Friday, July 2, 2010
The Power of Ideas was first launched in 2009, in the middle of an economic slowdown, to boost sentiment and encourage India Inc to approach the slowdown differently. Over 12,500 business ideas were received and of these, 1,000 shortlisted participants were taken through Group Mentoring sessions and Elevator Pitches. A final list of
254 thus arrived at were put through a phase of one-on-one Mentoring prior to presenting their ideas to investors. Till the time of writing, nearly 20 ideas have received funding and
several more are in advanced stages of talks with investors. Not only was the programme rigourous in terms of the learning it offered, it also became - by virtue of the sheer number of business ideas received the largest aggregation of outstanding business ideas.
This year, the objective is to formalize the initiative, transforming it into an entrepreneurial ecosystem that will drive the economy forward. For this purpose, The Economic Times has joined hands with the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India. The Department of Science & Technology, with its immense expertise and relationships in the entrepreneurial space, is offering guaranteed
funds worth Rs 5 crore. It will be given out to not just for those who have taken the first step, but even to dreamers who come with nothing more than a good idea. It's our way of saluting innovation.
Working alongside will be the Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE), Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad. Started as an incubating lab of IIM Ahmedabad, CIIE is today a domain expert, with experience in mentoring, hand-holding and making entrepreneurs investor-ready. In the last few months, CIIE has been
sewing together a network of evaluators, mentors and investors who will audit every single business summary that comes to The Power of Ideas 2010, and invest in the most deserving. Just to ensure that more dreamers get to meet investors, CIIE has also worked out a unique ten-day incubation programme at its campus for all candidates who make
it to the final cut-off list of The Power of Ideas, all expenses paid.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
For a close look at a typical business plan, ET decided to go behind the screen for a peek at the process of film production.
Meet Rohan Sippy, the director and part-producer of Bluffmaster. Sippy planned and executed the film project, and earned a neat sum at the box-office. The film was produced by Adlabs and Ramesh Sippy Entertainment in 2005.
Since a movie’s objective is to narrate a story, it all begins with the script. “Sridhar (Raghavan) had a great draft in place, and it became the pivot around which we worked out our business plan for Bluffmaster,” says Sippy. Once the story idea was finalised, it was time for the film’s casting. Sanjay Dutt and Abhishek Bachchan seemed perfect fits, and Sippy signed them for Bluffmaster.
This is the point where important decisions are taken. Being a creative field, planning and executing to the plan is important, but the flexibility to take judgement calls must be factored in because many aspects are beyond one’s control, adds Sippy. And this is exactly what happened: the filming of Karan Johar’s
Kabhie Alvida Naa Kehna was postponed, which resulted in a lot of free time for Abhishek.
“This is the point where you need to take judgment calls. Since Sanjay Dutt was busy during that period, he was replaced with Ritiesh Deshmukh. And we were rolling within five to six weeks,” says Sippy. The rest of the cast was already in place.
Now was the time for the most critical decision: the budget. This required the skills of a line producer who prepared the film’s budget after looking at the requirements of the script. The budget for Bluffmaster was finalised at Rs 8-9 crore, but it spilled over on two additions towards the end of the film, one of which was Abhishek’s video for Sabse Bada Rupaiya. The cost: Rs 40-50 lakh.
Music is the soul of every Hindi film, but it was not taken into account while preparing the budget. So, Sippy decided to turn this to his advantage. He struck a deal with Trick Baby of the UK for their three existing tracks to be used as promotions in the movie. The group also remixed Mehmood’s Sabse Bade Rupaiya which was already a part of Saregama’s catalogue. Similarly, a barter deal was struck with the Swedish producer representing Arash and Anila Mirza, who sang Boro Boroand Sena Sena, to use their music in exchange for their performance in the film. As a result, a different genre of music was introduced in the film at virtually no cost.
For a movie to stick to its budget, it is important to adhere to timelines. By August, less than six weeks into the film’s shooting, Bluffmaster had worked out its release and the team took an unprecedented step: the film’s release date, December 16, was printed on the posters.
“We sat together and worked on really tight schedules. we brought in a good location manager as we wanted live locations, not studios, and we needed a new location everyday. Critically, if you delay shoots, you can overshoot your budget and time. So, we shot for 12-15 hours and after wrapping up the shoots, we did a recce of the next day’s location. This is how we wrapped up the shooting in 50 days, Mumbai’s nightmare floods of 26/7 notwithstanding,” says Sippy. After the film was canned, the next part of the plan was logistically easy, he adds.
“The last part to be shot was Abhishek’s music video which was postponed because he fell sick,” says Sippy, who was tricked into appearing in the video by Abhishek. As far as planning is concerned, declaring a date and sticking to it worked. The film was well received, and it is one of the few films in the US that received better collections in its second weekend than the first, on sheer word-of-mouth publicity.
The film’s success proves that all enterprises work towards a plan, that of turning a profit for the business, and film-making is no exception.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
For instance, Delhi-based Dr VK Singh and wife Dr Nandini Singh had submitted an idea of a simple product that can detect brain development disorder in children at an early stage. While Dr Singh has been instrumental in setting up the National Brain Research Centre, after a research-based job at UC Berkeley, IIT-K graduate Dr Singh works for a startup as CTO and vice-president.
“Our healthcare and technology backgrounds helped us come up with an idea that will improve the health of millions through technology in a cost-effective way,” said Dr Singh. An undeterred Dr Singh is currently pitching his idea to other investors.
What has helped those on the negative list to chase their entrepreneurial dreams is the set of learnings gained through group mentoring and feedback from the mentors during the elevator pitch.
Similar is the case of 26-yearold Naresh Prajapati whose idea of digital menus and billing at restaurants was not cleared. However, Mr Prajapati is pursuing his idea in a different manner, thanks to the mentors, who helped him polish the business concept. “I feel that this technology is convenient and will be widely used in restaurants across the country within three years,” he said.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
For instance, 25-year-old Avinash Veerappa from Bangalore saw his power of idea germinate from his love for mushrooms. When he surveyed the market in his city, he discovered that an unsteady supply of mushrooms was leading to a huge unfulfilled demand.
He studied the demand-supply gap in the market and evolved a business plan for cultivating mushrooms in greenhouses near Bangalore. “We will cultivate different types of mushrooms, like oyster and milky, that are not cultivated in the country,” said Mr Veerappa. These varieties have longer shelf life, which is key to marketing mushrooms, he said. “One key finding of my research was that mushrooms available in the market were not cleaned because of their lower shelf life,” he added.
He visited two central government institutes and found varieties that were more nutritious and had longer shelf life. Mr Veerappa plans to brand his mushrooms ‘Mushy More’ and will initially sell them in Bangalore, Coorg and Mysore. Utilising his background in genetics, Mr Veerappa will undertake research on mushrooms to develop more nutritious varieties. “The Power of Ideas is my chance to get funding for the business,” he said. He is looking at Rs 15 lakh funding to establish his business, which is in trial stage now.
Mr Veerappa is not the only one. With a rural focus, Atin Garg, too, is keen to get funding for his business plan of milking high-yielding HF variety of cows. Mr Garg said that most of the milk produced in the country comes from buffaloes and is not suitable for dairy products since it has a high fat content. “Cow’s milk is preferable for dairy products,” he explains. The HF variety of cows costs Rs 50,000 each and is known for its high produce. He plans to spend Rs 2 crore on buying 400 cows and has already spoken to cooperatives and companies interested in buying milk. “Selling milk is not a problem in India,” he said. The atmosphere in his Sadhaura village on the HPHaryana border is suitable for breeding the foreign cows, he plans to buy. The business, he said, is a profitable one, which includes capital gains at regular intervals. “We can sell some of the reproduced cows,” he said. He is confident that the business can break even in a year-and-a-half.
Both Mr Veerappa and Mr Garg were happy they attended the session organised by ET, along with angel partner Indian Angel Network. It helped them to understand what the investor is looking for in a business plan.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Almost 30 out of the 71 ideas related to tech sector came from the south of India — particularly Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai. In fact, many ideas in technology proliferated because of the telecom boom. Sharat Jain, Delhi-based CEO and founder of rechargeitnow.com, who is one of the shortlisted entrepreneurs says, “We chose telecom because of the large mobile user base in the country, close to 42 crore, of which 92% subscribers are prepaid. About Rs 50,000 crore of transaction takes place through prepaid mobile cards.”
Mr Jain had earlier worked in positions as head of Dentsu India, an auto-comp maker, and Teleglobe, a VoIP-based venture. His venture rechargeitnow.com is a website that lets users recharge online through various payment modes, from direct debit to cash cards.
Another idea related to the mobile medium came from Noida-based Luna Ergonomics, founded by Abhijit Bhattacharjee. The company’s site called paninikeypad.com provides a vernacular dictionary and statistical tools for vernacular messaging. “Currently, no other dictionary offers regional language support in India. We chose mobile as a medium because applications developed for the mobile are going to be more pervasive than those developed for the web.”
About 23 of the 71 ideas related to technology came from people under the age of 30. About 32 ideas came from people aged between 30 and 40. Also, almost 18 of the 71 technology-related ideas have come from people who hold post (technical) graduate degrees in management or engineering.
Exemplifying such trends are people like Shilpi Aggarwal, an MBA from Fore School of Management, who is all set to launch a web ecommerce portal with just two years of experience in the IT industry. “I chose the internet as a medium as the product I am going to market is a global one and tech-related marketing for it has not started as yet,” she says. Truly, IT has proved itself to be the most effective field for new ideas.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
G Sriram is a graduate based in Bangalore who feels education does help in innovation. He is working on setting up a brand new venture, which will manage IT infrastructure and offer services on Software as a Service (SaaS) model. “We are at the proof of concept stage and we need money to make it production ready,” he says.
At the group mentoring session, Mr Sriram was impressed by the experienced line-up of mentors on the stage and the session helped him clear many doubts. “I was confused about financial projections for the next three years,” says Mr Sriram. He got guidance from a mentor at the session. As the session ended, he was clearer about why angels invest in different ideas rather than just going to tried-and-tested investment avenues like real estate or stocks.
Now he, like many of the other short-listed entrepreneurs, is looking forward to the oneon-one mentoring where he intends to polish his business plan further. “There are many blanks to be filled,” he points out.
Gaurav Yadav’s father, like many other Indian parents, saved close to Rs 15 lakh for his son’s higher education. An entrepreneur himself, he was very supportive when his son decided to utilise that money to set up a business that he had in mind for some time. The fatherson duo dived into it and Gaurav designed a network which will connect educational institutions across India. “This will have a mix of social networking, social learning and administrative tools for institutions,” says Mr Yadav. What is unique is that unlike social networking sites, on Yadav’s network, every institution will have separate administrative rights.
At the mentoring session, Mr Yadav got clarity on how to pen down his concept neatly for the elevator pitch. It seemed to have worked and he made it to the final 254. For him, he says, one-on-one mentoring was the most important part that he has been looking forward to. “I will get to clear my doubts. Every budding entrepreneur has doubts, on expansion, challenges, building a team and the like,” he says.
He has already tested his network with 45 institutions in Kanpur and is now looking for funds to expand outside Kanpur. Having a professional qualification is great, but not having one obviously does not impede a person from launching into his dream business.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
The budding entrepreneurs that The Power of Ideas programme has incubated are now just one step away from achieving their dream: To sit across the table with a potential investor, argue out their case, and hopefully, walk away with funds. Hearing the mentors speak at the three group mentoring sessions has helped the shortlisted participants improve their elevator pitches. Business presentations steadily sharpened with each session, as the programme mentors instructed the participants on what investors generally look for in an elevator pitch. “Some of the ideas could potentially be investible. The next stage where entrepreneurs will give a 45-minute pitch will give us a clearer picture,” says Saurabh Srivastava, founder, Indian Angel Network (IAN), angel partners of the programme.
At the earlier sessions, each participant gave a 15-minute telephonic presentation to the mentors. Mentors, then, evaluated the elevator pitches on the basis of a few agreed parameters—the idea, potential market, unique differentiation, competition, financial projections, and the assessment of the team. “Teams need to have expertise in various fields—finance, technology, sales, marketing and the like,” says Mr Srivastava. He stresses that all these parameters are equally important. So far, each of the participants has got feedback on their concepts. If there were problems with the idea, the team, or the analysis, the mentors pointed these out to the entrepreneurs to help them improve. At the close of the Elevator Pitch phase, many participants acknowledged that simply being a part of the programme so far has been a huge learning experience.
“The business plans were a lot better. The mentoring session seems to have helped,” says Amitabh Shrivastava, angel investor at IAN. At the beginning of the Power of Ideas programme, the mentors only read the business plans. Now, as the programme progresses, their direct interaction with them is also increasing.
The final 254 entries will now go through a three-step process that will include submission of business plans, mentoring at an individual level, culminating with a meeting with investors for prospective funding. In one-on-one mentoring, says angel investor Sanjay Bhasin, the discussions will go in-depth. “The topics will remain the same (as group mentoring), but we will now look at financials more closely,” he says. He suggests that participants be a little more patient in explaining their idea to their mentors during this stage as well as the investor meet. Given that mentors may not be domain experts in certain cases, participants should try and stay away from too many technical details and try to elaborate on how they plan to sell and market their offerings. “Make the most of the time given to you,” he says.
After having a look at a number of elevator pitches, angel investor Atul Gupta feels that the financial projections made by some of the entrepreneurs were not very realistic. “They need to take some professional advice on projections. The SWOT analysis too needs careful analysis,” he says. Mr Gupta found a few ideas that had high potential. “Many of these need to be mentored a little more to polish their plans that will be presented to investors,” he adds. “In this phase, it will be critical to see how well entrepreneurs have understood their space and the financials,” says angel investor Amitabh Shrivastava.
The ‘mentorship’ period is at the very heart of this initiative. In The Power of Ideas programme, the mentor is a tech-savvy, hands-on guy, who may not be much older than the new entrepreneur he is guiding. What adds huge value to the guidance is that the mentor is also likely to be a CEO who has successfully nurtured his own business and thus knows exactly what to do and more importantly, which mistakes to avoid. The responsibility on the mentors is not a light one as they are not just giving offhand advice but specific direction on key areas of putting an entrepreneur’s business plan into place. Their inputs go beyond making a participant’s idea reach a shortlist; their inputs touch the dreams and aspirations of people who have spent long hours working on plans, many of who will walk away from the sanitised environs of an organisation to the rough-and-tumble of entrepreneurship. The mentors, thus, act as pathfinders.
Both the mentoring and the subsequent meeting with investors are opportunities that people spend a lifetime trying for. This is a golden chance for them to prove the ‘power’ of their idea to the world.
IT, ITeS ideas find favour with panel
A closer look at the 254 ideas threw up interesting trends. 22% of the ideas were in the IT and ITeS space. Healthcare- and manufacturing-based ideas were next at 11% each while Internet-based ideas constituted 6% of the total. Cleantech ideas were just 4%. Over 40% of ideas came from South India while an almost equal number (26%) came in from the north and west. The shortlist also indicated that while younger talent found favour with the IAN panel, age and experience did matter when it came to the final stage. While 27% of the 254 ideas were contributed by participants between 26 and 31 years of age, 21% came from those who were 32-37 years, and 17% from those between 38 and 43. It was heartening to note that though professionals sent in 60% of the shortlisted entries (MBAs were a majority at 54% while those with BE/BTech were 34%), a formal qualification wasn’t entirely a disadvantage when it came to choosing the best ideas.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Kamini Auditorium, one of
The mentoring session began with the introduction of the esteemed panel of investors from the Indian Angel Network who shared their experiences, learnings and success stories with a rather enthusiastic and knowledgeable audience.
The panel included Mr. Pradeep Gupta, Mr. Mohit Goyal, Mr. Sunil Kalra, Mr. Sanjeev Bhikchandani, Mr. Sanjay Bhasin, Ms. Anupama Arya and Mr. Aseem Chauhan. Mr. Pradeep Gupta of the Indian Angel Network began the session by answering a vital question regarding ‘start ups’ in a potentially volatile economy. “At times like these, there is a need to be innovative since there are no free rides anymore.” He also stated that, “The quality of ideas get better during an economic downturn because everyone is trying to get a piece of a shrinking pie. And the customer is also more critical of products and services.”
Talking about what happens if a start up fails to receive money, Mr. Sanjeev B. states that, “It’s not good to assume that success depends entirely on external funding. There are a lot of very successful companies that started out without any of that.” He goes on to state that, “Getting funds is just one of the battles won in creating a successful business.”
“So what makes a good business plan?” Ms. Anupama Arya wittily summed up what seemed to be a long explanation in a few words, “If you can manage to get a customer to pay you, you’re on the right track.”.
Mr. Pradeep Gupta went on to talk about the mistakes people make and how the lack of passion is potentially one of the biggest reasons for a failed business model. Adding to that, Mr. Sanjay Bhasin emphasises on the importance of having a scalable business idea, since ideas needs to grow and mustn’t stagnate.”
After the first round of discussions, Ms. Padwaja introduces the ‘Elevator Pitch’ and facilitates the discussion onwards. The rustling of the print-outs of the ‘Elevator Pitch’ take prominence as the eager audience tries to grasp this bounty of knowledge. Mr. Aseem Chauhan emphasises that one doesn’t need to force fit their idea into the elevator plan. He says, “It’s OK to modify the plan to fit your idea.”
The session was soon made open to the house and audience questions began pouring in.
Mr. Sunil Kalra states the importance of the ‘first’ pitch. He says, “For the first pitch YOU only need to give us YOUR idea and tell us who YOU are and what your team is.”
Another question that was raised was, how does one figure out when to go for Angel funding and when to go for VC funding? To which, Mr. Sanjeev B. stated that Angels generally come in at an earlier stage and will invest far lower sums of money than a VC would. One should aim to raise VC money at a much later stage.
The final few questions discussed the importance of timing and luck and how apart from funding, persistence and the belief in an idea would eventually determine the success of a business plan.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
At the session, the panel comprised eminent names including Mr. Sharad Sharma, Mr. Joseph Fernandes, Mr. Puneet Vatsayan, Mr. Revathy Ashok, Mr. Amitabh Srivastava, Mr. S. Nagarajan, Mr. Subhash Menon, Mr. Harsh Ramesh Angeri and Mr. Sanjay Anandram.
Mr. Pankaj Mishra from The Economic Times kick started the session, quizzing panelists. “Why is the recession the best time to start a business?” Mr. Subash Menon, Founder and Chairman- Subex Systems answered: “All crisis will eventually pass. And whatever happens, happens for the good. After all, an individual willing to face uncertainties makes an entrepreneur. So believe in your idea, ensure it possesses a commercial sense, make sure your customers fall in love with your idea.”
Mr. Sharad Sharma, CEO at Yahoo! India R&D added: “In recessionary times, there are two things that become clearer: if the idea is good and if competition can be tackled.” While Mr. Harsh Ramesh Angeri, Head Strategy & Initiatives- HoneyWell added: Only when a tide is low, can you determine who's without the swimming trunks!”
However, there's nothing quite like a live entrepreneurial example. Mr. Janesh Janardhan, CEO and Co-Founder Robhatah reminisced his own experience whilst stating: “When we started out we presented our idea to a number of investors. The feedback helped us refine our business idea.”
Mr. Puneet Vatsayan, Co-Founder Mobera Systems, went on to add: “A basic mistake start-ups make is investing across parallels at the same time. It's important to phase out your business spends based on its needs.”
Another piece of advice came in from Mr. Menon: “A good idea has three components: What? When? Who? As long as you get these three right, you're on track.”
This knowledge sharing session was followed by a question-answer round thrown open to the audience. Questions included:
What’s the kind of ROI that makes an idea attractive to investors?
It's difficult to put a firm number on the return on investment. The panelist assesses the idea based on how quickly it can be monetized and its scalability.
It's not possible for me to conduct a research to ascertain consumer acceptability of my idea. What should I do?
In such a scenario, base your answers on observations without second guessing.
Are we allowed to extend our Elevator Pitch submissions beyond six slides?
Stick to the preset limit! The shorter your presentation, the more crystallized your idea is likely to be. And, the clearer your proposition!
How important is SWOT vis-a-vis competition?
While answering this question ensure you include how you will tackle competition. Ensure your business story is presented in the most compelling manner.
What is an investors involvement in the company's operations?
Answer:An investor needn't play a passive role and their experience and knowledge can be used to drive the business from time to time.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Post submission and shortlisting, I have refined my business idea thereby altering critical data. Is this likely to be negatively assessed at The Elevator Pitch?
Answer: Of course not. The panelist expects you to alter your business proposal,and refine it to include more accurate data and learnings.
The panelist talks of consumer acceptance to guage profitability of our business venture. Does this hold true for as yet undiscovered products?
Answer: In case of products/services that have not yet been launched in the market place, entrepreneurial aspirants are advised to attach a dip-stick survey to depict potential market need and consumer acceptance.
My educational background varies from my chosen area of entrepreneurship. Is this likely to negatively impact my performance at The Elevator Pitch.
Answer: Entrepreneurs are judged basis soft skills and a diverse background often helps enhance skill sets. At the Elevator Pitch, you are judged, not just your business idea. It's therefore important to be confident whilst presenting your idea.
What is the minimum return on Investment below which an idea will not gain Investor acceptance?
Answer: A minimum of 10x return is likely to attract a venture capitalist to your business proposal.
My business proposal centers around a design service. In lieu of this, will we allowed to include photographs in our Elevator Pitch submission?
Answer: Preferably, do not include photographs in The Elevator Pitch. In necessary situations like the one above, you may include photographs as long as the file size of the PowerPoint does not exceed 1MB.
What do you think is the primary reason for the failure of start-ups?
Answer: Businesses fail due to indigestion and not starvation! If a business is going too many places at one time, it is likely not to succeed. Persistence and passion are critical to business survival. Also, it's not so much the Power of an Idea, but the Power of Execution that helps realize an entrepreneurial dream. Remember not to be disheartened and conserve cash! Cash is critical to harness your entrepreneurial venture. After all, it's a marathon not a sprint race.
In the Financial segment of The Elevator Pitch submission form, are we allowed to include data in a spreadsheets format?
Answer: No, spreadsheets data cannot be attached in this segment. However, a six line table can be included in the PowerPoint itself.
What should I keep in mind whilst choosing an Investor?
Answer: It's important to understand that you don't choose an Investor, an Investor chooses you. However, the best Investor is one who shares synergy with you, whilst believing in your business idea. Also, if the Investor has Invested in businesses similar to your area of operation, it is likely to stand you in good steed. Additionally, how a venture capitalist responds to distress situations is also critical.
Does the Investor bet on the jockey or the horse?
Answer: At The Elevator Pitch, 2/3rd importance lies with the individual and his/her conduct while the rest is given to the idea. The aspirants' gumption for risk is critical to attracting a potential Investor.
How critical is it to include patents in the business proposal?
Answer: Patents are “good-to-have” to a business proposal; they give you the edge to stand out in the market place. However, venture capitalists eventually will choose a good idea, irrespective of whether it is patented or not.
In case of multiple years of operation, what data should I include in the Financial Segment of The Elevator Pitch form?
Answer: Three years financial data, and three years financial projections should ideally be included in The Elevator Pitch form.
Should you have any additional questions, or if you haven't received any critical communication material from The Power of Ideas Team, do get in touch with us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll be pleased to help answer your queries.