I was assigned only one mentee, Vinay, and his profile was different from others in his group. Vinay had prior professional experience and, from the outset, had well-defined ideas about his dream project and needed guidance on putting it into effect. He had not studied business and had worked only in the NGO space. However, during these last nine months, which extends way beyond the duration of the I Have a Dream program, I have seen Vinay acquire a mature business sense.
As a participant of the International Visitor Leadership Program on “Antitrust and Competition Law” in 2015, during my visit to the United States of America, I noticed how individual initiatives to do something new and big are appreciated and supported by the state, society and community there. I came back with the intent to appreciate different and new ideas, and possibly to support them as well. I have tried to apply this spirit during the course of several mentorship roles undertaken in the past. Having said that, I also believe beyond a certain age, we cannot teach or mentor someone; one can just help and be a facilitator in their learning process. In fact one needs to forget one is a mentor and act as a friend, like an equal. Vinay and I are tuned in to each other and, between the two of us, there are no formalities.
Vinay’s dream project was to build an online tourism platform and, during the course of our interactions, I have heard him, challenged him, and have given critical feedback. At the same time, I was also aware of the importance of letting him experiment and make mistakes. While working on the strategy part for his travel portal, my advice in one particular instance, was to look at the states that are easily accessible as compared to all the five states that he had initially shortlisted as part of the pilot batch. Those were primarily located in the hilly regions, including the North-East. Here, I suggested they consider States like Rajasthan and Goa for various reasons such as popularity among foreigners and Indians alike, easy to travel to for initial due diligence. The idea is to focus on strengths and what works better for us. The terrain of hilly regions makes them less feasible if one has to make frequent visits for preliminary research.
With time, the scope of my mentorship has expanded to include the entire team. There are three other people, and we have met several times at my home and have had many conversations over the phone as well. Coming from a law background, along with strategic guidance, I also give legal advice to the team. We hold discussions before any big presentation and sit for two to three hours, and discuss and argue, and flesh it out. A program like this is just a beginning of a lifelong relationship and both of us are committed to taking it forward. Earlier when I had met Vinay, he had a raw idea. But now he is understands what business is and how one needs to handle several relationships within the team. I have not faced any challenges with my mentee, it has been a smooth journey so far.
Dr. Avinash Dadhich is a lawyer by qualification. He participated in the USG-sponsored International Visitor Leadership Program on “Antitrust and Competition Law” in 2015. He mentored Vinay Kumar through the USG-sponsored I Have a Dream leadership and mentoring program for International Exchange Alumni.