Shanghai is a city of entrepreneurship. In our new series, 'Shanghai Entrepreneurs,' we talk to entrepreneurs from different backgrounds and businesses about their motivations, experiences and what they have learned along the way.
Nitin Dani is an architect by profession and an environmentalist at heart. Raised and educated in various parts of India and had previously worked in Bangalore, Singapore and Milan, Nitin has gained a wealth of knowledge in business from his diverse background and experience . He worked for a branding agency when he arrived in Shanghai back in 2010, and later moved on to form an entrepreneurial venture facilitating clean technology solutions for the Chinese market. Nitin’s also the founder of Green Initiatives (GI, formerly called Green Drinks China), and serves as a project director for GIGA, an organization that specializes in material research, cloud software and indoor air quality certification.
Elevator pitch: tell us what you do in fewer than 50 words.
We focus on creating awareness on environmental issues, followed by creating activities and projects that the community can get involved in to reduce or minimize their environmental impact. We do this by organizing events, workshops, trainings, local projects and short-term campaigns.
Why did you choose Shanghai?
Shanghai wasn’t my first city of choice – it was accidental. I was pursuing my master’s degree in Milan and happened to come to this city when my internship in Milan did not work out in the last minute. I was not keen on coming here initially; however, the trip turned out to be eye-opening and I found an incredible balance in this city – from the chaos of India to the perfection of Singapore (where I lived previously), and from the lack of opportunities in Italy or Europe to an abundance of it here. It was simply the place to be.
What was your inspiration for starting your organization?
Starting an organization was not a conscious decision. I accidentally stumbled upon the Green Drinks Shanghai group that was organizing monthly ‘green’ networking events. I was asked to lead the group and all I wanted to do was to do whatever we were doing, and to do it well.
Using my skills in branding and my background in architecture and sustainable design, I tried to pave a consistent and coherent brand image for Green Drinks. Our events gradually grew, and one thing led to another; there was no looking back. We rebranded Green Drinks to Green Initiatives in 2014, with a larger mission to raise awareness, take action and create long-term impact.
What are the biggest challenges setting up a business here?
The single most challenging issue has to be finding the right people – ones who share a similar goal or are motivated by a common cause for a consistent period of time. Very few people are willing to put in time and effort to grow an idea or a business with little money upfront.
What is the greatest lesson you have learned doing business in China?
It takes time. I think it’s true for any other part of the world, but more so here in China.
And the greatest mistake?
A small mistake we made was getting pro bono services on designing our website. It was hard to say no to it since we had almost no money, but the lack of urgency during the process really affected our initial growth and gave us endless frustration. One other crucial mistake we made was hiring people for our team without fully understanding their background, motivation or personality. People with the wrong attitude tend to have the ability to kill the morale of the entire team. Despite these mishaps, I have no regrets. I couldn’t have grown as an individual without the experience I’ve gained from these mistakes. I am a firm believer of the saying, “Experience is what you get when you did not get what you wanted.”
What is the craziest thing you have done for your business?
I think the most insane thing [I’ve done] is the way I have been managing my work for the last year or so. I like to say that I have two full-time jobs right now, both of which I love and can’t live without. So I am continuously striving to create a balance between the two.
Give us three words that you need to make it as an entrepreneur in Shanghai.
Consistency, honesty and purpose.
To learn more about Green Initiatives and their most recent project—The [WE] Project—which aims to provide an environmentally-friendly way of recycling used electronics visit their official website.