Tag Archive for 'ideas'

Launching an Experiment to Spot Problems Worth Solving

It is a little over ten years now, since I started working with the Startup Ecosystem here. Much has changed – and I’d say for the better. Funding has improved. Startups are mainstream. And Entrepreneurs are celebrated. Yet, when I look at some of the companies and startups that we showcased at Proto.in ( Between 2004 – 08), it seems some of them were quite out of the world, compared to the me-too startups we see.

Chennai, a tier-2 city by most metrics, has 52 food delivery startups (that we know of). In a conversation with a group of students in IIT and when I prodded them asking why they aren’t going after some of the bigger problems, their answer was simple; “Sir, we read that some of these companies have raised 10s of millions. We look at their venture and it seems so simple and we believe we can do it better”. While the audacity is to be applauded, It also makes me wonder if the best and brightest need to be going after ventures that are essentially time-bound courier service ventures.

As part of The Startup Centre, we’ve been running In50hrs (a prototyping event) for four years now. We’ve been active in 8 cities across the country – organizing close to 14 events a year. I personally love it – seeing entrepreneurs from each of these hubs, and their ideas. But it seems that most of them are drinking out of the same watering hole for their inspirations.

I strongly believe that the ecosystem will sustain as long as we are solving real problems. Inflation and frothy valuations only kick in when there is excess of capital but not enough opportunities to chase. Capital being available is a good thing; I wish if we could direct it to a better purpose.

A few months ago I started talking to a few people to collate problem statements (alok was kind enough to send a few of his own). We are trying to see if we can seed these problem statements – not ideas, but problems – so that the ecosystem can benefit out of.

We put all of them in a Google spreadsheet and shared. I have an inbox full of requests to show that people were indeed interested (or perhaps just curious). But there wasnt a way for folks to interact, and build on it. I opened up the access priviledges and it only took a few minutes before it got vandalised.

Building from the learnings, a week ago we launched Ideaspace. We are building a community around problem solvers – the same community that came together for In50hrs, but this time centred around problem statements – both seeded by us, and those that the community throws up. We’ve a little over 400 users on the platform right now. If you’d like to participate, do let me know. You can signup via http://ideaspace.in50hrs.com. If you are simply curious and just want to have a glimpse of the problem statements then you can do so via http://ideaspace.in50hrs.com/problems

I’d love to have your feedback – and thoughts on the same.


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Give me an idea and I will make you POOR

Standard and Poor says America is getting POOR.

Economists ,capitalists,governments and people are discussing the fallout of such a situation.

But what does it mean for an entrepreneur.In case somebody has misssed recent article by Jug Suraiya in TOI ,here it is http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/jugglebandhi/entry/debt-do-us-part .Wherein the associate writer mentions that in this knowledge economy ,US started producing everying except goods and articles.And these goods and articles US started importing in majority from China.US is now majorly producing ideas.

Are we ready for Kindles and the like.

No , we don’t want Kindles as of now.As an entrepreneur there are hundreds of subjects one can pick and choose.But Indian entrpreneurs rotate their minds where the moolah is without thinking that this moolah(VC money) too can evaporate any time.

First things first.An entrepreneur needs to create Value first .Value for the common Indians .

Looking for “fundable(?) tech startup ideas”?

Looking for “fundable(?) tech startup ideas”?

Ycombinator lists 30.


Which one you want to take?

Mobile Development Report


I recently came across this report titled “The Mobile Development Report“, published by CKS on a research commissioned by Nokia for developmental use of mobile networks in emerging economies.

The report focuses on social transformations around a new technology and its adoption. The report beautifully documents lives and ways Indians in tier 2 cities and towns use mobile phones. One of the best reports, a few highlights for me are

  1. The East-West Divide: If we draw a line connecting Delhi and Chennai, the western India has seen most of the developmental efforts. East of this line still exist opportunities and possibilities. And this has largely been ignored by most of us (entrepreneurs, students, professionals, academicians etc.)
  2. Understanding of India as a country. The report gives a very deep understanding of Indians and their communication behavior. What makes this one different and special is that CKS talks about the entire India – not just metros or towns or villages.
  3. Classification of towns and villages. CKS has done a very good job in classifying towns and villages according the now famous pyramid by CK Prahalad. The report further classifies these rural citizens in terms of their purchasing power. Probably first such effort in India?
  4. Opportunities in Rural AND Urban India. Everyone is ga-ga about opportunities in rural India and largely . While reading this report, it dawned on me that even the urban and semi-urban population is more than 500 mn. This number is more than the population of US and UK combined and there is a strong case of a business flourishing here also. Agreed that urban markets are difficult to crack considering they have plethora of options and they are picky. But is too large a segment to be ignored and is waiting to be tapped.
  5. Insights from research: CKS has gone beyond regular data collection and have come up with insights such as elevation in social stature, increased credibility, ease of use of mobile phones as communication device compared to an Internet-connected PC, personal and societal welfare etc. And how does an access to a mobile communication tool helps people make their lives better.
  6. Possible Applications: in micro-commerce, making travel easier, access to information, education (one of the examples look uncannily similar to latest Idea Cellular advertisement) etc. This can be coupled with findings from Jan Chipchase (more on him later) to identify new and possibly revolutionary businesses. Simple example could be use of airtime as currency and if someone can regulate this, its a huge huge market waiting to be tapped.
  7. Case Studies: The way they have chosen their subjects, the methodology to conduct an interview, the detail in which they have gone while researching, they have captured the entire life of the subjects. With the kind of detail available, you can easily create character maps of these subjects and derive the way they live their lives and how they interact with brands.
  8. Photographs: Awesome collection of photographs that the team has taken during their study.

The report also mentions at one point Jan Chipchase, a Nokia employee whose job is to travel the world and observe and document novel ways in which people use and interact with mobile phones. This is his wonderful talk on TED on how we use our mobile phones.

Coming back to CKS report, one might argue that they covered only three districts and have extrapolated the data to come up with findings and recommendations. And that report was released in early 2007. But regardless of these reservations, this still remains one of the best research reports I have read in a long time.

Apart from the focus on mobile phones, the report is that detailed that you actually get tons of ideas (another post on this later) while reading it. Congratulations to CKS team for this awesome effort.

P.S.: The font size is way too small and there are 226 pages of information, worth its weight in gold.
P.S..: If anyone else is keen on serving the information and entertainment needs of a community and can foresee (or already has) a business in this domain, please contact me. You never know what might come out of a discussion.

Crossposted: Saurabh Garg Blog | Image Credits: manoogupta via Flickr

A good list of social entrepreneurship resources

To all who are interested in social entrepreneurship

A good list of social entrepreneurship resources
See their fellows (only US based), but for the ideas that can be implemented anywhere in the world if relevant at
->There are too many things possible in social entrepreneurship in India and worldwide.

TrendWatching in India

Another day, another idea. This time, it is TrendWatching.

I define TrendWatching as a disciple where one observes (not sees), engages people in conversations (not interviews), identifies what is popular (not market research) and finally using these popular social objects to help businesses.

Why TrendWatching?
Market research as we know it is dead. I have huge reservations against the very premise of market research. If the respondents know that they are being researched, they more likely would come up with made up stories rather than answers. Then there is an entire issue about intelligence and commitment of the research agency. How do you know that interviews were actually conducted? How do you know that there are no errors in recording? And other millions questions like that.

TrendWatching can be the future of market research. Although it has been there since early 1990s and there are numerous companies making decent money predicting trends, yet it is still not taken seriously. Companies in India don’t even know about it. And hence the opportunity.

Predictions made by trendwatchers might or might not be accurate but they are far superior than a traditional market research. Trendhunters have been reported to be very accurate in predicting trends, fads and about-to-be-cult things in technology, pop culture, fashion, entertainment, media and youth.

How can one benefit from TrendWatching?
If you are a business and you know whats in vogue, you can use it for your brand to get new customers and keep existing ones excites. It also helps make your brand more relevant, pertinent and contemporary.

Its like looking in the glass ball and getting a perspective on things that would be cult in years to come and your business and brand can use these inputs to succeed. If I can draw an analogy, in all facets of life we have people who predict the future based on some logical assumptions. Institutions like meteorological departments, astrologers, stock traders, policy makers, governments, economists etc. so it all the time. Why not do it with business? And if you are accurate even at 1% of times, there are immense gains to be made.

If you are an individual, you can figure out what is in vogue and you would not be known as a drab person. It will elevate your social status in your peer group.

How to go about TrendWatching?
It involves using Malcolm Gladwell‘s now famous work titled The Tipping Point. It assumes that there are certain people who are very much involved into one activity and are experts by the virtue of their indulgence. If we bring few such experts and let them talk to each other, we can have interesting observations. There is no real innovation happening with these methodologies. Most of these are simply making incremental changes to what people in other evolved economies are doing.

The biggest stumbling block and (as Michael Porter would put it) the entry barrier to this business is access to these people. You need to be able to identify these people, get them to work for you and get into a conversation. And moment we talk about people being a key criteria, we are talking about emotions and uncertainty.

End Notes
I see immense business potential with TrendWatching in times to come. Especially in India. This is one of those businesses where capital required is minimal and business can generate awesome cash flows.

I invite readers to share their perspectives on this. Please be critical. And as always, post reproduced from personal blog.

Pradeep Khosla: The Entrepreneurial Dean of Carnegie Mellon University

How does Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), a renowned research US university foster research and a spirit of innovation among its students and faculty? How does CMU do tech transfer? What is unique about the US university system that helps in creating startups and companies?

Is there something that India can learn from the US University system? How can India establish a US style research institute and create an ecosystem for entrepreneurship? Can India learn to leverage research conducted at universities at an economic level? These are some of the questions that Pradeep Knosla, Dean of School of Enginering Carnegie Mellon University talks about in this audio interview.

As Pradeep points out there is no major Indian company that can trace its inception to university research. India has to figure out how to leverage the research money it spends to bring about economic development.

Pradeep is an entrepreneurial dean, who combines his passion of being in a university environment and also pursuing his entrepreneurial dreams. He helped found two companies, one of which succeeded and the other did not. In this candid interview Pradeep shares his thoughts on what he learned from the failure of their company, which was in the hot new space of virtualization and received seed funding from Silicon Valley’s Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers.