Wanderlust Ways: Navin Sharma
Amruthavarshini Mahankali | Jul 27, 2015
They say “Passion is the genesis of genius”. True to these words Navin Sharma, evolved as a stalwart in the field of travel and entrepreneurship. Right from having a brilliant professional profile, in the world of finance and marketing to taking the plunge about the things he is passionate about, Mr.Navin Sharma is unarguably one of those few alumni, NIT Rourkela looks up to.
He is also an ardent quizzer and a travel enthusiast, who believes in chasing dreams and exploring the unexplored. Initially a corporate executive and a financial consultant, he realized that his passion lies in travel and entrepreneurship, which led him to the inception of Eventraveler.com. Monday Morning had a quick catch-up with this bigwig of the present travel scenario, whose essence is the following write-up.
MM: Please talk about your childhood and education in Lucknow. How did Engineering happen to you?
NS: My father had a transferable job, owing to which we had to shift to many a place. I did my last six years of schooling in Lucknow. I had a flair for maths and science from the beginning, which eventually drove me to take up the PCM stream, also the fact that we hadn’t many options back then, for a promising career, cleared all my doubts about stepping into the field of engineering.
MM: What was NIT like at your time here?
NS: NIT Rourkela was REC (Regional Engineering College) Rourkela at that time, and every state had its own entrance examination and a state quota for REC. So we got the opportunity to meet students from all over the country and a few international students as well. As any other student, I was quite intrigued by the institute first but later had it as my second home. We were the last batch to graduate as REC students, as that was the year in which it was turned into NIT. As a result, we could both see and sense a lot of changes happening in the institute, all for betterment.
MM: What was the electrical department like at that time?
NS: The electrical department had the most rigorous and exhaustive curriculum, of all the departments at NIT Rourkela. However, we had inspiring professors who were extremely dedicated towards teaching, a couple of them being Prof.J.K.Satpathy and Prof.P.K.Nanda, owing to whom we thoroughly enjoyed our years of learning in our department. One of the most remarkable things of the curriculum that it had courses which were interdisciplinary, to ensure a basic understanding of the links between various engineering fields
MM: Have you been able to visit the campus again after you left?
NS: I came to the institute last, in the year 2004, to attend the spring fest (Now NITRUTSAV) during which I conducted a quiz. When I see video clips of the institute now, quite a lot of change is evident, from the infrastructure perspective. A decade ago, the institute had many green spaces unlike new and magnificent buildings now, which are probably the direct consequences of the funds the institute is receiving in those lines.
The other significant change which I noticed was the approach of students towards issues, one good example is the internet facility which we never had in the institute. There were a limited number of resources available, for which we had to do the prior planning and get permission from the authorities to enjoy them. Simple things like LCD projectors in the institute, a mere two in number back in our days, were a luxury for us to have. It is great that the students now, need not run around for equipment and facilities as they have them at their disposal. With all these constructive changes, things seem to be moving in the right direction.
MM: Were you involved in extracurricular activities, in the institute?
NS: I was more involved in extracurricular activities than I was in academics.
I was a part of the Leo club for which I served as the secretary for three odd years.
I was very much interested and involved in quizzing, which remains as one of the most memorable experiences in NIT Rourkela. Coming to sports, we were responsible for getting the tennis court constructed and also to start the first tennis tournament after five-six years.
MM: Any Cherished memories from your days at the institute?
NS: It was in the year of 2000 when I managed to be on BBC’s Mastermind India, where I happened to be the youngest participant in the series. That was a big moment as quizzing had always been more than a hobby to me.
Memories are made up of people. Ten years down the line after college, if one looks back, it is not the experiment done in some lab which brings a smile to the face, it is the fun and the good times spent with the people around.
MM: After college, you started your career with a corporate firm how did life go?
NS: After graduation, I had three career options, which included two job offers and an M.S. admit at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, which I had to let go due to financial restrictions. One of the job offers was an on-campus placement at Kanbay International and the second one was that at Phillips semiconductors. I eventually took up the job offer at Philips semiconductors as I was well acquainted with the organization during my summer internship at the same.
MM: How did the Eventraveler idea strike you?
NS: As an extensive traveler and a sports lover I started going to tournaments all over the world which included two football world cups and all the grand slams. Each time I came back home, I used to be greeted by a whole bunch of enthusiasts, who excitedly came to me to hear about the experience, which also included regular travelers, who found it difficult to realize their dream trips due to a variety of reasons. Whatever they said narrowed down to three reasons the first one being that these trips are too expensive, followed by ‘it’s too complicated right from getting the tickets to the accommodation’ and that planning a trip to an event or tournament never, as a concept, occurred to them. Being honest, many problems such as figuring out the new places to stay in the city of interest and reaching the venue with only the permissible carriables wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, even in my case. Then it struck me that the addressing of these woes could form a business case, which eventually led to the inception of Eventraveler.com
MM: Eventraveler is still in its young days. What was the kind of obstacles that you faced?
NS: To start with it, we are still in the initial phase of the start-up, the stage which does demand a lot of effort, time and money from the investors of the same. The most important factor which aids the start-up is the team that’s working on it, which could be impeccable only with the right set of people with the passion, zeal and commitment for what they do. Above all, the uncertainty aspect has to act as a check to all the loop-holes in the system, rather than fearing it as an insecurity issue.
MM: Before taking up a job, soon after college you wanted to do an MS, but you opted for MBA later. Why this change of mind?
NS: When I was in Phillips semiconductors, as an intern for a period of two and a half months, I was surrounded by a research encouraging environment, where I was free to experiment with ideas. However, when I later joined the firm, there were a lot more aspects which had my attention, say updating an existing product to the then needs of the growing market and interacting with professionals for the execution of projects.
In this process, I realized that I enjoyed being with the decision making and business dimensions of the organisation.
This is what drew me towards resigning my job and pursuing MBA at the University of California, Los Angeles.
MM: How was the experience at the University of California, Los Angeles?
NS: I always aimed at securing an MBA admission abroad, due to the diversity among peers, unlike India where a majority of the business schools comprise of the engineering graduates. UCLA was synonymous with diversity and had a cosmopolitan aura with world-class facilities to cater the needs of its students. This variety among my contemporaries and the phenomenal interactive sessions we had, devising plans and discussing financial objectives directly or indirectly influenced my approach towards marketing strategies about and opened up my mind to give a thought to potential ideas, which could change the world, in the near future.
MM: You have been constantly switching between self-employment and the corporate world; do you feel like you’ve missed out anything in between?
NS: Having a company of your own, consumes all your time and energy, leaving little space for personal life. As far as the juggling between entrepreneurship and big firms is concerned, the grass always seemed to be on the other side (laughs), many of my contemporaries think that I can be flexible about my work and timings and that I should be really enjoying life. On the other hand, I feel that I could have chosen a financially stable career and they have it better that way. Nevertheless, I am quite satisfied with the decision of choosing a self-employing initiative over an assignment, wherein I’m answerable to others. At the end, it is the big picture that matters.
MM: How well are you connected with your alma mater?
NS: It is more of a personal interaction that I have with the people at NITR, across batches. To quote an example, I recently happened to meet my senior, who has graduated in the year, 1999 with whom I had a fairly fruitful discussion about the travel industry. There are many juniors who had contacted me while applying to business schools. Coming to meeting each other, it is technically difficult to gather a good number of people, even on weekends, as commutation and feasibility would be problematic. Otherwise, I did attend a few alumni get-together meets, when I was in the institute last time, wherein we caught up with each other and had a good time. I am really happy to know that there are a many people who are doing great in their chosen path and have grown to great heights after graduating from the institute, which I think must be surpassed by the coming batches from NIT Rourkela.
MM: Our Institute has taken up a new initiative, called TIIR (Technology Innovation Industry Relations.), to encourage on-campus entrepreneurs and aid them in executing their ideas with the resources in the institute. Any take-home advice you would like to give to the aspiring entrepreneurs?
NS: Putting it in very simple words finding a group of reliable people with the same values and ideas is a difficult task later in life. Beginning early, during college is a great idea. One also needs do the needful in terms of thinking and research, before one proceeds on their entrepreneurial venture. I appreciate this initiative of the institute and I hope this really brings out some great ideas from the students.
Mr. Navin Sharma is the founder of Eventraveler, which is a travel and event agency which makes traveling just a click away from us. He is an alumnus of NIT Rourkela belonging to the Batch of 1998-2002, Electrical department.