Archive for the ‘India’ Category

Your sales 101 begins with an email

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Downy WoodpeckerAs a Founder, CEO, whatever of the startup — one thing you would be doing in your journey would be Selling. Selling to customers, employees, partners, investors, family members, competitors. And selling 24×7. Pestering. Following up. Closing. The code you write, the product you build, the team you hire is given. People worry about the actual tangible later, but you need to sell it first. Sell the concept. Sell the features. Sell your vision.

The Sales 1:1 101 begins with an email you send to someone — be it the pitch about the company, a proposal for partnership, or looking for some help.

So you send an email and then … days pass and the email silently gets buried down under. As an entrepreneur what do you do? You have two choices (a) Assume the recipient is not interested and never follow up and move on (b) Do a soft reminder and follow up.

People are distracted. Your customers are distracted. Your potential investors are distracted. There is an overdose. Marketing messages. Sales pitches. Attention is short. It is okay to remind. It is okay to do 2-3 follow ups before getting an answer or giving it up (for 6 months!). You double the interval between each follow up. 1st contact –> 7 days –> 14 days –> 28 days.

Which option you choose makes the kind of entrepreneur you will become! (a) The entrepreneur who follows up; who tries to get his attention and makes an attempt to close the deal OR (b) someone who makes an assumption that customer is not interested in “buying”.

Update: Updated the title…dunno why I wrote 101 as 1:1. Ha.

Like everybody else, I also get a fair share of daily dose in our inbox; some get labelled, others get instant attention, some are read/unread. I wish if emails followed the sentence strategy. This is the reality of information overload and the reason for change in our normal behavior of answering the phone on few rings.

The bird is the Downy woodpecker. Pic courtesy

2010 Predictions for Indian technology ecosystem

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

Orion NebulaAs the year 2009 comes to close, it’s time to reflect on what has been done and also the time to dream what the world is going to achieve. Personally, I came back to India after a gap of almost a decade and have been playing catchup; trying to understand the changing business here with a perspective. Dreaming of things what could be achieved here,  I thought I would throw some predictions for 2010 in the desi kitchen bag. Here is my list:

  1. A traditional media company or a telco acquires a 3-year young technology start up in the INR 100 crore range
  2. A mobile telco launches a domestic anywhere to anywhere unlimited talk time plan (long shot: for INR 3999/month)
  3. Indian internet users climbs up to be in the Top 5 spot in their share of online piracy. Positive is the surge in Internet usage.
  4. Infosys/TCS/Wipro launch initiatives to align their interest with the startup ecosystem in India (the offering may be on the lines of Microsoft Bizspark, Sun ‘Startup Essentials‘)
  5. Amazon CloudFront Content delivery network (CDN) launches an Edge location in India
  6. Government of India passes the legislation to legalize Voice Over IP (VOIP) traffic originating within the country and terminating to a local telephone
  7. The Indian Advertising community tries to block sales of Tata Sky Plus (DTH Recorder/Indian Tivo) as they realize that people are skipping ads
  8. 2 kids from an engineering college launch a brand new search engine and get international investments/coverage
  9. starts their online commerce operations, whereas Techcrunch kick-starts their Indian operations with a post on how they acquired their squatted domain
  10. Reserve Bank of India launches a parallel payment network for credit and debit transactions; takes Visa & Mastercard head-on

The thumbnail is of Orion Nebula, favorite amongst amateur astronomers and casual sky watchers. It is one of the closest star formation regions from Earth at a distance of 1,500 light years.

TED, NED & politicians the last 50 years, India bred

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

This is like a 360 degree view of India in less than a week. On one side; Lakshmi Pratury co-hosted the 1st ever TED in India; on the other I was watching the dirty politics of India. Whereas one Chief Minister had amassed Rs. 2000+ crore (around $500m) the other put 1 million homeless at stake after the worst ever flood in the state of Karnataka. The former state is the one of the poorest albeit richest in minerals whereas the other had people thronging to attend the glitz, ideas and dazzling display of innovation at the Infosys campus Mysore.

Amongst this I attended the annual National Educators Day — to which I fondly christened it as NED to make it more marketable. While NED had 2000 educators and students putting their best brains to solve some interesting issues like Robotics for masses, triple-powered Reva, a Traffic violation system, etc etc. On the other hand the best brains were showcasing personal power plants, raising the livelihood of rickshaw pullers to advancement in neuroscience to raising the bar of education in disconnected villages of India at the TED event.

Bewildered by the fact that on one side educators, innovators & think-tanks are pushing the envelope to take the country forward, while on the other the likes of Reddys, Yeddys, Kodas are taking the country backwards.

corruption_statesDo we think that the advancement in technology, media, innovation are automatically going to fix the larger issues of corruption which touch our daily lives in an infamous way? Or we simply ignore this like we ignore the garbage outside our own homes?

The corruption is especially high in the states as multiple regional parties clamor for power and the national parties “support” them to get the favor back for the national parliament. It flows all the way up from the policemen at the local region to the capital.

The big question is how do we cleanse the system — or does it flush out like a bad meal automatically? Boils my blood seeing all this but I have the same genetic defect like rest of the Indians — a nonchalant attitude until my pants are on fire.

PS. Huh, it does not even hurt anymore; Madhu Koda has already dropped to page 5 in the majority of national media papers.

Morpheus Venture Partners, the new batch of 10 & my official onboarding

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

Visitation rights is a term used when a mom/dad gets the right to see his/her child on a fixed interval basis. Most of the times, visitation rights & monetary support are also intermingled.

This is what is my observation of funded startups in general in India. They raise money — the investors come & “visit” them time to time — Best, you send weekly reports and harness few contacts in their rolodex. Question to ask; are they helping you in building your business?

Entrepreneurial ecosystem is in it’s infancy in India — resources are not available, event platforms are sparse, celebarations of success barely exist, peer support is meagre, etc. What we need is hand holding, support, building of business and not just money & remote supervision. Of course, money helps to reduce the friction of starting up — but it’s not the only lubricant required.

Comes Morpheus Venture Partners, a Business Accelarator out of India which I joined as a Partner few months ago. Our vision is to reduce the friction of starting up & provide end-to-end support ranging from building your pricing model to finding the right technology stack for a startup. Of course, we want to provide money too, which we are working on.

Less than 24 hours ago we announced our latest batch of 10 startups — each one of them is envisioning to bring a change using their model for people of India. Being a deep technologist, I always thought that the next big thing can only come out of technology and maybe the next Google is going to be from India. That’s very much a possibility but it’s hard to sustain a viable business when less than 40 million users are online (a large % of which use the net only once a week!).  

So who are these guys? What’s the new batch of 10 upto? I totally resonate the way Nandini Hirianniah (Founding Partner at MVP) summarized these 10 heavy-hitters:

Adscoot’s Suyash, stands for hours in the major junctions at mumbai to learn traffic patterns and measure footfalls!

EasySquareFeet’s Ashu & Snehesh are the most positive people i’ve seen! I can see their smiles through the phone when i talk to them (serious!)

Viv & Hari of InterviewStreet are two rockstar techies who are consciously & fast learning other skills to take their product to market. They have the passion & drive to make things work!

Shashank & Abhinav started on Naabo right out of college – the freshness in approach & the passion they bring with them is infectious.

Arjun of Picsean is an engineer, but his passion towards photography is amazing! He’s a good friend & i’ve seen his focus and smart work in his past ventures. His attitude to learn is commendable!

Robin of ReachTax is a star CA, but i love his humility and the motivational skill he has to make his entire team perform month after month!

Pankaj & Gaurav quit their fancy paying jobs to work on Retail Vector. Focus, quick work and frugality of life is what they are committed towards as they scale this venture!

The first thing that stood out when i met Abheek first was such an young guy and such maturity & humility. (Often age and humility dont go too well). This guy was 7 years old when he started putting Lego pieces into perfect ensemble & several years later, he’s using them at RobotsAlive!

I loved their designs and the quality of tees – Rahul & Mohit of Scopial have their focus completely on “Quality” “Design” “Niche”! They sell tees one could die for! Check a sample out here

I read about these guys in a print article & the next time we were in Mumbai, we met Jayesh & Karthik of VeriCAR. Two guys crazily passionate about automobiles!

Thanks to the startups for choosing us their ‘limited co-founders’, I’m sure this association is going to go a long way. Now, for the next 4 months, we spend dozens of hours every week with the founders poring over the details of their business and helping iron out every possible kink.

Agreed, we can’t change how users would percieve their offerings and how big they could possibly get — Yes, we can influence the positive outcome to a great extent.

Update: Added VeriCAR’s sound bytes from Nandini’s post

Afghanistan’s hidden treasures

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

The “care takers” of Afghanistan’s precious antiquities from the ancient era concealed the treasures from Soviets, then taliban. These were feared to be lost; with the help National Geographic society along with Afghanisatan’s National Museum the unearthed trove reveals Afghanistan to be a metling pot and major trading hub where people from “east” brought muslin, spices, and ivory while the people from the west brought exotic minerals, gems, tools.

While reading the recent article on this discovery, I found a stunning picture of Ganga, the river goddess, carved out in ivory.

River goddess ganga

See the original photos and story at NGM. The treasure is going to be on display at Asian Art Museum of San Francisco in San Francisco, California between October 24, 2008, to January 25, 2009.

Markets are conversation, again

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.

Markets are ConversationWhen Markets become conversation, the participation benefits the parties involved, viz. (a) The Intent Owner. This is the person who has the money, spends time and effort. In a non-generic sense, this  person is the buyer/purchaser/decision-maker of goods/services/products (b) The “Goods” Owner. A person or an entity who has something of interest for which people will spend time, money and effort.

An Intent Owner collaborates with others for research, analysis and in general to discuss items offered from one or more sellers/providers. On the other hand, Goods Owners researches the intent of the buyers by listening to them and/or participating in their conversations. The conversation leads to perfect markets.

During the old days, a weekly bazaar (aka Haat in some Indian dialects) served just that purpose–Buyers collaborated, chattered while sellers listened, conversed and converted the intent into real money. However, as society got industrialized, the collaboration dropped and became 1:1 (thanks to telephone, email and other 1:1 communication media). Come Social Networks, Markets are conversation again. Social Networks are enabling the same depth/breadth of conversation where people are chattering about products, services, companies, etc. (How this is all coming together? To be continued in the second part of the post).

Magnetic “ropes” are causing Auroras

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007 is reporting that a fleet of NASA spacecraft launched less than eight months ago has revealed new insights into the forces that cause the northern lights, including giant magnetic “ropes” between Earth and the sun. Understanding the cause of auroras will help scientists solve the mystery around solar flares and what causes them and get a handle on the outer space weather. I don’t so much understand the geo-physics of why the solar winds slams into the earth’s magnetic field in the magnetosphere. I’m simply enamoured by the spectacular shows, gallery here and here. Chasing Auroras? I could take this for a living!

Photograph by Phil Hoffman

Indians Are Privately Smart and Publicly Dumb

Sunday, September 9th, 2007

Just finished reading the review of V. Raghunathan’s book titled, Games Indians Play: Why We Are the Way We Are.
In his book, Raghunathan, a former professor at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, uses game theory — a branch of mathematics — and related concepts such as the prisoner’s dilemma to explore why Indians so often tend to focus on winning immediate gains at the cost of long-term benefits. He further goes on and theorizes that Indians are privately smart and publicly dumb. He also mentions that Indian’s ability to understand the need for cooperation is very low. Indians believe that cooperation and selfishness cannot go together.
Knowledge@Wharton is carrying an interview with the author. It is a pretty good read.
I was dumbfounded initially, but I would second a lot of the “findings.”

Is India heading for a financial crisis?

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

Take 1. High Real estate prices. I was traveling to Bangalore last month and got a chance to meet a few entrepreneurs who are looking at the food services sector for new businesses. The thing which was stopping them was the prohibitive cost of real estate as part of their total operations cost. The slice of real estate expense could be easily between 20% – 30% which leaves little wiggle room for product pricing, labor costing and equipment.
Take 2. India Inc.’s overseas acquisitions. Indian companies’ appetite for acquisitions has increased drastically. In the first 6 months of 2007, India Inc. has struck more than 500 deals worth $55 billion. This started with $5 billion in 2005, $25 billion in 2006 and aiming to cross $100 billion in 2007. How are these buyouts funded? Simple, the companies leverage their balance sheet, the price of the equity in the stock market and a very positive credit rating for India. In the Tata-Crous deal, Tata Steel cobbled together a loan of £3.5 billion ($6.8 billion) from Standard Chartered, Credit Suisse, ABN Amro and Deutsche Bank. Smelling the success of past deals like this (a la Warburg Pincus making $700m from a $300m investment in Bharti-Airtel), big-name U.S. Private Equity firms like Blackstone Group, Carlyle Group and General Atlantic Partners, etc. have started pouring money in India. Only yesterday, Blackstone has coughed up $165 million for a 50% equity stake in Gokaldas Exports, which supplies to Gap, Nike, London Fog, etc.
Take 3. Inflation and credit crunch. Due to over-investment in non-organic areas, the money is flowing to non-core sectors like real estate and stock market further fuelling the cycle of increased cost of living and increasing salaries. The prices of essential commodities are rising faster than the rest of the developing countries. An upward march of rupee vis-à-vis dollar by 8% has curtailed the inflow. However, the flipside to the rupee appreciation was the wrath export units are facing with competition from other cheaper destinations like Pakistan and Bangladesh. To further control money supply, banks have increased interest rates — which have helped control inflation, but tighten the credit to businesses.
Take 4. Global subprime mortgage crisis. A lot of banks and Private Equity players are part of the subprime downward spiral in the US and Europe, also happen to be the players in India Inc.’s growth. The subprime losses are being touted at $150 billion in US alone. The clear outcome of the subprime crisis is a change in risk appetite of banks and FIIs who are pouring money in India and tightening of the money supply to cover their subprime losses.
India’s GDP is being pegged at around 10% but this has not made any dent for the common man. Government’s monetary policies are very cyclical without any insight into longer term plans for expansions and fiscal policy. This day all the factors are working in favor of India Inc. any cyclic change or even a 20% drop in stock market (it had a 200% run-up in last 2 years) would reverse India’s fortunes in the shorter term.

Proud to be an Indian

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

Today is August 15th. 60 years ago in 1947, India gained Independence from United Kingdom which was a culmination of more than 100 years of freedom struggle. Quoting India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru in his famous Tryst with Destiny speech, I salute to the nation.

“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance….. We end today a period of ill fortune, and India discovers herself again. “

At 60, India is rediscovering again with it’s GDP at 10%, Per Capita Income at $734, and literacy rate at 65%. There’s a long road ahead.