What would you do if you were transplanted from sultry Mumbai to the so called frozen tundra of Wisconsin?
If you are Anand Chhatpar then you would pick up snow boarding and wouldn’t mind the weather.
Anand is one of five young Turks selected by BusinessWeek Online readers as the most innovative – and youthful – small business leaders in the US. He is the CEO of BrainReactions, LLC, a Madison, Wisconsin based company that helps businesses launch new products, enter new market segments and improve customer service by tapping into the creative, imaginative and unconstrained minds of college students through brainstorming sessions.
In September 2005, BusinessWeek conducted a nationwide search for best young entrepreneurs or as they put it, “We set out to find truly innovative businesses that both demonstrated clear potential for growth and established the talent of the savvy, young entrepreneurs behind them”. They asked their readers for nominations and got names of 100 entrepreneurs within a month. Then they short listed the pool down to 20 finalists. Then they asked their readers to vote for the most promising amongst the short-list. Out came the list of five, which the BusinessWeek calls “Best Entrepreneurs Under 25”.
Anand Chhatpar is one of this elite group of young small business leaders. He is the kind of person who is highly energetic and bubbling with ideas even while giving a trans-continental telephone interview at 2:30 AM in the morning, notwithstanding the jet-lag from the flight from USA to India.
A native of Malad, Mumbai, 24 years old Anand came to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 2001 to pursue a degree in computer science. While doing an internship stint at Pitney Bowes, he got a brainy idea, which eventually culminated in the launch of BrainReactions in July 2004. Since then his company has been growing steadily and bagged many clients including US Peace Corps, United Nations, and Fortune 500 companies like Intuit, Bank of America. After being named a finalist on BusinessWeek Online the future is looking even brighter, as he said from Mumbai, that his company is not only adding employees but also starting new initiatives in India and Japan.
There is something about Wisconsin that makes a Badger, Wisconsin Football and Cheesehead fan out of you if you come to live there. That would happen even if you grew up – like Anand – in the cricket-capital of India.
Anand is a proud UW Badger, who not only has a fully developed opinion about whether the retirement of coach Barry Alvarez is good for the UW football team or not – he thinks it is – but also who makes observations like “Where else would you find five Cheeseheads from five different countries sitting together feeling completely at home.”
The entrepreneurial spirits and the curiosity to try new things with open mind helped Anand in a smooth transition from Malad, Mumbai to Madison, Wisconsin. Still, he found many subtle and not so subtle differences. The biggest difference he noticed was in people’s attitudes towards life, business and relationship. Though he found life at UW to be quite active and the atmosphere cordial and friendly he feels that deeper connections exist in India between colleagues, friends, neighbors and family.
He finds significant differences in business thinking too. He says that in India the focus is on cost-cutting and the employees are considered almost as commodity, whereas in US, the focus is on innovation and creativity. Indian businesses have done very well using technologies developed in US but they still think about how to employ these technologies to get better contracts. US businesses like in Silicon Valley, on the other hand, want to innovate and introduce newer products, services and concepts to the world.
So what is Anand doing to take advantages of this situation? To begin with he is working on an initiative to help Indian business leaders spark innovation and creativity in their organizations. Appropriately titled, InnovationTrip, his initiative includes workshops and first-hand exploration of US research industry. Anand’s next stop is going to be Japan, where he has been invited by JETRO, a Japanese government agency that promotes trade and investment in Japan.
Seeing opportunities and taking advantages of them come quite naturally to Anand. After all, this is how he got the idea for his current venture and when he found himself rooming with a British exchange student who was a snow-boarder he thought it to be a serendipitous opportunity to learn snow-boarding.
What else would you expect from a man who started two businesses before he turned 20 and who is on his third startup before the age of 25?