The 9th edition of YourStory’s TechSparks got off to a rousing start in Bengaluru. As the who's who of the Indian startup ecosystem descended at YourStory's annual extravaganza, the confluence of budding and seasoned entrepreneurs, business leaders, and policymakers made for an eventful first day -- one that was interspersed with many personal stories, much laughter, and a mindboggling number of handshakes.
As with all TechSparks events, there were launches too - only this year it wasn't just product and book launches.
The day began with the launch of the Karnataka State Government's Unnati programme by the state's Social Welfare Minister Priyank Kharge. The launch of this programme, aimed at encouraging startups that can bring about social change through new and emerging technologies, drew much praise and applause from all participants.
The minister also had the crowd in splits with his funny stories and witty responses. He enamoured all with Karnataka’s vision of taking the state’s keen interest in technology and innovation to the next level. Priyank spoke about Karnataka building its own “knowledge-based society,” announcing that the soon to be launched Karnataka Innovation Authority will help bridge the gap between technological advancements and legal framework. He said,
“We want Karnataka to be the leader in creating social impact with innovation. Innovation should be bred by the government.”
In short, the day was filled with many insights, jokes, anecdotes and much networking. Here are some of the highlights of the day.
BigBasket founders Hari Menon, V. S. Sudhakar, Abhinay Choudhari, and Vipul Shekhar joined the company's HR Head Hari T.N. and spoke about how they built the country’s most popular online grocery company, expanded to 25 cities, and raised $300 million in its series E funding.
“Two startups may look the same but where they spend the money is important to understand. Capital doesn’t give you an excuse to get away without having a model,” said Vipul Parekh, co-founder, BigBasket.
Hari Menon and Hari T.N. also launched their book “Cutting the Gordian Knot: India's Quest for Prosperity.” The book unravels many a burning question about delivering effective leadership and tackling the many "wicked" problems in India.
Go big or go home
The globally recognised poster boy of the Indian startup ecosystem known for his famous motto “Go big or go home” made his presence felt at the event. And how!
The man -- none other than Paytm Founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma -- captivated the crowd and received a standing ovation for his candid tales, witticisms, and personal insights into his journey into making Paytm the envy of all and sundry.
In a fireside chat with YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma, Vijay proved once again that he is a force to be reckoned with and that Paytm is well on its way to overtake everyone in its way.
Through the day, there was a lot of energy and interesting conversations with panels on blockchain, winning profitability and the future of fintech.
Divyank Turakhia took the stage to tell the audiences, “Everyday in the morning I get up and think of the 1,000 things what are the super-critical four or five things I want to focus on. And I plan my day accordingly. It always is in a descending order and I never drop the ball.” Divyank, who is known for scaling businesses to great heights, shared insights and experiences from his businesses Directi and media.net.
Impact of tech and innovation
Like any other sector, the Indian social sector is being massively disrupted by technology. Giriraj Singh, Minister of State MSMEs and Ram Mohan Mishra, Additional Secretary to the Government of India & Development Commissioner for the Ministry of MSME spoke about the changing face of MSMEs and the Indian government’s decision to support new entrepreneurs through various initiatives.
Roee Adler, SVP & Global Head, WeWork Labs wowed us all with his new found love - Bollywood! To plan for his first trip to India, Roee spent 100 days planning and talking to his Indian friends to know what to do and what to expect.
Unlike every other company striving for growth, there is one company that actually predicted its own doom. Shridhar Venkat, CEO of The Akshaya Patra Foundation is sure they would be obsolete by 2040. Why? Because there will be no hungry child left in India -- or at least he hopes so, at the rate at which Akshaya Patra is continuing to give wings to 1.5 million children’s dreams through mid-day meals. In a country where children are constantly dropping out of school to earn their own meal, the foundation simply clubbed the two problems with one solution.
Who will build the new India? Rajshri Deshpande, Actor, Activist & Founder, Nabhangan Foundation; Shaheen Mistri, Founder & CEO, Teach for India and Anuja Master Bose, Philanthropy Strategy Advisor, Villgro taught us that not every change is happening in the big cities. Social startups have begun to disrupt from the grassroot level, bringing about rapid positive change in various communities.
Conversations that stole the show
In a conversation with YourStory's Shradha Sharma, Ashish Bhasin, head of Dentsu Aegis for South Asia spoke about his path to success and how placing early bets on the sacred digital space helped, along with a voracious appetite for acquiring startups.
True to form, Founder and CEO of Future Group, Kishore Biyani wowed the crowd with his candour, sense of humour, and witty remarks. In a fireside chat with Shradha, Kishore spoke about the good old days when no one cribbed about lack of funding or boasted about getting it. When asked which startup he’d join if he just had to, the crowd erupted with applause as he responded, “Any startup that would pay me $30 million a year.”
Naturals Salons’ CEO and co-founder C. K. Kumaravel fondly remembered his father’s innovation -- the shampoo sachet that commands the eighth position in India Today's list of top 50 revolutions that changed India after independence.
“Entrepreneurs are the new-age freedom fighters,” says C. K. Kumaravel, CEO and co-founder, Naturals Salons and Spa.
While the sessions were packed and lit, the courtyard too was buzzing with action, dotted by dozens of stalls -- with their own innovations, stories and goodies. While Freshmenu served sandwiches, pita pockets, and Groot cookies to over 400 people, Sagacious Info Systems advised at least a 100 more on how to protect intellectual property and get stuff patented.
Goodness Beverage’s counter was brimming with fans who scrambled to get bottles of hazelnut coffee, mixed berry yoghurt smoothie and chocolate oats smoothie. Bike rental startup Bounce attracted more visitors with a lucrative offer -- a 50 percent discount coupon! Not to be left behind, FABgetaways packed a neat little hamper that included stationery, a cute coffee mug, a luggage tag, a discount voucher and a special booklet of their services.
Missed these stalls today? Bump into them tomorrow. They might even amp up their hampers and vouchers. One can hope!
And we’re not done just yet! There’s more to come tomorrow. Join us to know why Goa might be the next destination for entrepreneurs and how AI will power the next generation of doctors. For the full agenda for Day 2, head here. Our social media team is on high adrenaline and broadcasting the whole event post by post, tweet by tweet. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for a blow by blow coverage!