Disclaimer: This interview is a part of our campaign WebSparks which is powered by Qualcomm Ventures. The aim of the campaign is to recognize promising consumer web startups from India.
Karthee Madasamy is Senior Director, Qualcomm Ventures, India and Israel, with over 16 years of experience in the wireless and multimedia industries. He has worked in product development and management roles at various semiconductor startups in the past. Karthee holds an MBA from the Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago and an MS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan. He currently manages and actively serves as a board observer for Qualcomm Ventures investments in Apalya, MapMyIndia, Yebhi, Onward Mobility, Kirusa, Tessolve and Waze. Here, we engage Karthee in a conversation to learn about the consumer web space in India.
YourStory: B2B v/s B2C. It’s always a huge debate, what’s your take?
Karthee Madasamy: Both B2B and B2C hold their relevance depending upon the nature of the product and the market. While companies targeting the B2B segment have always been around, there has been a significant increase in start-up companies targeting the consumer. Qualcomm’s investment initiatives and practices are designed to reach out to start-ups that focus on consumers. Also, the growing trend of consumers in India increasingly accessing the Internet on their mobile phones proves that the B2C segment provides a big opportunity for entrepreneurs targeting these consumers.
YS: What is the current trend that you see within the consumer web start-ups in India?
KM: All along we have been seeing companies focus largely on transaction-based mechanisms like online shopping and ticketing; but in the current scenario, we are seeing various kinds of web start-ups coming up. One growing segment of web start-ups targets consumers through non-transaction oriented engagement, such as offering reviews of products & services and location-based searches. Additionally, we are seeing more verticals being addressed in the region today than even 2-3 years back, when only select few verticals were being targeted. More niche opportunities, such as project management for start-ups, are also being targeted and addressed
YS: How do you compare the consumer web space in India with the global scenario?
KM: Globally, while the Web space has evolved, in India it is still in its nascent stage. In this context, we see a trend in India where a majority of consumers access the Internet on mobile phones and tablets. According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India, smartphone sales in India have exceeded that of PCs and laptops since 2009. Smartphones are going to be the first computing device for many Indians because now device affordability is no longer a restriction.
YS: What do you think is the most important metric that early stage consumer web start-ups should track?
KM: I believe the most crucial aspect for any B2C start-up is to lay focus on significant values offered to its consumers and continuously evaluate it on a timely and regular basis.
YS: What according to you is the right way to go about customer acquisition?
KM: It largely depends upon the nature of the company and market segments in which it operates.
YS: The consumer is moving too fast from desktop/web to mobile/apps, how do you see this?
KM: As I said, the Indian consumer Web space is evolving and is more skewed towards mobiles and tablets. India’s more than 87million mobile Internet users represent a huge opportunity for companies enabling rich content and apps on 3G smartphones and other devices. Qualcomm Ventures expects this trend to accelerate further and therefore, we believe it is imperative to cover all growth avenues with a focus on smartphones and tablets.
YS: For a consumer web startup, how important is funding?
KM: Funding plays a pivotal role in the growth and expansion of any start-up. Qualcomm Ventures is committed to making strategic investments in consumer Web start-ups and other companies that are increasing the breadth and richness of mobile content and applications for consumers.
YS: What excites Qualcomm about this space? What qualities are you looking for in consumer web startups?
KM: What excites us is that we expect the usage of smartphone Internet usage to accelerate, and Web start-ups have a lot to offer in terms of enhancing consumers’ Internet experience. This is one of many industry segments that interest us. Qualcomm Ventures invests in privately owned start-up companies around the world, with the primary objective of supporting adoption of 3G and next-generation wireless technologies and driving usage of wireless data services. We look to target strategic investments within the areas of mobile content, services and applications, mobile health, cleantech, consumer electronics, infrastructure, semiconductor components. Looking at the array of innovative Web start-ups in India—and the pace at which they are growing—there is a lot to be excited about.