Archive for February, 2007

Few Good Persons in NCR

I started by writing Few Good Men in NCR and realized that this would be inviting trouble and also eliminating half my audience. Restricting to NCR for teams/single person with no specific idea is necessary as the amount of interaction required will be hard at a distance. I am working with a few people with specific ideas who are from locations other than NCR.

People/teams who may not have specific ideas but have the passion/ability/fire to build something big which has the following characteristics interest me

1. Its primary market is consumer or small business in India
2. It can start small and grow big

These people/teams could be fresh out of some of the premier educational institutions or have some startup or big company experience but they must be able to work full time on the big idea with maybe no compensation for some time.

I have various ideas to suggest to them to investigate and become passionate about. I want to work with these people as a founder and an investor. Realistically I can work with only a few as my model calls for intense involvement.

Maverick Leadership

Imagine a company where managers set their own salaries! Middle management utopia, who would not like to be here? But this is also a company where if you put your salary too high, and people don’t put you on the list as someone they need for the next six months, you’re in more trouble than you would be at General Motors.

Ricardo Semler is my idea of a great leader. In the context of modern entrepreneurship, the task of a CEO is to get customers, cut costs and convey value to shareholders. A leader CEO however is one who does not get so obsessed with these ends that he glances over what still remain the fundamentals of any business – trust and relationships. Semler built an organisation on trust. Or did he?

I think what he did by initiating policies based on trust, and I will not go into them here, was to create more leaders. In fact, if every SEMCO employee is welcome to a board meeting (of course, she has to be one of the first two to arrive at the door!), Semler created an organization where everybody potentially can influence the direction the organization takes. That is what leadership is all about – creating more leaders.

In the late 1980s, three engineers at SEMCO proposed setting up a Nucleus of Technological Innovation (NTI) to develop new businesses and product lines which Semler endorsed. At the end of the first six months, NTI had identified 18 such opportunities. Following the success of this initiative, satellite units were encouraged throughout SEMCO. By the late 1980’s, these satellite units accounted for two thirds of its new products and two thirds of its employees.

A leader who fosters entrepreneurship within his organization turns motivation on its head.

What is motivation really? Is it any better than a KITA! Semler created volition in his organization. A place where you forget socialism, capitalism, just-in-time deliveries, salary surveys, and the rest of it, and concentrate on building organizations that accomplish that most difficult of challenges: to make people look forward to coming to work in the morning. That is leadership.

If you really look at various utopian goals in mankind’s history, from the pursuit of alchemy to communism and beyond, SEMCO is perhaps the only successful story: creating the ideal workers organization – it is almost a fable.

Have you come across more? How do you lead in your startups?

Fun non-technology opportunities?

We have had a lot of discussion on this site on technology ventures and rightly so, given the talent pool in India. However, I think that with our changing social structure there will be interesting opportunities in the recreational services space. For instance, in areas like Health & Fitness, Tourism and so on. Think of the following:

РWill there be an entrepreneur who will set up India’s version of Lifetime Fitness or Ballys?
– Will there emerge new businesses managing sports stadiums, music and sports events and so on?
– What about innovative domestic tourism options such as specialized tours, coast-to-coast cruises?
– Will there be private equity investments in chains that take over and standardize the existing stand-alone hotels in Indian cities?
– Will there be a spate of restaurant chains post investments in the Mainland China business?

In each of these categories, there are reasonably large listed companies on the NYSE and the London Stock Exchange. I expect that over the next 5-10 years there will be several Indian companies that will emerge in these categories.

Their business models will probably be not as disruptively innovative as the next generation Web 2.0 product. But I am sure they will be fun and provide the much needed respite to technology entrepreneurs and workers.

I have written about a few such ideas on and would like to learn more from folks who are thinking about these opportunities.

Startupping – a new resource for entrepreneurs

I recently came across Startupping – which looks to be an interesting online gathering place for entrepreneurs. It is heavily focused on the internet space, but other kinds of entrepreneurs will also find some interesting tidbits here. Worth keeping an eye on.

From their home page:

Startupping is a one-of-a-kind community resource created for Internet entrepreneurs by Internet entrepreneurs. It is a place to share information, ask questions, and tap into the experience of others who have built and are building web businesses. Read blog posts about startup issues, participate in our discussion forums, and view our wiki resources, including sample term sheets and a glossary. For more information about the Startupping site, see our about page.

Canaan Partners update

Kamla Bhatt has posted an interview providing an update on Canaan Partners’ activities in India. Read on…

Let’s face it, fake CVs are ruining IT !!!

Hello Friends,

We have launched A Third Generation Recruitment Portal.

Mohanchoti is primarily is an effort to remove hiring mistakes by giving an insiders preview of a candidate to prospective employers. and hence remove bad hirings. In the process it is adding value to everyone involved in the process Employee, Employer and Referrer..

For more details visit about us section of

Please have a look and do comment.

Amit Raj

Above Average – Book promotion

A recent entrepreneur asked me for help to promote his product. Interesting background — IIT Delhi, now a professor there, and has written this book (“ah! not another iitian book” — no, this guy has some mettle!)

Above Average is the story of a middle-class Delhi boy with an aptitude for science and math but a yearning to be the drummer of a rock band. Both of which necessitate his admission to the premier engineering college of India: IIT. So, in keeping with his high grades and all that is expected of him, Arindam effortlessly graduates from being a colony kid to being amongst an elite bunch of techies, the best of science graduates from around the country whose lives revolve around rarefied mathematical truths and the more immediate pleasures of the IIT Rock Fest. But, even as he drifts unquestioningly down the path laid out for him, a few stray incidents and some less lucky people make Arindam pull up short and reassess his life’s direction.

More on

Getting hired into a VC firm

A lot of people have been asking me what it takes to get into a VC firm. Few pointers:

  • At an analyst level, most firms are looking for smart people, perhaps with some background in equity analysis or business analysis. It is not unusual to have fresh MBAs with some pre-MBA work experience to be considered.
  • Different firms have different views on whether analyst position is a career track position or not. A lot of firms see this as a 2-3 year relationships. Some firms believe that analysts can graduate into leading investments.
  • At a senior level, different firms look for different profiles. Somewhat later stage focussed firms are happy to look at people from equity and business analysis, consulting or investment banking backgrounds. A lot of early stage firms tend to want prior entrepreneurial or strong operating backgrounds. There are no simple rules here.
  • VC business is a highly reference driven business, and there are very few openings. So make the right approach and engage early in the cycle.
  • Different firms have very different formal and informal decision structures – understand them well before you jump in.

Many VC firms are setting up their presence in India, and hence there are perhaps more opportunities than would exist in stable state. Amongst the US venture firms, there are two approaches. Some firms want people to join in US, work there for a year or two, do a couple of deals by travelling down, and then take a call on whether they want a full time person in India. Other firms, such as Canaan, look for people who have the network and operating/entrepreneurial experience in India to directly be part of the India team.

Live Ops raises $28 million

Saw this on TechCrunch.

The companies software allows call centre workers to work from home and has a performance tracking system that routes calls to the best performing workers.

I had heard the CEO of GenPact in India saying they were exploring these kind of solutions for India.

Maybe there are startups in India focusing on this space. It seems like a good space to focus on. Comments ?

Education industry outlook in India

Hello guys..
I want some views on education industry outlook in India specifically, school level (primary & secondary)…I am thinking of a business where school will pay some amount per student for services provided.. What i am not sure of is the appetite of schools to have paid value added service… Also it would be helpful if we can have a discussion on the business approach of “Educomp”…