Pooja Pittie Goel, ’05, always wanted to be a painter. “Accounting was something I trained myself to learn, but what comes naturally to me are painting, coloring, and drawing,” Goel said during the Entrepreneur Lecture Series, sponsored by the student-led Booth India Club, at Gleacher Center on October 23.
In what she calls a “weird” kismet, Goel’s startup, Little GuruSkool, accidentally combined all of her interests and talents in its line of videos, music, and books aimed at sharing Indian culture with children. “I was only going to produce videos,” she said. “As I talked to parents, I realized I needed books as well. After getting frustrated over communicating my ideas for illustrations, I drew my own for a briefing and then realized I could do it myself.”
Unfortunately, this “one-person shop” quickly outgrew its limitations, particularly after Goel recognized her idea could be scaled to also teach children about multicultural markets outside Southeast Asia. “I realized very quickly that I need to build a team and that the idea is much bigger than one person,” she said.
Goel is currently finalizing a partnership with a media and consumer advisory and investment firm in the United States that has both extensive experience in entrepreneurial operations and a rich network in finance, media, and entertainment, she said. “The way to compete against other players in your market is not just to get more money,” Goel said. “You need to develop a well-rounded team with different skills.”
Because her father has successfully launched startups in a wide variety of sectors in India, Goel was able to utilize her family’s extensive network to find reliable business partners there, she said. Even then Goel carefully evaluated each firm’s technical and relationship skills, regularly tested their reliability with queries and scheduling, and dutifully checked their references, she said.
“There are so many entrepreneurial people in India, which is good and bad,” Goel said. “When you ask somebody if they can do something, you never hear no. I love that about India, because then we can create and find solutions to actually do something. But you have to be careful and really determine if people have the capabilities to do what they say they can do.”
For firms seeking partners in India without a network as rich as hers, Goel recommends they arduously build their own network and conduct as much market research as possible. “You have to find contacts in India, whether they are directly relevant to your business idea or not,” she said. “Reach out to Booth alumni, family, friends, or friends of friends of friends. Take a couple of trips there and meet people. Indians love talking about business. You don’t have to have a specific idea to have a business conversation with people. Meanwhile, you don’t have to be in India to research how Indian markets function and what resources are available.”
Virtually all of Goel’s insight could be applied to business practice in general today, said Arundhati Diswas, a student in the Evening MBA Program who co-chairs the Booth India Club. “She’s doing something global and expanding beyond Southeast Asian markets, which appeals to Booth MBAs,” he said. “There were students here today not just from Southeast Asia, but even from America, who were interested in this business, because everything is global right now.”
— Phil Rockrohr