Chennai RoundTable Panelists Give Thoughtful Views on Scaling Up

What is the measure of scale? This question often props in mind when a company goes through metamorphosis from a startup to an emerging company. Or how long can you call yourself a startup? Perceptions differ. The number of employees, operating in many countries, having a revenue multiple times than investment (or for better a great return on investment) or offering diverse services or products (compared to when you started up) all these could be measures of scale. Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthy perhaps knows this a bit. He said since TechSparks is in third year, we need to be watchful, as it is a crucial growth phase of the event.

In the panel that included an investor (V.T. Bharadwaj, MD, Sequoia Capital), two tech giants (Kingsley Wood, Amazon Web Services; Dipesh, Intel), two hugely successful entrepreneurs (Venkat Rangan, iNexus; Vaidyanathan, Classle), the discussions took interesting turns as each panellist dwelt upon issues from their perspectives. Experience often says that the bigger you think the better you become. Vaidyanathan said a mental picture of where he wants to go is the focal point of his scale. The crux of start-ups, people, is solved differently. His experience of just pitching to investors during early stages gave him ample free advice, though not investment. Then investors cold called him and people wanted to join his startup. This happens along the way, in his opinion.

Venkat Rangan’s experience is different. He had to persist with a HR consultant to convince that guy about the health of his offerings. Being a non-techie didn’t matter as he had a techie co-founder. They both focused on solutions to problems and used technology as a tool to solve them. “You should not be emotionally attached to technology” was his piece of advice. Today, iNexus, which provides services in the BFSI domain, has over 6000 customers. The analogy could be a small stream building up momentum and after a point of inflexion turning into a flood. That’s how good companies grow. When one customer adopts your product or buys your service and that is appealing, it builds a huge ecosystem of customers wanting a similar product or service. If you manage to be there at the right time to satisfy the customer need, you just soar up the sky.

V.T. Bharadwaj measures start-ups differently. For him, customer adoption is important. “The number one metric for us to measure scale is satisfied customers at very early stage,” he emphasized. Because he knows the pain of paying customers in India. That’s the reason they pick and choose companies that offer services that customers adopt without much queries in their head. His take is “It's not just the idea, how you monetize your idea is also part of the idea.”

Kingsley Wood of Amazon points out, “Technology as a tool vs Technology as a focus area is very important to understand.” The enabling feature of technology is it helps you go global. Now with the advent of Cloud, the cost of technology investment has come down drastically. Being a service provider perhaps helps Wood understand the scale of businesses that he has seen grow through AWS.

The greatest piece of advice was, “Do not ever get balked down by the challenges you face.”

Startup Showcase

As TechSparks goes local with the regional roundtables, the need to recognize some start-ups doing great work was recognized. So 1000Lookz, HmmApp, Localever, Lema Labs, Metrosmith, and PlanText were given opportunities for an “elevator” pitch before the panel and the audience. As the word got out, many eager entrepreneurs swarmed near the podium eager to tell the audience what they have on offer. So we had to accommodate them. Maybe this could be a popular part of the event – to know what work has happened on ground. Startups are dear to us. So we had gifted a offering as a memento to our esteemed panellists.

As the event drew to a close, the crowd gathered over snacks to network. Even the threatening rains relented a bit to make way for the audience to get back home without a hassle.

—Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, Chief Evangelist


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