TechSparks 2016: from an exhibitor’s lens

28th Oct 2016
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I thought of starting this article with a brief background on TechSparks, but then realised it’s just not needed – after all everybody knows about TechSparks.

In the middle of August, we were looking for events/conferences in India where we could promote our product, Aircto. We started off with MHRD, TiE and Headstart meetups and then landed up on YourStory’s TechSparks. I had been hearing about TechSparks for the last seven years but never had a chance to visit and experience it. Our team felt we should promote Aircto at the event and we got in touch with the TechSparks team. Their quick response to our queries was impressive, as was the manner in which they explained in detail how the procedure would work out for exhibitors. Convinced that we should definitely participate, and with our limited budget in mind (we’re bootstrapped, by the way), and we to go with the Bronze exhibitor plan.

exhibitors
Everything sounds great, right? Then came the challenging part - planning and execution.

Planning

Three weeks passed with all the chaos of building products and serving our customers, when we realised that we needed to come up with a plan. After a few hits and misses, we came up with a few ideas to exhibit at the event. We got placards, banners, goodies, notes from the programmer’s perspective on interviews, a small survey form where we had 3 objective questions related to hiring for visitors to fill out, and business cards.

1-swag

We also studied the background of our fellow exhibitors. We worked on our communication strategy and built a tiny survey form and got it up and running at http://techsparks.aircto.com/. A night before the event, we tweeted about it and got an instant “All the best” reply from Shradha Sharma. Vishal Gupta responded to our tweet with a glimpse of the exhibition area. We got super excited.

The Day and our exhibition stall

Finally, the day arrived. We reached Taj Vivanta in Yeshwanthpur, Bengaluru, the venue for TechSparks 2016. There was a huge crowd with a long queue at the registration counter. A lot of startup enthusiasts were present and the energy was amazing. The TechSparks team was very helpful and they guided us towards the auditorium and the exhibition area. We settled ourselves at our stall. And the magic started.

Soon, we had visitors all around inquiring about Aircto, how it works and we started answering their queries and showing them the product functionality on our iPads. Amid all the din and hustle, we had to pitch our product to the visitors within a very short span of 15 seconds. We learnt that it's a lot more challenging to pitch in-person than in any other mode. Our team panicked a bit when we had some questions for which we were not prepared, so we had a quick meeting to come up with the relevant answers to these questions.

Keynote speech

Meanwhile, I stepped into the auditorium just as the keynote by Shradha Sharma was about to start. Well timed, I told myself.

As usual, she didn’t disappoint. Her speech was powerful and very enlightening. She took us back to the start of the YourStory journey. Hats off to her and her team. It is inspiring the way she has pulled it off by keeping the company bootstrapped for a long time. With her speech, it was clear that the theme would be around “Is it time to look at the bootstrapped companies who are working out there but without much media glare?”

Some hits and misses

Back at our stall over several conversations with visitors, we realised that we had got a couple of things wrong:

  • Survey form: The interaction with the visitors to our stall was very limited and there was hardly any time for them to fill the form. Also, since there was no internet connection, we had to use our mobile internet which was really slow.
  • Visiting cards: We got generic visiting cards with just the company’s email address, but visitors wanted the name and number of the contact person.

We tried to rectify the above issues on Day 2. We replaced the online survey form with screenshots from the Aircto application with the workflow, and printed fresh visiting cards with more details.

Fireside chat with Shailendra Singh from Sequoia

Being an exhibitor, it becomes tough to attend all sessions and workshops. But I managed to listen to Shailendra Singh’s conversation with Shradha Sharma, where he candidly answered all questions. Some of the important points he made were refreshing.

Do not build products for investors. Build what you believe in!  (You can read more about this session here).

The second half of Day 1 was mostly spent talking to potential customers, fellow exhibitors and networking. The crowd was very sorted and educated in terms of products and startups. Interestingly, the potential leads were easily able to get what Aircto was and how it could be useful for them. Since this is a product which is very different and new in the recruitment space, not everyone gets what it is in one shot. So, this was a very welcome experience for us.

I also got a chance to say hello to Ankur Singla of Helpchat, someone whose blog I have been reading for quite some time now.

3-with-ankur-singla

Day 2:

Day 2 started with us setting up our stall again and greeting fellow exhibitors such as Targetbay, Glib, Inditip, Knowlarity and others, with whom we developed a good relationship. I have to say I was pretty amazed by the way in which these guys have built their products. It’s always good to meet your fellow passengers on this startup journey.

Again, we had a good number of visitors to our stall and we ended meeting prospects and collecting a lot of visiting cards.

4-visiting-cards

Right after lunch, I was anxiously waiting for Naveen Tiwari’s session. Though it was delayed, I think Naveen ensured that it was totally worth the wait. The first time I heard him speak was at the Kstart launch this year and I was totally impressed to know the way he built a super successful B2B product – InMobi. This time, he shared a very interesting analogy between cricket and startups.

While cricket has evolved from Test cricket to the 50-50 format followed by the 20-20 format, the scene with startups is just the opposite, with the pace slowing down when a startup graduates from the early-stage to the mid-stage of its journey. Thunderous applause from the audience made it evident that his speech really resonated with them. You should read more on this here. He is one of those people who makes you believe that the hard work never fails and you need to have a lot of patience to build a global product.

There were a lot of other speakers too but unfortunately I couldn’t listen to them. However, I heard that most of them were amazing, especially Kishore Biyani’s conversation with Shradha Sharma was very inspiring.

As the jam-packed, two-day event ended for us, we packed up our stall, said goodbye to friends we made during the event and wished them all success.

Overall, it was a great learning experience, both personally as well as from the product’s perspective. We got some insanely brilliant feedback on Aircto, got to meet new people who from the startup world, and got to hear some inspiring speeches from distinguished speakers.

TechSparks has helped us acquire some new customers and build our brand’s visibility. As a team, we feel more confident now that Aircto is something people really need. Exhibiting at TechSparks has indeed turned out be a valuable experience for us. We look forward to TechSparks 2017.

Long live Team TechSparks!

5-gift

Thanks to the TechSparks team for this nice gift.

 

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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