When Sramana Mitra has something to say about a business idea, entrepreneurs listen with rapt attention. After all, it’s not every day that the prolific entrepreneur-turned-mentor provides a live free sample of her consulting expertise, which costs big corporations thousands of dollars. Sramana did just that at the NASSCOM Product Conclave and Expo 2010, in a Roundtable session presented by YourStory. Sramana mentioned that she found advising entrepreneurs ‘emotionally satisfying’ and that aspect shone right through her assessment of the startups ideas that were pitched to her (read earlier story here - http://www.yourstory.in/news/4826-sramana-mitra-comes-live-on-the-roundtable-keeps-the-audience-engaged-till-8-30-pm).
The roundtable started off with three entrepreneurs – Suresh, Dorai and Vijay sharing their thoughts on working with Sramana earlier and how those sessions were immensely beneficial. They spoke about how her point of view was always incisive and how she had the knack of pointing out swiftly voids present and roadblocks that could come up in the future. Shradha Sharma, founder of YourStory, went on to speak about how much an endorsement from Sramana mattered in the startup space.
With the context set and testimonials delivered, 6 entrepreneurs (4 individuals and one duo) pitched their startup ideas to Sramana. They were Sourabh from Milaap, Mohan from iAccept, Jyoti from CraftMyGift, Sachin & Vibhor from Wit Innovation (HionStocks) and Bhaskar from myBuntu.
Sramana found Milaap’s (an online social lending platform) plan to be solid and well researched. In the case of iAccept (acceptance certificate issuers for job offers), she expressed her reservation about the costs and advised Mohan to not be wholly dependent on industry associations alone for broader acceptance. She asked them to focus on solving the problems associated with the sales cycle.
In the case of CraftMyGift (customized craft-based gifting solutions), Sramana warned Jyothi about the problem that could occur with respect to funding of inventory. She also spoke about the flipside, i.e., how not having an inventory could hamper turnaround times. She recommended that more work be put into customer acquisition strategy.
Upon hearing Wit Innovation’s pitch, Sramana raised questions about HiOnStocks.com’s (a platform to buy and sell stock ideas) acquisition strategy for professional stock ideas. She asked them to re-evaluate their ‘freemium’ approach and check whether conversion rates were likely to be as bright as projected. She also heard out myBuntu’s plan (online personal assistant) and spoke to them about their total available market (TAM).
She encouraged startups to validate their business model on ground and asked entrepreneurs to factor into their pitches what they had learnt from other failed attempts in the same domain and how their business idea dealt with those issues.
The entrepreneurs left the venue, richer in terms of real-world insights about their business ideas and the scope for improvement. In India, whenever any sort of mentoring session happens, it is invariably done with hypothetical scenarios and hence, fails to address a plethora of real issues. Seldom do entrepreneurs get the chance to pitch their up-and-running business ideas to someone of Sramana’s calibre. The Roundtable, presented by YourStory, at the NASSCOM Product Conclave and Expo 2010 plugged this gap and, in the words of many entrepreneurs present, spectacularly so.
Sriram Mohan | YourStory | 10th November 2010 | Bangalore