Entrepreneur Community: Interview With Riidl’s Gaurang Shetty

Gaurang Shetty, the Founder of Riidl, has supported over 120 startups in India through his platform. He has also impacted 5k+ innovators through his MakerMela young entrepreneur community which is one of the best online communities for entrepreneurs.

Even though Gaurang is a full-time community entrepreneur, he volunteers as a community leader for another developer community called Facebook Developer Circle: Mumbai.

On 15th May 2021, we had a conversation with Gaurang, the man truly moved by the power of communities. He talked about his journey as a community entrepreneur and his contribution to the community ecosystem. 

During our conversation, Gaurang told us:

  • His Young Entrepreneur Community Building Journey 
  • The Impact Communities Made On Him
  • His Experiences In An Entrepreneur Community Online Such As MakerMela
  • How Did Riidl Start Empowering People To Become Entrepreneurs?

And much more!

So stay tuned and keep reading to find out more.

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How Did His Entrepreneur Community Journey Begin And How Did It Impact His Life?

Gaurang started by joining his college’s formula student team called Orion Racing India. The formula student team works towards making formula student racing cars every year. Being a part of Orion Racing India gave Gaurang the first taste of the power of communities. 

He claims that this community completely changed his life and opened many doors for him. It offered him an opportunity to go to Germany as well in his final year. He says, “I had never even traveled India before, and I am extremely grateful for receiving an opportunity to travel abroad through Orion Racing India”.

Since then, Gaurang became a part of multiple online communities including Facebook Developer Circle: Mumbai. He shares that being a part of the formula student team gave him and his friends the exposure they needed to develop their skills.

He very strongly believes that the power of communities knows no bounds. And feels everyone should join a community of their interest once, no matter how small it may be. What matters is getting the exposure of being a part of a community. A person’s first encounter is enough to decide if a person would be hooked to communities all their life or not. Or to know if their interests lie somewhere else.  

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What Is Riidl And What Gave Birth To The Idea Behind This Initiative? 

Riidl stands for Research Innovation Incubation Design Labs. The idea behind Riidl originated from the concept of student projects that are created. These projects are worked upon by students as their final-year college projects. 

Gaurang realized that many college projects created by students are quite worth implementing. They aren’t meant for staying in the form of files submitted to colleges. He believes that many startup ideas remain in vain and unimplemented. This is why people move on in their lives and get into jobs. 

Gaurang and his colleagues wanted to change this mindset and the way people think about such projects. They wanted students not to see these projects just as college assignments. He wanted them to see these projects as something that can be implemented as a business venture.

It was in 2010 when Riidl was first launched. They started by identifying projects that added value and could help the masses. Gaurang believed that many projects, on success, could strongly inspire people to become entrepreneurs and turn ideas into business ventures.

He said, “We started helping students with value-adding project ideas by building them and launching them as their business ventures.” By helping them launch their startups, Gaurang and his team grabbed a lot of attention towards their initiative Riidl. 

What Is Gaurang And Riidl’s First Success Story?

Chinta Shah was Gaurang and his team’s first client. He says, “Chintan is very good at programming, and writing codes is his forte. He also used to do freelancing which is how I saw great potential in him.”

“I had a conversation with him where I told him that he should start a company at Riidl and shouldn’t worry about anything at all, as my team and I will guide you through everything and you just need to pick up a project. That would be your first target. Even if you aren’t clear with the project, we will be there to help you figure out everything and find all the resources to help you out.”, he added 

He also mentions that he was able to find Chintan some people who could help him out and help him create the projects he was working on. Gaurang also shares that Riidl initially earned by taking small nominal charges for providing their services to their clients.

With all their efforts and good name, Riidl started getting more popular, and many students started connecting with them and pitching their project ideas. That’s how Riidl began its journey.

What Are Some Projects That Gaurang And His Team Liked Working Upon?

Gaurang recalls some projects that he found were very interesting. He remembers one of the first projects Riidl helped implement, which is also one of his favorites: The Musical Staircase.

In this project, sounds and beats are produced whenever someone steps over each staircase. This initiative motivated people to take the stairs rather than use escalators. He and his team worked very hard to convince and impact people to try out this amazing idea. 

The second project, Gaurang recalls is a Pollution Mapping Kit. It was a project that mapped pollution in real time on google maps. This project also received many international awards.  

Another project which he found to be very unique was the Smart Chessboard founded by Aatur Mehta and Bhavya Gohil. In this project, chess pieces were programmed to automatically move and could be controlled by people sitting across the globe. Today their company ‘Square off Now’ is reaching such great heights that once seemed like just a dream. 

Gaurang says, “Most of these projects may look like ones made for fun or as hobbies at first glance. But some have turned into very successful startups generating off-the-charts revenue in today’s date. It feels great and wholesome to see that all these people that were helped by Riidl have become a very strong-knit entrepreneur community. Even now, many of them come back and help out upcoming young entrepreneurs to get a kickstart in the industry.”

“It’s not just one or a few but all the people who are a part of this Riidl community that came back and stood with them to support upcoming projects. They also voluntarily spend time with our entrepreneurs on weekends to mentor them, provide them with guidance and help some to even land up internships, and jobs.”, says Gaurang.

Gaurang finds it truly amazing and feels gratitude about the fact that something that just started as an initiative to help people become successful entrepreneurs could also turn out to be something even bigger.

He puts weight on the fact that having a mindset of genuinely helping out people in their projects to add the right value and not just providing them with any random help was their first step towards making what Riidl is today.  

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What Is It About Communities That Moves People And Instill The Feeling Of Giving Back?

“There have been sessions where Riidl has invited industry professionals and successful leaders for paid seminars. Where speakers have been provided with a remuneration, or what we call as an honorarium”, says Gaurang. 

He added, “It is the feeling of being able to give back to Riidl and the feeling of being able to help someone that drives our old clients and founders to volunteer and deliver guidance to upcoming young entrepreneurs since it was them too who were sitting there one day and were able to receive the same help that all the young entrepreneurs also need of now.” 

He added, “That is something that resonates with me as well”.

Gaurang feels a person needs to do 3 very important and fundamental things to inculcate this feeling of giving back:

  • Identify your skills or anything that you wish to impart to people 
  • Have the intent to help and the will to help people learn these skills  
  • Meet like-minded people

He tells us that to find like-minded people what better place than communities. Since it’s a place where you’ll find people who genuinely wish to contribute and also have higher retention. 

Young entrepreneur community professionals believe in empowering the members of online communities for entrepreneurs. This is one of the reasons for them having high retention. It builds a space where one can truly grow, and that is something Gaurang also experienced.

Gaurang says “Empower your community members. This will serve as the glue that sticks them to the community.”

How Can Creating And Growing A Community For Start-Ups Prove To Be Helpful?

Gaurang says, “Entrepreneurship can be toxic if not done the right way. Many real-life examples can be found online to prove this”. He has seen people at Riidl struggle a lot in their entrepreneurship careers, and his young entrepreneur community. This includes struggles for generating funds to sleeping in a car for months. 

He says, “Many startup founders want to do good but the timing of launching a venture while using the right resources is very crucial, and now is the time to invest in online communities as it helps you know what the market demands and generates a strong feedback loop.” 

“Especially during the pandemic when all companies faced a lot of problems, and many startups were struggling since the supply chain had come to a halt and companies started to lose customers and did not have enough funds to keep running.”, says Gaurang.

Having the support of online communities during this time very much helped brands to sail through. And in the long run, this would also prove beneficial for startups. 

Communities work towards giving and adding more value and creating a sense of loyalty among their members. This is why building and growing online communities would create a strong and loyal customer base. Having a strong customer base would also provide continuous feedback. This will also help startups make the best decisions that benefit the people as much as possible.

According to Gaurang, it is also very crucial for entrepreneur community builders to find members. Members who find true value in their products and also care about what the young entrepreneur community stands for. Having such members in an entrepreneur community online and the inner circle is a great asset to be cherished.

Gaurang shares that to find such amazing people and such champions, one needs to start meeting people. Attend seminars and meetups to find such people who find value in the product and the young entrepreneur community. He believes that such members grow into loving the product and the entrepreneur community like a family.

They are the ones who truly wish for the best for the young entrepreneur community. And not just this, they also provide the most honest and genuine feedback which is a great blessing in itself. 

In his words, “Riidl was lucky to have such caring and loyal members who loved what we were doing. I am proud of all the entrepreneurs in my community”. He expresses nothing but gratitude towards them for their constant support. 

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