Rajkumar Kamat Executive Director, BNI Goa Region, speaks on bringing Business Networking International (BNI) to Goa and his future plans for the organisation
As the person responsible for bringing the concept of BNI to Goa how did the BNI journey in Goa begin?
In July 2009, I attended a BNI meeting in Pune and was immediately captivated by the structured approach to generating referrals and conducting business in a fun and engaging way. I knew that I had to bring BNI to Goa for the benefit of MSMEs.
I contacted Niraj Shah, the then National Director of BNI India, and received training in October 2009. I began working on the first chapter from January 2010 in Goa, after putting my own business on autopilot.
The first BNI chapter in Goa, Aparant, was launched in April 2010 with Manoj Patil as President. We quickly built strong relationships and generated substantial business. We were so successful that the former Chief Minister of Goa, late Manohar Parrikar, attended one of our meetings. He was impressed by what he saw and encouraged us to expand BNI to other parts of Goa to help MSMEs grow their businesses.
In 2011, we launched the second chapter, Mathgram, in Margao with Architect Avinash Borkar as President.
I was finding it difficult to manage two chapters while running my own business, so I was grateful when Ajay Gramopadhyay, the first Vice President of Aparant, volunteered to help me. However, we were still finding it challenging to launch new chapters as Manohar Bhai had requested.
How did you expand to the present level of 14 chapters?
This was when Murali Srinivasan was appointed District Director to guide us in forming a regional team. I was fortunate to have Rasik Naik, Sushant Surlakar, Vinay Verma, Dinesh Dhulapkar, Parag Lolienkar, Andre Shackleton besides Manoj Patil, Avinash Borkar, and Ajay Gramopadhyay volunteer to shoulder the responsibility of leading the region and helping more entrepreneurs grow their businesses through BNI.
My daughter, Nimisha, who had a Master’s degree in Nutritiondietics, joined me to help out temporarily. However, she loved the concept of helping entrepreneurs so much that she made it her full-time career. She worked tirelessly alongside the regional team to grow the BNI Goa region to over 500 members, generating over `235 crores in annual business. She continued to work in this role until 2017, when she got married and moved to Bangalore.
After Nimisha’s departure, we experienced a period of stagnation, hovering at around 500 members. However, in 2019, Parag Lolienkar and Andre Shackleton took over the leadership. They were ably supported by Valerie Fernandes, Avinash Borkar, Arman Bankley, Fauzia Khan, Ashfaq Shaikh, Anup Gadgil and Anand Chatterjee. Under their leadership, BNI Goa has experienced explosive growth, with over 850 members in 14 chapters. In the last 12 months, we have generated over `350 crores in business through BNI referrals alone. BNI has really changed the way Goa does business. I am also extremely happy that we have been creating 100+ strong leaders every year in Goa, who contribute not only to BNI but to the community at large.
You have organised events where business people who are not a part of BNI have also attended the same. What can you tell us about these events?
Along the way, BNI Goa organised multiple business events for the entire business community. Through Goa Biz Fest, we brought together BNI, business and state leaders to share their insights and tips for business success.
This success gave us the confidence to organise Vibrant Goa Global Expo and Summit, a mega show. We formed a public trust, Vibrant Goa Foundation, with BNI stalwarts as trustees. The goal was to bring positivity to the business ecosystem of Goa by creating opportunities for trade and collaboration within and outside India.
In October 2022, BNI Foundation globally celebrated Future Leaders’ Week. As part of this, under the leadership of Ryan Vaz, 110 of our members visited 27 institutions and inspired and interacted with 2750+ students focusing on career advice and entrepreneurship. The institutions were very happy to see the immense value addition from practising entrepreneurs and requested BNI Goa to conduct these programs on a continuous basis for the benefit of students. We are therefore signing a tripartite MoU between BNI foundation, BNI Goa and 20 institutions from Goa.
We propose to take this up as a community outreach programme and focus on mentoring students/youth in their career selection on a consistent basis through special sessions, internship and entrepreneurial mentoring on a 1-2-1 basis. Throughout this journey, we have been blessed to have the support of many mentors, including Murali Srinivasan, our District Director; Hemu Suvarna, National Director; Mahesh Srinivasan, Global Markets President; and Graham Weihmiller, Chairman and CEO, along with more than 100 executive directors of India. Ayush Bansal, the former Executive Director of Vapi Valsad, went out of his way to mentor us in ‘Mission Tejas’ last year. We are forever grateful to all these leaders.
What is your plan moving forward?
As we move forward, we are committed to helping more MSMEs, entrepreneurs, startups, and millennials grow their businesses through BNI. We are now within reach of our goal of 1000 members, set in 2012 and are excited to cast our vision for the future. We aspire to support more than 2,500 entrepreneurs, generating over 1.25 billion USD worth of business per annum and impacting the community by generating more than 50,000 jobs by 2030. Besides, through the BNI Foundation Business Voices program, we aspire to mentor more than 1,000 youth in their entrepreneurial journeys. With the guidance of Dr Ivan Misner, the founder of BNI who has over 38 years of experience in BNI and a wealth of knowledge, we are sure we will be able to chalk out the action plans to grow and flourish as an organisation.