“Innovation on the Customer Acquisition Front is needed in India,” Subinder Khurana, Angel Investor

17th Sep 2012
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"Subinder

Subinder Khurana is a veteran of two successful ventures -- EZPower Systems and marketRx, which were eventually acquired and merged into Oracle and Cognizant respectively -- before turning to mentoring and investing. Currently sharing ties with the Entrepreneurship Nurturing Program (ENP) at TiE, he was also a mentor for The NASSCOM Emerge program for over four years. He has also been an advisor to several innovative startups, the most well-known being Druva Software. He now focuses his acumen on improving the structure and process of mentoring to startups via TiE.

TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) has been a big proponent of the startup ecosystem in India for long and has taken many initiatives to support entrepreneurs. In a recent development, TiE Institute has been organizing a series of workshops to provide resources to budding entrepreneurs who’re oblivious to how the system works. “What we found was that Entrepreneurs get a lot of inspiration and high level ‘Gyaan’, good ideas on how to start up but very little guidance on operational issues such how to build up a sales force, or sales channel, read a financial statement etc,” says Subinder about the TiE Institute initiative. A valid point, many entrepreneurs aren’t sure about many issues which are essential while you’re starting up. “Think of it as a mini MBA for entrepreneurs. The big difference it makes is that they cannot be too theoretical. The need is to be much more practical. We have as much theory as required, and are much more practical. The practical advice needs to come from other entrepreneurs.” adds Subinder. While TiE Institute organizes a workshop every other month, it is holding 5 such workshops during the upcoming TiECon in Delhi. These workshops will run parallel to the main conference sessions during the two days. These sessions were packed last year, and are in high demand this year as well. Each workshop is conducted by a panel of at least two: one functional expert and one experienced entrepreneur. The structure ensures that the functional depth and business practicalities are balanced, while the panel focuses on real, pragmatic advice that the audience can start applying in their daily work.

Having a background in technology and analytics, Subinder has these areas as his focus. “Analytics is a part of every venture one looks at now. Just like technology, analytics has to be a core competency in every venture. The other thing I find very exciting is anything that organizes a market, or innovates in sales & marketing,” says Subinder about the trends.

Talking about online business has to lead to eCommerce. There seems to be two strong directions about how one can go forward; either sell everything or sell hyper niche. Commenting on this, Subinder says, “The common trend in E-Commerce is to sell everything; any hyper niche is subject to market creation and the scale game. The market is still getting created. A lot of investment is happening but the amount of capital required does not lend itself well to a niche play. The Niche plays need to be more capital efficient. The market is still premature for a niche play.” Adding onto this, he says, “The other thing being missed out is innovation on the customer acquisition front. Distribution, market relations and merchandising have seen innovations but customer acquisition is still largely done the old fashioned way. Very few ventures are using innovative techniques to reduce acquisition cost. I have the privilege of being involved in two such ventures currently, and am very excited about their potential. Customer acquisition is where the killer costs are. Take away the acquisition cost and the venture becomes far more efficient.”

Having started a venture in the US, Subinder is aware of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Giving insights into the differences, Subinder says, “One thing I have found is that Good Execution is a must have in the US while it is a plus here in India. It should be a hygiene factor and the bare minimum required, but good execution is still a differentiator in India; I see lapses in execution in well-known companies, whether in customer service, fulfillment or operational execution. Entrepreneurs should pay more attention to that. eCommerce sites have a good front end but fail on delivery, timely delivery, quality of the product shipped.” There are a lot of opportunities in India today in just the basics, organizing the market and getting the solution to the customer helps create a venture- believes Subinder.

The TIE institute primarily came up to address the common challenges Indian Entrepreneurs face. “After mentoring with the NASSCOM Emerge forum for four plus years, I along with other members of the panel felt that most entrepreneurs had some common basic needs. Some questions and problems kept coming up in the interview sessions which we could almost predict. The TIE institute was born from that experience.”

“Indian Entrepreneurs are getting more mature but still need to improve. They have gotten better. Every few days I meet someone with a very exciting and innovative idea,” informs Subinder and advises young entrepreneurs to Just Go For It! There is no perfect plan or timing.

[Check out the Top 30 tech product startups that emerged at Techsparks this year]

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