The TiE event witnessed the gathering of some of the best entrepreneurial minds right from start-up veterans to top-of-the class investors and an enthusiastic audience
If risk was the name of the game then most certainly there was no dearth of players ready to go off the conveyor belt and carve a niche for themselves at the event organised by The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) in New Delhi on September 14.
The participants, young and energetic with a lot of fire in the belly, were a reflection of India’s growing prowess in the world of business opportunities unleashed by globalisation and nurtured by a booming economy with sound fundamentals. Their queries ranged from “what makes for a successful start-up” to “where the funds will come from”. The speakers were a good mix of experienced risk-takers, serial entrepreneurs and investors who have ‘been there done that’.The issues that came up for discussion almost covered the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem relating to challenges, competition, technology, manpower, intellectual property rights, value proposition, marketing and investment.
“Never build a business because its fashionable and don’t decide on a business based on the funding that is available,” said Sanjeev Aggarwal, Managing Director, Helion Ventures who set the ball rolling.
Alok Mittal, Executive Director, Canaan Partners, began by sharing his experience of the days when he started jobsahead.com in 1999. The successful job portal was later sold to Monster for $9 million. “We had initially started as zipahead, which was targeted at the youth with content on fashion and the like. But we soon found out that our business model was flawed. The youth of our country was looking for jobs and not fashion,” said Mittal candidly. So his team decided to move to a job portal. But all this was not easy. “We had to prove that the services that we offered actually worked. So we went about offering 3,000 trials in 3 months,” he said. There was a time in 2001 when “we had only 3 months of cash left. So we had to cut down costs.” What worked for the jobsahead team was flexibility, cost management, raising capital early and a good senior management team in place. A successful entrepreneur and founding member of a group of venture capitalists, Band of Angels, Mittal believes it is “execution” of the plan that makes all the difference.
Another speaker Michael Jansen, President and CEO of Satellier, had a different set of challenges to face when he ventured into the architectural design outsourcing business in 2000. Satellier provides value-added design support solutions evolving from outsourcing of computer aided design (CAD) documentation, 3D modeling and Building Information Modeling (BIM) services to architectural, engineering, and construction firms. “It was a new and unproven industry,” said Jansen and he had to convince his customers that he could meet their quality standards. “I did not take salary for one-and-a-half years.” In the beginning, Jansen didn’t know how the outsourcing business worked “so we got some experienced people who knew the inside out of the BPO business.” Jansen believes that change management helps as one has to keep the innovation tempo high by offering value-added services, employing updated technology and keeping the business competitive.
When it comes to importance of applying the right tools and technology practices, one cannot help but notice how well Abhishek Sharma, Director, Qsquare Technologies has been putting tech to use. When he started the business of providing testing services, “we had limited resources and the big question was whether to invest in office space, people or technology.” After managing office space with the help of a friend, Sharma looked at technology in two aspects – as an enabler and as an accelerator. With this in mind, he utilised all that was available either free of cost or at little cost. He used Google Spreadsheet as a project monitoring tool, slimtimer.com as a time sheet, and a free tool – IP Messenger – for internal communication. “We transfer files through IP Messenger, so that we don’t consume additional bandwidth,” he said. “We use Skype and Open Office, both free of cost,” he said gleefully.
Sun Microsystems’ James Seymour, Senior Director, Market Development, pitched in to elaborate what his company had to offer to start-ups. “We have tremendous expertise and technology, which we can bring to entrepreneurs,” he said. The IT major plans to expand the scope of its Sun Start-up Essentials Programme across India. The programme, launched in August, is aimed at providing the start-up community access to key technologies and services by offering discounts on a range of Sun products.
|TiE is a global not-for-profit organization focused on promoting entrepreneurship. TiE helps budding entrepreneurs through advice, guidance and assistance from successful and experienced entrepreneurs and professionals. TiE’s greatest strength is its network through 45 cities in 10 countries that consists of many participants in the entrepreneurial ecosystem successful and experienced as well as budding entrepreneurs, venture capital firms, angel investors, service providers etc. TiE makes continuous efforts to interconnect this network in a way that allows it to deliver real value to all its constituents. |
TiE’s membership categories include charter members who are accomplished business people and professionals with a willingness to help budding entrepreneurs. This category of membership is by invitation only. General/associate members include all those with an entrepreneurial spirit. Members also get opportunities to network with peers in the global business eco-system. All members have access to mentoring, which is a key value proposition of TiE and is a one-on-one interaction between a senior entrepreneur or professional and a entrepreneur who needs guidance Corporate members are organizations.
Ranjit Shastri, Director, Smart Analyst, had this to offer on the issue of creating a niche value proposition: “When you enter an industry….you should think whether you are going to increase the size of the pie or just eat into the existing pie.” Ajit Sirohi, Managing Director, SW Applications India said “value proposition is the value as perceived by customers and investors. The only way to survive is to create niche.” In a lighter vein, he said, if you already have shaadi.com, a niche would be secondshaadi.com or thirdshaadi.com. Supreme Court advocate Pawan Duggal stressed the importance of protecting intellectual property rights in the form of copyright, trademark and product innovation.
When it came to discussion on cost-effective and innovative marketing, Rohit Aggarwal, CEO, Tehctribe said “marketing and branding is about name and identity. Select the name for your company that is simple and easy to spell and communicate.” Aggarwal said that getting effective PR does not mean spending a lot of money, as he stressed the importance of blogs and targeted community marketing. Pradeep Chopra, Co-founder, OMLogic said the Internet had created a level playing field, and online marketing could work very well for a start-up.
On the issue of investment ecosystem for entrepreneurs, Ajoy Khanderia of ORG Informatics said that when it comes to putting money, “what we look for is the team. Does the entrepreneurial set up has a good team and does it understand the competition in the space they are venturing.” Rahul Bhasin, Managing Director, Baring Private Equity Partners stressed the importance of customer insight while Saandeep Sinha, Managing Partner, Lumis Partners stressed on the “execution” of plans rather than just a good plan in place.
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