Taking a giant leap: Karan Virwani

These youngsters are extremely determined, raring to go and simply unstoppable. Here are some swashbuckling next-generation entrepreneurs on the Bengaluru block. Hailing from influential families in the city, they are poised to not just survive but thrive on their own. Be it taking the family legacy forward or carving their own niche, they are all set to soar the skies. Some with their start up spirits while the others juggling novel and innovative ideas into the existing ventures. Meet the all-powerful GenNext.

Text by Namita Gupta.

Karan Virwani, Director, WeWork (India)

Family foundation: “My father (Jitu Virwani, Chairman and Managing Director, Embassy Group) has already built a really strong and stable business which is here to stay for a long time! I consider myself lucky to have such a safety net around me which empowers me to try different things on my own before ever falling back on the business and this allows me to be more adventurous and aggressive in building my own business. Having said that, everything that my brothers or I do, is only to finally contribute to the family business. My latest venture is WeWork in India. WeWork is a New York-based collaborative workspace launched in 2010 and is the fifth largest start-up in the world. It is a platform for creators, entrepreneurs, and businesses of all sizes to collaborate, innovate and follow their passions! I firmly believe in the unique ways of building communities and propagating the work culture of ‘Do What You Love’ in the Indian scenario with WeWork, where one joins as an individual ‘me’ but ultimately becomes a part of the greater ‘we’! With this venture, I would like to revolutionise the work scenario in India and replicate the brand’s global vision in India and democratise the collaborative work space in India. Prior to this, I have also launched two restaurants in Bengaluru – Sanchez and Singkong which is now relaunched as Sriracha. These eateries dish up authentic Mexican and Pan-Asian fare. With the launch of these two restaurants it made sense to move forward with another venture – launch a food delivery app known as Entrée which is aimed at the premium restaurants in Bengaluru,” states the promising entrepreneur, Karan.

The written word: Talking of his education, he recalls, “During my graduation days at Kent University, I was fortunate to be amidst a group of aspiring entrepreneurs and interact with some of the best minds. Students of my age were equally enthusiastic about making a mark for themselves in the corporate world. This experience led to the thought of doing something different and stand out in the business world. It was an indication for me to plan my next steps ahead in future. In fact, the idea of the restaurant came to me in the last year of University. I decided to join my family business to get a first-hand experience of corporate dynamics. I also wanted to evaluate and apply myself with the learnings from the University level hence I started working as an EA to the Chairman and Managing Director, (my father – Jitu Virwani) Embassy Group. At a very early stage of my life my father fuelled my curiosity for business. Working with him is amazing. I get to travel with him, run his schedule, take notes, learnt how to deal with people and understand what to say when. Even now I get to absorb a lot from him and that’s a great way to start. During my tenure, I learnt that startups were mushrooming and found a sweet spot and promise for co-working spaces, which was missing. The need for flexible workspaces is huge in India as there is a lack of good infrastructure for upcoming ventures. After spending two years in managing my earlier ventures, I finally teamed up with WeWork, a New York based collaborative work space giant to venture into the Indian market.”

Biz whiz: “The thought has always been to compliment the current line of businesses and carry forward my father’s vision. The guiding force behind my current success are my parents and I owe it to them completely. Ever since I was a teenager, I have always thought about starting something on my own and one constant piece of advice I have always received from my parents is to believe in myself with a clear roadmap! I would not say I have ventured out on my own, but contributed in a way that has added value to my family business. Starting off young, I am happy to have started 3 ventures and WeWork has been a high point for me.

I strongly believe that relationships are powerful and one-to-one connections with each other are the foundation for change. Before WeWork happened, I came across people from diverse communities across the globe and understood the importance of working as a community. For me, launching or rather bringing WeWork to India has been one of the biggest learning curve. One thing that has been common through my journey so far has been creating new things, meeting new people and the satisfaction of seeing new ideas come alive! The whole ecosystem is moving their approach towards the Gig Economy. We were one of the first companies to recognise this shift and WeWork’s business model — providing beautiful, inspirational and functional spaces that encourage collaboration, as well as programming to enrich our members’ lives and help their businesses thrive in this new environment,” states Karan on his latest venture.

Taking the Legacy forward: Karan confesses that he has been witnessing his father envision a blueprint of what we are witnessing today from an early age. He says, “It is because of his vision and passion for real estate that the Embassy Group is a well-known brand in the real estate industry today. I have witnessed this entire empire been built on my dining table and at times while I was shadowing my father for his business meets. The last couple of years working at Embassy and assisting him have been extremely instrumental in helping me gain first-hand experience of how this huge empire was built by him. I am lucky to be a part of this business venture and contribute in a way that compliments my father’s vision which he had envisaged years ago. I believe it’s time to pay back and take my father’s legacy forward along with my brothers who are equally ready to replicate his success story!”

Challenges of being a CEO: Getting candid on some of the challenges, Karan states, “We have recently launched WeWork in Bengaluru and right now all our energies are focussed on launching successfully in Mumbai and Delhi and ensuring that our initial round of members have the best experience possible. If we get that right, the rest will follow. The added pressure of having a legacy that you will always have to live up to is a motivational factor rather than a suppressor! My family has been always supportive and believed in me, right from the time when I was a student and wanted to start something on my own! My current focus is on growing WeWork India into a sustainable venture. Going forward we would like to expand into other parts of India as well.”

Life outside workplace: “I am passionate about adventure, cars, driving, food and travel. My first car was a Chevrolet Cruz which was awesome fun to drive. I have also sky-dived thrice – twice in England and once in Prague. I tried it first while at college and it was amazing. Falling from a plane is a different kind of an excitement,” he concludes.