Robosoft and 99Games’ Rohith Bhat shares his formula for building a startup in tier-II/III cities
When Rohith Bhat moved Robosoft Technologies' base from Mumbai to Udupi back in 1998, many considered the idea of building a successful business out of a Tier-III city outrageous due to the lack of funding, and the notion that they do not have many opportunities to scale. Entrepreneurs also thought that it’s difficult to find talent in a Tier-III city, and that exits have become a distant dream.
But, Rohith decided to look beyond these misconceptions and persevered behind Robosoft Technologies. Recently, a Japanese firm exited the company with over $100 million.
“It is a total myth that you cannot build a business out of a Tier-II or III city,” said Rohith. If you focus and persevere enough, almost anything is possible, he believes.
Building a business in a Tier-III city
Rohith agrees that building a startup out of a Tier-III city like Udipi it is a different ball game than say a Tier-I city like Bengaluru.
“If you are a fit-for-the-street business like a food or grocery delivery service, you will never fare well in Udipi. Then, Bengaluru has to be your city of choice. However, if your business is entirely virtual like Robosoft or 99Games, you can build almost anywhere. Geography does not matter.”, said Rohith.
Firstly, Rohith emphasises the need to have a strong idea. That has to be backed by two or three strong founders, and if they can show early traction, investors will run after them rather than the other way around. Rohith also pointed out that the ecosystem has become more accommodating post-COVID-19 as people have started accepting pitches from entrepreneurs hailing from small towns.
Finding talent in Tier-III cities
Rohith does not deny that finding talent in Tier-II or III cities is a challenge because a lot tends to get concentrated in Tier-I cities. But the way around that obstacle is to work behind the branding of your company.
“You need to pay attention to what people think about your company. You also need to provide extravagant amenities like a picturesque location or a beautiful office space. Because talented people do not want to come to small towns. However, working for you might become a fascination.”, advises Rohith.
In small towns, entrepreneurs need to build a local brand first and they also need to keep talking about their work. That is how Robosoft scaled while operating out of Udipi and 99Games is also following a similar path.
The secret to starting a B2C company in India
India has been producing a lot of B2B startups in recent years. But a similar trend is not visible in the B2C space. Rohith, however, is a firm believer in B2C companies and backs the idea despite the difficulties.
While building 99Games, Rohith acknowledges that the experience the team brought from Robosoft Technologies helped. Some background in the industry just gets things along. Once you reach a certain size, you need to start worrying about what the press of foreign countries are saying about you if you intend to enter that marketplace.
Rohith mentions, “In the initial days, we wanted to be on US papers. So, we started attending international conferences and initiated conversations with a variety of people. That is how we got our first promotion in international press and customers started coming in despite our Tier-III location.”
Discovering market opportunities
In the end, how do you decide as an entrepreneur that this is the space where I need to start up? Rohith suggests that always look for customer pain points, and then try to solve that with unique solutions.
“When iPhone started coming out, their customers complained about not having zoom or flash features. We build those features for them and that is how Robotsoft grew,” adds Rohith.
To know more listen to the podcast here
01:50 - Starting the entrepreneurial journey with Apple
05:00 - New opportunities: Metaverse gaming + NFTs
08:00 - Building a large B2B business from Udupi
15:30 - The game changer: Democratisation of distribution
21:00 - The process of selling your startup successfully
29:00 - Monetisation of gaming businesses