This article is brought to you in association with Microsoft Ventures in India
JumpStart is a hotline launched by Microsoft Ventures where a team of trained and dedicated professionals provide answers to technical and service provider related queries posed by startups and entrepreneurs. JumpStart aims to provide real time support to entrepreneurs to enable them to make smart business decisions. The hotline toll free number across India is 1 (800) 200-2114 and is open during business hours Monday-Friday (9am to 5pm IST). JumpStart is a first of its kind initiative in India.
To understand more about JumpStart, we met with Rajinish Menon, Director, Microsoft Ventures, India, who is the leading force behind this initiative. JumpStart aims to directly serve and impact aspiring entrepreneurs, especially those located in tier 2 and tier 3 cities of India.
Rajinish has had a long term relationship with the startup ecosystem in India. He has spent considerable time and energy in helping startups and driving innovation amongst them. He has also been witness to the increasing entrepreneurial buzz in India, which can be heard in tier 2 and 3 cities as well.
Speaking from his years of experience and interaction with the ecosystem, he said: “Our experience has shown that a major pain point for startups across the ecosystem in India, irrespective of their stage of maturity, is the lack of real-time support for various critical queries they face. At the basic, most individuals desirous of forming a company are often clueless about how to go about it. More often than not, they over invest time and energy in areas that are irrelevant. A large percentage fail due to lack of access to information and coaching. Majority of the startups and especially those from the tier 2 and 3 cities are not so lucky when it comes to access to information.JumpStart fills this major gap by providing relevant information of business enablers, coach, mentors in their own town or city and ensures that startups get professional advice that enables them to make smart business decisions.”
Staffed by dedicated professionals who have been trained by Microsoft to answer business and technical queries, JumpStart aims at pointing startups towards the right technology and service provider resources who can fulfil their needs and show them the best path forward. Explaining this further, Menon said: “Sometimes answering even simple questions about how to get started with the right technology or which service provider to contact can really help startups avoid delays and cost overruns. While JumpStart cannot promise the success of a startup’s business and is not a mentoring tool, it can definitely help by educating entrepreneurs how to get off ground by providing information on the vast resources available today.”
JumpStart provides answers to questions that are as simple as “I am from Kanpur and want to start a business. How do I start?” Someone from Bengal who wants to start a business should have access to local resources, tools and guidance at his/her disposal, and not have to travel all the way to Bangalore just to access these resources. JumpStart is aiming at empowering the entrepreneurs in all corners of the country. “We want to provide real-time support to these entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur can just pick up the phone and call us for help. It is that simple. One can say JumpStart is the JustDial for startups,” Menon said.
From the experience of working with startups through various programs, one of the learnings for Microsoft Ventures has been that startups often do not optimize their technology. Instead of having to reinvent the wheel every time, entrepreneurs can leverage existing technology. JumpStart aims to provide relevant technology advice to entrepreneurs. In addition to this, a pan-India study of service providers has enabled Microsoft Ventures to build a database with comprehensive lists of legal advisors, chartered accountants etc.
“Microsoft Ventures supports startups at every stage of maturity by providing them with the tools, resources and expertise they need to succeed. Multiple initiatives–Bizspark, our Accelerator program, community engagement programs,etc, all aim to provide help, coaching and mentoring to startups actively in the ecosystem. With JumpStart, we will help more and more aspiring entrepreneurs to take the leap into entrepreneurship. We are constantly taking feedback from the system to make our engagements more meaningful for the community,” Menon said.
Started in April, Jumpstart has received phone calls from all across India. On an average, around 50 calls are received every day. Menon said, “During April& May 2014, 1500 calls have been answered to help entrepreneurs from multiple cities. This is a very encouraging scenario. Calls have come in from states like Madhya Pradesh, Assam and from tier II city like Hubli in Karnataka. Rajinish also shared that they have been receiving calls from places such as Ireland where people want to replicate the JumpStart model.Surprisingly, NCR area has recorded maximum number of calls.”Microsoft Ventures is also looking to partner with SMBs who can work with them in resolving problems plaguing startups.
“The next step for us is to evangelize and let the community across India, especially tier II and tier III cities, know of this service named JumpStart. We need to create awareness about the number and ensure that every budding entrepreneur knows the JumpStart hotline number to help enable the entrepreneurial ecosystem of our nation. The plan is to start engaging the startups by offering more and more services under the umbrella of JumpStart,” Menon said.
“We look forward to hearing from SMBs who want to work with us on scaling JumpStart. Individually, we all are doing our bit but it is important for all players to join hands and together enable the ecosystem. India has fortunately been an entrepreneurial country. We have a large talent pool that has been exposed to the Western culture. We need to harness this energy more structurally to help startup ecosystem grow much faster. We as a ecosystem need to be more cohesive,” Menon added.
His parting advice for entrepreneurs is:“Don’t sit on the sidelines for too long, just jump into it. Don’t be afraid of failures that come along the way. You can always learn from the failures and grow in your journey. And, moreover, Microsoft Ventures is here to support you.”