Category Archives: Indian Startups

The Complete Coverage of Indian Technology Startups.

Introducing ProductGeeks Conf Speaker, Punit Soni [Flipkart CPO]

A day before UnPluggd, we have the ProductGeeksConf which will bring India’s most fascinating product minds together!

We are quite excited to announce our first speaker, Punit Soni – Flipkart CPO (Chief Product Officer).


Punit joined Flipkart as the Chief Product Officer in April 2015.

As a senior product leader at Google and Motorola in Mountain View, California, Soni was involved in the development of some of the world’s most revolutionary products including Google News, Google Books, Google Plus, Google Mobile and a suite of Motorola devices including Moto X, Moto G and Moto E.

At Flipkart, he will lead the product definition and innovation charter for Flipkart consumer products, marketplace and transaction platform. He will be responsible for driving Product Strategy, Design and Product Marketing functions to build world class user interface and product solutions.

At ProductGeeksConf, Punit will share some of the key product decisions and strategic thinking that helps scale up! 

Go ahead and block your seat

UnPluggd & ProductGeeks Conf DETAILS

Date : June 19th [ProductGeeks Conf] And 20th [UnPluggd]
Venue: MLR Convention Center (J P Nagar), Bangalore.
BUY tickets from here (ticketing widget is also embedded in the post).

[bs_label type=”info”]Heads up! Grab 20% discount – valid only for the next 4 days ! (Use the code UNICORN)[/bs_label]
Takeoff : Launch Application Form link (those who have applied will hear back from us starting this weekend).

Unpluggd : What's Happening !
Unpluggd : What’s Happening !

Block your seat

Announcing : UnPluggd Early Bird Discount And Call for Speakers

NextBigWhat’s flagship event, UnPluggd is scheduled for June 19th & 20th and the NextBigWhat team is happy to share the early bird discount details.

This UnPluggd, we are super proud to introduce something that we have been working on for few months, the ProductGeeksConf (which is happening on Day 1, i.e. June 19th)

We strongly believe that the product and startup ecosystem needs much more insightful and passionate debates around products (now that the funding problem has been almost solved).

At ProductGeeksConf, you will hear various product leaders talk about – what we call as ‘the real shit’, i.e. product management, marketing, growth hacking, selling to globe (from India) etc – focusing on consumer, enterprise as well as the appy world. Same with UnPluggd – expect a lot of amazing talks!
We are currently working on the agenda and the speaker announcements will start from tomorrow. And like with any of our conferences, we are open for speakers and suggestion on topics (fyi: around ~40% speakers to UnPluggd and other conferences come from the nomination form).

Use the form below to apply for speaking slot (we are accepting speaker nomination till May 30th).


Date : June 19th And 20th.
Venue: MLR Convention Center (J P Nagar), Bangalore.
BUY tickets from here (ticketing widget is also embedded in the post).
Takeoff : Launch Application Form link (those who have applied will hear back from us starting this weekend).

Unpluggd : What's Happening !
Unpluggd : A Quick Summary Of What’s Happening !

[bs_notification type=”info”]Heads up! Grab 20% discount – valid only for the next 4 days ! (Use the code UNICORN) [/bs_notification]

From College Dropout To Building Freecharge : Introducing Kunal Shah @UnPluggd

From college dropout to building one of the highest *grosser* ($400mn+) in India’s digital industry, Kunal shah has a lot to share.UNPLUGGD-FB

KunalShahHe is not an engineer, not the typical MBA, but a BA in philosophy who made his way into tech space with pretty simple idea – i.e. recharge.

At the upcoming UnPluggd conference, Kunal shah will share a lot of backstories and lessons learned building Freecharge (for the primers, read an unoffical version of Freecharge story)

Don’t miss his talk! We guarantee that it’ll be a spectacular one!

Join us for UnPluggd conference (June 20th/Bangalore). A day before UnPluggd, we are running ProductGeeksConf (for those who want to talk/hear products).

Block your seat (use the code UNICORN to grab your early bird discount).

How I Built My Startup with Only Interns and What it Taught Me

I think there are very few businesses where you get to live your own product and service as long and as deep as a customer as I did at Internshala.

For the first 2 years, entire team (except me) was made up of about 15 remote interns who handled everything from content, sales, Ops, social media, to tech. Yes, ours was a truly of the interns, by the interns and for the interns setup :).internsOther than making for an awesome sales pitch, giving product insights; the experience also taught me what it takes to run a successful internship program at a startup.

1. The right mindset

If you think of interns as just interns, or even worse as cheap or free labor; you will dilute down every aspect of it, right from hiring to mentoring. And the output would be no different.On the other hand, if you realize that interns are the first team that you will have before the first team & treat them accordingly; you will be surprised at the wonders they will do for you.

I could write a book on number of times interns at Internshala have given professionals run for money; for now, I would like to share the picture of our new office wall designed and painted by our interns.

2. A strong mentor.

Interns have limited/no prior professional experience which means first couple of weeks require deeper and patient hand holding which is possible only if you enjoy teaching and mentoring. Unless you (or someone in your team) is willing to take on the responsibility of an intern’s learning outcome, it may end up as a frustrating experience for both the parties.

3. A rigorous selection process.

Because you are just a start-up and she is just an intern, shouldn’t mean any less stringent hiring. Assess for cultural fit and always give an assignment or two before saying yes to ensure sincerity. Also check on logistics (availability, duration, commute, relocation etc.) as prospective interns often underestimate these and over commit.

4. Set the ground rules on day 1.

Educate them on basic etiquette expected in a professional set up; don’t assume they should know it because you knew it when you were their age. For ex. I tell my interns to send a daily task list at the start of the day (helps bring accountability) and drop me a text if they are running late.

5. Let them loose.

If you get the hiring part right, you will spend less time micro-managing them. Trust your interns with creative freedom & bigger responsibilities and allow room for mistakes; they learn really fast and can work incredibly hard for anything they feel ownership of.

6. Your Internship Program will change over time.

We started with part time remote interns working for 1 or 2 months, then full time in-office 2 month interns, and now we hire only 6 month interns. As the business grows, it is important to understand which parts of the business need interns and which roles require full time staffing as else transitions can become difficult to manage.

7. Be ready for bad days.

Yes, there have been times when selected interns have not shown up or the performance has been below par but I take them in the same stride as when a full time hire drops out or leaves after 2 months of training or an expected sale goes sour – part of life at a start-up :).

As a whole, as long as we have followed points above, we have always had great experience with our interns and they have made tremendous positive contribution to Internshala story.

8. Pay your interns.

Always. Right from day one. A stipend goes a long way in ensuring commitment and accountability from both the sides. Plus, this extra financial pressure would help you try harder to figure out a revenue model or do sales – both essential for survival.

There is no set rule on how much should the stipend be (keep it fair); we paid Rs. 2.5K/month to remote part time interns, Rs. 5K/month to remote full time interns, and now pay Rs. 12,000/p.m to full time in-office interns.

Hope this helps, would love to hear more stories of your experience with interns in comments!

[About the author : Sarvesh Agrawal is founder & CEO of Internshala, a platform for hiring interns.]

NextBigWhat invites founders and doers to share their insights with the readers. Do connect with us :

Cloud Trolling : This Time, It Is Knowlarity, Exotel, MyOperator And Ozonetel

Okay guys. Startups are trolling each other publicly and while you may want to grab more popcorn and enjoy the show, we think these are good signs – especially when there is humor in the show.

Today, watch how guys at Knowlarity, Exotel and Myoperator trolled each other over competitive advertisements.

And now, MyOperator Joins In.

Ozonetel ends it in a ‘happy’ mode !

Read : How Zo Rooms Trolled Oyo | Massive list of startups trolling each other

This is How Indian Tech Companies Are Contributing To Nepal Relief [CSR As A Duty, As A Pride]

India has become a nurturing ground for startups. Every day there are small companies mushrooming across the country, all competing and complementing each other, fuelling growth across sectors. And we do show our Indianness while running them.

The proof being the way every company is trying to extend their support and contribute their best for Nepal earthquake relief activities. Yes! How will we leave back something which is deep in our genes, the helping nature.

Our big brothers in startup community have become more generous contributing funds and providing platforms for people to donate as much as they can. They urge people to donate more for the relief works by even matching rupee to rupee from their pockets. Some companies have even joined hands to make this even bigger. This sign from the startup community gives me confidence that in near future we will not consider CSR as a law but as a duty, as a pride.

Here are a few examples of our Indian startups and how they are contributing.


Matches rupee to rupee for every donation through them and directs it to Prime Minister’s relief Fund

Paytm @Nepal Relief
Paytm @Nepal Relief

Nurturing Green

Buy anything on their website on May 1st and the company donates the entire sales though Paytm, who will double every rupee. And  nurturing Green ships your plant to your address.

NurturingGreen @Nepal Relief
NurturingGreen @Nepal Relief


Matches rupee to rupee for every donation through them and directs it to Prime Minister’s relief Fund

Uber @Nepal Relief
Uber @Nepal Relief


Connecting the donations to Prime Minister’s Relief Fund

Ola @Nepal Relief
Ola @Nepal Relief


Matches rupee to rupee and donates to Iskon Food Relief Foundation

foodpanda @Nepal Relief
foodpanda @Nepal Relief


Donates ?20 for every missed call given to 9590-666-222 and also gives a recharge coupon to you

These companies have given us more than one reason to shell out some penny for a noble cause.

freecharge @Nepal Relief
freecharge @Nepal Relief

Kudos to the startup community, what better can we expect from them. Don’t you think it is an added reason to love these wonderful companies?

* : We have included Uber and foodpanda in this list (for their India arm) even though they aren’t technically an Indian startup.

UnPluggd Startup Launch Application Form Is Live; Today Is The Last Day To Grab SuperEarlyBird Discount

UnPluggd is scheduled for June 19th (ProductGeekConf) & 20th and the startup launch application has already begun.


The launch process is very simple – (a) fill up the application form below (or permalink), (b) by mid-may we will get back to you and update you on the next steps. (c) If you make it to the next steps, we will have a call (skype/phone) and have a detailed talk. (d) if all goes well, you will be among the top 10 startup selected from over 500+ entries.

UnPluggd Details

The next edition is happening in 3 phases.UNPLUGGD-BANNER

#1. Roadshows [May 23rd & June 6th]
Roadshows are a half-day conference that bring together the regional ecosystem.
We are visiting West (Mumbai on May 23rd @ NSE) and North (Delhi on June 6th).
Roadshows are free to attend, but we have limited seats (so it will be on first-come-first-serve basis).

– Delhi details are here.
– Mumbai details are here.

#2. ProductConf [June 19th]

Like us, if you are dying to move beyond ‘funding’ news and participate in more intelligent debates, ProductConf is all about it. A day before UnPluggd, we are conducting ProductConf which will bring together the product geeks and the topics will range right from deep dive into product management to marketing to growth hacking tactics used by successful startups to finding product-market fit in early stages.

ProductConf is followed by networking evening on June 19th – which will bring 250 folks together for an informal evening session (over beer and music).

#3. UnPluggd [June 20th @MLR Convention Center, Bangalore]

This UnPluggd, we bring a lot of focus on Unicorns and some of the other high-growth startups. Expect a lot of candid conversations and *UnPluggd* experience sharing.

And ofcourse, we will have:

#BraveTalk session : where founders openly talk about shutdowns/struggles and the challenging aspect of being an entrepreneur.

#StartupLaunch: 10 startups will be selected from more than 500 launch applications. The application form goes live on April 26th.

More details at

[bs_icon name=”glyphicon glyphicon-circle-arrow-right”] More details at

[bs_button size=”lg” type=”success” value=”REGISTER NOW” href=”” target=”_new”]

[bs_notification type=”success”]Heads up! The SUPER Early Bird Discount (Code: PLUGGDIN) Ends Today. Grab It Or Repent! .[/bs_notification]

– Launch Application Form

Submit Product For UnPluggd (June Edition)

UnPluggd is happening on June 19th and 20th (Bangalore) with 2 roadshows before the conferenec (check: If you are a startup applying for the #Takeoff stage, fill up this form. We will get back by mid-May and share the next steps.
  • Max : 60 characters.
  • Max: 100 characters only.
  • Who is the target segment? What's the value proposition?
  • 1 Video >= 1000000 pics.
  • Founder & Company Details

  • Preferably your work id.
  • Where is your HQ?

Introducing UnPluggd Summer Edition : A Lot of Inspiring Talks On Products / Growth And #BraveTalks

Alright folks. A lot has happened since the last UnPluggd (winter edition/December 2014).

So many new rounds of funding. Freecharge acquisition. Lotsa amazing startups are launching every now and then!. In general, a lot of momentum in the startup ecosystem.

UnPluggd : June 19th & 20th (Bangalore)
UnPluggd : India’s Biggest Startup Conference.

At NextBigWhat, we are super happy to announce the next edition of UnPluggd. The next edition is happening in 3 phases.

1. Roadshows [May 23rd & June 6th]
Roadshows are a half-day conference that bring together the regional ecosystem.
We are visiting West (Mumbai on May 23rd @ NSE) and North (Delhi on June 6th).
Roadshows are free to attend, but we have limited seats (so it will be on first-come-first-serve basis). The form launches April 23rd.

2. ProductConf [June 19th]

Like us, if you are dying to move beyond ‘funding’ news and participate in more intelligent debates, ProductConf is all about it. A day before UnPluggd, we are conducting ProductConf which will bring together the product geeks and the topics will range right from deep dive into product management to marketing to growth hacking tactics used by successful startups to finding product-market fit in early stages.

We won’t even use the term ‘startups’ at ProductConf. That is, it is meant for all sort of ProductGeeks – whether you work for a big corporate or a startup.

ProductConf is followed by networking evening on June 19th – which will bring 250 folks together for an informal evening session.

3. UnPluggd [June 20th @MLR Convention Center, Bangalore]

This UnPluggd, we bring a lot of focus on Unicorns and some of the other high-growth startups. Expect a lot of candid conversations and *UnPluggd* experience sharing.

And ofcourse, we will have:

#BraveTalk session : where founders open talk about shutdowns/struggles and the challenging aspect of being an entrepreneur.

#StartupLaunch: 10 startups will be selected from more than 500 launch applications. The application form goes live on April 26th.

[bs_icon name=”glyphicon glyphicon-circle-arrow-right”] More details at

[bs_button size=”lg” type=”success” value=”REGISTER NOW” href=”” target=”_new”]
[bs_notification type=”success”]Heads up! The SUPER Early Bird Discount (Code: PLUGGDIN) Ends On April 29th .[/bs_notification]
[bs_icon name=”glyphicon glyphicon-circle-arrow-right”] Note: The SUPER EARLY bird discount code is PLUGGDIN and offers straight away 35% discount. The super early bird offer ends on April 29th!

» For any queries, join the UnPluggd group
» We will soon open up nominations for speaking slots. Please wait till April 26th.

Want To Seriously Disrupt Real Estate Business In India? Read This

Recently I read a blog post on how Indian real-estate startups are innovating much faster than global counterparts. Though the new trends are steps in right direction, these are too little and too late.

I find it a little unsettling that real estate companies are positioning their virtual-reality features as means to eliminate the need for a consumer to visit the property. It may be plausible for an investor-driven market like Dubai, but I don’t ever see an end-consumer buying a property without visiting it in-person.

Features such as slice-view, TruView, iHome, virtual reality, retina, 3-D walkthroughs, etc help in only two ways:

  1. Consumers can shortlist from available options so that they are more informed during an in-person visit
  2. It creates enough buzz for the property portal to attract users

Trying to project it as anything more than that is just a marketing gimmick or mechanism to get investors excited for yet another fund-raise at high valuation.

Most real-estate portals out west focus on providing relevant information to users that actually help in the decision making process. Agreed that those portals have access to good data repositories which are currently non-existent in India. But that is where Indian companies can really innovate and disrupt – just the way eCommerce disrupted challenges associated with lack of credit-card penetration by launching cash on delivery.

Following are a few suggestions on how Indian real estate companies can really innovate and disrupt to improve their value proposition:

[bs_well size=”lg”]Identify each listing by its electricity meter number. [/bs_well]

As addresses in India are fairly unstructured, it is very hard to identify any listing uniquely just from its geographical address. But the unique electricity meter number for each flat can serve as a good proxy for a unique identifier. Real estate portals can track this internally and associate it with a public MLS ID kind of an identifier.

Tracking this one number alone can solve a lot of problems:

  1. Multiple listings for the same flat but from multiple brokers and landlords can now be clubbed together. This reduces spamminess in listings, provides clarity to users and increases competitiveness among brokers
  2. It is much easier to track the pricing history of a specific flat and share this information with all kinds of users such as tenants, landlords & brokers. The portal that executes this successfully can actually become the Kelley Blue Book of the real-estate space.
  3. In states like Maharashtra, you can check the electricity consumption history just from the meter number. An automated crawler can track consumption to know if an apartment is occupied by a tenant OR vacant and back on the market.
  4. Even flats on sale, that have remained unsold for extended periods, can then be approached for listing as a temporary housing option. This will allow owners to generate income without blocking out their apartments for long periods of time.

[bs_well size=”lg”]Better quality data on comparable transactions and comparable listings.[/bs_well]

Most pricing trends offered by portals tend to be at a macro level. They can help you pick an area for renting or buying, but beyond that, do not provide any guidance on prices of specific listings.

Following are a few ways of providing better price trends and data on comparable historical transactions:

  1. Track location data accurately by GPS coordinates along with building and housing society name. This will help provide insight into historical price trends of listings in specific housing society or listings in close proximity.
  2. Incentivise buyer/seller or landlord/tenants or brokers to share data on actual transactions. These incentives can be as basic as FreeCharge coupons or even discounted coupons to a hyperlocal home services provider startup. A combination of outbound phone calls, SMS campaign and email campaign can help get data over a period of time.

[bs_well size=”lg”]Ratings and reviews – on builders, landlords, flats, housing societies, areas.[/bs_well]

It is quite ironical that despite the scale of the real-estate market, stakeholders such as builders and landlords have very little accountability. Portals can take steps towards bringing this accountability. They can even consider doing this through a separate entity, distinct from their own brand, at least initially.

  1. Collect reviews from tenants. Ask reviewers to provide the electricity meter number and name of owner OR a copy of the agreement. Allow reviewers to upload user-contributed photos with the review. Validate this information in the background to assign the review a reliability score or weight down/up the rating.
  2. Generate performance reports on builders and housing societies. Reports should provide information on points such as gain in property prices for builder’s projects, history of on-time/late delivery, number of disputes with home owners’ associations, legal compliance rating, etc. This dashboard can look almost like the one Google Elections created on each candidate.
  3. Collect information on sound pollution and air pollution from relevant government bodies and make it available to users.

[bs_well size=”lg”]Eliminate deposits for rental transactions.[/bs_well]

The age old practice of taking a huge deposit from tenants although necessary to protect landlords, is often abused by landlords and is hard on tenants. I wonder why no insurance company has yet launched a product that underwrites the risk involved in the rental transaction. I don’t think the premium would amount to much and it can then be split evenly between landlord and tenant. One of the super funded real-estate portals can nudge an insurance provider to co-launch such a product

[bs_well size=”lg”]Help consumers take a peek into the future .[/bs_well]

Many savvy real-estate investors pour over town planning documents before strategizing their real-estate investments. In fact, there are tales abound on how politicians have made money through insider information. On the other hand, many consumers bear the brunt of asymmetry in information while buying a flat. For example, it is far too common for a builder to be aware of a planned fly-over through a big housing society project, which the builder positions as huge empty space or a wide road in their sales brochures. Or how a builder tries to monetize the increase in permitted FSI years after the project is completed after residents have moved in.

So there is indeed a lot of value that can be derived from various town planning documents. Almost like mutual fund advisories, real-estate portals should have a team of analysts that dissects these documents and makes contextually relevant information available to consumers.

[bs_well size=”lg”]Apply all virtual reality tools to the domain of vacation homes & plot projects at touristy destinations.[/bs_well]

Several portals have sections dedicated to land and new projects. They have come up with nifty mechanisms to represent these properties in the form of glorified online brochures. I wonder why none of them have applied any of these to the domain of vacation homes or plot projects at touristy locations as yet. It is a big and growing niche where the consumers can actually benefit from aerial views, virtual tours, 3-D views, retina, etc. The consumers will have greater appreciation for all the virtual reality information because by definition of this market, the prospective buyer is in a different city than the vacation home/plot property. So here they will place greater value on any virtual reality tool.

[bs_well size=”lg”]Hire a Head of Public Policy immediately.[/bs_well]

Most disruptive tech-enabled companies understand the importance of public policy in shaping the future of their industry. That is the reason a Google, Twitter, Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, etc has roles such as Head of Public Policy in most of their important markets.

Real estate in India has very few regulations governing the domain. Each real estate portal should immediately hire senior executives who should together form a non-partisan committee that will be responsible for guiding/lobbying the public policy framework governing the real-estate market in the country.

Lobbying efforts by commercial entities certainly carries the risk of compromising the interest of the consumer. But given the Indian landscape, I would expect a progressive framework to emerge from partnership with the industry rather than politicians and bureaucrats framing it in isolation.

[bs_well size=”lg”]Invest in developing open source frameworks and information exchange protocols [/bs_well]

As a concurrent step, the industry should come together in formulating frameworks leading towards an MLS type of system customized to address the challenges in India. Despite the scale of investment being thrown at the wall, not a single provider serves as an authoritative source of comprehensive inventory in any single region. I do not see that changing anytime soon. And even if it does, there would still be multiple players in this space. So this is the time when the industry should invest in creation of data exchange frameworks and guidelines for information exchange. Off course adoption of such frameworks will be left to each company – but the mere presence of such framework is strategically important for the ecosystem.

[bs_well size=”lg”]Final thoughts[/bs_well]

I could go on and on with additional thoughts on points such as

  • why real-estate portals should build tools for real estate brokers to help them uncover value. proposition that goes beyond their current reliance on information opacity.
  • how real-estate portals should storyboard the entire experience of their users and optimize as many frames as possible (taking inspiration from what Airbnb did).
  • how portals should facilitate transactions in the secondary market for new projects.

Clearly there are many holes in each of the above suggestions. Those gaps can be plugged through an iterative process and clever minds can solve most of those problems through collective thinking.

Above is a representation of my views as an outside observer. I am just hoping that it serves as food for thought of clever minds who have access to much more internal data.

[About the author:  Ashish Agrawal, the author of this blogpost is the founder of His startup eases discovery & booking of temporary housing in India. In the past, while pursuing his graduate studies, Ashish earned pocket money by consulting for real-estate brokers in the US.]

A Quick Look At TLabs’ 7th Batch Startups; Is Investing $50K For 8% Equity

TLabs has announced its 7th Batch which kicked-off in March, on the heels of launching their second center in Bangalore. TLabs now invests $ 50,000 (INR 30 Lakh) for an equity stake of 8%.tlabs

The startups comprising of Spring 2015 batch of TLabs are:

Hangoutt helps developers increase app monetization and boost user engagement, by rewarding the users, in-app, with real world branded rewards. It now covers more than 400 brands across 10+ countries.

Meet Univ is a leading university research portal with 2000+ international universities & 45000+ courses listed on its network. Students get personalized expert guidance, unbiased advice & can engage with universities directly from the website.

Pratilipi is a two sided platform connecting Indian language writers and readers. In less than 8 months they have published over 3,600 content pieces written by 550+ writers which have been read more than 250,000 times.

MintM  is an advertising platform which brings context, tracking and analytics capabilities similar to online advertising into real world. Its customers and partners include Hypercity, Tesco, Jubilant Retail, Harpic, Lizol, Loreal, Himalaya etc.

Customer Labs is a predictive customer analytics platform that helps businesses understand their customers better and enables them to pro-actively target, engage and personalize the customer life cycle. Currently, they have clients from 4 countries.

Home Triangle is a marketplace for home related services required by today’s savvy homeowners. It has already served more than 10,000 homes with a network of 1000+ high quality vendors.

Epaathshala is a cloud based quality improvement and reporting solution for higher education institutions. More than 40 institutions across India are using EPaathSala for compliance management on the cloud.

Orios And Mayfield Invest In TaskBob, On-demand Home And Services Startup

TaskBob, an On-demand Home And Services Startup has raised funding from Orios Venture Partners and Mayfield. Orios led the round.taskbob-logo

TaskBob aims at simplifying the entire process, right from finding a serviceman to ensuring the service, into an easy-to-understand mobile-app interface. Currently they are based out of Powai and rapidly expanding operations to other parts of the city.


“There is a lack of reliable and convenient home services in India. Our vision is to fill that void, by providing a state-of the-art household management service, with which we hope to rid the consumers of the unreliability that currently exists in the sector.” Aseem Khare, CEO and founder, TaskBob]

How Indian Tech Startups Win By Repeatedly Expanding Their Market

(Successful consumer Internet companies often start with dominating what looks like a niche market, but then expand their market repeatedly. For successful Indian startups, this often happens much sooner in the lifecycle than say Silicon Valley startups. How should founders and investors use this to inform their decisions?) Superman!

Take a look at the list of startups that are closing angel financing on the leading fundraising platforms this month, and chances are, that many would appear to be focused on rather niche markets. Are we reaching a point where a bulk of the mobile and Internet value creation is done, and only small problems are left for companies to solve? Are startup teams thinking big enough?

Flipkart CEO Sachin Bansal recently had an engaging Twitter conversation with several early stage investors and startup enthusiasts revisiting the classic debate of whether investors prioritize founding team or the idea in their funding decisions. The overwhelming investor response was that they bet on the team first and foremost.

The two observations above are linked. Successful startup teams start with a great idea in a market segment that may initially look small, but then build upon initial traction to either significantly expand the market or catapult into broader adjacent market segments. That is why investors say they look first for team quality (along with size of the broader market), and also the reason why a handful of the niche-sounding angel funded startups may turn into unicorns a few years from now.

Many Indian consumer Internet startups that are reaching superlative scale and valuation numbers today started by addressing niche markets at their early stages.

Take Zomato for instance. If you looked at them in 2011, it would have been very hard to envision the scale that the market is expecting them to reach now. At the time, the company primarily monetized by tapping into the Indian restaurant brand advertising market. This market is tiny, and almost none of it was online at that time. If you used reasonably liberal extrapolation, the total available revenues in five years would top out at perhaps $20-25M. The company has, via the ingenuity and drive of its founding team, continually expanded its market by growing its core offering, entering new geographies and bolting on new business models.

A recent post by Todd Francis (“What Billion dollar companies look like at Series A”) touches upon this ability of high performance founding teams to expand the market:

“However, successful companies often start with executing very well on an initial concept that is the beginning to a much bigger offering.”

In India, this market expansion often happens much sooner in the lifecycle of companies than it does in say US (or China). That’s what we have found over the past several years looking at various investment themes across US, China, Europe and India. Many market segments in India could be relatively thin due to low monetization levels, but that hasn’t prevented the best entrepreneurs from building companies of massive scale. This is one of the key reasons you see disproportionate amounts of investment going behind stellar teams which at present may operate a business that does not appear to justify reported valuation levels.

The tech industry, unlike say the airline or telecom industries (which also deliver services to consumers/businesses), allows platform businesses to leverage their customer bases, data and market knowledge to expand into adjacent segments rapidly, and to disrupt status quo dramatically. Tech companies can create new experiences, use cases and price points which can alter market size significantly.  Benchmark’s Bill Gurley has written an insightful post on how Uber has expanded its market size well beyond what conventional wisdom would have entailed.

Here are some ways successful Indian startups have been expanding their markets beyond their initial niche:

  • Expand into adjacent verticals, and verticalize offerings. Flipkart at Series A was a tiny online book-seller. Many other vertical-focused eCommerce sites were funded in the same general timeframe, but Flipkart rapidly built on an early lead and expanded systematically into many other large eCommerce verticals. Similarly, Ola is beginning to leverage its market position in the taxi/transportation vertical to enter various other logistics/delivery verticals (e.g. food, grocery deliveries), which would help it grow into its heightened expectation and valuation levels. Quikr in an example of a successful internet company that is expanding by driving deeper into its verticals of focus.
  • Expand into adjacent market segments. Some successful startups use their expertise, data and customer base to offer a different type of product that builds upon their position and enhances customer stickiness, revenue per customer and sales ROI. Vizury, which started off with an ad retargeting product, has expanded its product portfolio to include various big data and marketing-tech offerings that it sells to its marquee client base. Netmagic added cloud offerings and managed services to its solid datacenter business, which helped it get to a substantive sale to NTT in 2012. Snapdeal, one of the leading online marketplaces, started off as a card-based couponing play, and expanded or morphed its model several times before getting to its current broad marketplace model.
  • Expand geographic footprint. Companies such as Vizury, Zomato and InMobi expanded into multiple other countries very early in their evolution, and are creating a global or transcontinental footprint with products that would have appeared to have a relatively small addressable market in India. These companies built strong products in India and ventured out into distant markets at a time when there were few successful precedents. These days we see geographic expansion highlighted as a key growth lever in many pitch decks, especially those for B2B product companies. Expanding into foreign countries for early startups is never easy, but there is often great value in doing things that are not easy.
  • Expand business model.  Many companies start with a business model that suggests a moderately sized market, but later tag on deeper monetization models e.g. JustDial and Zomato, which initially focused on listings/lead generation models, are actively moving into transactional local commerce models
  • Use low margin consumer aggregation products to get into more attractive segments. PayTM (which recently raised $575M) and FreeCharge (recently acquired by Snapdeal) both used low margin mobile recharge models to rapidly aggregate massive bases of transacting customers, and are now beginning to funnel these consumers into marketplaces for a wider range of products. In the process, they sidestepped competition from the leading eCommerce marketplaces, which had a significant head start at the time these two started
  • Integrate vertically: Many eCommerce platforms including FashionAndYou, Healthkart, Myntra, UrbanLadder and others have focused extensively on private labels and vertical integration in order to drive higher margins than the base e-retailing business. eCommerce marketplaces building their own logistics networks is another example.
  • External Investments and Corporate Development: This classic growth tool was nascent in the Indian startup/Internet ecosystem till about a year back (except perhaps Info Edge, which has used this tool well for almost a decade). This is starting to change rapidly with Flipkart, Snapdeal, and Amazon building out significant capabilities for minority investments and acquisitions that will help them expand their markets further. We are now starting to see smaller companies leverage corporate development/M&A successfully in India, and are likely to see much more activity on this front.

The above list has an obvious selection bias. It only lists a handful of companies that succeeded in expanding/reinventing their markets, but there are of course hundreds of other funded startups that failed to do so.

So if you are an entrepreneur starting off with a new venture, how to do you decide whether your idea, which may appear niche, is worth pursuing?

Or if you are a tech investor, how do you take a call when it may seem that most early startups you look at are operating in small market segments?

Here are some thoughts:

  • Team, team, team. Clichéd but true. The above list is a testament to why angel/venture investing is first and foremost about team. Great teams can expand their business well beyond the initial idea or model. In addition, the ability to raise future financing rounds of increasing size has now presented itself as a core requirement of any team looking to drive towards a large outcome. Unfortunately, the above abilities are nearly impossible for investors to predict based solely on the team’s resumes or institutions they attended. These are also often hard to evaluate based on an initial meeting. It takes a several meetings, some smart background work and/or observing over a period of time to see evidence of the persistence, drive, ingenuity, single-mindedness, passion, resilience and leadership skills needed to continually expand the pie. 10x founders leave their fingerprints in various aspects of the business, and smart investors learn to pick those up.
  • Keep an eye on new disruptive technologies, and how your venture/investment may be able to harness those to ride a massive upcoming wave. Internet of Things, Wearables, Drones, 3D Printing, Autonomous Driving Cars, Deep Analytics, VR/AR and AI will provide today’s early stage ventures with powerful catalysts to explode their market, just like mobile, social, local and cloud did for many of today’s unicorns
  • Founders must define their target market more broadly for the medium and longer term. If you are an entrepreneur, lay out a plan, perhaps a decision tree of segments/models you could eventually expand into and disrupt. This will not only help in your conversations with potential recruits and investors, but also serve you and your employees as a guiding light at various points in the journey. Your eventual path will almost certainly look different from your initial plan or decision tree, but a well-thought plan will help immeasurably. Similarly, investors sizing an addressable market must look for and understand large adjacent markets that the team, if successful, could address. Build out your outcome scenarios layering in different levels of success with addressing these adjacent segments
  • On the flipside, management teams and investors should keep in mind that many existing consumer Internet leaders or startups can and will enter your space, since they will also look to expand their And the massive amounts of funding that is going into leading Indian consumer Internet companies will only accelerate their expansion into adjacent segments. Have a plan to deal with this. Identify the moat you are building, and build it fast.
  • Investors must think critically, maintain high risk appetite and create a broad, balanced portfolio. While a few select teams will expand markets, ride new S-curves and create massive value, a vast majority will spend their time tackling the base market, and may stumble along the way. Out of ten very high caliber teams in ten large markets ready for disruption, you may only get one outsized outcome if you are fortunate. That’s the law on which venture investing works. In the new world of massive private funding rounds, this dynamic will only accentuate further. Be prepared.

Comments and feedback are welcome.

(Anupam is a VC investing in mobile, internet & technology businesses in India and the US since 2007. Companies linked to are NGP portfolio companies. Data and facts cited are based on public sources. Views are personal.)

Online Furniture Store CapriCoast Raises $1.25 M Funding Led By Accel

CapriCoastThe online furniture seller, CapriCoast, has raised $1.25 Million in a funding round led by venture capital firm Accel Partners India for business expansion.

Bangalore based CapriCoast is expected to use the funds for expanding the firm’s services to the six metros in the country by the end of 2015.

CapriCoast serves as a link between the customers, the manufacturers and suppliers of kitchen solutions and wardrobes by eliminating the middleman.

“We want to change this by providing an engaging, never before customer experience.’s online model eliminates middlemen and brings in cost efficiencies that are passed on to the customer, making it possible for the price of a world class modular kitchen to be 20-25% lower than any other comparable offerings in the market,” says Jawad Ayaz, CEO, CapriCoast.

Yuvraj Singh to Launch YouWeCan Ventures to Back Startups

Yuvraj_SinghYuvraj Singh is launching a startup fund – YouWeCan Ventures to help young entrepreneurs expand their businesses with a plan to invest about INR Rs 50 crore in the next 3-5 years.

The fund is expected to raise around Rs 300 crore from other investors during the period.

“There are a lot of young entrepreneurs with great high-potential ideas and I plan to invest in these startups, to build their brands and companies,” says Yuvraj Singh.

This isn’t the first time a celebrity has shown interest in startup space. But launching a fund is defintely gutsy.

[image: wikipedia/source]

Video Streaming Startup InstaLively Secures $120K

Video streaming startup, InstaLively has raised $120K from Rajesh Sawheny (GSF), Rajan Anandan, Amit Ranjan, Niraj Singh (Outbox Ventures), German investor AECAL and MeraEvents.


Started by 2 IITians, InstaLively can potentially be the Meerkat/Periscope of Android, the team is focusing on providing B2B solution for the event and conference industry.

The app is currently in closed beta – but it does seem to compete with Youtube’s live streaming feature.