Dozens of startups in Chandigarh – and from cities beyond, such as Dehradun – gathered for an evening of networking, expert insights and case studies at the TechSparks 2016 roadshow, hosted by ClickLabs.
The future of IoT, payment gateways, health services innovation and other topics featured as well. But the bulk of the discussion was on how startups should move past proof-of-concept stage to scale phase and reinvention beyond.
Founders need to be optimistic and perseverant for the long run and tough journey of entrepreneurship. “An entrepreneur has a ‘never give up’ attitude, technical proficiency, and good arithmetic skills,” said KS Bhatia, Founder of PumpKart.
“A true entrepreneur is a dreamer and a doer. There is no elevator to success – take the stairs,” Bhatia said. It is best if founders approach investors only after proving their business model, and not in the exploratory stage.
Investor money should be used wisely and frugally. “I knew a startup which burned investors’ money - Rs 185 crores - on salaries within a year and shut down,” cautioned Bhatia. Focus should be on revenues and profits, which may call for refining the business model as well.
“We have combined products and services in our e-commerce platform for water pumps. We have pivoted from the B2C model to B2B, and are targeting the government sector also,” said Bhatia. Scaling up also calls for toughness in performance. “Have the guts to remove under-performing employees, customers, partners, and suppliers,” added Bhatia.
The case study of auto-rickshaw driver aggregation company Jugnoo, headquartered in Chandigarh, shows how it is possible to tap India’s grassroots market and still have a profitable model.
“We help customers with easy affordable transportation. There is great pride in building a profitable business which also includes people at the bottom of the pyramid,” said Prachi Sharma, Head of Finance, Jugnoo.
Starting off in Chandigarh also helped the company stay away from the ‘revenue burn’ model of some taxi aggregators in Tier 1 cities. “We are now in 35 cities, and 100 are targeted in 2017. We serve 40,000 users a day. We have 3.5 million registered users, and 12,000 auto drivers on our site,” said Prachi proudly.
“Some of our auto drivers make Rs 25,000 a month, unheard of in this industry,” said Prachi. Continuous innovation is also the key to scale, she said, reeling off a number of innovations: goods delivery, offline booking, and even meals.
It’s one thing to have product-market fit – it’s another thing altogether to pitch your story to attract investors, partners and employees. “The startup pitch should focus on the problem, team, business model, traction and financials,” advised Vineet Khurana, VP of Chandigarh Angel Network.
The team should have complimentary skillsets, and be able to demonstrate a revenue stream with traction. The founder should show the passion and diversity of the team through a compelling story. “You have to be a good storyteller; tell a good story, not just present slides,” said Vineet. The story should include facts, data and anecdotes.
Pitches may last for 10-20 minutes, but attention is not evenly distributed for that duration. “Use the first five minutes to grab your investor’s interest for the next 15 minutes,” said Vineet. “Be confident but be humble. Be proactive in your follow-ups after networking, meetups and pitches,” he summed up.
Every city needs a good ecosystem for entrepreneurs to grow the startup movement, and it is startups themselves who need to pitch in and build such networks along with government and industry support.
For example, Startup Elves has helped a number of startups in their entrepreneurial journey, said Karan Checker, Founder of Startup Elves. “We have helped startups in sectors such as health-tech, social networks, and even car servicing,” said Karan.
Startups present at TechSparks Chandigarh included YouCare, XORlabs, Signity, ValueApp, UWeMo, and Inventis – along with a number of aspiring student entrepreneurs. They mapped out the strengths and challenges of Chandigarh as a startup hub.
Life in Chandigarh has less hassles than metro cities; there is a strong entrepreneurial culture, good educational institutes and lower talent costs. However, there is also a talent shortage, and not enough events to bring entrepreneurs together.
YourStory and TechSparks hope to bridge some of these gaps and instil more inspiration and networking into the Chandigarh startup ecosystem.