On his first day of class on sustainability, conducted by Professor Schuepbach at César Ritz Colleges Switzerland, Indian alumni Tharun Anto was asked to present his view on the topic.
He said sustainability was just a buzzword and marketing gimmick that businesses use to create a positive brand image. Six years later, he found himself in Lausanne, at Tech4Dev, the biennial flagship event of the UNESCO Chair Conference, co-presenting on a renewable energy project with Professor Schuepbach herself.
What sparked this 180-degree turnaround on your views about sustainability?
During my course on sustainability, we were tasked to submit a project related to renewable energy and I did mine on a biogas generator. Professor Schuepbach became interested and this was followed by frequent discussions about implementing a renewable energy project in India.
“As I learnt more about sustainability, I became more aware about pressing issues such as climate change and global warming. Now more than ever, we need to find solutions in order to secure a future for ourselves and generations to follow.”
Tell us a little bit more about Thitali Low Carbon Solutions.
It is a project management company I founded and our aim is to implement cleantech projects in India. The first project we initiated was educating rural female farmers on using sustainable energy technology to assist them in their daily lives. It was a huge success and was thus chosen to be presented at the Tech4Dev Conference, which I co-presented with Professor Schuepbach.
You’re also involved in varied ventures, particularly in the startup eco system in India. Is being an entrepreneur what you’d always dreamt of from young?
Strangely, I have never dreamt of being an entrepreneur. It’s something I’ve only thought seriously about in the last couple of years.
“I’ve never thought of entrepreneurship as a way to make money. It’s about doing what you love and taking on the challenge to think creatively and offer solutions to the needs of people and companies.”
The startup landscape in India has seen tremendous growth and I am fortunate to be at the right place at the right time. Some of the ventures I’m currently working on include an infrastructure and technology platform to make sports more accessible to all. I am also the Chief Operating Officer of Shipnext, an online logistics platform that provides customers with access to various transporters for their shipping and moving requirements.
How has your experience studying and working in hospitality helped you as an entrepreneur?
The passion, perseverance and sleepless nights entrepreneurs put into building successful companies is very similar to the training I gained working and studying in hospitality. The interpersonal and communication skills I developed have also helped me in managing projects effectively.
What do you think is the most important characteristic an entrepreneur should have?
To be able to laugh at your own mistakes. If you don't learn from your mistakes, laugh again.
Any advice for budding entrepreneurs?
I’m someone who tends to overthink about doing business and about life in general. So if there’s any advice I could impart, it would be to just do it as it’s easier than you think!
What do you remember most about your time in Switzerland?
“The international exposure and the cultural mix at César Ritz was truly amazing. I think it’s this diversity that has prepared me well to adapt to different situations and environments which is important in becoming a successful entrepreneur.”
I’ll also never forget the late night walks to the nearby sandwich shop, which opens at 3am. I often crave for their tomato mozzarella sandwich and its taste will be forever etched in my memory!