( for example I had to take the mandate of running the business day-to-day, and also raise money by pitching to the VCs)

E-Biz Cafe: Now that you have seen running a business at close quarters, do you recommend starting a business? What are the highs and lows?

Alok: If the individual has a burning desire to be an entrepreneur, then yes. The high is the pleasure of being able to see VALUE being created from scratch, people respecting you for your achievement and foresight and your business making an impact in an industry, or creating an industry itself!

The lows are seeing your friends in cushy jobs earning fat pay checks month after month, whilst your business is sucking away your life savings …being rejected day after day … and of course the big disappointment of failure if the business just does not take off.

E-Biz Cafe: What kind of an aptitude is required to be successful in business? Is it different if the business is online?

Alok: There is no difference between an online and offline business when it comes to personal aptitude. One has to be non-egotistical, very humble and down to earth. Aggression to succeed must score above all. Passion towards people and cultivating very strong ‘team spirit’ is crucial. The individual should be fiercely ambitious.

E-Biz Cafe: Finally, your advice to anybody keen on setting up an online business today.

Alok: Please make sure, your idea is something you as a consumer would believe and buy into. Don’t expect quick exits – they don’t happen. VCs fund 1 in every 100 – 500 ideas they receive and are very rigorous in their selection.

Be ready to put a substantial part of your savings into the business and then really ask yourself if your plan is for real. Don’t hire expensive folks – the burn will crash you. Be nimble, agile and INNOVATIVE.

E-Biz Cafe: Thank you very much, Alok! We wish you every success, and hope that all your dreams come true! 


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