Archive for March, 2008

Telecom: A Snapshot of the Global Data ARPUs

I believe we are racing towards a global economy. With th US economy getting colder, the heat is quickly going to turn to India to kick off and see some high returns quickly. That’s a theory that I am going with, for now.

Here’s a snapshot of the Global Telecom market. It helps to keep this chart in the back of your mind.

Global ARPU

PS: India is the lowest in terms of “Wireless Data ARPU”.

Credit: I stole this from Alec Saunders’ Blog.

Proto.in Delhi Edition: Nominations Open. Now!

Hi Everyone!. We are back in the beginning stages of those exciting times again!

There has been a lot of silent activity happening at our end this time, to make things happen much earlier on, so that we could probably add a bit more value to the startups that are presenting. There are some hard and fast rules that have evolved within the team as to how a company would look like and the qualities that it would possess by the time it takes on the stage in Proto.in. We do have every intention of making sure that those qualities are met – of course we will also enable the means for that to happen.

As you know, the fourth edition of Proto.in, is coming up in July. If you are a startup based out of India and you believe that you have a technology product, and have atleast a team and prototype in place, then you qualify to apply. The screening and shortling of companies this time is going to be much harsher to raise the standard of companies that we showcase, so please help us out by participating only if you atleast the bare minimum criteria that I just spoke about. If you are a startup that posesses the trait of a being a kick-ass startup, we’d like to hear from you. Really!

Proto.in is a technology showcase event which aims to bring together the startup ecosystem together, and throws the spotlight on some of the best startups that are upcoming in the Indian ecosystem. The companies are given a six minute slot during which they present the company, team and demonstrate their product (with a working prototype) to show what their product is. The six minute session is followed by a quick round of questions from the audience, after which they are given a space on the demo floor, where they can meet and interact with the elite audience that attends the event to increase awareness, market traction, forge potential partnerships, validate their markets, and also perhaps raise funds from investors.

The Nominations are open as of Yesterday and will close on May 31. The announcements of the verdict will be done to the companies 15 days after that, during which expect a few skype, IM and telephone calls, and demo walkthroughs to get a better idea of what you do. So if you are nominating, ensure that those days are set aside. If you are one of the shortlisted companies, you will be linked with a mentor and work will begin on how to polish your presentation, and presentability after that till D’day.

As I always do remind folks, Proto.in is a showcase platform for technology startups to help them build value, in terms of partnerships, market validation, acquire customers, interact and announce milestones with the media, maybe attract talent, find a mentor, and maybe also attract the interest of investors. Please make sure that you express clearly what you are looking for. If you are looking for Funding, please go through this blog post [Is your Startup Fundable?] to make sure that you are on track and at the right stage.

That’s about it! Good luck and I look forward to hearing from you.

You can Nominate your startup here.

Selling to the Unaffordable. Part I

Most enterprises in India look to “more economically viable” markets abroad as their target customers. If you ask them why is it that we are never focused on local demands, and the market that is seemingly so huge and is often quoted to be one of the fastest growing, the response is usually the same: “They Cannot afford this service”. Despite, seemingly valid claims, the stability of an economy depends on diversifying your target markets and India being this large pool of potentially huge market is being eyed by foreign companies as a last hope and last stand for their company stability, all this while we are still looking elsewhere for our hope to shine from.

An average television viewer cannot afford the cost at which shows are produced. A startup cannot afford to get a paid mentor onboard though it might essentially be the secret sauce of success. Most developing countries cannot afford the lifestyle that developed countries take for granted. Most booming economies still cannot afford the price tags of “brands”. Folks in Chennai, bangalore and most of the growin ‘n’ emerging urban centers cannot afford housing within city limits. Most people in rural India cannot afford most of what urban india consumes and produces. If you really think about it, in the economics of transactions, very little is part of the category where people can really afford it. For everything else, there is mastercard :) I wish it was simple as that.. But nope, I can only wish for that.

Continue reading ‘Selling to the Unaffordable. Part I’

TradeVibes

This is a company started by a bunch of ex- PayPal people which could be useful for startups to get themselves noticed and get feedback.

I just joined and put some information about myself and Eko.

At Eko we intend to play around with the site and see if it proves to be useful.

Easy to do since its free.

The Consumer Internet Dilemma: Users or Customers

I’ll start with a broad, sweeping generalization about consumer internet:

1. The user never pays. I would consider it to be not only true to a very large majority of consumer internet ventures, but actually a defining characteristic of consumer internet.

2. Since the user doesn’t pay, and the business exists to make money, there should be another set of entities who actually pay the venture. They might be advertisers, marketers or sellers selling goods to the users. From the perspective of the venture, lets call them customers.

So from what we see, a consumer internet venture deals with two sets of entities, namely Users and Customers. These two sets of entities have completely different reasons behind engaging with the venture,. Also, the venture needs to have completely different strategies for engaging, attracting, and dealing with these two sets of entities.

Here are some observations:

1. In most cases, customers would follow users. Meaning, a website must have users for someone to come and try to sell something there.

2. A start-up works with severe bandwidth constraints. It is impossible to deal with both users and customers initially.

3. Too much focus on customers, and hence, on selling and marketing on the website in its initial days almost always drives away users.

Keeping these in mind, I think it is very important for a consumer internet start-up to focus primarily on users in the initial days. Without dedicated, loyal users, the venture makes no sense.

What do you think about this?

Indian PE affected by meltdown

ET has a piece on PE investments slowing down and deals taking more time to close.

The current global meltdown propelled by subprime concerns has left its mark on the Indian market too, which is also evident in the number of private equity deals slowing down.

Industry experts say unlike in the past when term sheets were signed in six-seven days, the duration has now increased to a month. Fund managers are taking a longer time to make up their minds on investments. They are also agonizing over what valuations ought to be. Some are even backing out of deals.

This bit, about players backing out after the termsheet is signed, is especially interesting. Can readers comment if there are more examples in the recent past?

For instance, Indivision, a part of the Future Group backed out of an impending deal with DishTV after signing the term sheet. Sources said, this was because valuations were driven down. Then, sources added, there is the case of General Atlantic Partners backing out of Essar Power, once again, after signing the term sheet.

Marketing Plan & Budget

Hi All:

I run artjini.com, etailer of art products. I want advise on the components of a marketing plan and advise on a estimating a marketing budget for a startup ecommerce site. Some of the specific queries that I have are:

1. what is the typical value of online purchase in India? if any info is avbl category wise, pls share esp for gifts and home decor.

2.  what should be the components of a promotion plan  and how much percentage of promotion budget and effort should be given to each, for an startup etailer: PR; link exchange: how to build relevant links with other Indian sites?; paid advertisement; google adwords; social networking

3. Is it helpful to stretch resources and advertise in niche magazines that cater to ones target segment? any comment or experiences?

4. Does anybody have any inputs on affiliate marketing in India?

Vijaya

Artjini.com

Artjini Logo

Hi Everybody:

Artjini has launched www.artjini.com, India’s largest and only etailer of prints, canvas transfers and tapestries. These high quality products are sourced from publishers across the world. The images range from the old masters to the modern classics, and abstract works of art too (includes quite a few posters of celebrities). A unique feature is the custom framing option that lets one choose the framing option (mats and frames) for one’s prints.

Tapestries, a hot idea in contemporary wall decor, along with an excellent selection of hanging rods and tassels lets one make a style statement. With a texture not found in any other art form, these tapestries are works of art – they are woven on jacquard looms, using between nine and seventeen miles of thread in each design. The combination of thread colors and weaves creates a rich, fresh experience that changes with each viewing angle. Tapestries add rich ambiance to a room, as the fabric reduces sound vibrations and enhances acoustical characteristics.

Canvas Transfers, this amazing technique transforms posters into rich artwork that simulates an original oil painting, without the cost of one. This process creates the feel of an original painting with meticulous quality workmanship. One could get our skilled artisans to apply brushstrokes, giving your piece an even more special look.

The target market is the retail buyer and the architect/interior designer who decorate/design residential homes and commercial spaces. Our key differentiators are the wide range of images and product varieties, and of course the framing module.

Pl visit www.artjini.com and share your feedback.

Artjini Team


Lessons from the bust

I might be calling this a little early, but in times such as these, its better to be early than dead. Now that the Sensex is 30% (Nasdaq 25%) off recent peaks, and US economy heading downwards, here are some lessons from the last time we went through this:

  • Cash is king – raise money if you can; dont vacillate on valuations
  • Put your blinkers on, and build the business – avoid distractions
  • Focus on the customer – build what you can sell in near term
  • Building brands can get cheaper – but will still take cash
  • Enterprise sales (software or services)? Count on longer sales cycles
  • Beware of old receivables – a lot will evaporate

If we do get to a full bust, I will come back with some more. Remember, the great companies of today were built on surviving the last bust. Here’s your chance.

Startups + Talent + Lunch = One way to Solve Talent problem.

We at Proto.in have been realizing the need for startups who are looking for talent to hire. We did announce that we’ll do something about this and here it goes:

In most cases, it does seem like there is just a simple need to connect folks with the right people; Startups and the people who are interested in joining them.

I’ve setup a simple template at http://startuplunch.proto.in which should explain the process. It’s quite simple. If you are a startup, put down your name, and the company info. And if you are someone looking to join a startup, jot down your name. If the startups can collaborate and set a date then its to follow a meeting over lunch and see if your interests with the candidate match up.

I am very keen to hear of your suggestions. Feel free to create a new wiki/site should you find the need and just link it up to the section under your city so that people can follow.

Am hoping that this will serve to be self-sustainable so that there is no additional overheads on the already lean finances of the startup.

If you are looking for a job in an interesting startup and would like to meet the founders over lunch sometime, do feel free to register right away.