Effective mentoring is arguably one of the most crucial determinants of success for a startup. We connected with Vishal Pandya from ReConnect and conversed with him on the role of mentors and how they’ve helped to shape REConnect. Vishal, an electrical engineer by profession & an alumnus of IIT Bombay has his passion rooted deep in the power market and promotion of renewable energy.
Let’s talk about ReConnect and Clickpower:
It all started 4 1/2 years back for founders Vibhav Nuwal & Vishal Pandya when they commenced working on the renewable energy certificate market*. “Over the first few months of ReConnect Energy’s operation, we emerged as India’s largest REC Trading Company and still hold that position with around 38% of market share,” adds a proud Vishal. They are into forecasting and scheduling of bulk power as well.
They have recently launched Clickpower, India’s first Green Energy marketplace which enables consumers and generators to transact and negotiate online and explore the best available options for procuring greener electricity. “We have over 300 clients combined in power, REC, Forecasting and scheduling” stated Vishal.
Who are your mentors & how did you get them onboard?
ReConnect has two mentors aboard. Prof. Bruce Usher is a faculty member at the Social Enterprise Program at Columbia Business School in New York. He is credited to have built the world’s largest carbon market pioneer EcoSecurities, one of the world’s leading organizations in the business of sourcing and developing emission reduction credits from greenhouse gas emission reduction projects.
Vishal adds, “He has hands on experience at the intersection of finance, social and environmental issues, insight into the market and understanding of business dimensions. We have quarterly calls with him and have learnt a lot from his skill set.”
Prof. Khaparde is with the Department of Electrical Engineering at IIT Bombay and was Vishal’s mentor there. He is an expert in micro grids, distributed generation, smart grid, transmission pricing, transmission system expansion planning, restructured power systems, ancillary market designs, intelligent power grid and power system studies.
“I had completed my project under him and we have worked on several consulting assignments on REC market and renewable energy. He has extremely solid background in terms of the Indian context and I have learned the entire market mechanism from him during the classes at IIT.” say Vishal.
So, while Prof. Usher is more oriented toward market strategy, private businesses and operational line of attack for startups, Prof. Khaparde looks at the regulatory and technical aspects of a product and offers a deeper understanding of the market. This unique combination of complementary expertise has been a constant source of strength and support for them.
Apart from Prof.Usher and Prof.Khaparde, the team at ReConnect has also been interacting with a senior member from one of the largest VC funds in India, who was introduced to them by a CIIE member.
Could you highlight some achievements that you have been able to attain because of the inputs from the mentors?
Vishal says, “ReConnect is operating in the worldwide carbon market space, it is an environmental commodity which has legal and moral obligations. Since Prof. Usher is an expert in the field, his advice in the initial stages was crucial. The professor had observed how the market had evolved and then gradually worn-out. It was his idea that had helped ReConnect diversify in the REC market and now that majority of the competition has died down, we are the last men standing.”
In the initial stages when they “were a nobody”, it was the mentors who had provided them with the financial support they needed apart from their valuable advice and precious time.
Investors playing the role of mentors and vice versa
The co-founders of ReConnect have had an existing relationship with the mentors and when they requested support in terms of team building and gaining traction, the mentors were more than happy to lend a hand. “Both of our mentors are extremely dedicated to us” adds Vishal.
Both the mentors of ReConnect are also equity investors in the company and as such are deeply committed to the success of the company. They have always been around to lend a hand with team building and growth.
What is the foundation of a successful mentor-mentee relationship?
“You, as an entrepreneur and your team have just one goal in mind – to bring in business.” Vishal tactfully adds to this that mentors will always be there to guide you…there is no right answer to anything, there is just an optimal answer and having the right mentor can make you reach that optimal summit a lot faster.
Mentors are your ultimate guide – they will help you strategize your business, take it in the right direction, help you operate the team better, assist in the right hiring process and also look at things from the investment point of view.
How to approach the right mentor and what’s the best way to keep mentors engaged?
“There is no sure shot way to find the right mentor. You need to first understand
- why you need a mentor
- what are your expectations from your company
- what you expect from the mentor once you have him/her onboard
You can figure this out only when you have spent time communicating with them. Different mentors can help you achieve different feats, while some can get you new clients, some can help you strategize your business better and some can get you fresh investments.” says Vishal.
Conversely, he also adds that, a prospective mentor may get so enticed by the business idea that he may himself approach you for mentorship.
There you have it folks. Mentoring is an effective method of helping budding entrepreneurs develop and progress in their business. What are your thoughts on a mentor-mentee relationship? Do share.
*renewable energy certificate market – The Renewable Energy Certificate System (RECS) is a voluntary system for international trade in renewable energy certificates that was created by RECS International to stimulate international development of renewable energy.