UK’s Web Mission 2013 finds answers to tough questions about Indian tech market

15th Feb 2013
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Technology players from around the world continue to seek markets and partnerships with tech companies in India – including, this week, companies from the UK. YourStory.in played host to the participants of Web Mission 2013 -- an entrepreneur-led mission organised by The Long Run Venture and The Co-Sponsorship Agency with the Technology Strategy Board, UK Trade and Investment, and a few private sector sponsors. The delegation included 16 early stage high growth companies from the UK who have solutions for urban and rural India; the featured companies were in energy, health and enterprise. These UK companies are in Bangalore since February 9, followed by New Delhi, to meet potential customers, connect with innovators and entrepreneurs and develop their know-how of the market.

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UKTI along with YourStory.in organized a networking evening and panel discussion at Taj Vivanta. Shradha Sharma, chief editor of YourStory.in, moderated a high-powered panel on VCs, opportunities in India and the entrepreneurial space. The panel comprised TCM Sundaram, founder & MD, IDG Ventures India; Sanjay Anandaram, venture partner, SeedFund; Sriram V Iyer, co-founder & CTO, United Mobile Apps, and Anand Daniel, principal, Accel Partners India.

The discussion kicked off with tech and business opportunities in India. “Slowing down of the Western economy made NRIs move back to India. Today, there is a good confluence of talent within the country and those coming from outside,” explained Sanjay. Growing domestic consumption, a billion-sized population and a huge youth demographic all make India an attractive market for businesses. Anand shared his own example of how Indian entrepreneurs today have lot more confidence and are able to build global companies while based in India. According to the panellists, major local opportunities exist in education, healthcare, enterprise and mobility. These sectors do have some challenges, but the opportunities in the space far exceed the concerns.

“Entrepreneurs are finding their opportunity is e-commerce and enterprise,” observed TCM Sundaram. Sriram drew the attention of the audience to the problem of scaling in India, because of the difficulty in accessing markets and raising funds for business. Sanjay suggested that companies deliver a good product for masses within the country rather than be dependent on exports for growth. Though there has been a spurt in product startups in India, the panellists also expressed concern about the lack of attention paid to design and ergonomics. Sanjay said design in India has long been ignored because users were happy with basic products and did not have a need for good design products. “We are happy drinking simple coffee and don’t need a Starbucks which is all about experience,” joked Sanjay.

TCM Sundaram also made an important point on how the market for small, niche products is finding footholds in India, though bigger needs still dominate product decisions. For example, there is a company that has built a product which delivers movie reviews in audio form to customers in cities at Tier 2 levels and beyond. Customers in this market are mostly feature phone users with basic devices. “There a huge demand for entertainment in this market at an affordable price and this company has plugged the gap,” said Sanjay. He also spoke about how some market research companies have smartly used the “missed call syndrome” prevalent in India to mine for data from customers.

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Shradha Sharma moderates the panel. (L-R) TCM Sundaram, IDG Ventures; Sanjay Anandaram, SeedFund; Sriram V Iyer, United Mobile Apps, and Anand Daniel, Accel Partners India

The discussion ended with a lively round of Q&A from the British entrepreneurs, where the delegation had a volley of questions for the panel to find answers on how to do business in India. Topics covered included the level of investment needed in early stage ventures, scope of the market for education tech enabling platforms in India, and ways of navigating the Indian market to build contacts and get businesses here.

Next, the UK delegation is headed to New Delhi for another round of learning, about what tech and policy background the Indian capital has to offer. YourStory.in will continue to work delegations from the UK and other countries to explore matchmaking opportunities for their tech players, investors, and trade ministries.

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