Tag Archive for 'india'

For Start-ups Processes are critical for growth

You have got your first set of paying customers and have validated all your assumptions and now feel you would like to initiate actions for serious go-to-market. Every young enterprise looks forward to this day when they would be able to scale and grow their revenues. The entire focus is on revenues. But do you know what the pre-requisite is to ensure a predictable growth?

PROCESS.

This is something that is completely forgotten or one is not even aware of. It is only process that can bring in predictability and repeatability. Repeatability helps you to manage growth without much pain. What kinds of processes are required to manage growth? To understand this you need to know what growth entails.

Growth is not just about revenues. Revenue is the outcome of growth. To enable revenue growth you need to grow your team, which means hiring more people, who will need to be inducted into the organization and trained. Broadly, the team will comprise of sales, support, administration and management. You need to have a system, a process, to ensure successful induction of these people into the organization in the shortest period of time. A timeline for hiring, for induction and training has to be in place so that the new hires can get productive at the earliest. All this can only be achieved if you have processes in place.

You have a team, now how do you ensure predictable business? To generate business you need to have a target list, information on that target list and get in front of that target list to articulate on your product or service. This means you need to have processes for lead generation, lead management, a sales process which will include data capture, reporting and customer handling, pre-sales for technical support (if your product or service requires it) and last but not the least, post-sales support. The last one is mostly an after-thought, after the sale is made. This could prove to be disastrous for a start-up as every happy customer goes a long way in building your credibility. So planning for a happy customer is imperative. Customers smile only when they have been delivered what was promised …. on time. The answer to this is Process.

In the early days when you were the salesman, CEO, HR, Finance Mgr etc. you could manage it. Somehow. But when you start having more people, start servicing more locations and start to deal with multiple customer touch-points, the problems start to emerge. Managing this volume of work and resultant data becomes a huge issue and could prove to be disastrous in the long run. Most start-ups end-up losing a lot of ground only because of their inability to handle this growth. This is where processes come into play. Each component of the sales process right from lead generation to post-sale support needs to have a clearly defined and documented set of processes.

Internal processes need to be built to ensure optimal output with the smallest team possible. Don’t forget, the motto is still to conserve cash for use where it is most required. So smaller the team the better it is. But this same team would be able to handle scaling only with clear cut processes. Such processes are also required to bring in operational and fiscal discipline.

But the most important are the sales and support processes. Being customer-facing, these need to be tightly aligned with the customer’s requirements to ensure predictable business and a satisfied customer. Having already acquired a small set of early adopters, you would have understood what it takes to progress the customer from first meeting to closure. Breaking this into small stages, understanding the customer requirement at each stage and putting in pace proactive actions would help to bring in some predictability into the sales cycle and ensure steady progress of the sales process. This also includes having a well-defined process for pre-sales activities like product demos, presentations, proposal preparation, custom demos etc. All this will ensure low cost and time for customer acquisition.

As I mentioned, it is important to have processes for post-sale support. This starts with the customer on-boarding process, once the sale has been made. Starting from familiarization with customer environment to product delivery and smooth and successful implementation in the shortest time, a clear cut process for each of these activities will ensure a good beginning to a long term customer relationship. A happy customer not only helps to build credibility but can also be a source of future revenues thereby extending the LTV (Life Time Value) of the customer.

It is important that these processes are well thought through, documented and put into practice right from the beginning so that when you are ready to scale it would be a no-brainer and would not seem daunting.

The author, Srikanth Vasuraj, is a Business Consultant focused on Mentoring and Advising start-ups. He can be reached at +91-98454 78585 or srikanth@nodiva.co.in . For more information please visit www.nodiva.co.in .

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.

 

Blogging helps to generate traffic for your site

Having built a great website, how do you get traffic to your site? It is one thing to have product or service relevant content, but what would be found more interesting is regularly updated content relevant to the product, industry or target groups that you wish to connect with.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one way, but another effective way is to post blogs on your website. Blogging helps to create credibility for you and the service that you offer. The blogs should be credible, interesting and relevant to your service or product, the eco system that it addresses and related information that could be of interest to your focus groups. It would also be a good idea if you could get customers and people from within your eco system to post blogs on your site. It would help to increase visibility for your site.

More you blog, higher the traffic. Frequency of blogs should be atleast once a week or more, which would then attract regular followers. Once you establish a regular beat rate, followers will regularly visit your site to read your posts. Use as many search words as possible in your blogs. Provide links from your blog to some relevant page within your website or some relevant article. Make sure your titles are interesting but also contain your search words. All this is part of SEO.

Typical SEO activities that would help to attract more traffic are using search words in your website content as well as blogs, representing your search words in italics or bold, using search words in your headings and sub-headings, providing links to relevant pages within and outside your site etc.

Blogging is also a way to advertise your domain knowledge and establish yourself as a thought leader.

The author, Srikanth Vasuraj, is a Business Consultant  and Mentor 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.

 

India Expansion – Acquire & Manage Culture not just the Business

In recent months I have had the great opportunity to work  with organisations from around the world who have expanded their global footprint  through Joint Ventures/strategic Buyouts or Acquisitions.  I am happy to share, based on my experiences, some of the key elements/experiences which are important steps in business success in these types of situations . These are  indicative and not an exhaustive reflection of my experience.

- Managing Business & People independently : Many businesses identify a business leader or a senior operational director to run the operations(Hired locally or deployed from home country). However, they tend to leave thepeople part of the business decisions to be  handled by the home country HR professionals.  This makes the proposition very difficult. Firstly the Host country manager would focus on running and stabilizing business results while the HR of Home country struggle to understand the nuances of Indian business and its complexities related to people.

They face difficult situations in understanding and comprehending the Compensation Bench marking, hiring practices & success, Performance expectations Vs. Output etc.,

- Right Person but Wrong Job: Rightly many organisations deploy an Imported Indian(Indian side) to run the business when they acquire a stake in or a business in India. Many times the appointed person would have not run a business in India before  or even, in some cases,  not even run a business or business unit  in the home country. Many who work outside India may not be able to appreciate the way things transact in India and have limited ability to  add value to the Indian business  in current situations. This presents a significant challenge for this Manager deployed in India to run the business.  In the current Indian business scenario  the sooner the person comes to terms with situations and can impart information to help  top management appreciate the complexities of the  way forward the sooner he and the business can  be successful.

- My Business My Way : Many organisations would like to run their business the way it was run in their home countries.  They may be successful in their business the way they are in that country.

However, the Indian context is very different and the need for adaptation to the Indian business and  cultural impacts may be very very high, if the business is to be  successful. The entire ecosystem of business runs the way the India Culture has been imbibed into the business over 100′s of years.  The successful businesses have been the ones who adapted to the culture of India and conducted their  business around their single product or service  differentiator that is their unique value.

Prepare to Conquer:  It is helpful for the business  to look at some of the above issues  in their strategic and preparation planning and create a clear cut orientation and expectation setting practice  from the business point of view to help build a more realistic frame of reference.  . A clear understanding about the business audit from a cultural perspective (apart from the accounting,business) before even venturing to partner/acquire/buy/invest would help.  The Culturally  audit through of  the people practices, business practices  and  behaviors toward business and the preparedness for next level of expectations and delivery would provide a much more realistic approach to the market.

Have a great year ahead !!!

Feel free to comment or write to me at gr@husys.net

WestBridge launches India “evergreen” fund

Interesting.

Investment firm WestBridge Capital has raised India’s first so-called evergreen fund from global investors, or limited partners (LPs).

Unlike traditional funds, the $500 million (around Rs 2,500 crore) corpus that WestBridge has raised will not have an investment cycle. Instead, returns generated on investments will automatically be ploughed back into the investment pool, creating a perpetual flow of capital for investments. In other words, this evergreen fund will do away with the need of raising subsequent funds for investments.

This comes with a variable lock-in period:

WestBridge’s debut $500 million fund will have a life cycle of 20 years and could be extended by at least another 10 years or even more. There is a lock-in period for investors and the LPs will not be allowed to withdraw investments for a stipulated period. The WestBridge executives, however, declined to say how long the lock-in period is.

Comments?

Delhi is the New Hub For Techs

I read this interesting article recently- about how Delhi is the new hub for tech startups– in Wall Street journal.

I am curious- what are the experiences/opinions of other members- who may have worked in multiple Indian metros on the subject.

Below article is a mirror of article in Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204485304576644220533569618.html
Delhi is the New Hub For Techs

MUMBAI — The National Capital Region, as Delhi metro area is known, has upstaged Bangalore as India’s biggest hub for technology start-ups, according to a survey released this week.

At least 220 technology start-ups were launched in the Delhi area over the past three years, compared with 159 in Bangalore, according to the survey conducted by YourStory.in, which tracks start-ups in India.

Of these, 49 start-ups in NCR attracted investors, while only 18 were able to raise funds from investors in Bangalore.

The survey is based on data from 1,057 start-ups across 16 cities. Most of these ventures are less than three years old, and 15% of them are older.

Launching companies is easy in Bangalore because mentors and facilitators provide a mature entrepreneurial ecosystem, but sustaining these ventures is difficult in the absence of financial support, said Shradha Sharma, founder of YourStory.in, which claims to have the biggest database of fledgling firms in India.

“Startups come up crazily in Bangalore and die just as fast,” Ms. Sharma said. “New Delhi and Mumbai companies have more access to capital than Bangalore. Seed- and angel-funding is minimal in Bangalore. Most companies still have to come to Mumbai for funding.

Also, companies in New Delhi’s suburbs of Noida and Gurgaon usually are started by professionals with experience working for multinationals. “The ideas are more mature, therefore the quality is high,” she said.

Startups in Delhi stand out in terms of business focus, said Ashish Sinha, head of Pluggd.in, which also tracks startups.

Why India needs more tech software companies?

We have seen lots and lots of startup companies coming up in our country since last few years. Companies ranging from matrimonial websites, job portals to even companies helping people sell their used online stuff. Now and then we keep getting portals which fall into larger categories of a specific list of online portals, some of which could be:-

  1. Matrimonial website
  2. Job portals
  3. Startup directory
  4. Web design companies
  5. Management systems like Hospital management system, School management system, College Management system etc
  6. Social communities and networking
  7. Online education support systems like preparing for IIT JEE, Medical entrance etc etc
  8.  Online T-Shirt selling portals

And the list goes to thousands of categories.

I ask a simple question to all our young entrepreneurs. With these kind of portal based companies ,who are your potential customers and what is your customer segmentation?

We could get following answers based on the business model of the company:-

  1. If they are directly selling the service to Indian customers then the money comes form the Indian masses
  2. If they are providing free information to the people through online portals then the money comes from advertising and that too only from those sources who are interested to put adds to a particular segment of visitors which would be mostly Indians

I do not want to discourage the attempts made by thousands of startups coming up from hundreds of universities from all over the country and even from people who are already well settled in a good job. My point is, you are doing so much to generate some money out of your business and that too comes from within your own country. Startups falling in similar categories are competing with each other for a segment of market which is  not growing at a sufficient rate to  support all of them for a sustainable and scalable business. The day is not far when you try to get an appointment with the IT head of a potential customer to show your product and you are waiting for your turn to come up may be next month. or later . The extreme example of these  are those start-ups claiming to provide business consulting or corporate profiling and having team members having low or almost no experience in these areas.

But, we should definitely appreciate the confidence our youngsters have and the ecosystem in our country which make theme start thinking about having their own business.

So, what is the problem and how to resolve it?

The problem is, that, we get too much exited about our  own ideas and start loving it so much that we are almost confident that this will turn into real business. I am talking about  most  of those ideas which strike us during the dinner last night and we just jump into making a venture out of it without doing sufficient survey about the market and the competition. And what happens when you jump into business with these kind of ideas?. Well, you start shifting your domain slowly and end up having a business with no goals or road map, but, to just to think about sustainance. In fact, i know about few companies which started with some great ideas and ended up providing web solutions to local market.

So, what we might agree upon till this stage is that:

  1. We need to start building products and solutions which have a larger market, the market itself should have possibility of getting bigger in future
  2. With bigger market segments there will be bigger competition (only if you are building an existing solution), but , the kind of competition you will face will be entirely different from the one you find in a limited market
  3. Building already existing solution in a small market will be a recipe for disaster in most of the cases with few exceptions
  4. You can beat competition in both markets (limited and global) with a unique product or value proposition, but the returns with a unique product will always be higher if you target global market.

In a nut shell, if you are planning to build a startup  from India , where the cost of building software based technologies are low as compared to western countries, you should look into following issues:-

  1. Do not try to build yet another startup trying to sell something which hundreds of startups are already doing
  2. Try to leverage the advantage of online business and sell something which can be distributed globally and should be useful not only to Indians but to the other countries as well
  3. Try to have major stream of your revenue from foreign exchange. Making good amount of money from domestic market is something you will always be doing

Everything said and explained, where do we see this model working?

Why don’t you find it yourself. Search for technology startup companies from India and you will get lot of insight into the discussion we had with this article. I am not denying the fact the common portal based companies have also been successful in past. But, we should also look into the fact that thousands of them are lying there today without doing anything significant and generating revenue through Google ad sense and many more will come up. What we need the most is start having an understanding of building unique technology startups from India which can sell worldwide. After all, this is what large number of foreign companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple, you tube, Symantec etc have done. When do we get to see our own Googles and Microsofts?

Killer Workshops designed for Indian Start-ups at the NASSCOM Product Conclave 2009.

NASSCOM Product ConclaveThis NASSCOM Product Conclave has the most exciting lineup of speakers this year. What’s More!

The experience goes beyond the star packed Keynotes and Panels to bring you 4 Hands-on Workshops!. These workshops are designed to enable you to succeed in your software product business. Each workshop is led by a world class practitioner who will use real-life case studies to bring key ideas to life and help you bring in your experience to the discussion.

These workshops are intensely interactive and seating is limited. Register early to book your place for these workshops:

1. Evangelising and Selling the Dream. Learn how to use use secular evangelism to get customers, employees, and partners to believe in your product. It charts a complete course for the beginner evangelist covering how to define a cause, how to identify good and bad enemies, how to deliver an effective presentation, and how to find, train, and recruit new evangelists.

Led by the legendary Guy Kawasaki. Guy is a Managing Director of Garage Technology Ventures, a columnist for Entrepreneur Magazine, a former Apple Fellow and an author of nine books including The Art of the Start and How to Drive Your Competition Crazy.

2. The art of writing a business plan. Writing a business plan is often a giant obstacle for an entrepreneur. This high energy workshop will demystify the process by outlining a logical sequence of thinking through all aspects of starting a business. It will use real-life business plan examples and will provide a detailed outline of all sections that are needed. It will also tell what should not be in a business plan.

Led by veteran Naeem Zafar. Naeem teaches Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Haas Business School at the University of California, Berkeley. He has been at startups and has extensive experience with mentoring and coaching founders and CEOs.

3. Marketing and branding strategies for product companies. This workshop is about using creative and innovative marketing strategies that will help your product achieve notoriety. It addresses positioning, channel management, promotion, and online advertising.

Led by Peter Yorke. Peter was till recently the Vice President – Marketing and Communications at Oracle Financial Services and built the I-flex brand.

4. Go-To-Market strategies for product companies. Do you wish to build a team of hound dogs who will track down customers? Or do you plan to build the reach of a spider and catch the customer without chase or lure? Learn what is your optimum strategy and get your sales enablement in place.

Led by Subinder Khurana,  Co-founder  marketRx , who grew it to one of the largest third-party analytics solutions providers in India, before it was acquired by Cognizant in a $135mill  transaction

Dont miss this opportunity. Register now!

Is Micro-Funding a New Trend to Come?

A lot of folks seem to be very curious as to what I am working on, since my stepping back from Proto.in. Well, quite a bit actually and on some rather serious stuff. Serious as cash, infact. One of the major concerns that has been on my mind is the scarcity of capital in this market.

I am absolutely with the camp that believes that if there are quality companies, then capital will find its way. But we also know as part of most of our risk mitigation strategies, making a leap into a market with no safety net or partners makes it a really serious gamble – even for some of the most well-versed entrepreneur to tread in. I strongly believe that unless we enable some capital to flow, we are not going to see much of a difference in the number of quality startups that spring up, and inevitably the number of startups that get funded/get recognized, and the number that make an exit. This cycle, as you know is recursive.

So What have I been obcessing about? I’m focusin on three aspects and I think all three aspects are crucial.

  1. The mechanisms for loans from banks to become accessible for startups/SMEs
  2. An effort to bring together the Angel Investment Community, educate them and help them engage in an effective manner
  3. An effort to fix the “broken VC Model”

The First and Second are fairly straightforward and I promise to come back to you with some better news soon. But this is primarily about the third one.

I think the third one warrants a closer look for a simple reason. People have been claiming as long as for the better part of the decade that the VC model is broken and there seems to be no heed to that warning. Whats worse is that given that India couldnt be farther away from whats happening in the Silicon Valley in terms of similarities, the model is a force-fit one (There are some better models in Israel, Singapore etc). If you’d understand how a VC firm works, its primarily a specialized bank which runs on a management fee and bonus paid with the return on the investment. The overheads of running such a team is so high, that the only viable way for most firms to operate is to increase the fund size, which sets the ball rolling on them getting into a soup not able to invest in early stage no more, and the next thing you know they are either full-fledged in growth stage, or are in growth stage and are disillusioned about being an early stage investment firm. Suddenly working for a VC firm or being one doesnt seem so glamorous, does it? :)

What we need in India is essentially a firm which is capable of dispensing funds as low as 50 Lakhs to a crore (I am consciously keeping figures in INR to make it a point that we arent in dollar land and the rules and requirements are different here) – which can operate at lower costs, and can also manage a sizeable portfolio.
Continue reading ‘Is Micro-Funding a New Trend to Come?’

The Tweetie Helpline | @start24x7

So, We have been kinda noticing this trend. Forums are great, and with the present rate at which the startup community seems to be growing, there is more and more a need to be real-time. We felt it, just by the way we were interacting with people on twitter, but there was certainly a need to do more.As of today, the Indian startup community has a helpline. @start24x7 Continue reading ‘The Tweetie Helpline | @start24x7′