The inaugural day of the eighth edition of TechSparks saw the powerful, mighty, and famous congregate to celebrate the real superheroes – entrepreneurs.
The impressive line-up of speakers from Priyank Kharge, Minister, IT and BT, Sci-tech and Tourism, Government of Karnataka, to Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog, to investors like Sanjay Swamy and Vani Kola, all hailed the spirit of entrepreneurs who make it matter daily.
The highlight of the day included the moment when Priyank Kharge and Amitabh Kant both exchanged a few words after their session. And one only hopes that the cause of the startups is strong enough to overcome the opposition that exists between the Centre and State.
While policy and regulation matters are important for startups, being inspired and motivated daily is yet another important facet. The second highlight of the day that made the mercury soar in the air-conditioned environs of the venue at Taj Vivanta, was the fireside chat between actor and entrepreneur Rana Daggubati and Shradha Sharma, Founder and CEO of YourStory.
Rana likened his role as an actor to a startup founder, saying actors never stop starting up and the proof is the weekly Friday box office response.
Emphasising his role as a storyteller first, he said the medium could be through a film, visual effects, or augmented reality. The actor fielded questions with ease, talking about technology, the success of ‘Bahubali’ films, and how he keeps so fit – “that is like office work for me - it’s my job!”
Earlier in the day, addressing an audience that numbered over a thousand, Priyank Kharge kick-started TechSparks 2017 with a quote by famous playwright George Bernard Shaw - “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
“All of you do matter, every single idea matters and the Government of Karnataka is committed to policy and execution,” he said. Shradha emphasised on this year’s theme of Make It Matter, and said it was important for startups and entrepreneurs to realise they do matter in the scheme of things.
Amitabh Kant listed out his government’s efforts to make India a disruptive nation, but added that Indian entrepreneurs often focus on the domestic market, whereas they should train their sights on the global market.
“Don’t think of the domestic market alone. The whole world is open to you, penetrate the global market.” He also said unless Indians think big and large, it will be difficult for companies here to scale up and grow. "No country has grown on the back of its domestic market – be it Japan, or South Korea, or China. These countries have become great exporting nations as their companies became competent."
Other sessions included a panel discussion on how fintech was making Digital India a reality, while The Label Life Founder Preeta Sukhtankar and Style Editor Sussanne Khan opened up about the challenges of building private labels in India.
Exhibitors at the event included Urban Ladder, LiveVR, Unocoin, LeanGears, Smoodies, 48East, Yoga Bar, Sattviko, Drinking Goodness, Alicia Souza, Startup Asia Berlin, WeWork, SmarWorks, and more.
“I’m a woman of grit, I will not give up,” said Nivruti Rai, General Manager, Intel India and VP, Data Center Group, Intel Corp, giving words to every entrepreneur’s sentiment. Nivruti graced the TechSparks stage to share her experiences in terms of creating a culture that is driven by innovation, and offered insightful advice about what a period of innovation brings about- taking risks and lots of failures.
She explained that innovation simply means the process of people creating value through the implementation of new ideas.
Abhishek Gopal, Co-founder & CEO, ThroughBit Technologies spoke about the blockchain business while Karan Virwani, Director, WeWork India, took the audience on a walk through the changed workspaces that would make the Monday trudge to work less painful.
Sanjay Swamy, the Managing Partner, Prime Venture Partners, who spoke about why investors were bullish about fintech companies, had the audience hanging on to his every work with his opening remark that he had brought his cheque book along!
In early 2014, a team of Axis Bank managers went to the board to study the startup ecosystem. Realising the growth of Flipkart and Snapdeal, the bank realised the importance of venture debt over equity and armed with this knowledge, it set up a venture debt team in May 2016 that has completed 17 deals over 15 months, with an average ticket size of Rs 12 crore.
“Debt can be complementary to equity when you raise capital; you do not lose your equity and you can use the money to scale up product or manage working capital,” said Vivek Adhav, Deputy Vice President, Corporate Banking at Axis Bank, at TechSparks2017.
Vani Kola, Managing Director, Kalaari Capital, spoke about the evolution of the Indian startup ecosystem, while other venture capitalists discussed what they were really thinking right now.
On the future of technology, Vibhore Sharma, CTO, Naukri.com said it is based on trust and barter where a user trusts the company he/she is giving the data to, while Amitabh Misra, Co-founder and CEO, GoFro.com said the team behind the product/technology matters the most.
Shradha also took turns talking to Sunil Sood, Managing Director & CEO, Vodafone India, who unveiled initiatives for startups, and Varsha Tagare, Managing Director, Qualcomm Ventures.
Radhika Aggarwal Founder and CBO of ShopClues.com spoke about all things nice, but also did not shy away from the tough topic of what happens when founders have differences. “Cut the cord – sooner than later,” was her advice.
Other sessions for the day took one from wearing right with Tata Cliq’s Souvik Bannerjee speaking on top 10 tech inventions in India in the next 12 months, while Ankit Nagori, Co-founder of CureFit, insisted we all get fit as people like him disrupted healthcare and fitness with technology.
The other sessions included the whys and wherefores of successful exits and accelerator successes, and Margit Hellwig-Boette, German Consul General, spoke about the making of an Indo-German Startup Corridor.
The second day of TechSparks2017, promises more learning, knowledge, and inspiration in equal measures. Find out the speaker line-up and sessions here.