Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship Resources for Entrepreneurs – right from funding templates to insights/experiences from entrepreneurs across different segments/industry.

“Starting Up Is Like An Acid Bath” : Ambarish Gupta On Handling Startup Failure To Building Knowlarity

Ambarish Gupta, CEO and Founder of , talking about the failures and successes in his startup journey, says that every firm starting up is a story that teaches a lot of difficult and easy lessons.

15244440015_395bbf448a_zAmbarish’s first startup was an online real estate brokerage portal named Inventica that started back in 2004 in Bangalore.  Ambarish recollects it as the time that saw the rise of dotcom bubble in the USA and India lagging far behind, did not find any investors for Inventica.

He explains that learning from IIT Kanpur and working in countries like the US, UK and Australia had taught him how to own a company and create a product; but one also needs to learn how to create the right product for the company, to create the right team of hardworking people, to lead the team of employees, to find the right VCs at the right time, and to sell the product which are very practical knowledge that is learnt on-the-go.

Ambarish says that founding a startup is like an acid bath because by the end of it, you would be much different from the one who went in. A startup journey takes off everything from you other than your solid determination. You need to engage with the reality – the practical world, to be successful in your startup.

The most important and difficult learning is that you cannot move things unless you face the real harsh truth. Inventica’s failure made Ambarish go back to the USA to pursue his MBA. He had also promised himself to not startup ever again.




As fate would have it, the MBA and his ambition to be independent brought Ambarish back to India in 2009 to startup with his safest billion dollar idea – Knowlarity. This was when consumer telephony was at its peak in India.

Ambarish started with enterprise telephony but found that it was difficult to make consumers pay for a service. Since telephony was the big thing then, it was the best option for Ambarish to find a way to cash in on it. It was also at the same time as the Subprime Mortgage Crisis and none of the VC capitalists were interested in funding new ventures.knowlarity-logo

Odisha’s Navin Patnaik who was competing in the elections then used Knowlarity’s Enterprise Telephony for their campaigns and promotions. Knowlarity earned INR 70 lakhs for calling up all of the 70 lakh people in Odisha asking them to vote For Patnaik.

Recollecting these times, Ambarish says that it is always better to work with the industry that is growing because it gives a lot many opportunities to move up the ladder even when you are at your worst. He also advices to keep looking for that one thing which would lift up the business, to mix creativity as much as one can to improvise in the best way to find a fighting chance. One needs to be flexible with their plans to accommodate all of the possible revenue sources.

Lastly, he also adds that while creating a product, one needs to know the kind of market and consumers that they cater too. In emerging markets, people are satisfied with less value at a lesser price and hence it is always better to simplify things than to over engineer them.

Of iPhone6, U2 And Being A Startup Founder

U2’s 13th album “Songs of Innocence” launched alongside the launch of  iPhone 6: half a billion subscribers to iTunes received “Songs of innocence” in their accounts, paid for by Apple and consumed for free. It’s an awesome deal for the U2, but money has never been what drives them…it’s  their ethos; to keep searching, to keep toiling that drives them.

U2 remains the biggest stars in the music business, a business that has seen  more turbulence than any other industry due to Internet: music industry  revenues have more than halved since 2000. Apple and U2 have joined  forces at a pivotal time for each other. iTunes is under attack from interactive streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora and it’s own Beats, but revenues coming out of such streaming services are miniscule and an entire generation of consumers has developed a habit of not buying or owning music.

Question then is why has U2 succeeded in an industry (music) that sucks:

1) Only U2 sounds exactly like U2. Their music is so uniquely different.
2) U2 is obsessed with excellence. They worried when a magazine recently described their new album as “very very good.” U2 settles only for  greatness.
3) U2 the band has been together for 38 years, but it’s members (founders:  Bono, Edge, Clayton and Mullen) are not only together, but really like each other even now.
4) No band on the planet has done a bigger tour than U2 and their music fills stadiums. This is crucial in an era where music is being consumed for  free, and live performances is what people pay for. The band has found many other ways to generate income besides selling records:  merchandising; promotional tie-ups; synchronization fees from TV, film, video games and advertising; and most of all, live performance. U2’s 360 degrees tour in 2011 grossed $772M, highest ever tour measured by both attendance and box-office gross!

They have a higher purpose than selling music or making money. Bono  co-founded ONE to combat global poverty. His understanding of global  poverty is sophisticated and his determination to mobilize global help to  fight poverty is real. Now they have teamed up with Apple to create a new  audiovisual format with a mission to make consumers willingly pay to own  music again, pinning their hopes on new format to help struggling fellow  artists.

So what’s there for a modern-day-tech-founder to learn from the epic  journey of U2?
1) Be uniquely different.
2) Stand for something bigger than yourself, money and market-share. Your  larger mission sustains you through the ups and down. It helps you build a  loyal following and gives you resilience to survive fads.
3) Build a team and an alliance that survives through the highs and lows.
4) Be a hero; don’t take short-cuts. Don’t be afraid to go through hell before you realize your potential. An epic journey is worth a lifetime.
5) Be good, don’t be evil.

[Guest contribution by Rajesh Sawhney, founder of GSF accelerator.]

A Starry Eyed Entrepreneur’s Defence of Flipkart (Snapdeal, Zomato and every other Indian startup)

I share a hate-love relationship with Flipkart. I hate it because how small, at times, it makes me feel about my own business (Yes, we entrepreneurs are one of the most competitive lot). And I love it for how it continues to inspire me, tells me what it really means to dream BIG.

Bootstrappers : You got to do what you got to do
You got to do what you got to do

When I started Internshala in 2011, Flipkart, Zomato, and Snapdeal were my personal heroes; I quoted their examples to my parents on how ‘others’ have done it and if they give me a chance and put their faith in me; I could one day do it too.

And today, when I read abuses hurled at Flipkart (many want Bansals to be put in Jail and Flipkart to go bankrupt) for #bigbillionday glitches; I feel sad.

Yes, the execution was flawed and for that I can understand general public’s frustration; because they perhaps do not understand (and nor they should care) the challenges of pulling something as big as this off. But I want to say two things to them –

1. Do we really want these companies to shut shop so that we can go back to earlier days of brick and mortar shopping where we had no idea of prices and reviews; not to mention the hassle of stepping out of home on a weekend and waiting in the queue to make payments? Remember before Flipkart showed what e-Commerce could look like in India, Amazon was not even considering us as a market and Snapdeal was a different business altogether (Kudos to them also for quick transformation).

2. As a nation, we should get used to the idea of paying fair price for stuff. You would not work for a loss yourself; and it is unfair to expect a business to operate that way all the time.

My bigger disappointment has been when I hear folks working at startups or running startups themselves complaining. I am no judge on intent of Flipkart (Bansals know the best) but on execution part we need to extend them a rope. I, and many other startups would agree, firefight to run a show with a 20 member team and 2 servers; and to not have sympathy (or envy actually) for someone who is executing things at a 1000X scale; is not being proverbial man.

 

I believe we are at the cusp of Indian history where political, social, and business environment are coming together so that we can finally start believing in ourselves and march on to become a truly super power nation. Let’s not squander that opportunity and rise above ‘Oh, how could he/she get ahead in life’ mentality. We need to put our weight behind Flipkart, Zomato, Snapdeal and every other Indian start up that is pushing the boundaries of possible – we owe these role models to our children, our next generation.

I am not saying that we should shower these businesses with blind patriotic love, let’s keep them on tight leash so that they outdo Amzons and Alibabas of the world for every product feature; for every customer service experience. But let’s not abuse them and wish them bad.

They have delighted us many times in past and have already crossed half the bridge in their journey to create new markets; let’s us cover the rest of the distance and meet them halfway – shall we?sarvesh

[About the author – Sarvesh Agrawal is founder of Internshala, an internship portal.]

100 Lessons Learned While Building My Startup : Winners Do Quit.

[Editorial Notes : Starting up is one thing and building a business out of it is another. Here is a guest piece by Vijayragavan, founder of TheCrawlFish sharing some serious insights and hard-hitting experience. Must read for fellow and wannabe entrepreneurs.]

Over a year ago, on a sleepless night, I sat down and recounted all that has happened since I started and shut down my startup. All that happened over 2 years played out in a blink of an eye.

Startup Mistake
Startup Mistake

Then goblins in my head worked its magic and started jotting down all that i had learned while building my startup. This post is a result of that.The best way to get over something is to turn it into literature. I might be correct on few things. I might be wrong on many things. I might even be crazy. Still, every line that is listed here is from the school of experience. So, Here goes the list:

  1. Idea is fine. Execution is very important
  2. “Gosh!I had that idea and I always wanted to do it”. Know what, having an idea and doing nothing about it is a sin.If you have an idea, start prototyping. Yes, do not enter the startup bandwagon, just yet.
  3. Best way to know if an idea will work, is to start working on it. You can’t always walk on the shores. Sometimes you have to take the dive.
  4. Solve a problem that is real.
  5. “My idea will revolutionize the world. I will change the world.”.Mate, we are not living in a utopian state and stop saying that. Ease up and start doing something
  6. “I am trying to build platform just like Facebook, twitter etc”. No. That is not how platforms are built.
  7. Idea. Prototype.Product.Product-Market fit.Business . This is an ideal flow of stages in a startup
  8. Idea. Build. Launch. Learn. Iterate. This is an ideal way of doing things in a startup
  9. Prototyping will reveal a lot than you can fathom.
  10. Let it be your product. Try to test it with a simple prototype. That is the best way to understand if it would work. Building a product and launching a startup is the worst case way of doing things.
  11. Perform a startup drill and answer these questions: What is the problem that you are trying to solve? What is your solution? Who are your competitors? What are the problems faced by customers while using the product of your competitors? How are you different from your competitors? Is there a need for your solution? What is your customer base/customer segment? (or) Who really wants it solved? (or) Who do you think will use your product/service? By attempting to answer these questions, you will understand your offering better.
  12. Stop saying business plan and cash flow projection. Unless you build something and test it, you should not talk about it
  13. Assembling the founding team is the greatest trait of an entrepreneur. This is the first among many litmus tests that an entrepreneur will face. Assembling the team that can execute idea is half way through the finish line.Also finding talent and retaining are equally important.
  14. Pick and choose your co-founder. It is akin to finding your soul mate.
  15. How do you find a co-founder? Well, how do you find your soul mate? Look for a person in your personal and professional circle. There will always be one.
  16. Do not have too many co-founders. 2-3 is an ideal number.
  17. Culture of a startup is an extension of personality of the founders and initial employees.
  18. Resume. Years of experience. Aggregate in undergraduate studies. Expected Salary. These should not be talking points in hiring for a typical startup. Age or experience has nothing to do with getting things done.
  19. Don’t micromanage any one. Trust and pushing the creative side of person will do wonders.
  20. Bean bags, Beer pong, ACs, swanky furniture, Gym. Darn. It is self-defeating and Stop living in a bubble.


  21. Have a financial plan for the initial months (at least it ought be 6 months) of your startup.
  22. The ideal time to incorporate your startup is when you start making sustainable revenue or when you can make a financial commitmentfor at least 6 months towards cost incurred.
  23. Enough of prototyping. Now, Start building your MVP
  24. Always have a plan and drive the team to stipulate to schedule.
  25. Most of the times, you will miss the deadline. It is alright. Learn and Move on. But don’t repeat it.
  26. Don’t kill the product by building too many features.Pick and choose those critical features that makes sense in building into product
  27. You will try to attempt do a lot and you will fail in many. It is perfectly fine. Fail fast and learn from it. Find the ones that are working for you and get good at it. Find why many failed and try to do it in the right way.
  28. While developing, write down all the questions that you want to be answered in this release version. write down all the hypothesis that has gone into building this product. Now,using questions and hypothesis, define metrics that are to be measured.
  29. Build custom analytics into your product. Your Google analytics, Mixpanel, Kissmetrics etc will help you. Sometimes, custom analytics will help you in answering your questions and hypothesis.
  30. User Experience(UX) is different from User Interface(UI). Please, make sure that you get it.Let it be a feature.
  31. If you have launched your product that is perfect, then perhaps you have launched it too late. Usually, your first offering is not what your customers would want from you. May be your second or third offering will go on to become a success.The very reason you have launched is to find out what your customers think and want.
  32. If you are from the school “Customers do not know what they want until we give them one”, then you better get it right.
  33. Whatever it is, just launch the goddamn product. Faster you launch, Faster you can learn. You and your developer team will not be best person to answer this question “Will this work?”. Launch it and ask your users. You will get an unbiased answer.
  34. Don’t ask your friends and family to use your product and give feedback. Instead, ask a stranger or ask someone with whom you are not on first name basis.
  35. Build it and they will come. No Sir, They will not. You have to communicate and get your users.
  36. SEO and Social media engagement are fine. But find ways to reach and talk to your users.
  37. When your startup gets featured in blogs/media/forums, you will get that initial spike. That is that. It is short lived and don’t bank on that.

    Startup Confession
    Startup Confession
  38. Don’t get featured in media, unless you have a product that is decent and does its intended job.
  39. Your customers are your best sales people. Make them smile and they will spread it
  40. Learn how to sell your product. Because you will be doing lot of it – selling your idea to your seed team, selling it to your initial employees, selling it to your customers, selling it to your potential VCs/Angels.
  41. How to sell your product? Just tell them a story of why you are doing/how you are doing about what you are doing
  42. Don’t try to sell your product to your customer. Try to sell it by telling them a story. A story that explains how your product solves their problems.
  43. Get out of the office and meet real customers. Don’t sit inside your cubicle.
  44. Don’t overdo “getting out of the office”. You should factor in effort, time and money
  45. Identify customers. Define Value proposition for them. Validate it. Find a way to get a repeat customer. Create sustenance. You can evolve your business model from this.
  46. Observe how users use your product. You will find many use cases that you hadn’t thought in the first place.
  47. Launching new products and new features without getting users and testing among them is a sign of failure. Developing new features might be cool.But not at the cost of getting users on board. You will get that high of a developer but there will no business, at the end of day.
  48. Be focused. Very obsessively focused.
  49. You might have to don many hats simultaneously. You have to be a hustler. There is no serial way of execution.
  50. Build your product in house. Don’t outsource it. Do it only if you have run out of all options.Every product has its soul. It will be present only if founders and seed team built it with much needed love.

  51. Be frugal.
  52. Try to achieve that product-market fit. If not,pivot. If you don’t want to pivot, then shut shop.
  53. If you screw it up, accept the blame and be accountable. People will love you better than a person who tries to pass on the buck.And you should be first person to report your mistake. Not your competitor or press.
  54. Be a two face. You should go “gung ho” about your product. At the same you should be critical too.
  55. Intially, make a decision based on your instincts.Slowly as you progress in your startup, try to decide based on data and facts. Of course, use your instincts too.
  56. Getting funded is not the only criteria for a successful startup. It’s apples and oranges.
  57. Money is not a solution for all your problems.
  58. “Investment is stopping me from doing so many things in my startup. I am not able to get traction just because, there is no money”. Sigh. It is not always true. Ask yourself, if this is an argument that you are making just to cover your shortcomings and inabilities.
  59. What is the ideal time to raise money? Do all this and then think about it.
    a) Build product b) Validate it by launching it c) Find product-market fit d) Get some customers. Till then, please don’t say that you would have moved mountains if you’d the money.

    The Startup Garage
    The Startup Garage
  60. Don’t raise too much money too soon
  61. If you want money to scale up, then go for an investment. If you can continue to run bootstrapped/revenue-funded and still scale up, it is perfectly fine.
  62. Don’t scale up very soon
  63. Founders. Friends and Family.Angels.Angels syndicate and Early stage VCs. These are the steps for investment for a typical early stage startup.
  64. Initial attraction from VC firms are not real. Don’t get over excited, if you receive an email from an associate from a VC firm. As part of their job, they are scouting for startups and want to know you better. That’s it. You are not getting that investment.Not yet
  65. Think of exits for a VC/Angel before getting them in. Only possible way out for them is to a)Buy out b)Acquisition c)IPO
  66. Once you get money from a VC, it is no longer your company. Of course, you are the founder who owns a part in that company. That’s about it.
  67. VCs and Angels are not devils. Don’t treat like one
  68. VCs/Angels need Startups more than Startups need VCs/Angels
  69. There is nothing bad if you decide to sell your startup for cash. It is part of the process.
  70. Incorporate your startup and get your agreement between founders settled. Otherwise, it will come back to haunt you. Trust me.
  71. If your co-founder is on a war path, then settle it amicably where every one is civil. Many startups bite the dust mostly because of co-founder issues.
  72. Stop the constant urge for networking by attending events and do stuff that will get you customers.
  73. Selectively attend events/workshops that will help you in your startup journey.
  74. Do not ask for opinion from too many people/mentors. One way is to ask everyone and do stuff that you really want to. Or ask a select few and do stuff that you really want to. In both the cases, do what you want to. Ultimately, it is your baby.
  75. Try to ask advice from only those who have already done it. This is no place for enthusiasts. Asking advice and seeking mentorship from someone who has already been in the ring will help a lot.
  76. If you ask for advice, you better don’t get defensive. That is an amateur way of doing things.
  77. Integrity, Professionalism, Perfection, Respect others time and Punctuality. Ensure that you follow all these with whoever is involved with your startup.
  78. Try to say to No to many things and say Yes to a very few. You can apply this for features,people,requests etc
  79. Before meeting anyone, make sure that you know everything possible about them.
  80. In every transaction(a transaction is something where is some exchange of things between two or more people), ask these two questions. What is in it for you? What is in it for me? If you can’t answer any of these questions, then there is something wrong with that transaction. Don’t go ahead with it. Try to create an expectational equilibrium in every transaction that is involved.

  81. The world of startup is chaotic. Don’t bitch about it.
  82. Insecurity. Fear. Loneliness. It is ok. Everyone have them
  83. “I am having serious problems with my girlfriend/boyfriend because of my startup. What do i do?”. I am sorry and You have my deepest sympathy :)
  84. “I am getting a feeling that i no longer have friends”. It happens. Try to make it work.Friends and Family are the cornerstones of your success and serenity.
  85. Every month or two, take few days of break and run away from all the chaos. You will get a new perspective for all problems that you are facing.
  86. Luck. Never think that luck will get your customers and money.
  87. And don’t presume a lot. Always, Have a beginners mind.
  88. Perspective and timing are everything.
  89. Always find a way to make something wrong. Never run from a fight.Either you do or you don’t. There is no try. Hello Yoda!
  90. Confront a situation and make a decision. Running away from a situation will not help you.
  91. Don’t try to ape what your competitor does. And Don’t fixate on what they are doing. Just do your job and everything will be fine.
  92. You don’t get rich or famous overnight. It takes a bloody number of years to get that overnight success.
  93. Bentley. Business Class. Big bucks. I wish i could say the same my startup. You will do all of it, but it will take a long time and demand an insane amount of hard work.
  94. “India is not an ideal place for entrepreneurship. Indian families do not encourage startups”. Stop saying that and lose that attitude.
  95. If you fail, do not blame others or the system.I t is perfectly normal to fail.
  96. Winners do not quit. Not true. Winners always quit. They quit all the time. But they quit at the right time. This is from Seth Godin’s book The Dip. Read it.
  97. “Birds fly. Fishes swim. Startups fail” [Source]
  98. “Never forget who you are, for surely the world won’t. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.” [Source] Remember, accepting that you failed in your startup is the best anti dote for all that will transpire.
  99. Entrepreneurship is not a one time thing. It will consume your thoughts and often, push to do all over again.
  100. “The richest and fullest lives attempt to achieve an inner balance between three realms: work, love and play. And that to pursue one realm to the disregard of the other, is to open oneself to ultimate sadness in older age. Whereas to pursue all three with equal dedication, is to make possible a life filled not only with achievement, but with serenity” [TED Talk]

Godspeed!

[About the author : Vijayragavan is a superhero nerd. INFJ. Entrepreneur. Ex Founder and CEO of@thecrawlfish. Ex @Infosys. Ex @TSC. Currently at @freshdesk. Follow him on twitter at @vijayragavanv. Reproduced from here.]

 

Reddit Plans To Give Stock To Users. Is That Cool?

Reddit
Reddit

Reddit is now planning to give away stock to active users. The company which raised $50mn this week has set aside 10% of the round for its active userbase.

“We have a crazy plan and what we’re going to do is create a crypto-currency that is backed by those shares. Then we’re going to distribute the currency to the community through some reasonably fair way that reflects the contributions of community. That is one of the more complex subproblems we have to figure out.” [Reddit CEO Yishan Wong/Via]

Ofcourse, the company is clear that Reddit Karma points aren’t tied to the stock as that will lead to gaming, but the bigger question is whether initiatives like these will create opportunistic communities, who will start expecting monetary compensation from the platform?

Wikipedia has survived so far because they aren’t commercial. But  it’s a chicken and egg situation for community platforms (not everybody is running a non-profit organization), who do have a noble intention of building active communities and yet, have monetization plans.

What’s your take? For sure, contributors need to be rewarded – but is $$ / stake the best possible way to reward loyalty?

Myntra Launches ‘Designer in Residence’ Program Under Its Myntra Fashion Incubator

Myntra has today announced the launch of ‘Designer in Residence’ program under its Myntra Fashion Incubator (MFI) initiative in an attempt to inspire young entrepreneurs and designers who have a flair for the business of fashion.

MFI Creative

The emphasis of this initiative will be on identifying a business idea that has the potential to scale and sustain itself in the fiercely competitive fashion and lifestyle market. The final set of participants, shortlisted through assessment, will get an opportunity to work on their idea under the guidance of Myntra Fashion Incubator team.

Participants will be mentored and trained by experts and also receive financial support to create designs for one season.

First batch of the incubator program is expected to roll out in January 2015 and as many as 10 entrepreneurs will get on board early next year.

Knowlarity Replies To Exotel : “We Look At Our Competitors As Fellow Entrepreneurs”

[Editorial Notes : We earlier published Exotel’s email to customers talking about their shutdown rumor and importantly, taking a potshot at competitor, . Below is Knowlarity’s response.]

“We are surprised by the mass emailer sent by Exotel to their customers and what seems like everyone in the Indian startup community. We look at our competitors as fellow entrepreneurs excited about the same business. We even lead a Cloud Telephony Consortium and helped Exotel present to government bodies and influence TRAI regulations. Clearly that spirit is not reciprocated.knowlarity-logo

As stated by Exotel in the mass-mailer, the market rumour has been around for some time about the difficulties they are facing and the “shutdown”. We do not know or care if that is true or not. We had been doing this business for two years before Exotel was born. We have always focused on customers and technology rather than competitors and that’s what makes us the market leader.

Like all companies, some of  Exotel’s customers are happy and many are not. They look for alternatives and we happen to be the oldest, largest and most scalable one. Many customers choose to be with us. We do not have any policy about responding to market intelligence but we are not surprised if some customers care about this and one salesperson (out of 450 employees) furnished this information.

As for the recording, we fail to understand the connection with us. The only “Anurag” we have in Bangalore is notoriously bad at Hindi. We are still searching for this elusive “Anurag”.

We are sad that we have to be engaged in such a duel. We have documentary evidence of Exotel copying our product features, poaching our customers and now this slander. Publishing it in the media is a waste of energy. We chose instead to focus on building our business. We will continue to do so.” Ambarish Gupta CEO, Knowlarity.

ISRO : From Cowsheds To Outer Space [All Great Things Have A Humble Beginning]

As ISRO’s MOM entered Martian orbit yesterday morning, India made a permanent mark in the book of history to be the first Asian country to reach the giant red planet and the first country in the world to do so in its first attempt. Also India is the only country to have conducted it in such a small expense of  INR 4.54 billion (US$74 million).

MOM near the red planet
MOM near the red planet

What India showed the world today truly amazed everyone the world over and rightly so because for a developing nation to reach a distant planet is nothing less than a miracle. And yes, a miracle considering the way it all started.

It all started off at Thumba in Thiruvanthapuram, Kerala as Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) in 1962. It was renamed to Vikram Sarabhai Space Research Center in honour of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, the father of the Indian space program. As Dr. Vasanth Gowariker, Ex Director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre remembers, he was given a cow shed and accompanying cattle feed shop to set up his laboratory back then.

Vikram_Sarabhai
Dr. Vikram Sarabhai

Dr. Sarabhai, a physicist and the pioneer in Indian Space Research had inspired and instigated many other scientists who developed on the projects in collaboration with Russia and France. In 1963 the Nike-Apache, a NASA developed rocket was launched from TRELS and was the first rocket deployed from TRELS. From then on India’s romance with outer space has only grown and spanned over half a century.

Vikram Sarabhi, in a speech, mentions that Indian space research was about boosting the nation’s confidence and self reliability.  He believed that this benefits that the nation would acquire from the space research had far outweighed anything else.

In 1975, India developed its first indigenous satellite Arybhatta, named after the famous Indian astronomer from the classical age of Indian astronomy during the 5th century. It was launched by the Soviet Union using a Kosmos-3M launch vehicle on 19 April 1975. The satellite was developed by ISRO to learn about developing and operating a satellite in outer space. The first giant step that Indian made.

Aryabhata - India's first Indigenous satellite
Aryabhata – India’s first Indigenous satellite

For Soviet Russia, this was nothing more than a generous gesture to provide a rocket to India to put the satellite in orbit. But to a beginner like India, it meant a lot.

The SITE (Satellite Instructional Television Experiment) was another experimental satellite communication project that was jointly done by ISRO and NASA. The project made informational television available in rural India. The project continued for a year till July 1976 and covered over 2400 villages in the country. This proved that India could use advanced satellite communication to fulfill its social economic needs. Illiteracy was a major issue with development in India and such means created ways for mass development and India could carry on with more such experiments successfully.

After half a decade today, India has the largest fleet of remote sensing satellites which provides info from crop yields to studies on mineralogy.  The signals from IRS are available in Okhlahoma, Germany, Thailand, Japan, Korea, Dubai and Saudi Arabia. For a country like India to develop to this magnitude needed a lot of hard work and initiatives. With the right moves and many experiences, today we are just 430 kilometers away from the neighboring red planet.

AppleTransport3

Indian space Research is the ideal example of a Indian startup going global. What started off in the cow shed is now next to mars. Self sustenance, or bootstrapping as it is called, is what Vikram Sarabhai dreamed for the country after the first launch from Thumba. Sure we did it. We also had a lot of help from other developed nations, a generous gesture for them as mentioned earlier, but we did climb up from every step we took and have only moved forward. ISRO is also in talks for proposal over manned mission to outer space and yes, we will do that too.

Aren’t we one hell of a nation of entrepreneurs?

 [Image credit : wikipedia. ISRO]

15 Jack Ma Quotes To Inspire You : The Real Entrepreneur Has No Enemies

After Chinese ecommerce portal Alibaba went on to create history being the biggest IPO ever worth $25 billion in initial opening, Jack Ma has become a common name on all media websites. Jack Ma or Ma Yun, as his Chinese name reads, is the Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group.

JackMa of Alibaba
JackMa of Alibaba

Jack Ma started off by learning English in his earlier days by talking to foreign visitors who would visit the picturesque land of Hangzhou in China. It was only his determination to learn English which made him a tourist guide to most English speaking travelers who came to his homeland. Ma later enrolled at the Hanzough Teacher’s Institute but failed twice before graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in English in 1988. Failures sure are stepping stones to succeeds, Ma would agree. He later became a professor of international trades in the Hangzhou Dianzi University.

The man inspires everybody else to think big and not bound by their own limitations. In no particular order, here is presenting some of Jack Ma’s inspiring quotes.


The very important thing you should have is patience. [Tweet This]

If there are nice rabbits on the ground and if you want to catch one, just focus on one. [Tweet This]

Today is cruel. Tomorrow is crueler. And the day after tomorrow is beautiful. [Tweet This]

A leader should be a visionary and have more foresight than an employee.

No matter how successful you are in your career, you must always remember that we are here to live. If you keep yourself busy working, you will surely regret it.

Only fools use their mouth to speak. A smart man uses his brain, and a wise man uses his heart. [Tweet This]

A real businessman or entrepreneur has no enemies. Once he understands this, then sky’s the limit.

On the path to success, you will notice that the successful ones are not whiners, nor do they complain often.

The opportunities that everyone cannot see are the real opportunities. [Tweet This]

You should find someone who has complementary skills to start a company with. You shouldn’t necessarily look for someone successful. Find the right people, not the best people.

If we go to work at 8 a.m. and go home at 5 p.m., this is not a high-tech company and Alibaba will never be successful. If we have that kind of 8-to-5 spirit, then we should just go and do something else.”

If we are a good team and known what we want to do, one of us can defeat ten of them. [Tweet This]

You should learn from your competitor, but never copy. Copy and you die. [Tweet This]

If You’re Poor At 35, You Deserve It.  [Tweet This]

If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. And, when you are small, you have to be very focused and rely on your brain, not your strength.

If you view everyone as your enemies, everyone around you will be your enemies. [Tweet This]

The world will not remember what you say, but it will certainly not forget what you have done. [Tweet This]

What is failure: Giving up is the greatest failure. [Tweet This]

When you are competing with one another, don’t bring hatred along. Hatred will take you down. [Tweet This]


Sources :1, 2, 3/image credit

The One Moment Entrepreneurs Aren’t Prepared For

No, it’s not about a massive failure. Or a sudden interest from several investors.

From what I have seen and experienced, most of the first-time founders are never prepared for a sudden success moment (and everything that comes with it).

sudden-success

For founders, overnight success takes few years and that means one doesn’t really knows when he/she is successful. But for the world, the perspective is different. They look at the new new founder as ‘an overnight success'; a rock start; somebody who is playing a key role in their life and has suddenly made it to headlines of news channels/media etc.

This is what happened to Minecraft maker, Mojang’s founder (the company was acquired by Microsoft for $2.5Bn) who decided to leave the company and do things which are ‘small’. If at all any of his experiments turn big, he will abandon it.

I don’t see myself as a real game developer. I make games because it’s fun, and because I love games and I love to program, but I don’t make games with the intention of them becoming huge hits, and I don’t try to change the world. Minecraft certainly became a huge hit, and people are telling me it’s changed games. I never meant for it to do either. It’s certainly flattering, and to gradually get thrust into some kind of public spotlight is interesting.

..I’ve become a symbol. I don’t want to be a symbol, responsible for something huge that I don’t understand, that I don’t want to work on, that keeps coming back to me. I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not a CEO. I’m a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter.

As soon as this deal is finalized, I will leave Mojang and go back to doing Ludum Dares and small web experiments. If I ever accidentally make something that seems to gain traction, I’ll probably abandon it immediately. [blog]

And this is precisely what happens to several founders who were caught in the middle of experiments, tinkering with products  – for e.g. Bookpad founders who were left with a bit of shock of the acquisition news going public, or Flipkart team fighting comments.

The ‘about to be massively successful’ founders somehow need to know that the world owes them and their creation. The founders have played a key role in enriching other’s lives and for good or weird reason, the world truly believes that founders are answerable to them and they (the world/users/customers) have played a key role in success of the founders.

In short, you are suddenly more answerable to the world, without you knowing why! In fact, you are either a hero or a villian – and that’s the way world operates!
The world needs one (a hero as well as villian) and you, the entrepreneur is the chosen one.

How Bootstrapping Founders Can Solve Their Hiring Challenge? Being Transparent Helps

When I earlier talked about bootstrapping (in the time of funding announcements), couple of entrepreneurs wrote back sharing the biggest challenge is not with bootstrapping, but of hiring great people.

Bootstrapping a startup
Bootstrapping a startup

Here is what some of the successful bootstrappers have done. They have created a hiring brand for themselves. They have announced what they stand for – great technology play, great revenue, a daring vision etc. They have been extremely consistent in their positioning and messaging.

Looking for an example? The closest that I can think of is VWO (Visual Website Optimizer). They have mostly focused on 2 clear positioning statement : 1) Great Product (example) 2) Customer Acquisition (example).

By defining a clear messaging, you also making it easy for candidates (especially the intiial team members) to self-select you. And the ones who would like to talk to you  are the ones who believe in your vision/your style of execution and are genuinely interested in you.

The bitter truth is that most of the candidates, when they hear the word ‘bootstrapping company’ tend to assume that the company has NO money to pay. While it could be true to a certain extent, people do want to work for those who are showing signs of growth, have a a great future ahead and are transparent in their vision / growth plans.

So think of a few metrics that creates a hiring brand for you. Go hard on those metrics. In any public conversation, talk about only these metrics – and keep your brand associated with these. That has worked for some – so maybe, trying something new won’t hurt!

BONUS Tip : Clearly share the salary range when hiring. If you have money to pay, be extremely transparent about it.

If you are a bootstrapper, we would love to know your hiring experience.

And In Between These Funding News, A Note To Bootstrappers

In the last 50 days, 75 Indian startups have raised funding (as compared to ~90 in entire of 2012). Where are we going with this? Well, ofcourse more funding is DEFINITELY good for the ecosystem.

But then, there are a set of entrepreneurs who are bootstrapping and are losing voice in this entire funding coverage.

As a bootstrapper, things are probably getting tougher for you – you are finding it difficult to hire. After all, people just equate funding with validation (and no funding = no existence).

It’s as good as deciding to stay single in the marriage market – people will assume that something is wrong with you!

As a bootstrapper, here is what I gotta say to you.

Bootstrappers : You got to do what you got to do
Bootstrappers : You got to do what you got to do

Keep your head down and do what needs to be done. You got to do what you got to do.

Your road is stretched. It will take a while to get there. Unless you have hit a goldmine (of customer revenues), you will find it all the more challenging to grow the team (and revenue).

But if you have a time horizon of 15 years (read : Startups: Let’s Rewrite Your Business Plan!), things will fall in place. They will.

What Bootstrapping Means To You

Is bootstrapping cool? Is it cool to say ‘hey! I have not raised any funding from anybody. I own the entire shit’. Yes it does (?).

But that’s not the way it is meant to be. Bootstrapping isn’t supposed to be cool. Bootstrapping is tough. Bootstrapping means that your runway is not just shorter, but also you have very little fuel.

To some, it helps stay focused (there is no money to play around with – so better build a rocket that won’t explode). To some, it brings a lot of fear factor as well (especially when you know that your competitor has raised a massive round and is underpricing to win your customers). And that’s just okay.

Bootstrapping also translates to massive freedom. A freedom where you don’t have to report to any board of director, any investor [read : What exactly makes Entrepreneurship so hard].

The caveat is whether you really need this freedom, i.e. are you really doing things / experimenting with models? Is that a part of a massive growth plan? If yes, then that’s the way to go. Some companies/founder/categories need time to settle in – excess money ruins creativity. And that’s where bootstrapping is useful – helps define the model. 

What are your thoughts (esp if you are a bootstrapper)?

What am I trying to say? Bootstrapping isn’t anything to be celebrated. It’s a decision you have taken (which is similar to your decision to wear blue jeans today to work). You live with it. But let’s not try to justify your decision. That kills the purpose.

An important advice : Please don’t be in a state of denial (that funding isn’t a good thing). You have decided to not raise money. Your compeition will anyways raise a massive round – so don’t bitch.

Whatever it is, always remember : You got to do what you got to do!

The Most Inspiring Leadership Test : Your Last Day As CEO

Visualize your last day as your company CEO.

Will your team / employee feel a sigh of relief? Will they have a party, now that you are gone?  Or will they give you a splendid farewell?

Mark Sebba, CEO of Online luxury retailer Net-A-Porter is surely the world’s most loved CEO.

Go and visualize your office farewell, your last day.

And fix relations, if needed!

More on Leadership : “I will be proud to lead you wonderful guys into battle anytime, anywhere” – General Patton’s Speech

The Good News : Government Wants To Ease ‘Doing Business In India’ ; Announces New Initiatives

India isn’t the most friendly country to start a business. The last ranking by World Bank had put India in 134th business (out of 189 countries).

Relief Ahead!
Relief Ahead!

The government has now decided to act on this and has amended certain regulations to make governance more efficient, effective, simple and user-friendly. The Department of Industrial Policies and Promotion (DIPP) has taken up a series of measures to improve the ease of doing business by simplification and rationalization of existing rules and by introducing information technology for better governance.The measures taken include:

To maintain uniformity in procedure of clearance and ensuring compliances, a comparative study of practices followed by states was conducted and six best practices were identified and circulated among all states for evaluation. The state administrations are to partner with DIPP in taking initiatives to ease business regulatory environments. In light of this partnership, application processes for Industrial Licenses (IL) and Industrial Entrepreneur Memorandum (IEM) have been made online and is available on the eBiz website to ease filing applications and online payments of service charges.

While the initial validity period for industrial licenses were 2 years, now this has been increased to 3 years, enabling licensees with more time by obtaining necessary clearances from the concerned authorities.

To make the grant of extension of validity of Industrial Licenses simple for entrepreneurs, guidelines have been issued to streamline the processing of applications. Grant of security clearance on industrial applications will have a maximum time of 12 weeks as finalized by the  Ministry of Home Affairs.

To facilitate extension of validity of industrial license for entrepreneurs, partial commencement of production will be considered as full commencement. Also with the adoption of NIC Code 2008, Indian businesses will undertake globally recognized and accepted classification that facilitate smooth approvals/registration and categorization.

Defence products’ list of industrial licensing has been issued wherein large numbers of parts and castings have been excluded from purview of industrial licensing. Dual use items (defence and civilian items) unless classified as defence items, will also not require industrial licenses. This shortens the process for industries to undertake manufacturing. All applicants now only need to file an IEM for these items.

While earlier entrepreneurs required an affidavit which delayed the issue of license even after approval of licensing committee, the ‘Security Manual for Licensed Defence Industry’ has been issued removing the need for one.

The DIPP website will also now offer a checklist with specific time-lines has been developed for processing all applications filed by foreign investors in cases relating to Retail/NRI/EoU foreign investments.

Time taken in registration with Employees Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) and Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) was considered by Ministry of Labour and Employment, Director General, ESIC and Central Provident Fund Commissioner. This has led to both processes being automated through on-line registration and ESIC registration number being provided on a real-time basis.

In order to improve the regulatory business environment all departments/State Governments have been requested to take the following measures on priority:

a. All returns to be filed online through a unified form;

b. A check-list of required compliances placed on Ministry’s/Department’s web portal;

c. Replacing all business registers with single electronic registers.

d. No inspection should be undertaken without the approval of the Head of the Department

e. introduction of self-certification for all non-risk, non-hazardous businesses.

The eBiz project will be implemented by the DIPP to create an investor centric hub-and-spoke based online single window model for providing clearances and filing compliances by providing a bouquet of services through a single composite form and a single payment mechanism which can be apportioned, split and routed to the respective heads of account of Central / State / Parastatal agencies along with generation of challans and MIS reports.

[Image credit : shutterstock]