Magesh Kumar Gurumurthy, cofounder, IndianStage: Winner of the British Council Young Entrepreneur Award for Performing Arts 2010 (Part II)
Magesh Kumar Gurumurthy of IndianStage continues his conversation with Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, chief evangelist, YourStory. In the second and concluding part, he gives us a glimpse of what it takes to venture into a new area, find right people, and succeed. If you are an off-beat entrepreneur, everything is a challenge. People may not like to join a new startup where performing sector is supposedly cash-starved. But IndianStage has proved that all this is a myth and with right mindset and approach, you can make it work, just for the spirit of entrepreneurship.When we first started with market research for the business and approach, we were pretty disappointed. We talked to veterans of the performing arts community about the business idea and they said – there is no money in performing arts! Don’t waste your time….
But we were firm. We continued in our venture despite the discouragements and believed in our passion and hard work. We extensively used the potential of internet and creative marketing and innovation. After two years of working with over 1000 shows, I can tell you with confidence – we are here to stay and we are hear to entertain people J
What did it take in terms of investment?
We started the venture with self-funding – we bootstrapped the company. We didn't go for any investment initially. We first wanted to prove the business model and kept our initial investments very low. We were eager to break even quickly and later ramping up the business steadily. After six months, it was only a matter of scaling and expanding the success models to other cities.
How difficult was it to find the first customer?
When we first discussed our idea with several event organisers, VODO – one of the young theatre troupe, agreed to try us out for selling their show tickets. We quickly could connect to the event organisers / artists since our focus was only performing arts. Yes, getting that first break was important to us and was a challenge, after that we never looked back.
Any challenges and how did you overcome them?
Selling tickets for the regional shows (local language like Kannada, Tamil or Telugu) is still a big challenge since regional shows does not get the attention that Hindi / English contents receive. We have to create awareness to raise the popularity of the regional shows to the right audience and create interest level for these shows.Where did you go after Bangalore?
We explored Chennai, Hyderabad, Cochin, Delhi, Pune, Mumbai after Bangalore.
How did the three cofounders help in the success of this venture?
It’s an example of team work, determination and hard-work that helps us overcome all obstacles together. All the 3 founders had firm belief in the idea and we went on pursuing it with passion and belief in making this venture commercially viable. We believe that the culture of the organisation comes from top and percolate the same belief about the idea to the people working with us.
How difficult was it to get the first employee?
That's difficult for any startup. People joining startup are not sure if they will succeed or fail. Our first employee was a bright young graduate from the B-school. It was on the job training / internship for this bright guy. Today he is part of our core marketing efforts at IndianStage. We tried hard to hire people based on their passion towards their skill and experience and simply not on degrees. Abundant freedom to think, nurture their ideas, encourages skills and learning on the job, fun atmosphere at work is what we try to give them in return for joining a start-up like us.
What is your advice to young entrepreneurs out of your experience?
Just do it! Do what you believe in your idea! With hard-work, determination and motivation to stay and pursue the entrepreneurship in all its ups and downs, the idea will take a shape that will change many lives…
Did the ecosystem help in anyway?
Yes and no actually. Fellow entrepreneur’s motivation, event organisers whom we worked encouraged us with the trust earned through business. Funding agencies, VCs discouraged us by pointing us to the limited scope in the business. In the process, we also understood that we have to make our own mistakes and learn from it (spirit of entrepreneurship I guess!).
How did your families take your decision to become entrepreneurs and experiment?
That's very important for every entrepreneur - support from family. All three of us were quite lucky in that aspect. We got all the encouragement and support that we required. The families stood by us and supported our decision to venture into business.
How will this British Council award help your business in terms of scaling or funding?
YCE award is a big achievement and a milestone for IndianStage. It gives us opportunity to link with other entrepreneurs in the same sector. It also opens up opportunities for exploring the evolved market such as UK. There are approximately 1,50,000 business enterprises within the performing arts business in UK. There are lots to learn from these entrepreneurs, business houses, artists etc. In exchange, we could share our learning’s and experience from the Indian market with UK entrepreneurs.
We can also explore collaborating possibilities for exchange of talents between both the countries. We can get quality troupes from UK to India showcasing the talents. We can also export good artist talents from India to UK market. For example, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet - a theatre play from the original Shakespeare’s company would be dream to watch for many in India.
The award also opens up VC funding opportunities for IndianStage which help us to scale to the next level.
What is your future outlook given that there will be eventual competition on seeing your model work?
There is lot of play for many talented ventures in the performing arts sector. There is bound for competition in any sector, but the focus on bringing quality performing arts content, engaging the FANS with quality content alone will make a difference in the competition.
What are your future plans?
We plan to take the performing arts shows to aam admi in cities other than metros. We also have ventured in producing our own shows. We identify best of talent and produce the shows to take multi-city tours across the country. We plan to bring national / international talent and showcase them in cities of India.
YourStory covers a lot of entrepreneurship stories. I have read quite a few inspiring stories. Just one word for the aspiring entrepreneurs: If you have an idea and are passionate to put it to work, you just have to find ways to realise it. Good Luck!