Product manager, investor, and high-level executive, Manish Dalal has been donning many roles across his career. A stint at Yahoo! gives Manish an ability to understand the mobility market that he uses his expertise to mentor entrepreneurs. He feels mentoring is important for an angel investor.
We caught up with Manish at the recently held Reseller Club Hosting Summit in Mumbai. As APAC Head of VeriSign and as active member of Mumbai Angels, he shares his perspective with us.
On the Indian Online Opportunity from VeriSign Experience…
There are 30 million small and medium businesses in India. Half of that number is fragmented retail, and the other half is organized businesses. Currently there are 2 million websites in India. Even if you just look at the half of 30 million organized small businesses, the opportunity is huge! How do we get all the SMBs that don’t have internet presence today online is a big question.
A World Bank report says that as the number of online businesses grow the GDP of the nation increases. There is a strong correlation between both. We have carried a survey to understand how small and medium businesses work in India. The findings are certainly interesting. SMEs don’t know the value of their products as they don’t in most cases sell directly to the customers. Internet dis-intermediates everyone by directly connecting the buyer and seller, and hence empowering both the sides. I believe Internet is the biggest leveller of the world.
How do we bring this long tail of SMBs online? How to increase awareness?
The demand is increasingly going online. In the last 5 years, we have reached 150 million active internet users. That is crazy growth. Online commerce has certainly arrived, and buyers are looking for things online. Google’s search business alone has grown 10x in the last two years in India alone. While demand side has certainly picked up, the supply side will slowly happen.
For example in the US, you try to shop on Amazon.com. Let us say you are searching for a Polaroid camera. Even if Amazon doesn’t have the product, they show you results of long tail of merchants from where you can buy the product. Even if Amazon doesn’t stock the products, they tell you that their network has the product and allow you to shop of their websites. That kind of stuff is not yet happening in India. And, it should.
On startup ecosystem…
A lot of startups are doing e-commerce, and many are trying to copycat what is already in the US. Very few startups are looking at the potential of India itself. People are mostly trying to start a company here and sell to the US market. But, they should specifically look out to make products for the Indian market. There is a huge opportunity here.
My feeling is that the angels in India have to learn a lot from the US angel community. More than money, at angel phase, time and mentoring are extremely important. In the US, experienced people in the corporate community help out startups. Who is doing that in India? Likewise, in the US it is common to find 40-45 year olds starting up companies leaving comforts of corporate jobs that are high paying. In India that doesn’t happen. It is also very difficult to create what Silicon Valley has done so far with the startup community. But, slowly things in India are changing for the better, for example given my 5 years of experience of managing Yahoo!’s mobile products in India, I can add a lot of value to some of the startups I mentor.
Also, one more thing, the startups and entrepreneurs themselves are not mature here in India. Most of them don’t even understand what is go-to market! But, things are slowly changing.
On Exits like in the Valley
If you make something very specific to Indian markets, there might be many Indian companies that want to buy you out. For an MNC exit, if you show a product or technology that they globally use, they may want to buy you. I am sure once a robust ecosystem is created, exits will automatically happen
Indian Plans for Verisign
Apart from the .com, .net and .tv offerings, we have a host of other offerings like mobileview, maldetector, domainhashtag etc that are extremely popular all over the world. Now, coming to India specific offerings, we have done things like “Indian Name Localizer” wherein the system will automatically suggest prefixes and suffixes for names. (e.g. Lakshmijewellery.com , srilakshmijewellery.com). This is something only Indians can make sense of; people in other markets can’t make sense of these words. Mobile view works on all the handsets in India, including the cheapest Nokia mobile, this is something we have done specifically for India.
What drives you as the head of Verisign APAC?
When I look at Verisign as a whole, Asia is the fastest growing business for us. And, I get to run that business, could not be more exciting! Also, within Asia, China and India in that order are our fastest growing businesses. As a company Verisign is very bullish on Asian market. Also, its second largest R&D is in the Bangalore after the US office.
Comparison of China and India in terms of Internet numbers
China 4-5 years ago had exactly the numbers that we currently have. However, the challenges in India are different from China and the markets are very different. From numbers and consumers perspective, India has all the right numbers if you just compare it with China 4-5 years back, and the trend in which the internet penetration would grow maybe similar.
Advice to Entrepreneurs
Make sure you go after a need in the market
Don’t just blindly replicate what is already in the US, look for India-specific needs; that is a huge market
From a product perspective, figure out how to make something simple, easy to understand and great. Most of the Indian products are very cluttered and drive users away. Make something simple and easy to use; that is very very important. Look at Apple’s philosophy for example!
Figure out your go-to market. If Flipkart is doing online ads doesn’t mean you too should, maybe there is an innovative way to reach out to your customers, figure these things out, and everything will fall in place.
Manish’s passion for technology and internet ecosystem is palpable. We thank Manish for his time and sharing valuable insights with our audience.