Shereen Bhan captures the pulse of the jury
In the grand finale before the winners were announced, Shereen Bhan encountered the jury for TechSparks—Sharad Sharma, Harish Gandhi, Ravindran Govindan, Prashant Choksey, and Girish Joshi. Sharad Sharma felt that the 17 pitches had lot of energy. He said: “More and more people are focusing on problems they can touch and feel.” He was hopeful that this kind of thinking would help foster innovation increasingly. Sharad Sharma, commenting on the possible entrepreneurial mistake he saw in the pitches, added that it is important to get into the “nub” of the problem even before finding a solution. Giving the market context always is not good. He further was heartened by the fact that level and quality of presentation each year are improving and the gap between India and rest of the world is shrinking. He said that he chose his five and was not sure if there was consensus because he did not see other jury member ratings.
Following Sharad Sharma’s strong indication that there may not be a consensus on the five, Harish Gandhi felt that the overlapping set may be seven or eight and the jury members might not differ greatly in their ratings. When Shereen asked what was the buzzword this year that the jury members were talking about, Harish Gandhi said it was cloud computing. He saw quite a few companies focused on PaaS space in the presentations. At least three companies focused on this area. Harish Gandhi felt that a variety of companies were seen and the business plans ranged from simple to very complex. The common thread, according to him, was SME focus. With cloud computing providing a business model on lower costs, startups are likely to adopt software in the future at even more accelerated pace, felt Harish Gandhi.
Shereen looked for investor advice for entrepreneurs from Ravindran Govindan. He felt the products presented were technically strong but lacked the global mindset. They were too focused on India where the customer is not willing to pay higher price for software. A product sent outside of India could fetch five times the price, according to him. He said that Indians pay less for innovation. He advised the presenting entrepreneurs to look outside India.
Prashant Choksey had a slightly different view. He noticed a few presentations that focused on global markets. Although prices are low, the margins are good, said Prashant Choksey, quoting Airtel that sold a call for 45p but made 30% profits. A few business models may emerge that would disrupt cost around the world. Advising entrepreneurs to stick to their guns and keep innovating, he said that funding is available. Then he went on to explain about Mumbai Angels investing in a company that changed its business plan twice (which obviously did not succeed) and the third one going on to become the No. 3 mobile network in the world. He also felt that investors need more patience.
Girish Joshi felt that entrepreneurs should adapt to changing scenario and change their business model accordingly. About the Indian mindset, he had seen many entrepreneurs quick on their feet to adapt to changing realities if something is not working.
Shereen looked for advice from Alok Mittal on how 2010 will shape for entrepreneurs to which he said there is a great momentum building up. He also said time will answer if there enough exits. Finally, when Shereen said there are lot of listings on Nasdaq and in Indian markets, Alok Mittal agreed that it is good time for both entrepreneurs and VCs. On his advice for entrepreneurs, he asked them to be focused on the market that they are going after and build products that are valuable for that market. If you want to go global, do that. Clarifying on what is a market and a product, Alok Mittal said the customer comes first. If you are able to solve a pain point of the customers, you can call it anything--market or a product. He felt that e-commerce is going to take off this year thanks to introduction of 3G and BWA.
Shereen Bhan then interacted with the audience to ascertain their mood. She picked up a few ones who had interesting thoughts to share and wished aspiring entrepreneurs good times. To catch all action, please watch CNBC-TV18 Young Turks on Wednesday, 18 August at 8-30 pm.