Archive for July, 2008

The Druvaa Story – III

Since the beginning, i have been totally open about my venture. I have openly talked about VCs, good guys and most importantly the idiotic mistakes i made.

This is just an extension of the same. It may pi** off some people, but don’t think i can write an unbiased post otherwise. Just Throw it back on me if you don’t like my statements.

Druvaa won the Indian Entrepreneurial Challenge 2008. Some mistakes i made in the journey + some suggestions  –

1. We tried to make software delta better and cheaper

This is a good  strategy, but then you should really know how to execute it well. In fact that should be your startup’s key strengths.

We made Druvaa Replicator – a ultra-cool server replication product, which was a better and cheaper alternative. We started selling it and got funded. But, we soon realized that, selling it would be a good profitable business, but not worth a startup. We debated for a while and decided that we will in future only make sales-killers not sales-enablers.

And hence we changed the business plan, and came up with the idea of second product – Druvaa inSync. (We are now pushing same tech to both the products.)

2. We played the feature game

I would get totally angry and frustrated when someone compared me on features with the competitor’s product. To “compete” better, we worked out a BIG product feature release plan. But, we soon realized that “features” are for big companies to fight and spend time/money on.

A startup should just focus on those few USPs which would just “kill” your competition’s sales pitch. One good feature which would force the competition to shut up or drop prices.

 3. Those smart looking VCs

Just like startups complain about non-existence of “startup ready” talent pool in India. I guess VCs also have same problem, but they aren’t open about it. Else, you wont see such a large pool of less experienced MBA grads working for VC firms.  They scan business plans like job resumes and ask you to get back with crazy numbers.

I guess when you approach a VC, after you have pitched your story please politely ask him about his/her background. And if it looks like a mismatch, politely move on like you do with fat blind dates 🙂

4. When they say no, You say  Next

Learn from beggars at the red-light signal, use law of averages. Don’t waste too much time on customer or VCs which make a face at you. Learn from the experience, ask him how can your improve and move on.

 5. Position your product well.

(this may sound disturbing to a few)  Learn from the hookers – They stand where the market is. Package it well. Look distinct, so that the customer notices. Make the customer come and bargain. And make a sale, even when the customer would have never budgeted for it.

Position your product well. You have limited time and money to buy acquire a new customer.

  6. Believe in your story

There was a gathering in a village to pray for the rains .. and only kid came with an umbrella.

When in trouble just trust your team and work hard.

I welcome comments and help of all kinds 🙂

Who will tell telecom operators?

Few thousands of people travel on any Mumbai local train. These trains run with a period of every 5-10 minutes. This means, you have thousands of people present anywhere on track and at any point of time. Many of them belong to organized sector. Each person would spend at least an hour or two on an average (to and from). In any case, all the commuters represent a good economy for consuming various services on move.

It is clear to see that during local journeys people prefer Mobile VAS services in order to pass their time. Forget the quality of network in accessing data services on move, even when one wants to make calls or receive calls (from train commuters),  call drop is very high and voice break is very much persistent. I could never find the reason why telecom operators don’t install sufficient towers on pathways of train track routes/ bus routes/traffic signals.

 I strongly believe, any directions in this regard would lead to increase in usage of Mobile VAS. What do you think?

ESOP Successes – Onmobile On Steam

Someone anonymously posted this comment to our earlier story. Based on Onmobile’s public filings, the person has done an analysis, which indicates the successes in Onmobile ESOP plan. The analysis is based on share price of Rs 520 as of July 8th. While these are estimates, it seems that they are broadly right – I also did a further segment of Rs 10 crore+ gainers…

Wealth Range (Rs)   Number of Employees
> 10 crore ~10
1-10 crore ~35
50-100 lacs ~25
10-50 lacs ~80

This does not include starting execs who can be deemed founders. Now thats some serious wealth creation for employees! Way to go! and thanks for the poster.

TiE-Canaan Entrepreneurial Challenge – Final Results

TiE Canaan Entrepreneurial Challenge 2008 was concluded on Saturday, 5th July.

The winners of the Challenge are:

Equitas – A microfinance company, which started 6 months back with great management team. They have been able to innovate around processes to scale very fast in this business.

Druvaa Systems – It’s a backup company focusing at laptops and handhelds.

Iken – A company with core IP in analytics and is applying that to storefronts (web and mobile) to present the “right catalog” to each customer.

Overall, it was an exciting series and pretty enjoyable interacting with all the companies. I think feedback from participants, if they are reading this entry would be valuable.

The inside working of series would be aired by CNBC later this month. Due to lack of any other communication platform, I’ll inform here on the dates.

Universal McCann Social Media Report

Interesting report from Universal McCann on social media. With respect to India, while overall Internet penetration remains abyssmal, some of the social media metrics fare better (on base of 17M active users in target group):

  • 85% read blogs, with fairly high frequency of usage
  • 66% have created a profile on a social network, and frequently update it
  • 65% upload photos; 53% upload videos, 85% watch them

The numbers do look high to me, but remember its on young active part of the internet users. If true, this data throws up an interesting observation – while the internet penetration itself is growing slowly, there seems to be a 10M+ sophisticated consumer base that has evolved, whose usage is in line with the most internet-advanced countries. This base of customers can potentially be an interesting market. Perhaps not for advertising oriented business, but more so for transaction based business which can derive more value per subscriber. It would be interesting to understand the disposable income level of this group – just in case the majority of these are poor students…

Proto Delhi – Last few tickets for Venturewoods readers, over the past two years has been slowly building a community of startup entrepreneurs, and has been successful in its mission. The fourth edition of the event, is to be right here in Delhi, in the campus of IIT Delhi, on the dates of 18th and 19th. There is a fair bit of elite audience expected, and a fair bit of buzz and activity is going on on the site if you do take a look at it. IAMAI, NASSCOM, TiE, NEN, and several organizations which are working towards the common cause of strengthening entrepreneurship are coming together, yet again.

This is an invite to the venturewoods community, should they find it to be appropriate for attending the event. For anything further on this regard, you can get in touch with Vijay at proto dot in.

Note: The Registration fee is Rs. 500 and folks can either register online, or there are locations in seven cities across the country where one can go and collect passes paying the amount in cash.