Mentorship, workshops, clinics: how TiE Bangalore helped entrepreneurs thrive through four months of the pandemic
The world turned upside down for India when the national coronavirus lockdown was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi exactly four months ago, on March 24, 2020. The country has lurched through a series of lockdowns since then, upending lives and businesses.
Life may never be the same again, but life must go on. A range of entrepreneurship support organisations has stepped up to the unprecedented challenge. These include TiE Bangalore, the local chapter of the global network called The Indus Entrepreneurs, founded in Silicon Valley in 1992.
“We have conducted over 70 events in the last four months, with over 10,000 participants. The webinars had participants ranging from 100 to 600 in number,” explains TiE Bangalore’s senior manager Snigdha Kundu, in a chat with YourStory.
“We have partnered with a wide range of players to bring maximum value to the ecosystem,” she adds. These include accelerators, incubators, government, VCs, corporates, startups, and other ecosystem enablers.
Support for entrepreneurs
Special webinar series included a five-part Well-Being Toolkit, and a five-part series with Blume Ventures. Topics addressed were Recasting the Business Paradigm, MentoRise, Electric Vehicles, Future of Retail, Startup Survival Checklist, IoT, HealthTech, Funding, and Legal Aspects. Mixer sessions were also organised with AB InBev, SAP, SocGen, NetApp, Lowe's Innovation Labs, Cisco, and Derbi Foundation.
Almost 15-20 events are being held online each month by TiE Bangalore. Innovative formats have included Investor Reverse Pitch, Ask Me Anything, Alumni Meetup, and even Beer Talk - Leadership Connect.
Other informative topics have been Customer Trends, Dealing with Debt, Atmanirbhar Bharat Decoded, Managing Pivots, Agile Transformation, Business Analytics, Optimising Communication, and HR Tech.
“TiE chapters in various cities have also come together for programmes to join forces during the lockdown,” she adds. For example, a first-ever online collaboration was held between TiE Bangalore and TiE Delhi-NCR charter members to brainstorm on ways of helping B2B SaaS startups.
An outcome of the session was the B2B Sales Academy, a comprehensive multi-series of hands-on workshops, case studies, and in-depth knowledge sharing. It features practitioners and experts, and is open to all startups and B2B businesses in India.
This academy is offered as an eight-week programme, covering key facets of sales in the new normal. It spans activities from top of the funnel to post-sale customer success, including changes in COVID times and best practices to adopt.
“Another exciting initiative is the 2020 cohort of TiE Young Entrepreneurs to nurture an entrepreneurial mindset among the youth, with 46 enterprising high-school students,” Snigdha adds.
“We also have a cohort of TiE Women, a global initiative to foster economic growth and job creation by women entrepreneurs. It provides them with education, mentoring, networking, and funding opportunities locally and worldwide,” she adds.
Challenges and opportunities
Vijetha Shastry, Executive Director of TiE Bangalore, explains their focus these days is on business continuity, funding support, and quality mentoring. Mentoring in technology and business growth is offered by charter members and partners.
“Specific clinics are being held on legal and funding aspects of business continuity. We have Investor Connect Programmes where the founders can pitch to investors and receive tips on the process,” he adds.
Despite the pandemic challenges, some startup sectors are doing well. These include healthcare startups who are working on telemedicine, ed-tech startups in remote learning, gaming industry, and SaaS-focused players, Vijetha observes.
The challenge on the handful of staff of TiE Bangalore itself has been tough. “Touch wood, our team composition stays the same as we are actively delivering to our startups, members and partners,” Vijetha proudly says.
A key disruption has been that no physical events or meetings have been held for months, with no change likely for the next few months as well. “We are using all the digital platforms for engagement. Adding value to our stakeholders is the core area of activity now. We will not be complacent or slacken on that. The team is putting in a huge effort,” he adds.
He also advises startups and government to engage more closely. “Now, more than ever, the government must get startups business opportunities and joint venture opportunities in Karnataka and beyond,” he advises. Grants for activities like global expansion will play an important bridge role. Startups can also assist government agencies in healthcare and education.
Advice and tips
TiE Bangalore draws on its extensive network of experienced professionals and founders to offer a wealth of insights to entrepreneurs.
“Founders have seen how the upheaval of the last four months has made them focus on every single expense. At the same time, they have to innovate on remote selling, and finding local partners to implement and sell their products or services,” Vijetha observes.
“Do not stop engaging with customers and potential investors. Do try and complete your patent filing and product development so that when markets open up you are ready for every opportunity,” he adds.
It is important for startups to pivot but not completely go off-track. “Talk to customers and address their gaps. Speedy implementation is key, and collection of payments in time. Do research on what are possible new industries where your team can innovate and win clients,” Vijetha recommends.
Mental and physical health are also key to survive, thrive, and revive. “Read more to gain more knowledge. Keep sane work timings and know when you are getting too stressed,” he cautions.
“Follow a routine for exercise, yoga and meditation. Good music and feel-good books are amazing for mental fitness,” Vijetha signs off.