If organising college festivals and events for five years in Mumbai has taught me anything, it is that Murphy's law will rain down on you- literally, in this case- to test your resilience on D-Day. The clouds- in a sky that had been clear as day the entire week- started to gather on the eve of TechSparks Mumbai, and decided to shower us with uncertainty as dawn broke. But even as our planning decided to deviate from its usual clockwork-like nature, the spirit of the Mumbaikar- and the Mumbai entrepreneur, at that- stayed at its agile best, as entrepreneurs, aspirants and students ploughed through the deluge to make the most of the especially candid insights and experiences of the who's who of India's tech ecosystem.
Keen listeners were ready to let things get "real", in what became evident as the theme of YourStory's flagship tech gala in Mumbai. Mohan Ram applied the best of his observations to scale the cloud infrastructure company, DigitalOcean, and become a global leader- and was ready to take the next batch of leaders in the room through his journey of a typical business life cycle.
Sujal Shah of MissMalini fame, candidly spilled the beans on what led Freecultr to the pinnacle, and what led to its downfall, to help the aspirants build, grow and monetise.
As funding becomes the buzzword, Shubhankar Bhattacharya, a star VC at Kae Capital, taught a cheering crowd how to pitch like a real entrepreneur, shuddering as he described the ghosts of irksome entrepreneur pitches past. Sahil Singh of Zendesk detailed the three major challenges in delivering a top-class customer experience. Suyash Katyani unabashedly revealed all the hacks he stumbled upon as the marketing maestro scaled Purplle to become a market leader while spending 10 percent of what their competitors blew up on marketing. Dhruvil Sanghvi, founder of Loginext, spoke to the audience, breaking the third wall, to answer all their apprehensions on how to build a profitable enterprise and SaaS startup, and acquire a massive customer base in less than three years.
Here is the best of Maximum City's Tsparks- a session with maximum revelations and maximum learning!
Mohan Ram talks about the life cycle of a business, which undoubtedly starts with a great idea and a killer instinct to follow it through. He says he swears by Eric Ries’ theory- “If you have to ask whether you have Product/Market Fit, the answer is simple: you don’t.” This school of thought, however, will only do wonders at the growth stage. At the scaling stage, he says, “There is huge value that comes out of predictability.” After crossing your stealth mode, focus on sustainability by collecting constant data and successfully reapplying your successful experiments to make sure your growth spurts are replicated manifold.
Sujal Shah, CXO of MissMalini, once the entrepreneur behind one of India’s biggest fashion wear brands FreeCultr and now CXO at MissMalini, candidly narrates his understanding of the ecosystem, saying, “Storytelling is a massive part of your success.” At every stage of entrepreneurship, you, yourself and your brand, need to have a story. Why you are where you are, and why your brand is what it is.” He says the art of storytelling will be a skill an entrepreneur will have to put to constant use– while raising money and pitching to investors, while finding partners, while hiring a team and interviewing employees. “Who is going to follow you? Everyone who believes in your story.”
Well, YourStory sure says, ‘Amen to that!’
Shubhankar of Kae Capital spills the beans on some of his most excruciatingly boring pitch meetings, and how they all had the same faux pas, that entrepreneurs must be mindful of. He finally told the crowd, mostly comprising of aspirants and definitely prospective pitchers, how to pitch like a ‘real’ entrepreneur. A strict don’t, he says, is beating around the bush.
Small talk with generic statements about politics is not a good idea. People today have ADHD– time is at a premium! Get straight to the point.”
An extension of that is not to make vague requests, or rather, don’t plead or “ask for support for my project” at all- you’ll come across as desperate, and it will establish an unhealthy power relation even if the deal goes through.
As another fundamental principle of conversation, don’t use buzzwords like unit economics, cockroach, unicorn, and AI. Repeating these buzzwords makes one strike others as unoriginal and gimmicky, and distracts the listener from the crux of the matter.
Sahil says the new wave of e-commerce startups and digital aggregators stormed the frame with a single, small-minded approach– to acquire customers and get them to use their service once. This approach works at the growth stage, but would fail to scale– at least, if one wants to scale profitably and sustainably. Customers are acquired through sweeping deals, but retained through loyalty programmes, like the various schemes launched by major aggregators, namely Amazon Prime, and, now, Uber will be following suit, offering its regular users monthly schemes and offers on rides.
He says that the aim is to make your most prized customers the biggest evangelists of your brand.
All marketing and advertising channels are limited, crowded and competitive. A customer’s endorsement, on the contrary, is unbiased, candid, and heralds you as the clear king.
An old timer at TechSparks, it wasn’t very long ago that Loginext's Sanghvi was in the audience, and soon after, stealing the show onstage. He thus had the unique distinction of being closest to the aspirants that made up the audience, with respect to their journeys, experiences and challenges. So, not only did he humanise the man under the spotlight on the stage, but also the big fish clients that all B2B startups yearn to serve, having rubbed shoulders with most of them through Loginext. If a customer facing B2C startup is easier to start, it is difficult to scale, but it is the exact opposite in a B2B startup– it is very difficult to find a start, but a lot easier to scale. “The business community is a well-knit one, and refers generously and whole-heartedly, if they like your user experience. Believe me, the CEOs have their own WhatsApp groups, and talk about everything under the sun. If you manage to impress one, it will spread like wildfire. Thus, focus your energies on giving the client an unparalleled experience, especially in a B2B startup, as it will have a multiplier effect.”
Beaty products and services marketplace Purplle, says Suyash, has grown to the top while spending a mere 10 percent of what their competitors did. The first step to grow is taking complete control of your data and treating it like a first class citizen– and this data implies not just conversions and transactions, but every little activity and event or impression that a user makes on your portal. “We are collecting 150 million impressions at unbelievably low costs,” he lets on, inviting gasps. His hacks are simple– Don’t reinvent the wheel.
There are great tools available; leverage open source, leverage managed services, leverage serverless technologies, and leverage cloud.
Book your spot for TechSparks Grand Finale, 30 Sep-Oct 1, Taj Vivanta, Bengaluru here!
A big shoutout to all our sponsors - Zendesk, Axis Bank, Sequoia Capital India Advisors , Digital Ocean, Microsoft, AWS, Akamai, Target, Verisign, Kerala Startup Mission, Brand Launch Centre, Tork and Blink.