Lately, I have been meeting a lot of young students who want to do a startup.
By a startup, they actually mean a startup that will have a founding team, a business plan, a revenue model and of course, an exit strategy!
But. There is a problem.
Very few of them are actually able to take the idea to the next stage. Maybe not more than 5%.
Of all the things, most of the non-computer science engineering students aren’t able to find a tech co-founder. And one of the bigger challenge is fear of failure. Plus, statements like ‘I don’t know how to write a business plan‘ to ‘I don’t know marketing‘ to ‘How do I incorporate’ just add to the ‘how do I get started’ syndrome.
Do (student) entrepreneurs really need to prepare the theoretical business plan in order to ‘get started’?
Why Your Startup is Killing Your Startup.
Because your startup is actually NOT a startup. Calling an idea a startup makes it look very serious. It suddenly increases your personal ‘brand value’ among peers.
‘Hey! I am doing a startup’!!
Media loves it!
You now stand a greater chance of attention from the opposite sex!
Suddenly, your seniors and juniors look up to you and ask you a lot of ‘BIG questions’ (like business model, monetization model etc etc). You enjoy answering them as well!
Your startup is killing your startup.
Because you are actually not starting up. While you have taken a big decision to ‘do something’, calling it a startup is actually hurting your startup.
Here is why:
– You just removed the luxury of failure. You yourself made it look damn serious (by calling it a ‘startup’). While this can be called gutsy, you have also raised the expectations of people around you.
After all, you are ‘doing a startup’, i.e. some serious shit! And then they’d expect you to come up with a business plan, 5-year projections, co-founders/hiring plan etc.
And you have no clue about this. And since you do not have a clue, you are probably spending more time answering questions that you shouldn’t (how do I monetize? how do I get a co-founder? etc etc)
What if you call your ‘startup’ an Experiment?
After all, that ‘s what it is!
Experiments usually fail and people have less expectations from them. Nobody asks ‘What’s your business plan of the experiment that you are currently doing?‘. ‘Do you have a co-founder for your experiment?‘.
The thing is that experiments usually result in nothing (money wise)- so does a lot of startups (!). But given that majority of student startups are all about ‘exploring new new things/developing stuff’, it’s important that you take off the burden of doing mindless excel based revenue forecasting/PPT based business plan and learn to do something more meaningful.
Kerala chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Wednesday said that the state will give 20 % attendance and 4 % grace mark for student entrepreneurs. He was speaking at the inauguration of Emerging Kerala, a three day event showcasing Kerala as an investor friendly destination.
Of late, the south Indian state, which exports the largest number of workers to Gulf nations, seems to have woken up to the importance of nurturing entrepreneurship. Over 2 mn Keralites work outside India sending back money which accounts for nearly 22 % of the states GDP. Non resident Keralites are now looking to invest in various ventures back home, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at the inaugural ceremony.
In March, Kerala also became the country’s first state to have a public-private partnership incubator, Startup Village. The incubator with a projected investment of Rs 100 cr aims to nurture over 1000 student startups. It is promoted by industry leaders like Kris Gopalakrishnan of Infosys. Last week the telecom incubator signed a partnership with Finland’s Aalto Center for Entrepreneurship (ACE) to host AppCampus, a $ 24 mn mobile application program backed by Nokia and Microsoft in Cochin.
[Editorial notes: Pluggd.in has covered quite a few great student startups from India and the below guest post (by Sahil Baghla of Bluegape.com) ,we certainly hope can convince student wannapreneurs to startup right away!]
Let me give you 10 reasons why you should launch a startup from college rather working you a$$ off for someone else.
1) Free office space + wifi + electricity etc : A decent apartment with all these facilities where 4-5 people can work and sleep comfortably in Delhi/Bangalore or Mumbai will cost no less than 30K per month.
2) Teammates : You need rockstars to work with you to build great business and it’s very easy for your friends to take risk with you while they are still in college. Once they are in Job, you will spend half of your energy in convincing them to work with you.
3) No Salary Tension : I just came to know after getting out of campus that how much a designer actually cost !
4) Free resources : You will find many people in your campus with subject expertise to help you on tech, design, marketing etc. Outside world they call it consultancy and charge like anything.
5) Media : You will get a story to tell that how you managed between study and business. Believe me people/media love to hear that!
6) Mindset : You can make absolutely any crazy decisions because you have never experienced the industry and you don’t understand the limitations etc. No business can be build without crazy decisions.
7) Attention : Believe me most of the CEOs/big shot Guys love to see and help young people with smart ideas. They will give you time to meet and discuss your idea/proposal etc.
8) Expectations : Your girlfriend/boyfriend don’t expect any fancy gifts from you while you are in college and believe me you can’t afford it while you are doing a startup and this money can be used for your business.
9) B-Plan competitions : In valley there’s a famous saying that you can get money from 3Fs (Friends, Family and Fools) until you prove your business. For us the initial funding source was savings some of our money from our Internships (I did two interns in US before launching bluegape.com ) and we won two b-plan competitions. Believe me you actually need some good money to launch your business. Practically no business can be profitable from day one. You at least need money to register your company, buy payment gatewayservice , hosting etc even before startup and you can go profitable.
10) Satisfaction : Finally and most importantly, No matter how big your business will be. You actually see yourself as big shot guys like Google/Dell/Facebook/Apple/Microsoft who started out of college!
fGrape is a student startup (started by DCE students) that aims to bring freshness to merchandizing business, using social merchandising.
How is it different from others like Inkfruit etc , as far as the concept of crowdsourcing designs is concerned? The team makes an important point that these sites have made professional designers do ‘spec work’, which probably is taking away the creativity and is not helping in growing the market. fGrape is going a step further by asking people to sketch anything on a piece of paper and send over the design; and in the whole process, they are trying to create better interaction between the stakeholders (be it artists/fans , organisations/employees etc).
Here is a quick QnA with fGrape team:
Pi: What has been the traction so far?
fGrape team: The transaction hasn’t been much. Approximately 2000 tees. We had been doing business offline. Our online store launches in about a week.
Pi: How are you procuring tees etc?
fGrape team: We have various suppliers over NCR. Where we procure tees also depends on the order. [ for ex. for fests, people want ‘wear once’ quality, where in tees for alumni’s are made from high quality fabric. ]
Pi: What’s the % split for designers? fGrape team: It’s usually 5-10% of sales, but we can work this differently if an artist says so. For ex., some artist could agree to give VIP passes to his show, instead of prize money. Have a look at http://fgrape.com/artist for an interactive presentation
The site has three cofounders (Vineet Agarwal, Kamal Singh and Akshay Tyagi) and as far as customer segment is concerned, the team is running after consumers to schools/bands/enterprise to celebrities and the online avatar of the site will launch in about a week’s time.
Overall an interesting concept – and could wake up other established players to rethink the crowdsourcing concept. Having said that, some of these concepts work at a micro level, but things change drastically when you start thinking of process/templatizing interactions etc and that’s where ‘spec work’ takes over the creative freedom.
Ever wondered why deal sites do not have a search box? Well, we have talked at length about deal aggregation business model for India and SearchDeals, a student startup by Gurinder Pal Singh (he is currently pursuing MBA in International Business at Indian Institute Of Foreign Trade (IIFT), New Delhi) strives to bring all deals together under a common platform.
At the core, SearchDeals is powered by Hardeal (by the same developer), a site that aggregates and brings rating to deals (provided by companies like Snapdeal/Crazeal/Deals&You etc).That is , HarDeal is more about aggregation and SearchDeals flips the HarDeal model upside down and is positioned as a search engine to find good deals/product discounts.
SearchDeals is currently available in 34 cities across India and searches through deals from 6 daily deal Websites – SnapDeal, Crazeal, Dealivore, TimesDeal, Rediff, Deals&You for daily deals and in addition to these, MakeMytrip and Yatra for Travel Deals and ecommerce sites like Flipkart, Indiaplaza, LetsBuy etc. for product specific deals.
The search engine does a good job of categorization (for e.g. search for Lumia offers 3 categories: Mobile Cases and Covers, Mobile Phones, Screen Guard)) and while we aren’t going to get into the user interface (which really needs to be reworked), SearchDeals takes a slightly different approach to deal aggregation which is mostly navigation based.
Given the current state of deals category, what’s your take on SearchDeals concept? Is there enough meat to build a BIG business around deal space?
The founder, Gurinder Pal Singh needs input on whether to go for campus placement or take up entrepreneurship.
“I’m in a hell of a Fix right now.
I’m pursuing my MBA from the prestigious Indian Institute of Foreign Trade – New Delhi, the campus placements are ON and I’ve not been sitting for them as of now. I’ve always been entrepreneurial, even in my engineering college days and have had very successful ventures like UploadJockey.com and FiletTwt.com and right now I’m pursuing my new ventures www.SearchDeals.in and www.HarDeal.com.
Now what I am thinking is that I’m going to pursue my own ventures, and if it doesn’t work out by the end of one year or so, I’ll go in for a job. But my peers have been strongly advising me against this and saying it is very difficult to find a job Off-Campus.
TechBuddy Consulting is a venture by IIT Alumni & Harvard Fellow which is poised to improve the skills of students with its initiative Skill India Programs – ‘Making Learning Relevant’ . It is aimed at stressing the importance of inculcating the self learning approach in students focusing on individual’s strengths and interests. In essence, TechBuddy Consulting help students find out their strengths (via workshops etc).
1. Tell us more about TechBuddy Consulting and its operations.
Techbuddy is a socially responsible company of dedicated people which is aimed at stressing the importance of inculcating the Self Learning approach in students focusing on individual’s strengths and interests, delivering quality learning for an educated world. We envisage along with our team, a vision to build a robust education environment, where the creation, exchange and sharing of all forms of knowledge is highly effective & meaningful, & is easily accessible to everyone.
We believe that education is a great segment to build a successful business in,but only if done ethically with high social responsibility. Thou who would believe in learning by sharing, will be regarded as pioneering educationist.
2. Where did you meet your cofounders? When did you guys actually decided on starting up with this idea?
My initial cofounders are two of my best buddies from my college IIT Roorkee where we graduated from in 2009. Together,we had been part of some great success stories at campus and always aspired for better and bigger in our lives. We sincerely believed that an awesome company can only be built by an awesome team, which was already our strength.Spark was there since long,planning had been underway for months,before it actually began on the November 30,2008 with our first board meeting that took place inside our hostel room. TechBuddy was born with the punchline ‘Don’t Just Create,Innovate’ and has been constantly innovating education & learning since then.
Though we initially started with 5 of us as cofounders & while two of them left few months down,few of them from the present team joined us later. As everything that begins has to evolve with time,we also did & that too with the right pace. The idea with which we originally started no longer forms the core of our business today.
3. Some of your cofounders wanted to go for higher studies. Tell us about this part of your journey.
I was a devil & had worked very hard to ensure that none of us prepares for the CAT and is engaged in much more interesting stuff,planning our to be venture.Catching us early,TIME coaching did make a good business out of us and scored A+ on customer Care when their guys kept ringing us requesting us to attend classes,till we stopped picking up their calls. In the end, being from middle class families, we did take the CAT only to ditch our families’ ambitions and fail the prestigious entrance examination with honour. As they say,its all written and everything thereafter has been history and counting the dots backward now,it all seems so easy,so simple and so glorious not just to us,but also to our family & friends.
Sad part, one of our cofounders did give in to his family’s aspirations & opted for higher studies in US over TechBuddy,and another followed a few months later to separate. But the good part is that we all are still the best of friends and laugh over all the good and bad experiences we shared together as the founding partners of TechBuddy. Defining the norms of exit apart from everything else very clearly on papers in the very beginning is utmost important to prevent all such complications and we were lucky to have done them at the right time.
4. Post college, how did you guys bagged consulting projects? What were the challenges faced?
We were lucky to get our first project within the first month and so the numerous business problems which followed.The transition from students to teachers,from boys to men,from clients to a service provider,from innocent college going kids to shrewd businessmen was sudden. It did not come upon us easily to accept the fact that there is something known as the Legal Contract that would from now keep a strict watch on all our actions and the scope of committing errors had shrunk to amazingly low,while any mistakes would only take us from a protected campus of IIT to an overprotected Tihar Jail.
As mentioned,challenges had just begun. From figuring out the scope of work to getting the work done,from motivating ourselves to hiring motivated enthusiastic student employees,from struggling with the burden of semester load at college for non-dropout entrepreneurs to getting almost succumbed under the aspirations of an overpromised client,all of it had just begun and had begun too well. The ball kept rolling,we kept moving,TechBuddy started growing,is still growing and confidence speaks that would keep growing for decades to come with just one belief,
‘Opportunities are ample,we just have to prepare ourselves with time.’
5. What’s your first reaction when you see your college batchmates going to US (for job/higher studies)?
If you will let me speak my heart out,I would waste a lot of time into coining something extraordinarily diplomatic for the couplet ‘educated fools’ and might hurt a lot of genuine dreams. But as I speak from a businessman’s perspective,while India is the place where the world wants to be,I don’t know why some of us are still aspiring to escape. I wish to quote it from somewhere I am not able to recall at this moment,”If India can beat the corruption fast and develop its basic infrastructure soon enough,21st century will be written in India.”
Everything said,its actually a free world. We all are responsible for our own actions and thus the choice has been solely left on each one of us to decide and plan for a much better future not just for himself,but also for the generations to come.So be wise,let your heart speak for yourself and keep dreaming.
6. What’s the current strength of TechBuddy consulting?
For us at TechBuddy,our strength can be summed up in 3 words,’Team,Team & Team’ which are the only constants,rest everything is adaptive with situations.
7. Your recommendation to students who want to startup?
Idea is a myth,team is a blessing.
Valuations are virtual,revenue is real.
Law is common sense,documentation is religion.
Great businesses are created by man,not God.
& While character is strength, passion drives entrepreneur.
Planning to file a RTI and skip the visit to government offices?
RTINation is a startup by Prashant Gupta, a student at IIT Kanpur. The site enables one to file RTI (Right to Information) online and so far, the site has enabled 3,000 RTIs [from 5,000 registered userbase].
Once you file a RTI from the site, RTINation generally takes 2-3 business days to process an application. The PIO (Public Information Officer) takes 30-40 days to reply to your application and replies are sent directly to the individual.
The site charges Rs. 150 (including government fees, service charges and taxes) and receives around 30,000 visits per month. In terms of technology implementation, the site is a basic implementation of Joomla, though what matters is the focus on solving a specific pain point.
Do give the site a spin and share your feedback with the team.
Earlier this month, we talked about our theme of student startups and the initiative by Lenovo called DoNetwork. DoNetwork has been inviting ‘Doers’ and quite a few submissions have flown in in the three categories of “Classroom in a box”, “solution for traffic congestions”, and “invention of a new consumer project”.
“The Do Network from Lenovo is a platform for turning ideas into action. Every 90 days Do Network will introduce a new theme and will call for participation. You could win a Do machine or a $25,000 USD grant to help bring your idea to life.”
Here is our top picks from the submissions at DoNetwork, though not in any particular order:
PartiallySubmergedBridge: This is an innovative idea using Archimedes’ principle to design and construct bridges that are partially supported by the upthrust of the water underneath that. The idea is to have cable-stayed bridges, with the suspended part partially floating in the water. The bridge may have to have a part of it above water, allowing considerable height for ships to pass under that. The major advantage that could be achieved with this design is a reduction in cost, and an architectural marvel, and maybe permit construction of bridges across unimaginable spans of seas. There may be an extra cost involved in providing non-corrosive materials and coatings, and reinforcements to brace the kinetic energy of water, and maybe tides in certain cases, but longer spans means reduction in the total number of piers required, bringing down cost considerably.
TheUnstoppableUnstoppableMagneticWheel: The project page does not talk much about the applications of an unstoppable magnetic wheel created by means of four static bar magnets strategically placed around a four-pronged fan that has horse-shoe magnets on all its prongs, so that one side of the horse-shoe, say S-pole, is attracted by the N-pole of the static magnet and when it comes closer and the axis of the horse-shoe passes that of the static magnet, the N-pole of the horse shoe, which is now closer to the N-pole of the static magnet, is repelled. This wheel would need an initial push start, but once it maintains a kinetic equilibrium, it can perhaps run perpetually, providing a non-conventional source of cheap energy. Industry applications of this may have to be studied.
IndiaEngineered: This is a simple project, a kind of social network, aimed specifically at bringing students together from engineering colleges across the nation, and also with engineering alumni. India Engineered also aims at providing sharing of books and tutorials, online lectures, organizing contests and promoting tech fests, and providing answers to questions, a la Quora, only for engineers. While this type of model can easily go out of control with students trying to look out for other things besides engineering, but like every other social network, the success depends on the initial members that decide to become a part of it, and the lucrativeness and utility of the product, before it goes on to become viral and hugely popular.
Car–Com: This is an ambitious project aimed at reducing traffic congestion by making all vehicles on the road communicate with local and central servers. The idea is to use GPS to know the current position and speed of vehicles sharing the road on all the roads leading to the next traffic signal. Complex algorithms will then calculate the optimized timings for the red and green lights to allow minimum waiting time. While the number of calculations being done can easily reach astronomical levels in a metro city with hundreds of roads and thousands of vehicles, a real life implementation for this would mean all the vehicles on the road fitted with the GPS devices that send the location details to a configured set of servers in the vicinity, and also setting up those local servers that receive the data and sync up traffic lights. Nevertheless, it is an interesting idea, and can be put to other uses like finding parking slots, assisting in partial or complete auto-drive cars.
GravityAssistedMicroHydroelectricity: This project claims of a solution of providing hydroelectricity by lifting water from a large tank into two overhead tanks in tandem, and then letting water fall through turbines that would generate electricity.The overhead tanks will have siphons that would be raised by means of counterweights, thereby creating lesser pressure inside the tanks, forcing water to rise up by means of several smaller pipes with valves, ensuring very fast filling of the overhead tanks. The project’s files section provides detailed diagrams and there are quite some convincing animations that make you feel it may work. If successful, such eco-generators could be used in individual households or apartments as an alternative power source.
KeepSafeSafeDistance: This is a straightforward and simple though useful project that could bring down accidents on the road. The proposed system would consist of two indicators, one on the back of the car, meant for the car following it, and the other on the dashboard, for the driver of the car. The indicators would warn you if you are driving too close, within the breaking distance for the current relative speed at which you are driving. The safe distance may not be precise as it would depend on the road conditions and the quality of brakes, and the mass of the car, but can give you an approximate idea with some buffers added.
FriendsinFlights: This could well be an interesting application of social networking. As the name suggests, the application’s core would be an algorithm that puts like-minded people together and comes up with a seat allocation plan taking into account the passengers’ age, sex, likes, dislikes, profession, etc, or even the degree of separation between them Facebook, Google+ etc. The seat allocation would aim at coming up with an allotment which puts like minded people together or closer, in the hope that these passengers easily strike a chord and have a pleasant journey. Privacy concerns aside, this can be an interesting use for social networkers allowing airlines to use their public data and make the stranger next seat less so.
[Disclosure: DoNetwork is a sponsor/supporter of Pluggd.in’s student startup theme]
Sahil Baghla, final year student at IIT Kanpur, has opted not to participate in placements. He has always dreamt of running his own venture, which came true five months back when he co-founded Bluegape along with Ayush Varshney, a second year student at IIT Kanpur.
At Bluegape, you can order customized posters online and they will be delivered at your doorsteps. In past 5 months, startup has delivered >5,000 posters across India
Q&A with Sahil Baghla (Co-Founder & CEO, Bluegape)
PI: How did you come up with the idea of selling posters online?
We were finding it difficult to find posters for walls in our room as per our requirement. This made us think, if same need exists with other students as well. We sent out a mail to all the students at IITK (intranet) to validate our hypothesis and got very promising response.
We were all set and came up with a website in next few days. Our idea went viral on campus and we sold 2,000 posters at IIT Kanpur itself.
Q: How does your offering work?
After landing on the website customer has two choices to choose a poster. Either they can chose an image from the existing gallery or provide us with image of what they want to print on the poster along with size required.
As next step, our design team checks quality of picture (for size to be printed), and gets back to the customer with a draft of poster. Once we get a nod, we get the job printed at a printer locally in Kanpur.
Poster is ready to be shipped within 24 hours.
PI: How does the payment work? Do you offer cash on delivery?
No, posters can have very high cancellation at last moment. So we are not offering cash on delivery. We use Gharpay’s cash before delivery services.
PI: You have been able to sell 5,000 posters over past five months. How did you generate this sort of demand?
Most of it has been through word of mouth. We promoted ourselves in cultural festival at IIT Kanpur. Now, we are in the process of appointing student ambassadors in various colleges.
PI: How are you different from other websites selling customized merchandize?
Firstly, we are catering to a niche segment – youth in age group of 18-20.
Secondly, I know few more online portals into youth merchandize, but have not found youth community aware about them.
PI: What is your vision for Bluegape?
We want to cater to youth and provide them with products which are cool and are not readily available otherwise. Soon, we will be adding merchandise and few other products.
We also want to promote work of upcoming photographers and artists through this platform. Artists can add their photographs / art to our gallery. If a customer buys a poster with their work, we will pay them royalty. We are in the process of creating community for photographers. Bluegape has got seed capital of 10 lacs and will be incubated at business incubator of Times of India Group. Recently, two more batchmates of mine– Mukesh Chopra and Devanshu Bhimwal have joined the team.
Update1: Since this post has been published and audience has highlighted potential copyright issues, PI team has been trying to reach the founder. However, we have failed to establish contact and cell phone is also continuously switched off (founders were traveling).
Our advice to Bluegape – We appreciate their passion and energy for starting up but would recommend that they should act on the copyright issues at the earliest, in case they have not taken this into account so far.
We would also like to thank the audience for bringing this to our notice.
Update2: Notes from founders: They are very well versed with all the copyright norms and understand that they cannot grow by breaking norms. Initiative to print from gallery was rolled out 2-3 days back, where company gave access to few of their users to upload pics which are not moderated at this point. They are in the process of setting up moderation processes to address this matter.
After 12th, many students have confusion in deciding which college to choose for their graduation. Pune based WhatNeXT College Suggester Engine provides a list of Top 15 college choices using the available previous year’s data, along with the various details of each college for a student based on the entrance exam score and the preferences that are specified, thus helps choosing more appropriate college for graduation after 12th.
In essence, WhatNextPlus is a college recommendation engine which provides College Suggestions based on students entrance exam score, cast, gender and other required parameters. Along with college suggestions, the site also provides college details like fees, hostel intake etc.
Started by Students of COEP (College of Engineering, Pune), WhatNextPlus is currently available only for Maharashtra Engineering colleges and helps a student get a decent idea of colleges where he/she can get into based on his/her score.
If you look at the admission process, there are various parameters which play important role in admission process. Like there is concept of Home or other than Home University, reservation for various casts, reservation for female candidate and cut off score variations bases on the round (CAP-1,CAP-2,CAP-3).
1. Why is the focus only on Maharashtra colleges?
First of all we were familiar with Maharashtra Admission Process and we knew the set of queries or problems students could face. Also for 2013-14 academic year admissions there is only on entrance exam is supposed to be conducted on national level (called NEET).
So instead of building college suggester for each state we thought about launching it for Maharashtra and checking out the feedback/response from students and parents. And as we are happy with the positive feedback we will be launching it on national level soon.
2.How does the service works?
We have gathered previous year’s cutoff for admission for all colleges through web crawling and we just match the data inputted by students (Category, Gender, CET Score, Preferences etc) to the data into our database and we provide the related suggestions.
3. What has been the traction so far?
Within a week after its launch we received terrific response from students and parents.Most of them were positive about the website and its usage. Apart from this we received too many phone calls, around 6 lakh hits to the website within two months, around 1700 likes for our facebook fan page. We had launched SMS based college suggester for the students who did not have access to the internet where students were supposed to send their data in specific format and we were providing college suggestions via sms. So we received around 3000 sms queries seeking college suggestions.
We also got featured in local media (news papers, tv channels) at that time and Hon Shri. Rajeshji Tope, Minister Higher & Technical Education,Government of Maharashtra appreciated our idea.
4. Future plans?
We are planning to take the website to national level where student can get all the information about colleges and admission procedure along with college suggestions at cost of few clicks.
Currently we are looking out for funding. If we get it then in future we might be able to do this on much larger scale.
Do give WhatNextPlus a spin and share your comments.
Spectrum Casuals is a student startup (started by IIT Kanpur students) that deals with bulk orders in customized apparels (t-shirts,sweatshirts,track suits,bags,etc),goodies,merchandise,in a nutshell – i.e. anything and everything that requires customization.We design,develop,and deliver the goods at doorsteps of suppliers.
What’s the big deal about them? Well, they have focused on a niche segment of customers and have cracked deals with instiutions like IIT Kanpur (but obviously), IIT Kharagpur, BITS Pilani, ISM Dhanbad, DCE, IIT Indore etc and even bagged corporate clients like SAIL, BHEL etc.
In its current form, the startup doesn’t offer online ordering/customization, but the crux of the business is in bagging these big clients and building custom tees/merchandise for them.
Update: Notes from Mayank Valecha(founder of SpectrumCasuals):
We have been in the market for about a year, have been growing steadily.Initially we received some small orders from our respective institutions,and got work in some certain part of the year only,but as we expanded our horizons and our reach, we now keep getting some good deals,all thru d year, and have created a name for ourselves and a brand in the market. Recently we have been to get some big orders, from some major fests all over india. For our promotion purposes, we have also sponsored some big fests and have worked as Apparel/Merchandise Sponsor/Partner.
Yeah only recently we have been thinking of expanding to online retail , we have created a new web site called Spectrumbuy.com, and only some minor formalities have left, it will also be up soon.
If you look at custom merchandizing business, very few startups are actually still working on them – since consumer part of the business is too heavy for customization (few funded companies were setting up stores in shopping malls, but the amount of customization customers expected vs. RoI didn’t really match). The bigger money lies with corporate clients/educational institutions which always works with some bit of ‘jugaad’ (i.e. contacts).
SpectrumCasuals is currently focusing only on these customers and as part of Phase 1, have stayed away from the consumer part of business, which requires quite a bit of investment in infrastructure/marketing/PG integration etc.
In a way they aren’t different from several other small stores in big cities, but what really matters is their client base and the focus on serving only a particular segment.
What’s your take on such a business model? It may not sound super sexy, but is surely appealing. Right?
Increasing number of players in India’s e-commerce space has led to information overload for online buyers. Abhinav Choudhary and Hitesh Khandelwal (IV year students at IIT Delhi) saw this as an opportunity and started building Smartprix.
Smartprix empowers cell phone buyers with information for deciding on product and e-commerce site to shop.
Q&A with the founding team
Q: What made you build Smartprix?
We wanted to use our spare time and were contemplating various ideas, when one of our friends was struggling to get appropriate information on which cell phone he should buy. At that point, we came up with the idea of comparison shopping.
Q: What is your offering to an online shopper?
A: We help customers in decision making. Customer can
– Search a product based on features, brand and price band
– Compare two product models based on features and price
– Can refer user reviews and expert reviews
– Can check availability of product on various e-commerce portals and compare price
Q: How long you have been working on this project?
A: We started the work in Aug 2011 and site was live on 1st December 2011.
Q: Can you share more about technology behind the tool?
A: We have used mix of APIs and web crawling (if APIs are not available). Prices are updated twice in a day. We give comparison across 14 e-commerce sites for 570 cell phone models.
Q: How are you marketing the website?
A: Currently, site gets 4,000-5,000 unique visitors per day. We are not doing any marketing at this point, but plan to initiate that in coming months.
Q: How do you want to grow the initiative? Would you be covering other electronic products?
A: Our current focus is in two areas:
– Firstly, we want to build a solid technology platform which needs minimal human intervention and is scalable.
– Secondly, we want to give users a great experience when they land on our site.
Once these two things are in place, adding new product lines is not a huge challenge.
Q: What are your plans after IIT?
A: Both of us are in five year (integrated B.Tech + M.Tech) program, and have over one year left at IIT. We will continue building Smartprix along with our studies and decide our future course next year.
She loves me/she loves me not? Oh well, find it out with Hitherto Crush developed by Piyush Bengani, a student at IIT Guwahati.
Hitherto Crush is targeted towards those who are unable to express their feelings to their crush out of hesitation, awkwardness and fear of embarrassment of the answer is NO. In short, the FOSLA* community.
How Hitherto Crush Works
Let us say X(boy) adds Y(girl) to his crushlist. As soon as X does it, Y will receive an email notifying that someone has added her in his/her crushlist.
As of now, Y won’t know that X added her to his crushlist until (hitherto)Y adds X to her crushlist. Below is the email (sample) that goes out when somebody adds their crush details on the site.
The moment two users add each other in their crushlist, they only will know that they have crush on each other and they will be notified for the same! In case user Y avoids the mail or adds Z (another boy she might have crush on) to her crushlist, user Y need not worry and thus plays safe and sound.
A fun concept? Well, this can be a HUGE success in colleges simply owing to WoM (word of mouth) and the inbuilt networking (plus fun) effect.
In terms of implementation, Hitherto Crush is currently very basic in nature and there is actually a Japanese startup building something similar using Facebook as the social layer.
Great concept – that can be taken to workplace too! What’s your suggestion to HithertoCrush team?
Aside, we would like somebody to build a similar service for investors and entrepreneurs too : )
* FOSLA = Frustrated One Sided Lovers Association.
Alright – IIT Mumbai has come up with a new idea to boost entrepreneurship among its students.
Its placement cell is weighing the option of helping students, whose start-ups have not taken off, to be placed in jobs after two years of experimenting with their ideas.
As part of the scheme, students keen on their own start-ups will be assigned mentors after graduating. These experts—either people who have successfully floated their own companies or those with enough exposure to new businesses—will evaluate their ideas to see if there’s any potential.
Once the ideas are approved, students can float their own companies. After two years, if a startup fails to take off, the student-entrepreneur can participate in the regular placement process and get a job.
“If there is such a scheme, students would be forthcoming about their ideas. If the ideas have merit, they will flourish. If they fail, they will know it’s better to shut shop in the early stages. We plan to give them two years as companies also would be hesitant to hire such candidates after a long period” [link/title lifted from this article]
Here is the problem with this whole concept (same was started by IIMs, though I don’t know successful it was):
Idea/Mentors/Validation – Most of professors in engineering/b-schools fail when it comes to really evaluating a brand new idea. In the last 2 years, I have interacted with some of the best professors from well known engineering colleges and I tend to shut my mouth after listening to the regular ‘this has no future. how will you make money’ sort of statements from professors.
Ideas can never and should never be approved. Approval of an idea only works with college projects. And not with startups.
No professors can ever approve a mindless idea which involved 140 characters with a much higher degree of stupid question, i.e. ‘What are you doing?’. The kind of ideas that can be approved are the ones which have already been tried/tested elsewhere (like services etc) and those are anything but path-breaking ideas.
Business Plan + Funding = Entrepreneurship = Funding + Business Plan.
This is it. It’s all about funding and business plan (and not so much about product development/marketing/selling).
Most of the E-cell activities revolve around writing a business plan and eventually, all of such discussions end up with talks of whether a VC will fund me or not (that’s the final outcome).
Go back in history and you will find student startups like Google, Facebook, Yahoo NOT having any business plan from day 1. In fact, none of these were supposed to be businesses. They were just HACKS. None of these founders ever wrote a business plan on day 1 – they just focused on one thing:
“EnablingTechnology To Solve A Small Problem”
As they went about solving the problem (to start off, a personal itch), they realized that they are building something valuable and can be converted into a BIG business.
I am not talking about DST sponsored activities that look at broader industry level discussions, but there is a need for a system which drives students to learn new technology, explore (im)possible options.
There is a need of a system which drives students to play with APIs of say, WordPress, CMS Platforms (or Indian companies?) and excite them to build something valuable.
A need for a system that promotes experimentation, without mandating any business plan, or any pressure to come up with excel sheet valuation.
Let students learn how to market their products (be it a WordPress plugins/hacks etc etc) and importantly, let them go through failures (of hacks/experiments), the yo-yo cycle of entrepreneurship.
After all, how many E-Cells actually get into the depth of product development? Why is the real meat (of product business) is missed out in the entire picture (and the focus shifts to organizing large events where BIG ticket VC firms will send their analysts)?
In short, it still is about technology assuming that academia-industry gap remains intact (and it will).
It’s about mindset change and not about providing cushion to ideas. Ideas need no cushion – student entrepreneurs need a much dedicated effort in productizing an idea, validating the product hypothesis, help in understanding business rather than an assurance that they can still go back to the job if they fail.
Any entrepreneur who is onto a serious journey knows that he/she CAN go back to a job when needed – but the first rule of entrepreneurship is to BURN THESE BRIDGES.