INDIA. Rajpura. When it comes to starting a business, Sumeer Walia is the man with the plan. His name has become a brand to be reckoned with in both local and international circles.
In addition to mentoring over 1,000 student business start-ups through Chitkara University, he’s been awarded multiple prizes for innovative projects and is always looking for cutting edge new ideas.
Business was all in the family
“Selling is in my DNA,” Walia explained in an interview with Transcontinental Times. He grew up in the town of Ludhiana, which he described as the Manchester of India due to the amount of heavy manufacturing. He was raised in a family that owned their own business, which gave him a foundation in the intricacies of success.
After his father died when he was young, the business was sold and Walia´s mother took on the role of mentor. Years later, Walia finished his education in economics at Punjab University and began working in sales.
Big city and Bollywood era
After landing his first proper job at Pugmarks Interweb Pvt. Ltd. in Mumbai back in 2000, Walia worked as their business manager and also the manager of business development. This is where he made connections with publishers and was eventually awarded an opportunity to work as the chief correspondent for Punjab Kesari newspaper.
It was around this time that he developed a passion for photography and writing. Walia covered the Bollywood scene starting in 2002 as a photojournalist. He interviewed hundreds of celebrities, including stars like Amitabh Bachan, Preity Zinta, Jackie Shroff, and Pierce Brosnan.
Walia created a name for himself as a journalist and worked with some of the biggest magazines. In 2006, he chose to leave the Bollywood scene and, quite literally, got down to business.
Transitioning into the role of mentor
Walia said he was inspired by India´s youth and wanted to become a mentor to help them grow their business ideas. He said, “Role models change as we grow, but everyone needs a mentor in their youth.”
Working in an executive capacity through organizations like TiE and Start-Up Accelerator Chamber of Commerce (SACC), Walia was able to host hundreds of grassroots business start-up events to help aspiring entrepreneurs.
The opportunity to work with Chitkara University came along in 2016 because, as Walia put it, “They valued my work in non-profits.” He started the Chitkara Innovation Incubator Lab. “We only had five start-ups in the beginning. After two or three years, we grew to 58 business start-ups.”
At this point, Walia had become a powerhouse in the world of business. Through his direction at Chitkara University, came the project Just Candid. This is where his experience working with celebrities resurfaced. To date, the ambitious video project has hosted many influential people, including his holiness the Dalai Lama.
Accolades and advice for future entrepreneurs
Walia was also involved with a UN-Influx project that developed a less painful way for the blind to read. This clever proposition won an international prize in New York City back in 2017. He also brought four projects from India to China for the Ingenuity competition in 2018, one of which won a substantial award.
When asked what advice he´d give to future business owners, Walia was adamant that, “Entrepreneurs need to be salespeople first.” He recommended that people try to sell and build customers on the front end instead of striving to acquire working capital.
“You need to have one goal. Not two, three, or four ideas. You need to focus on one idea. Stick to your ethics and your values. Talk to your parents. Do some research on the idea you want to develop. Understand the target audience. Understand the economics of where you want to start your business,” he added firmly.
Admitting that he´s always looking for exciting new projects to get involved with, Walia is currently hoping to host international alumni of business start-ups through Chitkara University.