Kashmir’s visionary entrepreneur, Khalid Wani, whose journey in the business realm is nothing short of inspiring. With an investor’s keen eye for futuristic projects, Wani has carved a niche for himself in the dynamic world of entrepreneurship. Founder of the Khalid Wani Marketing Consulting Group and an avid supporter of startups emerging from prestigious institutions such as ITIs and IIMs, Wani’s story is a testament to dedication, resilience, and the pursuit of knowledge beyond the conventional.
Armed with a degree in International Business and Finance from Jamia Millia Islamia, Khalid Wani discovered early on that the traditional curriculum, while providing a solid foundation, lacked the comprehensive entrepreneurial insights needed for success. Undeterred, he embarked on a journey that transcended the confines of the classroom, actively seeking hands-on experiences and real-world exposure across diverse industries.
In an interview with Greater Kashmir’s Business Editor, Mukeet Akmali, Wani shares how his commitment to continuous learning led him to take up roles that allowed him to closely observe industry leaders, absorb different leadership styles, and grasp the intricate dynamics of various sectors. Here are the excerpts from the interview.
MA: Can you tell us about your journey as an entrepreneur? What businesses have you been in, and what were some key moments that shaped your path?
KW: My 20-plus years of journey have been thrilling, filled with challenges and triumphs, each carrying its valuable lessons and rewards, and experience in diverse industries. I currently run a multinational professional services network-based company and as a consulting and investing company, I leverage my knowledge to drive growth and innovation in various sectors.
As the founder and CEO of multiple companies, I’ve used my expertise and skills to push growth and bring about new innovative ideas forward. This experience has played a key role in shaping my direction, offering a deep understanding of different industries and establishing a solid base for my upcoming ventures.
Key milestones and experiences that stand out in my entrepreneurial journey include my foray into investment portfolios spanning ioTs, cloud computing, FMCG (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods), EdTech (Educational Technology), Marcom (Marketing Communications), and ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) sectors. These ventures have been transformative and have exposed me to the ever-evolving overlapping landscape of technology and sustainability.
MA: Could you describe your current line of business or entrepreneurial activities? What projects or ventures are you currently involved in?
KW: Currently, my entrepreneurial activities/ investment portfolios are quite diverse and span across various industries. A noteworthy part of my business involves investments in various sectors, from marketing and communications to cloud computing to social responsibility.
Earning recognition in 2012 for accurately foreseeing the electric vehicle (EV) revolution, led me to initiate the production of EV Rickshaws, a move that was considered prescient and forward-thinking.
My current business activities involve managing and expanding these diverse portfolios. I see great potential in these sectors in their ever-changing landscapes. I’m also actively seeking new projects to fuel growth and innovation across industries.
I’ve been actively contributing to the country through mentorship and educational initiatives at prestigious institutions such as IITs, IIMs, and state-level government universities and schools. These efforts include mentoring future entrepreneurs and providing support through
a dedicated startup fund. I’m also involved in the Delhi AAP government’s Business Blasters initiative, encouraging students to embark on their entrepreneurial journeys. As for the Indian economy, I am driven by the belief that success is not just about individual prosperity but the collective development of our society. My investments in projects like the IQF industry initiatives focused on job creation and economic growth, are part of this commitment.
MA: Are there specific industries or sectors that you are particularly passionate about or focused on in your entrepreneurial endeavours?
KW: I’m deeply passionate about staying at the forefront of evolving industries. Some of the areas that particularly have captured my interest in the last few years are blockchain and cryptocurrency. I’ve been committed to understanding these fields and eagerly await the moment they align with government regulations for potential business ventures. Artificial intelligence (AI) is another fascinating sector I aim to explore further. It’s sometimes a wish to have more hours in a day, as there’s so much to learn and understand.
MA: What inspired you to become an entrepreneur, and how did you identify your first business opportunity?
KW: My father’s experiences as a vendor played a significant role in shaping my outlook. He had arrived in Delhi at a young age and used to sell Kashmiri handicrafts. His diligence and strong work ethic left a lasting impression on me.
My entrepreneurial journey started back in my school days when I joined a music band as the lead vocalist. After a few shows, it was evident that the music industry lacked a well-established market. Comprehending the potential of the same, I decided to turn my passion into subsistence. Music became more than just a personal love; it became a means of survival.
With this motivation, I leaped to establish a music management company, which covered event management, and artist management and even had its record label. I essentially embarked on this journey of establishing a market for independent musicians, despite the industry being in its infancy. The path was laden with challenges and notable setbacks, slowly but steadily grasping the intricacies of the business, I ultimately achieved success with my inaugural venture.
MA: What piece of advice would you offer to young and aspiring entrepreneurs who are just starting their journey?
KW: To young and aspiring entrepreneurs embarking on their journey, I would offer this advice: Embrace the relentless pursuit of knowledge and growth. Every failure you encounter is an invaluable opportunity to learn and evolve, so don’t be discouraged. Surround yourself with mentors, advisors, and a robust support network that provides the guidance and inspiration you need. Stay adaptable in the ever-changing business landscape, and never hesitate to explore unconventional paths.
While your passion for being your boss is commendable, it’s essential to remember that having a safety net is crucial. I strongly recommend completing your education first. It will provide you with a fallback option in case your entrepreneurial venture faces challenges. Remember, life offers diverse opportunities, and some individuals excel in the service industry by contributing innovative ideas to entrepreneurs.
Some of the world’s wealthiest individuals have roots in the service class. So, as you embark on your entrepreneurial journey, maintain a strong belief in your ideas, practice patience, and stay resilient. Success often demands unwavering determination and a thirst for learning. Despite the challenges you’ll face, your passion and dedication can help you realize your entrepreneurial dreams.
MA: In your experience, what are the most important qualities or skills that an entrepreneur should possess to succeed in today’s competitive business environment?
KW: In today’s fiercely competitive business environment, entrepreneurs must possess a diverse range of qualities and skills. While adaptability and the ability to pivot are essential, staying grounded and ego-free, as you experience initial success, are equally crucial.
Remaining approachable and sharing knowledge fosters a sense of community. In addition, some vital qualities include resilience to bounce back from failures, innovative thinking to stand out in crowded markets, and the wisdom to manage calculated risks. Strong leadership, effective communication, and a network of industry peers provide valuable support. Financial acumen, customer focus, time management, and a relentless pursuit of learning complete the entrepreneur’s toolbox for navigating the dynamic landscape. Success is a culmination of these attributes in the face of evolving challenges.
MA: With your experience, have you advised or mentored other entrepreneurs or startups?
KW: Yes, I’ve been actively involved in mentoring and advising entrepreneurs and startups in India. My contributions include over 100 speaking sessions and 50 master classes. I’ve had the privilege to mentor over 10,000 students and entrepreneurs and share insights and knowledge to help them on their entrepreneurial journeys.
Additionally, my radio show on startups garnered an impressive viewership of over 20 million, where I discussed ways to generate self-employment with minimal investment. My focus has always been supporting and nurturing emerging talent and startups, to help contribute to the growth of the Indian entrepreneurial ecosystem, recently I gave a talk at NIT Srinagar on the start-up ecosystem.
MA: Entrepreneurs often take calculated risks. Can you talk about a time you took a significant risk that paid off and another that didn’t go as planned?
KW: Indeed, entrepreneurship is full of calculated risks. I’ve had my share of both successes and challenges. One significant risk that paid off was advocating for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to digitize their businesses. I had been promoting this idea for a long time, but it wasn’t until the COVID-19 lockdowns that businesses realised the urgency of going digital. During that challenging time, we successfully onboarded numerous SMEs and MSMEs, helping them establish a digital presence. It was a risk that hadn’t worked out in the past, but when it finally did, it made sense to everyone and had a positive impact.
On the other hand, I’ve faced various challenges and uncertainties in the ever-changing entrepreneurial landscape, notably in sectors like IoT and cloud computing. Some ventures needed changes and with some I faced setbacks. These experiences emphasised the value of
adaptability, ongoing innovation, and learning from challenges. While not all risks bring instant success, they contribute to our long-term growth and resilience.
MA: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers or any upcoming
projects or initiatives that you’re excited about?
KW: I’m excited to share that I have a new venture in the pipeline, which is set to make a positive impact in the rapidly growing Indian frozen foods market. I’ll be entering into the IQF (Individually Quick Frozen) industry, specialising in processed food products. This venture will be founded on a shared economy model, aiming to empower individuals from diverse economic backgrounds with the means to achieve their milestones and financial sustainability. This project aims to generate numerous jobs and back India’s expanding frozen foods market, which is expected to grow by 16% from 2023 to 2028, reaching INR 353.3 Billion by 2028. I’m excited to be part of this and help India’s economy and its people.