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Founding Fuel – Capturing the Entrepreneurial Mindset

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Author: Shreya Basu

A young boy is living in a culturally-vibrant Calcutta, within a joint family. He never knew that decades later, he would be known as a force to be reckoned with, and a dependable mentor in the Indian journalism and entrepreneurial industry.

Lumiere’s Learning Monday on the 12th of April 2021, featured Mr. Indrajit Gupta, co-founder and Director, Founding Fuel – a hub for entrepreneurs. Indrajit has been a business journalist and has worked with giants like Forbes, Business Standard and Economic Times.

What does Founding Fuel do?

Founding Fuel aims to create the new playbook of entrepreneurship. It is a place of constant learning, where anyone with a passion and an entrepreneurial mindset is part of their community.

Founding Fuel also has a powerful extended publishing network of independent journalists and entrepreneurial leaders from India and across the world.

The road towards journalism

Having studied in prestigious institutes like La Martiniere for Boys and St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata, Indrajit knew that he loved newspapers. He recalls growing up in a generation when Telegraph had just come under M J Akbar. “Telegraph had a huge impact on our lives”, Indrajit says while remembering his childhood days when he maintained a scrapbook with cuttings and clippings from newspapers. Kids at school teased him and called him Mr. Clippings.

Fast forward to adulthood, he moved to Bombay in 1989. Initially wanting to get into HR, he went to TISS (Tata Institute of Social Sciences), looking for passionate leaders to guide him. He did well in the admission process, but the interview turned out to be a stress interview and he didn’t qualify. Little did he know, his career path would slightly emerge after this day. One of the panelists pointed out when he saw the way that Indrajit wrote, “You write quite well, have you ever thought of getting into journalism?” He had never thought of writing before.

Indrajit did not ponder too much on this remark at the time, applied to S. P Jain Institute of Management and Research (SPJIMR) and came out in advertising. Excited in the beginning but after 2 years into it, he felt it was not what he had hoped. Intellectual stimulation was always of importance to Indrajit. He wanted to stand up and believe in what he is doing. Then he went on to spend 1 year at Times of India, his uncle used to write a column there. It was a big thrill to him to try to have his own column up there.

The rise to success

Then going on to work with Business Standard and Economic Times, he recalls how they had to be highly resourceful for interviews and getting information. There was no google – but only a brilliant library – where he to call Dr. Roy and tell him what you are looking for. One day later, there would be a brown envelope with clippings filled inside, sound like it’s straight out of today’s detective scenes. Now, everyone is lucky to have so much information readily available, “We have grown up in age of scarcity, which has taught us alternate ways.”

A defining moment for Indrajit was when in 2008, he received an offer from Forbes to set it up from scratch in India. At the time, he was a resident editor at Economic Times. “I didn’t think twice as it was a great opportunity. I had never done this, but I had studied organisations. So I thought I could put together a great team“. After spending 5 years building Forbes India, Indrajit decided to start something of his own. Many of the people he worked with at Forbes India are contributors now in Founding fuel.

About Founding Fuel & pandemic times

Founding fuel has essentially two hypotheses, ( i ) trying to fuse media with learning – storytelling is the essence of media and ( ii ) how to bring active learning into that. Fusing the two with a strong multimedia character. Even till a few years ago, there was only print, television or podcast journalism. 

Entrepreneurial learning approach and the mindset, their way of learning new things – can look like madness but there is definitely a method. Founding Fuel is always there to guide young entrepreneurs and learn as a community. Also, time is precious, so how do you create value of that time? “One needs to think about what they have learnt and slow down the learning. Retention and reflection weighs more than speed reading and sponging information.”

During the lockdown, no-one had the answer on how to operate their organisations. Everyone just mimicked the world digitally and forced us to adapt. We have to find our own rules. People stopped learning, many were struggling to adapt on zoom, it is a struggle managing people you cannot even see, there needs to be trust in an organisational setting. We saw the writing on the wall and we quickly learnt to adapt. Either way, the team only went to office for meetings or client meetings – they had always worked remotely. 

Having events twice a day – morning and evening has created a routine. That has acted as a glue for the team. Sharing things with each other are bringing people down every day. One member helping out another is very important – whether it’s mental stress, or an aged parent doing not well. Overall, we had the most productive one year in our existence. We have done a lot of creative weeks, we sensed an opportunity that digital learning will take centre stage and we took it.

Getting recognised and receiving several awards 

It is surely exciting to be recognised for work, but more than that Indrajit truly values the people he has worked with, “that’s the badge of honour that I really care about.” Many people he has worked with have become authors and editor-in-chiefs. “I push them hard, I don’t give up, I don’t settle for mediocrity

I love project based, action based learning. Best way to learn is stepping up and trying to solve a problem. It is about continuous learning, not just about a business school degree.

Being a trend spotter and maker, any projections for the next 5 years?

“Fuzzy as they should be, I do have an idea of what I want to do.”, says Indrajit. “I do enjoy engaging with young people acting as a guide and a mentor. I want to stay in this area of my deep interest – mentorship.” Founding fuel is still building – learning and exploring – they love that as a team. Rather than settling to a regular way of work, learning and growing is constant. “We are working towards developing the next line of leadership. We are not getting any younger and there are enough bright people out there.”

You can watch the full video on our YouTube channel: https://www.facebook.com/LumiereLightandInsight/videos/752401672308558

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Image credits : Founding fuel and Neiman Reports

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