A panel with an investor, a couple of successful entrepreneurs, the Business development director of Amazon Web Services and a wide audience consisting of people from the startup ecosystem is pretty much all that an entrepreneur needs to get charged up. The weather stopped its harsh course just a couple of days ago to bring much wanted rains in the city, which was a bit of a surprise. We too were in for a pleasant surprise when the IIT-Madras Director, Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthy, accepted our invitation to inaugurate the roundtable and it was encouraging to see his support for initiatives of these kinds. Reflecting the entrepreneurship momentum that is slowly engulfing campuses, the Director said, “We are encouraging our students to take to entrepreneurship through several initiatives.” He remarked that India is yet to develop a seed fund mechanism and investors are only looking for safe investments. He felt that the events like the one hosted by YourStory would help student entrepreneurship. As grads out of college have only academic learning during their course, there is a need to change the learning experience in schools and colleges to encourage entrepreneurship, stressed the Director.
Shradha Sharma, founder, YourStory.in, gave the audience a hint of impact of TechSparks event in the last year. Out of the 30 companies identified through Tech30 Report, 14 companies have received funding, one was acquired, and one company acquired an European company. “This validates our initiative,” Shradha pointed out.
V.T. Bharadwaj profiles the entrepreneurship landscape in India through an investor’s eye
Sequoia Capital is a venture capital with a global presence. One is always intrigued by their investments in Vasan Eye Care and Prakash Snacks. V.T. Bharadwaj, MD, Sequoia Capital, unravelled the mystery in his keynote speech. For a company that has invested in 74 businesses in India over three years, certain characteristics are obvious. But Sequoia looks at three important parameters to invest: (a) total addressable market, (b) evidence of customers loving the product or a service, and (c) team/entrepreneur. This broad framework aided by the fact that the range of businesses may be from domains such as health care, pharma, IT, software, kitchen appliances in a country like India has kept Sequoia’s outlook open. Another important aspect of the businesses is their small initial investment. QuickHeal started with an initial investment of Rs. 25,000 for example and have scaled manifold quickly. Druvaa, which provides enterprise backup and disaster recovery solutions, appealed because of its total addressable market. One Assist’s business of helping customers secure their wallet (which contains credit cards, debit cards, and other documents) if it is lost, by blocking the cards and arranging for new ones was the crucial factor in the investment.
“The time to incubate is higher in India,” said Bharadwaj. Thus a company makes it easy at Rs. 10 to Rs. 15 crore of annual revenue but for a revenue of Rs. 150, it takes a bit of time. A crucial ingredient of scale is testing product robustness continuously and then execution intensity gaining speed once the customers adopt the product has been the approach of Sequoia in India. “It is always better to go after the large share of the market once the product builds scale,” said Bharadwaj, which is very much the case in India.
His final piece of advice was: keep the cash burn low (as incubation takes a longer time), be patient on a product (till customer adoption stage) and impatience on growth once execution starts. In the backdrop of the Sequoia experience, this is the best way to scale a business in India distilled by V.T. Bharadwaj for the entrepreneur community in Chennai.
Then Aditya Kulkarni, Product Manager at InMobi and YourStory’s product evangelist, laid out a broad picture outlook for product managers in his product workshop. Using experiential learning techniques (such as designing a business card), he demonstrated how innovation could be made a repetitive process as innovation means recombination of ideas. He also stressed upon the importance of measuring everything to make informed decisions.
A panel discussion followed after the workshop and another important highlight of the roundtable was local entrepreneurs in Chennai showcasing their apps.
—Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, Chief Evangelist