Mentoring Entrepreneurs: Interview with EY Mentor Ashish Kukreti

11/2/2021
Nicola Cronin

For the past two decades, EY has supported entrepreneurs of all backgrounds – by recognising their incredible achievements through the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® programme, by standing beside female founders through the Entrepreneurial Winning Women™ programme, and by working with impact-driven entrepreneurs through EY Ripples, a programme that aims to positively impact one billion lives by 2030.

With an ecosystem of unstoppable entrepreneurs and an ambition to help them unlock their full potential, EY is new tapping into the breadth and depth of its global network to bring a new level of support to these entrepreneurs: mentoring.

Guider are delighted to support EY in this effort and to help match talented entrepreneurs with experienced business mentors from a huge range of fields.

“Entrepreneurs are at the forefront of innovating better answers to society’s toughest challenges. It’s exciting to connect early and growth stage entrepreneurs, and an EY community of world-leading entrepreneurs around the globe, to help accelerate their growth and impact.” – Jessie Coates, EY Global Impact Entrepreneurship Leader

Mentoring is an established method of career development with endless benefits for mentees and mentors. It can be hugely beneficial for entrepreneurs facing new markets and challenges, to be mentored by somebody who has experience in these areas, and who can pass down their wisdom. Everyone can benefit from mentoring, especially entrepreneurs, who are forging entirely new paths to create products and innovations that the world needs most.

One of those very people is Ashish Kukreti, COO of Little Ride, the pan-African mobility platform. Ashish will be serving as a mentor in a new mentoring programme that connects entrepreneurs from the entire EY entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The Guider team chatted with Ashish, from Nairobi to London, to discuss the programme so far, and his passion for sharing knowledge as a means to personal growth.

Hello Ashish! Great to have you as a mentor for EY-connected entrepreneurs.

Hi yes, thanks for hosting the programme and speaking with me! EY approached me based on my background and engagement with startups, and asked me if I wanted to be part of the programme. And, from there, I immediately went in the mode of mentorship!

It’s very rare that people have the possibility of meeting someone they could call a mentor. I found myself in this situation at the beginning of my career, and I thought – “Ashish, if you can find a way to give back and contribute, then you should be doing that”.

It’s a wonderful feeling. And surely it brings a big transformation value to someone's life, someone who is seriously looking for it.

It’s really a wonderful experience for me as well, and I feel great about it.  

Often the benefits of mentoring are mainly associated with the mentee – but what are the benefits for the mentor?

When you tell someone else how to do something, it makes you understand it more. It brings you into the inclusion of that thought. It also allows you to understand what is needed and how the science of improvement works for different people in different scenarios. In a nutshell, it makes you more enlightened to different perspectives.

For example, I could say "this is the way to do ROI", or "this is the way you generate a product from one stage to another". But when I keep talking about it and go into more and more detail, new things start to form. And with the right questions coming from different places and different people’s perspectives, the mentor also grows, just from understanding how people are doing trade or approaching problems in other parts of the world. And for me, that’s just a mind-boggling feeling!

Similarly, in the process, people also share an incredible level of detailed knowledge, that makes you even more enlightened, and excited. It brings you to the level of their sight, where you can focus thoroughly on the need of your mentees and from there you contribute toward their mission and goals.

Personally, I often interact with people, I love to understand people and work on things like how they feel and act during the different business situations. From there, I try to understand what I can do to help improve their performance or their interaction towards the customer, because that is the virtue.

Besides all that, I also feel it is imperative to ask and learn the right questions to find the real problem, as it then enhances your ability as a mentor and gives you heightened awareness. And for me, it is encouraging and enlightening.

From the sounds of it you've been a mentor for many years in many different corporate settings. Is this the first time you've used mentoring software?

Yes, this is the first time I’ve used anything like Guider, and I think the name suggests very rightly that it is a guider, it guides you, it tells you what to do, and how to do it.

It’s a very wonderful tool, especially for the mentees, because they know how to approach mentors and what to say at the beginning of the conversation. It also helps you to formulate the first email, which is the right approach.

I like the approach, I like the concept, and I think it is a wonderful product to connect people!

Glad to hear! And you’ve already got a mentee in the EY entrepreneurial ecosystem - how’s that going?

I’m working closely with my mentee, we’re talking on many different levels about making improvements in areas she’s looking at.

My mentee has a very good business background and she is proactive in asking what insight I can give from my experience which might be fruitful for her business.

I think it’s essential for me to help her to achieve the things that can lead to her success. She selected me on Guider to assist her in tracking down the right experts and other needs for the business. In totality, it’s going very well.

Amazing, and you're based in Nairobi but she's in London - so Guider has opened up a mentoring programme that bridges geographical divides.

Exactly, it’s a wonderful tool.

The best thing about Guider is that it guides the mentor and mentee through the mentoring process. You find yourself using a platform which is engaging you through smart stages or predefined actions. It’s dynamic, and sometimes it prompts you to move to the next level, as a reminder to get going.

In a sense, it allows you to move as swiftly as you can towards your next goal.

We've spoken about the perks, but what are some of the challenges of being a mentor?

The biggest challenge of being a mentor is understanding the problems and challenges your mentee is facing. It's also important to understand what kind of relevance you have to that problem.

I've found that you really have to ask to follow-up questions. As a mentor, you should do question-answer rounds with your mentee, as it helps you to approach a solution very early in the process, which leads to great success for you and your mentee.

Moreover, knowing what is being asked is the challenge, and then answering it is not principally a difficult task. Any problem in this world surely has at least one or two solutions, but what is more important is that you know what question or problem you are solving is, and how you are going to solve it. It's also important to be able to determine whether responding to a certain problem is even an absolute requirement of the mentee at that point in time.

These are some difficulties any mentors would find if they don’t truly understand the problem and what is needed from their end to contribute to a solution. Most people say you have to 'know your customer' and I think that’s the case with being a mentor - you need to know your mentee and understand their business.

Any other top tips for somebody interested in becoming a mentor?

If you have that feeling of wanting to support people and help to take them to the next level, you should mentor. If feel that brewing inside you - a feeling of wanting to help people and improve their lives, to contribute towards their goals, then that’s really what’s required of you as a mentor.

It is a journey where you transform people and their lives by your thoughts and contribution. Once you are tuned to that level, then the next step is basically knowing the nitty-gritty, which you can learn from books, from different people, and so on, but first and foremost is that you have that attitude and that desire to help someone.

I’m excited to be part of this work with EY! I want to help people and improve lives, and in the process, I want to improve myself.


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