Written by Linda Coyle, who undertook _TheAssignment in May/June with RideIT in Hyderabad, India.
When I saw the advert for an assignment to work as an Investment Advisor with a startup in Hyderabad, India, I jumped at the opportunity. My current contract was finishing, I had a verbal offer for a new job which didn’t look like it was going to materialise for a few months. I had done similar work with startups here in the UK. Plus I had never been to India.
It took 2 weeks from applying, to completing calls with _SocialStarters and the CEO of the company, getting my visa, organising flights and accommodation and finally getting on the plane. I had agreed to spend 5 weeks with the company and then I tagged an additional 2 weeks to the trip to travel in India; you cannot go all that way and not visit the Taj Mahal or Jaipur….
_TheAssignment is a flexible programme where you decide when you want to travel, where you want to stay, how long you want to stay for. There is no handholding but you are given good advice on applying for the visa, and sent good information on the country and city, customs and tips you should be aware of, a range of accommodation options to suit different budgets, advice on the best way to get around the city, good cafés and restaurants you should check out etc.
When I met the startup at their office on the Monday morning, I had prepared a plan outlining the work I would do over the coming 5 weeks and talked it through and got agreement from the CEO. The work involved writing their business plan, capturing their marketing plan, going through their financial projections in detail, amending their investor pitch, contacting as many VC funds, Seed funds and business angels I could make contact with (surprisingly many) and sharing the pitch, introducing them to the company, arranging conference calls, answering questions…..
The 5 weeks flew by…. I was very lucky in that the company I went to work for could not have been more helpful, more accommodating, more lovely….. I really enjoyed working with them. For example, on the second weekend I had the opportunity to go to Goa for 4 days for my birthday. They were delighted that I had the opportunity to go and were more than happy to give me the 2 work days off that I needed to take the trip.
I also was lucky in that some of the _SocialStarters team were in Hyderabad for the first three weeks while I was there so I met them for lunch or dinner or indeed travelled with them on some of their away weekends (Goa and Mumbai).
At the end of my 5 weeks I travelled up to Delhi, took a trip onto Vrindavan, Mathura, Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, and Jaipur and then, because the rains had arrived so I could not go south for my last week, I flew up to Rishikesh beside the Gandes river for a few days in the Himalayan foothills. And then flying back to Hyderabad for one last evening and day before flying home.
All in all it was an amazing experience. Professionally it was great to see that the startup eco system is as robust and strong in India as it is in the US or the UK or Ireland and the issues that startups face in India are pretty much universal – funding, retaining key talent, attracting key talent, traction, growing market share and so on. I made some great contacts in the investor space.
I was also introduced to the whole area of social enterprise. I got some international experience on my CV. I worked, travelled and experienced the remarkable diversity, colours, sounds, smells, tastes of a remarkable country and experienced the warmth, welcoming friendliness of the India people.
A once in a lifetime experience I will never forget.
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