Startup shutdowns in India

Startup Shutdowns In India: 8 Startups That Called It Quits In 2017

Today, there was a news that 8 startups closed their office in 2017. This is not a good news for startup industry and it must have impacted everybody associated with these startups. I wish they will again rise with a new beginning.

Last year, between January and August 2016, reportedly 29 startup shutdowns in India took place. Hyperlocal startups were the hardest hit. As compared to 2015, reported 15 startup shutdowns that were reported in media.

If you further analyze these startups and their business model, then you can find that most of these startups are some kind of copy or replica of an existing successful startup or solution. Copying another business idea is permissible as long as there is some kind of innovation added into it and market is yet to get saturation in terms of competitions. But blindly copying an existing business model will be a disastrous. In the travel space, there were some unsuccessful startups like travelgenie, travelchacha, etc. Its not that their product is bad but they simply failed to attract customer. Most of the impacted startups are in hotel bookings and aggregation, hyperlocal, niche ecommerce and foodtech.

In reality, making small changes to things that already exist and successful might lead to a local maximum but it wont help in getting into global success. FlipKart is still a Indian retail giant, with almost no global presence. You could build a best version of iPhone app to order toilet papers but iteration without a bold plan wont take it to 0 to 1. A company is the strangest place for all for an indefinite optimism i.e. why should you expect your business to succeed without a plan to make it happen? Darwinism idea of evolution maybe fine for other context but in startup, intelligent design works best.

Innovation or customization

Our future depends upon how we try to progress in our day to day life. The progress means changing every aspect of life with regard to time with some new happenings. When we talk about new happenings, we generally think of improving some existing solutions and then adding glue to make it different. That is what makes it a different  and with proven success in it. In the history, there are enterprises succeeded by copying and updating existing solution and even making the solution much better compare to original idea, this is hybrid and there is nothing wrong in it. But some time, some companies copy an existing solution and then modify it in such a way that the modified product is termed as innovative one.

Apple has changed the way we use mobile phones, though before iPhone there were Palm OS with touch screen but the actual innovation for the User happened after iPhone came to market. This is not innovation but this is customization that refines how User should use phone. There was a paradigm shift on how User should use phone using touch screen features. This came when Apple was on the verge of perform or perish. I still remember those days of attending Steve Jobs’s iPhone presentation. The same way, ebay created a market place of used items and it was instant success. These are the few instances of how consumer’s usage pattern was redefined using technology.

Its not always true that innovation starts from 0. Some time innovation comes from existing products too. Twitter is another example of customization of blog and sms, which made Users to write anything of 140 characters.

The summary is, irrespective of whether you copy an idea or invent something new, it all matters how your product/service impacts Consumer behavior and how its perceived by consumer.

Hiring for a Startup : A challenge

Hiring resources is always a challenge for recruitment team. But when you are hiring for a startup then the challenge is doubled and risky too. The very first thing for an early stage startup is to have good resources for product development. A good resource also needs too remuneration, package in addition to good facilities. However for a startup, such facilities are not available and its difficult to provide such packages to attract talented resources. But one thing that is guaranteed in start is challenging work. A startup can challenge an established enterprise in terms of innovation. Big enterprises always advocate for innovation but when it comes to actual implementation, they look for a case study or two for the idea to make sure that the idea can work. But when you are executing an idea after verifying case studies then its not innovative idea. As per wiki “Innovation can be defined simply as a “new idea, device or method”” that means its “new”. When we are talking about a “new” entity, then its quite difficult to get case studies. But big enterprises cannot work, AFAIK, on an idea which is not implemented or its not proved that this will work. But startup are completely different, they are headed by people of ex of some big enterprises where they failed to convince their higher authority to implement the idea. Then they start a startup to execute the idea, which is innovative. Coming back to my hiring strategy, its always a risk. In the beginning, I started working with freelancers. One good thing about freelancers is that they will create an impression that they can take you to the moon and its their pastime to do that. However, it reality its quite opposite. I remember, I once recruited a freelancer from Delhi to create REST apis using PHP. Though I had to throw the whole code base into dustbin due to poor quality of code but I still remember her words “If you pay for a maruti car, you cannot ask for a BMW car” that means the buggy code is fine as the payment for the work is less, but it was a good payment too. What a logic. I then started working with interns, in the beginning got some good interns from KIIT University.  These guys are really good and created a framework for my android project within 6 weeks, thats truly an achievement from a student in final semester. After interns I tried to recruit full time employees. It was a good experience. In Bangalore, there are lots of fresh engineering graduates looking for job. But all of them cannot be recruited and cannot start from day one. They need training and mentoring to be productive. I generally dont conduct interview, rather give them some assignments and based on their performance I take decision. When you know how to use google then its almost not an issue to do any assignments, thats exactly happened. Some candidates beautifully completed assignment in technology which they dont know anything. I was happy that I got some good candidates but alas. That is the experience, I have till now. But some engineering graduates are really good and I can say its luck that matters to get a good fresh engineer for your startup. That is the story.

Rome was not built in a single day but everyday

Raise The Bar

I attended a seminar organized by successgyan at hotel Vivanta by Taj, MG Road, Bangalore. It was well attended by leaders across domains and age groups. Though I generally don’t pen any blog about any seminars or conclaves but this seminar has its own proposition and it gives an insight of how to look everything from a different perspective. One of the important phrase we generally say for any task is “Rome was not built in a single day” that indicates any beautiful creation cannot be completed overnight and it takes time. And this phrase was beautifully modified with “Rome was not built in a single day but everyday”, that adds positivity and inspiration with proposition of slow and steady behind every successful creation. The success of any individual is driven by the continuous improvement in every front be it finding new opportunities, learning new skills and steadiness in execution.  The moment we stopped increasing our area of influence then we stopped our growth, its a continuous process of learning that brings more opportunity in different ways. However, we are now so much stressed in our work, we simply forget to brush up our skills, improving our abilities and learning new technologies. This impacts not only our development but also the environment in which we work. This is also same with enterprises too. I always compare between FlipKart and Amazon. Both these companies started with retail market and however Amazon increased its portfolio into Cloud Computing, Tablet, etc but FlipKart failed to diversify its business. Continuously FlipKarts market valuation is going down and down. Same thing happened with Nokia too. These are few lessons for everybody to keep on expanding their area of influence in different ways and then only you can succeed.

Choose yourself :: Can it be possible?

Choose Yourself

Its been a while since I last time wrote a blog, though I want to pen thoughts in different platforms but running two families, my family and my startup, at a time squeezes my time.

Recently I started reading a book “Choose Yourself by James Altucher“, a nice book for aspiring entrepreneurs. In childhood, we do what our parents want us to do, then in young age, we again by parents, teachers and also a part by girl friends. In the process, we got accustomed to other’s command and wish that we forgot about what exactly we want. In the job, we just got carried away against our wish by project, manager, work pressure etc. Our very own desire gets covered by parents, teachers, girl friend, manager, etc. And finally when we try to start our own venture, we try to do things based on our past experiences, always seeking others instruction, permission and approval. But when somebody rides a boat, then its captain to decide the direction in smooth ride ans also in rough sea. It’s like telling someone with hundreds of thousands’ worth of plastic surgery to instantly go back to looking how they used to look. Their body no longer knows how. I kept kissing ass. I kept falling down. I kept being dishonest to my needs inside.

I would like to add a paragraph borrowed from book here

When you give up searching for frontiers, inevitably you end up stuck in
a swamp, sinking deeper into the mud the more you struggle to get out. I’m not sure that analogy holds, but you get what I mean. Success comes from continually expanding your frontiers in every
direction—creatively, financially, spiritually, and physically. Always ask yourself, what can I improve? Who else can I talk to? Where else can I look?

This is absolutely correct, its you and you to drive your own boat by looking into opportunities and increasing your boundary in each and every direction, then only your chances of getting opportunity will be more and more. The moment, you stop increasing your boundary then your area of opportunity will get squeezed by others. Others will overtake you and the the era of “Choose Yourself” will be “Let others decide”.

The domination of unorganized retail sector in India

Unorganized Retail
Retailing in India is predominantly unorganized. According to a survey by AT Kearney, an overwhelming proportion of the Rs. 400,000 crore retail markets are unorganized in India. In fact, only a Rs. 20,000 crore segment of the market is organized. The sector is highly fragmented with 97% of its business being run by the unorganized retailers like the traditional family run stores and corner stores. The sector is the largest source of employment after agriculture, and has deep penetration into rural India generating more than 10% of India’s GDP.
Small store (kirana) retailing has been one of the easiest ways to generate self employment, as it requires limited investment in land, capital and labour.

The reasons for unorganized retail sector domination in India:
– In smaller towns and urban areas, there are many families who are traditionally using these kirana shops/ ‘mom and pop’ stores offering a wide range of merchandise mix. Generally these kirana shops are the family business of these small retailers which they are running for more than one generation.
– These kiran shops are having their own efficient management system and with this they are efficiently fulfilling the needs of the customer. This is one of the good reasons why the customer doesn’t want to change their old loyal kirana shop.
– A large number of working class in India is working as daily wage basis, at the end of the day when they get their wage, they come to this small retail shop to purchase wheat flour, rice etc for their supper. For them this the only place to have those food items because purchase quantity is so small that no big retail store would entertain this.
– Similarly there is another consumer class who are the seasonal worker. During their unemployment period they use to purchase from this kirana store in credit and when they get their salary they clear their dues. Now this type of credit facility is not available in corporate retail store, so this kirana stores are the only place for them to fulfill their needs.
– Another reason might be the proximity of the store. It is the convenience store for the customer. In every corner the street an
unorganized retail shop can be found that is hardly a walking distance from
the customer’s house. Many times customers prefer to shop from the nearby kirana shop rather than to drive a long distance organized retail stores.
– This unorganized stores are having n number of options to cut their costs. They incur little to no real-estate costs because they generally operate from their residences. Their labour cost is also low because the family members work in the store. Also they use cheap child labour at very low rates

The Secret to Funding: How Many Customers You Need Before Contacting VCs

Getting funding is the first milestone of any startups and some succeed in early stages and some struggle to get funded. Irrespective of whether a startup is funded or not, everybody tries to attract investors and invest in their Ventures. On the otherhand,  “Investor” is someone putting money into something in hopes of getting more than that back in the future. That’s what investors do in hedge funds, on Wall Street, and in investing in companies. Investors are not banks, they aren’t credit cards, they expect a future greater return than is possible today, by investing in what’s being done.

So what do customers (and by that I presume you mean people paying for what you’re doing – customers give you money – revenue), what do customers have to do with INVESTORS’ potential return on investment?

Very little in and of itself.

Don’t misunderstand that point, without customers and revenue you very likely don’t have anything (though we know from Twitter and Medium that’s not accurate) BUT just customers and revenue are meaningless to an actual investor – go get a loan and you can pay it back from revenues.

So what do customers help investors today understand about your business?

  1. Depending on how you acquired them, that you know what you’re doing and that people want it
  2. That there is a market for it, and depending on how you found that market, how competitive it is, and what it cost to acquire those customers, that there is an opportunity
  3. That the company has a more clearly measurable way to establish a value (multiple of revenue; that multiple being dependent on what you’re doing)

Source : the secrets of funding

his is wherein your startup is actually validated, are you accomplishing the things that actually matter, evident in some customers proving that?  Customers are merely evidence of your validation, not the validation itself and how many you need depends on all of your shortcomings as an investment opportunity.  Shortcomings in areas such as:

  • Do you have an experienced team in place capable of building a bigger business?
  • Are there many competitors in the market, competitors that will arrest your growth at some point, or make it very difficult to achieve the size (value) they’d need?
  • Is there brand, IP, or other risk in what you’re doing?
  • Are those genuinely acquired customers or friends, family, and referrals?
  • Have you shown that you can reduce the cost of acquisition and improve the performance of the business?
  • Is the business scalable, how much so, or the likes of which is just measured growth? (Sales oriented and service based businesses generally aren’t scalable)

Funding is the result of such shortcomings being overcome by points of validation (growth, attention, revenue, etc.) sufficiently to substantiate an opportunity.  How much of that do you need?  It depends.

AngularJs issues

AngularJS

AngularJS is a nice MVC based javascript framework, developed by google. One of the important functionality I liked about this framework is dependency injection. In this post I will be posting all technical issues faced during development process

Today I came across an issue when trying to open a modal window from another modal window. The error was

Unknown provider: $uibModalInstanceProvider <- $uibModalInstance

The error occurs if the template of the modal contains ng-controller. The problem was that you were specifying a (or double) controller(s) in 2 places- when opening a modal and inside a template – this is not needed. Remove ng-controller from a template and things will work as expected.

Technical Problems on Ubuntu setup

centos500px-former_ubuntucof-svg

I have been using CentOS, another RHEL flavored operating system since couple of years. Recently, I started using Ubuntu, not because I dont like CentOS but because my developers like this OS. Now I am an entrepreneur and every decision made by me has direct impact on my developers, so I follow the path of employee satisfaction is my biggest motto.  I freshly install Ubuntu in HP laptop, which was refurbished with new Hard disk. I tried using bootable USB stick to install Ubuntu, it was quite straight forward, Unetbootin usb creator helped me a lot. First I had to download Ubuntu iso package in my MacBook pro and then used Unetbootin to create a bootable USB stick with Ubuntu OS. It was quite simple to successfully create a Ubuntu bootable usb stick.

I then used this bootable stick in my HP laptop to install Ubuntu. It was successfully installed without any technical issues. However, post install, I had issues running softwares. However, google God helped me to get the solutions. Here are few of my technical problems and solutions, I hope it will help others too.

When binary programs in PATH are not recognized

This is because there is some 32 bit libraries are missing in your Ubuntu 64 bit. Run:

apt-get install libc6-i386

Then I had issue running any of nodejs npm commands.  I was getting following erros

/usr/bin/env: node: No such file or directory

Thanks to this web post, the solution is

sudo ln -s "$(which nodejs)" /usr/bin/node

You need to symlink the nodejs executable to node. I will keep on updating this post for any technical issues faced in Ubuntu and resolutions.

Why collaboration is rewarding

Collaboration is everything
Collaboration is everything

Almost all of the recent books, blogs, and papers supporting innovation highlight the importance of collaboration. Why? For many years, the sole inventor was told that people working together can lead to groupthink–too much consensus and convergent thinking.

I came across an article Why Collaboration Is Essential to Entrepreneurship. This is not only applicable for entrepreneurs rather for everybody in this competitive world. With increasing hustle bustle in city, managing our work is most important thing with respect to our surroundings.  While going to office, we are not sure if any sudden traffic jam happens, we don’t know what is the quality of new paying guest accommodation service, the quality of momo near to our house is good but we have no idea, we are not sure the specific fish is available in the sunday marker which is 10kms from my home etc etc. How can we engage ourself to manage such difficulties, can we ask govt to provide us information, can we ask service providers to contact us about the stock, can we insist traffic cop to intimate us about sudden traffic jam??? No, this can not be possible. So what is the solution? Collaboration. In collaboration, there is an increase in the understanding of diverse perspectives with the development of higher-level thinking as one of the important results. The coordinated efforts of many can accomplish more than the efforts of one or a few separately, that means its the power of “we” much more that power of an individual.  Recent modernization and evolution of technology had made this a new world digitally.  We are in a better position now technologically to share information with friends, relatives than never before. That means, its technology that makes us collaborate with others for  successful out come. If any traffic jam occurs in our way, we immediately share with friends, any important happenings etc can be shared in realtime that makes us more dependent on each other and the return is rewarding. Time for more collaboration.