If anybody is still wondering why they should start up in Pune, the TechSparks auditorium will serve as the answer. In the notoriously experimental mood that we are always in, we decided to see what happens when we take a flagship tech-centric event, add it to a city that has somewhat falteringly yet flamboyantly clung on to its reputation of being the tech hub of the country, and sprinkle in some homegrown techies who have gone on to make billions while building their businesses on home soil and are ready to spill their magic beans. And finally, we set up this little experiment on a bright sunny afternoon on a working day.
Unsurprisingly, the result was a full house of patrons ,past, present and future, of India’s burgeoning tech movement, in the avatar of students, entrepreneurs, startup owners and aspirants, freelancers, coders, developers, and design enthusiasts. With a turnout of 150, the room looked like it was ready for some serious growth hacking and deliberation.
Tork Motorcycles’ Kapil Shelke’s story of building India's first e-motorcycle perfectly set the tone for an evening meant to inspire passion and innovation. And right on the money was Shoptimize’s Vivek Phalak’s talk on how startups can leverage technology to emerge the winner.
CarIQ founder Sagar Apte’s decision to educate the IT-crowd about the monetisation of big data served as a great reminder of the wonders technology is capable of in collecting data, and how those can be capitalised on. The need for building and scaling great customer experience was also emphasised by Sahil Singh of our illustrious presenting company Zendesk.
As Mohan Ram, the India business head of our beloved sponsors Digital Ocean laid the blueprint for all startups at the idea and growth stage, focusing on the typical business lifecycle, Sahil reminded the room of how to build their products, laying equal emphasis on customer care and revenues.
Mukul Kumar of PubMatic got candid about his greatest mistakes, which doubled up as his greatest lessons as well, and VRSaaS’ Ashay Agarwal ended the evening with an enthralling talk on one of the most exciting futuristic technologies that India is all ready to lap up- VR as a Service.
For those of you who missed out, here are the key learnings, revelations and moments from TSparks Pune 2016
- Automate, Automate and Automate
Vivek of Shoptimize, an end-to-end e-commerce solution that includes creation of the online store and integration with payment gateways and logistics, true to the concept of his company, urged early stage startups to think about scaling and scalability right from Day Zero– and the only way he says this can be achieved, is through automation, and eliminating all manual processes that can be done automatically. “Don’t be scared to experiment with your technology,” he says.
- Sagar Apte of CarIQ – Big Data lets you dream bigger, only if you know how to utilise it optimally.
We’ve heard these phrases over and over– “Big Data is the holy grail,” “Big Data is the next big thing”, but these phrases do not point out the great chances of failure if your analytics are faulty, and if you do not know how to make inferences from your findings, or how to apply them to build better. According to him, big data can be utilised for three things. First, to identify and segregate good customers from the bad ones– like the study by a US-based insurance company that proved through empirical research that people with better credit scores tend to be in fewer accidents, and hence, can be offered lucrative schemes for their insurance policies.
Second, big data leads to newer and evolved business models– For example, the trucking business that offered packages to their customers that allowed them to pay only for how much the tyres were used, once they realised that tyres were a major expenditure for cargo trucks. Last but not least – Big Data is directly proportional to how much your customer can derive value from your product – like the two-wheeler taxi aggregators in China that double up as errand-runners for customers when the cab is idle.
“Big data is the future only if you know how to go big with the knowledge,” he says.
- The rise of the conscious consumer
Vidhur Bhagat, Account Executive at Zendesk brought some diversity into the tech gala by emphasising how, at the end of the day, great customer service is what will decide how much you can scale. Describing the new-age millennial customer, Vibhor reveals that they are increasingly conscious and also possess a conscience. 74 percent of the millennials of this young nation prefer to work for a company with strong CSR and sound values, 82 percent will recommend it, and 64 percent will invest in it. So, whether your business is sustainable, eco-friendly, gives back to society, and treats its customers and labourers fairly, are all business decisions that may make or break your success story.
- “Felt like lifting the Indian Flag at Rio”
Everything starts off with a dream, says Kapil Shelke, the college dropout and reject at his own father’s business, who went on to build, from the ground up, India’s first electric motorbike, with some really wicked specs. In a key, watershed moment for the room full of makers, he narrated his story about winning the world’s premier electric motorsport race series, TTXGP, with his prototype. “It felt just like lifting the Indian flag at Rio!”
- Mohan Ram of DigitalOcean: A very important step we miss in the business life cycle is patience
When one talks about the virtues and prerequisites for entrepreneurs, and even the typical life cycle of their business, one forgets to mention just how much time, in the interim, is spent in absolute patience, waiting to reap the harvest of the hard work sown. “That the entrepreneur must be in constant problem-solving mode is overrated– Rome wasn’t built in a day. After every stage, be it after the idea stage, its validation, raising investment, or scaling, patience is what makes every transition smooth,” says Mohan.
- Mukul Kumar of PubMatic: “You” are the sales team
Considering that Pubmatic , a programmatic advertising platform for publishers and brands, has grown from a base of 1,000 to 35 million online ads a day, Mukul Kumar, co-founder and Senior VP, knows a thing or two about building a robust customer base. “'You' are the sales team for your brand, at least in the initial leg,” he says. Don’t make a hard sell and talk just about your product while interacting with your consumer; solve their problems and pain-points. Make it about them, not yourself," he says.
- Ashay Agarwal of VR Argus: “VR is here”
Exuding optimism about the new VR wave that is taking India’s tech scene by storm, Ashay Agarwal, entrepreneur, product marketing consultant and data junkie, and consultant to Indiacom, comments on how Indiacom is democratising VR by making it a scalable and cost effective solution. He lists the main challenges before VR, primarily, how it gets lonely for the user sometimes, which is a problem innovators are constantly working to solve through shared viewing technology. But, the democratisation of VR will truly mark its arrival as a technology, not just a product. E-commerce portals will be able to adapt it into their offerings, providing a ‘try before you buy’ experience for viewers, and soon, it could also become a complete C2C offering, wherein people could simply patch together VR videos for informal uses like gifting and presentations.
- Baishampayan Ghose of Helpshift: Don’t take startup advice
“There are no dummies guides to starting up; no successful startup was built by reading books or listening to gurus,” he says, encouraging the audience to make their own mistakes and build their own cultures at their offices. Be opinionated about your culture, and make sure, “we do things this way” becomes a statement thrown around regularly around your office.
Talks weren’t delivered; this was an afternoon where stories were told, and connections were explored. The aim of TechSparks is, after all, to raise technology to the pedestal and make it a means to connect billions.
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.