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Key Points from TechSparks Delhi Roundtable

Team YS
9th May 2011
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Panel discussion at TechSparks was power packed and high on real advice without a doubt. WithShradha, Founder of YourStory opening it with “in a country where free advice is freely available and real advice is rarely available, the intent of this panel is to ensure everyone in the audience has something to takeaway and mull over”.

Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Founder and MD, One 97

The discussion opened with Vijay (a captivating speaker, if one goes by the audience opinon) describing the nature of market in which he operates and later on recalling his past experiences as a startup entrepreneur. Vijay said that he works in an industry which has huge margins. Any decision has the capacity to entirely change the course of the company. “The market itself creates the demand in such an ecosystem” Vijay said.

He also emphasized on the need for a good team and said that its one of the major deciding factors which can propel a start-up to great heights. Vijay pointed that people often try to do the jobs they are not good at. “an entrepreneurial team need a sales man who is proficient in his job. The product guy evangelizes the sales which lead to further transactions but it’s the sales guy who closes the deal. The product feature obviously remains the core feature of the offering but it is not complete unless the consumer has been served and revenue has been collected from him.” As an example he quoted an incident where he made a deal at about one-fifth of the price he had originally quoted. However at a later stage when he had a good sales person in his team, a simple re-negotiation increased their revenue receipts to about a million dollars per month.

“At the end of the day, you can only focus on you product and try to enhance them only if you survive and correctly serve the market.” An interesting food for thought for all us trying to build our products or offerings.

Mohit Bhatnagar, Managing Director, Sequoia Capital India

Scaling and Growing an Early stage venture

Mohit ( an entrepreneur turned VC, who clearly showed his understanding of the challenges and needs of an entrepreneur ) gave some interesting pointers to entrepreneurs when asked on how does he measure scalability? Mohit’s remarks are as follows -

Company in very early stage

The factor responsible for scaling a company in a very early stage is the composition of the team and the quality of people. The team as a whole needs to know how to make money and must have the talent to hire good people. They must accept the fact that there might be people smarter than themselves and that they should be able to identify and hire them.

Company looking for growth capital

Investors try to measure the performance of these companies in terms of unit economies and how well they have planned their expansion process. He said that cash is king and as a general advice to the Startups in the audience, he said, “You must believe in the philosophy of Cash is King and you should manage your accounts well and have enough preparations to brave a rainy day.”

As a general discontent amongst the participants about the fact that investors don’t agree to invest in ventures, Mohit clarified that it is definitely not so and much to the delight and applause from the audience remarked, “Investors are dying to make an investment. They only need an excuse. Give them one.” He further said, “Capital is available, we need to challenge ourselves and bring about breakthrough innovation to make our idea worthwhile and simultaneously convince the investors to invest in ventures.”

On a broader level, Mohit said, “that the young generation of entrepreneurs need to develop the ability to turn their ideas into global ventures in a short period of time. He highlighted that our counterparts in the west are able to expand at a significant pace because of their capital efficiency. “They fail fast, learn quickly and come back”, said Mohit.

Vivek Agarwal, Founder, EnglishEdge

Vivek started his talk by emphasizing on the need to create a balance between building product and generating cash. This can be brought about by thinking from the consumer’s perspective. Getting the product in the market is very important since it helps in gaining significant consumer feedback and at the same time earning revenue required for sustenance. The strategy should further be goal oriented. Thus, the aim should be to identify the needs of the customer and then working backwards. These customers should also be filtered out so that they reflect upon the changes which are required for product enhancement. Thus, it all reduces to strategy which in itself is about making choices. Knowing what is to be done and what none must be chosen very wisely otherwise the difference between good and bad content gets blurred and might often lead to deviation from the original goals. Know the market you are operating in, balance between service and product and pace yourself in the process.

Rahul Sharma, Co-founder and Executive Director, Micromax

Starting from the point at which Rahul concluded his keynote address, he continued by focussing on the need to be dynamic in switching from one business solution to another. Working blindly in the name of passion can be suicidal. He emphasized that to strive in today’s market, one needs to be nimble and keep on tweaking and changing. He inspired the participants to make their own product and create competition rather than following others and competing with them. He concluded with his one liner, “Guys you are the best. Believe in yourself.”

Rita Soni, CEO, NASSCOM Foundation

Rita identified social entrepreneurship as the biggest opportunity available in India. “Jugaad is in our DNA. Why not use it?” said Rita. The indigenous solutions provided by innovators are sometimes capable of transforming the way we perceive certain things. “Although the ecosystem has been put up in place by the government, it’s still not accessible to start-ups.”

She clarified that doing good need not be charity. Social entrepreneurship only implies addressing the problems of the masses but it does not in any way stop them from making money out of their product by commoditizing it. She concluded with, “Find problems and solve them. Money is there but feasible solutions need to be presented to gain access to it”.

The young entrepreneurs in the audience found the discussion extremely engaging and that was well validated in the Open House post panel discussion, where questions were raised one after the other which the panellists answered in explanatory manner.

This event is supported by Sequoia Capital , Amazon Web Services and Google this year in association with CNBC TV 18 Young Turks who are our TV partners

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