Did you miss me like I did you all? Well, I was at my home state Axom to celebrate Bhogali Bihu after nine-long years! While I hogged on laru-pitha-jolpan, sana-singra-alu chop (snacks), and maas-magxo (fish and meat) nonstop, I also went for long evening walks by the Brahmaputra River to balance the calorie intake.
Wait, that is not all! I even visited the tea gardens in Dibrugarh, roamed around in the rural areas of Dergaon, checked-out the latest food joints in Nagaon, and explored the land of black magic – Mayong where I met the kings and one of the oldest magicians who told me about the, history and current scenario, made me touch the secret books of magic, and even showed me the place where they meditate. It was indeed an amazing start to 2016!
While I am leaving the interesting tales of my stay in Axom to be told some other day, today I would like to introduce you to Shyamkanu Mahanta — one of the most inspiring and successful entrepreneurs of northeast India. I am sure, he needs no introduction and you can easily connect him to the amazing work he has been doing over all these years. But for people who might are not familiar, Mahanta is the Managing Director of MMS, Advisory, one of the biggest advisory companies of northeast and is also the Chief Functionary of Trend MMS that organises festivals such as Srimanta Sankaradeva Movement, Samannay, North East Festival and Rongali.
I got a chance to catch up with this supremely talented entrepreneur who shared with me about his passion, fears, overcoming struggle, family life, upcoming events, and much more.
- What ignited the spark in you to be an entrepreneur? Any anecdotes to share?
While I was working with Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Limited (IL&FS) and North Eastern Development Finance Corporation Limited (NEDFi), I met several dynamic people who inspired me to start something on my own. It is then I realised that I have the fire in my belly to take up challenges, and thus I worked hard to turn that passion into a reality.
- You are the man behind successful events such as Northeast Fest and Rongali. When, why and how did you conceive these ideas?
I come from a family of very cultured background. My family members are well known in Assam in the cultural field, so to contribute to the cultural welfare was always on my mind.
Initially, we started with Sankaradeva Movement — an attempt to promote Mahapurush Sankardeva. It was a huge success in Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai. The idea of North East Festival came with my background of working in northeast as we realised it is very important to promote our region in national stage to attract investment and tourism, plus it would help create awareness about the region’s traditions and cultures.
The success of North East Festival prompted us to think about Rongali, an attempt to promote Assam as a tourist destination. Over the last three years, we have developed a very good team who can deliver excellent work anywhere in the country. I would say, it is the passion to promote the region that drives me and my efficient team of NE professionals to work harder and make these projects a success.
- How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
My wife is also an MBA who helps me in running my project management company and supports in my events and look after the back office. Since, I need to travel a lot it gets difficult to spend enough time with family, but they understand the importance of the work I do and cooperate thoroughly. But I would have loved to spend more time with family, given a chance.
- How many hours do you work a day on average?
I work around 10 hours a day. However, during events and projects it goes up to 16 hours.
- Describe/outline your typical day?
I get up around 6.30 am, spend time with my kids, drop them at the school bus stop, head out for work and come back home at around 7.00 pm. I also go gymming on a regular basis, if in Guwahati. But if travelling, which I do around 10 days a month, the schedule goes haywire.
- What motivates you?
The desire to see a developed state and doing something good and valuable for the people.
- How do you generate new ideas? Anyone you look up to for inspirations?
Ideas keep coming to my mind. My brother Bhaskarjyoti Mahanta, IPS, is one person I look up to. My team, including a think tank comprising some of the most respected personalities of the region guides me to plan a course of action.
- What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
My greatest fear is the fear of losing my spark and the problems in organising my dream projects. I try to keep going regardless of the obstacles I face.
- How do you define success? To what do you most attribute your success? What would say are the five key elements for starting and running a successful venture/initiative?
Success for me is doing something which I like to do and if I can do it well.
I believe, my drive and ability to keep moving forward have helped me to achieve the little success that I have achieved so far.
Five elements for running a successful venture would be — Proper planning, Commercial sustainability/viability, Team work, Leadership, and Follow up.
- What have been some of your failures, and what have you learnt from them?
Life of an entrepreneur is always tough and failure is always round the corner. There have been many failures and lot of learning. I try to not make the same mistakes again.
- How do you build a successful visitor base to these fests?
Generally we try to create a product which has some attractive components for all segments of society. We have very limited budget, so we use low cost promotion campaigns to promote and connect. North East Festival is mostly promoted through social media and has got desired result.
Rongali is a product very close to my heart and of many people in Assam. We are receiving support from media. This year, Rongali has been seen unprecedented promotional activities through our well wishers.
- What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
That I can come to my office at my own time, do things I like, not being answerable to anyone except to customers, my conscience and God.
- What has been your 3 most satisfying moments in your life?
a) Most satisfying moment, perhaps the fact that I am born to my mother Dr Nirupoma Mahanta
b) When I started my entrepreneurial venture.
c) The successful completion of my first big venture North East Festival was very satisfying.
- What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
I think the job satisfaction part. Although the tension is huge, I am sure the zeal to follow and do what you love is definitely very much satisfying.
- What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Our Facebook campaign North East Festival has been a good marketing tool and was able to attract lakhs of people. Social media has worked well for us.
- What do you do in your non-work time?
I love sports. I used to play football and cricket a lot in earlier days. Nowadays, I love watching football and cricket matches, whenever possible.
Do keep a tab on my blog, I shall soon be sharing with you the deets of 2016 Rongali Festival to be held in Guwahati.