Emerging Entrepreneurs

A mentor first, an angel investor next

N Ramakrishnan | Updated on January 20, 2018


S GOPAL, Member, Keiretsu Forum Chennai

S Gopal, who will turn 66 in a few months, is first and foremost a mentor to start-ups and entrepreneurs. It is just about a year ago that he became a member of the Chennai chapter of Keiretsu Forum, a US-headquartered global angel networking group. Coming from a hardcore manufacturing background, Gopal says being a member of the Keiretsu Forum has given him a different perspective. First, it is by and large a group of professionals globally, something he is quite at home with, and it has given him access to global deals.

“A few of my investments are global,” he says, without divulging details. Thanks to Keiretsu, Gopal says he is current with what is happening in the world of technology globally and in terms of early-stage investing. His passion is about mentoring and supporting start-ups. Investing, adds Gopal, is incidental. According to him, mentoring keeps him engaged with bright, energetic and passionate youngsters. “Hopefully some of the energy rubs off on me.”

Education: BTech Electronics from IIT Madras and MBA from IIM Ahmedabad.

Prior Experience: I have experience in varied industry segments in India and abroad. I have set up greenfield and brownfield projects. I retired recently as Managing Director of Chemplast Sanmar Ltd, Chennai, and head of all chemical businesses of the Sanmar group. In Sanmar, I was responsible for five joint ventures for sophisticated light engineering products catering to oil and gas, power, refinery, fertiliser, nuclear and chemical industries.

Sectors interested in: I avoid e-commerce, a space I do not understand. I love to support technology related start-ups where manufacturing is involved.

Typical working day: I start the day by walking for one hour in Theosophical Society grounds. I return home to a cup of freshly brewed South Indian filter coffee. I read eight newspapers daily. After this, the day could be varied. Depending on where my engagements are, it could be one or more of the following – mentoring a start-up, attending to an activity related to IIT Alumni Industry Interaction Centre, TiE or Keiretsu.

Hobbies: Travel, reading magazines and books. I read a lot. I watch specific shows on television such as Castle, The Good Wife and Suits.

Gadgets: I use iPhone 6s and iPad and a Dell notebook. The iPhone is my personal assistant as I have all my contacts, my appointments, my to do list on it. It is also a phone for talking! I also use a Kindle.

Advice to entrepreneurs: For the success of the start-up, founders are crucial. It is the passion, energy and depth of understanding of the space you are in that will determine your success. Please ensure that the idea is sustainable and scalable. Like I used to tell young professionals, never chase titles (designations) and money. Focus on chasing increasing job content and execute well. Money and titles will always chase high potential, high performance employees. Everyone has failures. As an entrepreneur, you will have more than your fair share of failures. However, as a wise person said failure is not in falling down. It is in not getting up when you fall down. On a positive note, failure is no longer a stigma in India and it is a badge of honour in Silicon Valley.

Published on March 21, 2016

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