Archive for July, 2013

SWOT Analysis – Importance and Need

For those who are not aware of SWOT, it stands for Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat and an analysis of all these factors is done for any new product, service or company. I have come across many business plans without a SWOT analysis. People probably underestimate the power of such an analysis. A good SWOT analysis gives you a top-view of the entire business plan, even before the actual business plan is made. Done with sincerity and honesty, this analysis can help you with:

Product Definition: Once you have clearly identified the target segments and understood their attributes, you will probably take a harder look at your product. A good understanding of whom you are trying to sell your product to would help to define the product better and position it appropriately.

Identifying Inherent Deficiencies: We all think our product is good and that it can definitely deliver benefits to the customer. But the longevity of a product is not in what it can deliver now but how it delivers it, will what it delivers continue to be a need and what more can it deliver over time. This analysis is critical to have a predictable and scalable business plan.

Defining Target Markets: Identify your opportunities and the impediments to maximize those opportunities would help in a more comprehensive Go-to-Market plan. You may just end-up realizing that there are more avenues for generating revenues than the ones you had thought of or may end up taking a re-look at your target market itself.

Understanding Key Market Attributes: Demographic, geographic, social and cultural attributes of your prime markets could seriously affect your overall business plan. Getting to identify these important factors could help to develop a more complete product offering and a marketing plan, to target specific needs that may have otherwise missed your attention.

Competitive Analysis: In trying to define your threats you would be forced to do some more work towards understanding your competition and where your product stands in comparison. Getting to know the reasons for your competition’s success or failure would only help you in making your offering more robust.

Identifying Threats Other Than Competition: Direct competition may not be the only threat. For example, the watch industry’s biggest threat is the mobile phone, with more and more people using this ubiquitous device to also check time. So, such an analysis would help you to do more homework to address such competitive variants and build your competitive barriers.

Any start-up should first do a SWOT of what he intends to create before even attempting anything. This will help him/her to validate most of the assumptions that had been made while planning the enterprise and enable focused efforts leading to meeting objectives.

The author, Srikanth Vasuraj, is a Business Consultant focused on helping start-ups to grow. He can be reached at +91-98454 78585 or srikanth@nodiva.co.in . Please visit www.nodiva.co.in for more information.

Impact Investing in India – three trends worth noting

Recently, impact investing in India has been taking center stage in the news. For example, Omidyar Network recently awarded $800,000 in grant funding to six organisations providing a spectrum of services that support social entrepreneurs, Unilazer investments also recently announced that as a fund they would continue to aim for profit first while expanding in the social impact space and reports have surfaced regarding plans to set up a regulatory body for impact investors in India.  Furthermore, new social impact funds are frequently emerging.

Given the recent focus on impact investing in India, Ennovent connected with Karan Gupta, India Investment Manager for Insitor Management and an Ennovent Circle member to glean some insights on the industry’s evolution. Based on the conversation, the below three impact investing trends are worth noting:

ONenergy Scale Image

1. A focus on scale must be approached cautiously

The emergence of impact investing was focused on identifying commercially and socially viable models filling a real market gap – with the potential to reach large numbers. This clearly contrasts the intent of philanthropic funds, which are often focused on making industries work that otherwise may not such as free schools for children or free food for low-income slum dwellers.

What has resulted for impact investing is therefore a strong focus on scale. Even though investors are prepared to be patient with their capital, funds continue to stress on the ability of the enterprise to scale aggressively – be it through increasing operations, taking on debt financing or expanding distribution.

While scale is important to achieve both financial and social aims, balancing purpose and profit becomes increasingly challenging with a strong focus on scale.  Impact investors must ensure that the intent of their funds is clear – supporting their portfolio organizations to scale in a timely, efficient and thoughtful manner. 

2. Accelerators lead to more investment ready enterprises

While the number of enterprises addressing social issues – from affordable education to accessible female sanitation and beyond – has grown considerably in the last few years, the quality of potential deal-flow has also dramatically improved.

Attribution for this shift to additional ‘investment ready’ enterprises can primarily be attributed to the increased accelerators and incubators, such as the Centre for Innovation, Incubation & Entrepreneurship, Villgro, Ennovent and others. These organisations have aptly realized that providing funds is simply not enough – instead they offer a variety of services to help entrepreneurs best develop their business models, then linking to appropriate funding sources.

For example, India has seen a dramatic increase in the number of training workshops that are being offered – from weekly webinars by the National Entrepreneurship Network to the UnconventionL by Villgro and one-on-one mentorship workshops by Ennovent. One-off trainings, coupled with increased access to mentors through incubation facilities or customised mentor engagements, enable entrepreneurs to gain the hands-on experience required to build models ready to absorb and effectively manage investor dollars.

3. Investors must also act as advisors

Interestingly, in India socially focused ventures are attracting large numbers of young entrepreneurs. While their urge to become entrepreneurs, fill a market gap or address a social issue is admirable, most entrepreneurs in the Indian market are only 25 – 28 years old with few years of management experience.

Therefore, once funded these entrepreneurs at many times lack the sector or area expertise required to maximize investor value and grow operations.

To mitigate this challenge, investors must take on a significant advisory role. Especially for socially focused businesses where a precedent model is often non-existent, investors must collaborate with the entrepreneur to support the long-term viability of the business. For example, Insitor, Mr. Gupta’s organization, isn’t averse to holding monthly board meetings with their portfolio companies to provide strategic guidance from a technical or marketing perspective.

Investors also need to act as advisors because the markets for many socially focused ventures are still evolving. For example, constant innovation is required such as this water ATM by Sarvajal or the Toyola moneybox as organisations re-learn the behavioural systems of their customers and adapt their business models to suit new markets. Couple this continuous need for experimentation with the relative practical inexperience of the entrepreneur and it becomes clear that to drive the investor dollar further the investor must wear this dual hat.

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As the Indian impact investment industry continues to evolve these trends will affect not only how investors and entrepreneurs collaborate with each other but also the quality of novel ideas that are brought to these emerging markets. Recognizing this, Ennovent provides a spectrum of Startup and Scale services – from customised mentor engagements to expert consultations for entrepreneurs and investors alike. Learn more about these services now.

 

Sales Strategy for startups

Strategy — As word describes — covers both Long Haul and Short Haul Objectives.

Strategy Differs for companies to companies — In a typical MNC / Established Companies , there is core team of Strategists who would evaluate each and every Product Line/Business Unit/Country and would Make Plan for 1 year , 3 years etc and then slice it through Operational and Financial Planning for Execution and Numbers are arrived based on last couple of year’s Data and Market Dynamics.Now a Days Collaborative Approach is taken from Top Down Planning and Bottoms up Planning so everyone is part of the Process so as to be on Same Page..!! (BI/Analytics plays good Part as well)

However , In a typical Startup Environment , Founders or initial Employees are clear on where they want to go .. Destination but things change very fast based on Feedback , Versions , Market Response and Plan and Startegy has to be in tandem with Demand in Market/User/Prospect Feedback.

Sales/Marketing Strategy for Startups should be ::

1. Short Haul — To convert Prospects to Customers , If B2B – More traction with Prospect and let him ask more queries and If B2C – More traction or acceptability to users …. Come up with Version 0.1 or whatever and make it live .. Let the Users talk about it and should come from Horse’s mouth instead of debating inside …Whether this will work or not .. Direction is Right .. Not all features .. fair enough .. Let users say .. i want this and come up with their Wish List !!

There are Should have and Nice to Have Features in any Product/Service.. Startup Initially should focus on Should have and not Nice to Have… That should be part of product strategy later on. Ask the Prospect to Pay .. May be for a Month/Quarter after Trial or so may be $ 100 or $ 400 or $ 1000 or whatever price is … If he is ready to Pay .. He is serious/Early Adopter , otherwise he is just evaluating and he will keep on Evaluating and in End will Cut a sorry Figure and come up with Excuses….(Specially in B2B Cases) This is very hard to digest as Startup that the Person is spending so much time/Energy and when it comes to pay after Trial , he is not Convinced .. Try with 10-15 Prospects and you will know the reality…yourself !! and Ask for Serious Feedback..!!

2. Should not be Real Hard Push sales in Starting… As its not selling established Product/Service , there should be handholding of Prospect and more Subtle in Approach .. Too much aggression will take out his interest .. Should not be too desperate in selling ..Create his Interest .. By Value Add Collaterals, Need of their Industry, Competitive Advantage and how you could add value to them if they use your Product/Service.

3. Long Haul — To evaluate the Market from overall perspective and go one by one… Step 1 , step 2 both in Sales/Marketing.

4. Establish Partner Channel as early as possible !!

5. Work with Independent Consultants . Who has Influence to Customers .. obviously with a Carrot .. There are no free Lunches .. either as Employee or Corporation.

6. Be Patient , Honest and talk Value you bring — Financial and overall Brand to them.

Just Would like to share my Personal Sales Story for one of Deals…We were there to sell Hardware , Software and Network Gear for one of Engg Colleges getting started in North India and were sitting with Chairman to finalize .. Every thing was going great .. Presentation , Price … etc etc .. Suddenly , he asked .. why should i buy these Products and Services as you are more expensive and i could get Less Expensive Products with a sizeable price difference.

Now team was not having much answer …… i was also thinking to put in a reasonable logic so that he is convinced….. suddenly it clicked….We said .. Why are you considering us .. bcoz we are known brand .. he said yes .. so what ? .. then we referred .. that you are starting the college and for you to build your brand as great Engg college .. you have to create the value for students …so that they can learn on and move up in value chain ..and build brand for your college …..That Value can be build using these tools and services.Now those were Established Brands and Time was Different. Now People see More Value Product/Service brings to table , may not be that known Company/Brand.

He was more interested to build his Brand than ours .. Financial and Overall Value for his college…!!!
It Stuck him .. at once… he negotiated little bit and closed the deal..

Thanks
Virendra Sarna