Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Planning is crucial in creative fields too

A business plan is important not only in a conventional enterprise but also in unstructured fields like film-making. The idea is just sinking in as the 254 finalists of ET’s Power Of Ideas programme fine-tune their business plans for a presentation at the investor meet. To prepare for this crucial meet, the participants will soon undergo one-on-one mentoring.

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

Failure as a Stepping Stone

The one emotion that binds the applicants of ET’s Power of Ideas programme is passion. The 746 contenders, who couldn’t make it to the final list of 254, are keen to pursue their dreams, despite a temporary setback. At the elevator pitch stage, ET and angel partner Indian Angel Network had decided that 746 ideas from the list of 1,000 did not make the cut.

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

Ideas to flag off another green revolution

ET’s Power of Ideas is not about metropolitan themes set in concrete jungle, it’s a lot about earthy ideas from sons of the soil. The final list of the programme would not have been complete without ideas from the sector that employs 60% of the country’s population, agriculture. Although, the ideas in the rural and agriculture sector were few, but interestingly, they came from very young entrepreneurs.

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 differ
ent 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

IT, telecom dominate PoI’s final shortlist

IT and telecom seem to be the hottest sectors in the final shortlist of The Power of Ideas programme. Of the 254 ideas shortlisted by The Economic Times and angel partner, Indian Angel Network, 57 came from the IT/technology-enabled services (ITES) sectors. Another 14 ideas were from the internet space, taking the total number of IT and IT-based business ideas to a whopping 28%.

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

Mentoring helps finalists polish business plans

Education is not a barrier to becoming an entrepreneur and this statement is aptly supported by the profile of the 254 participants who are part of the final shortlist of The Power of Ideas programme. A good 40% of the finalists have non-professional qualifications only. They are graduates, postgraduates without fancy management degrees and those who have done certificate courses to supplement their graduate degree.

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 one
on-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 father
son 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 impor
tant 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

After a tough race, 254 ideas enter the finals

Over 12,000 ideas. A shortlist of 1,000 proposals. Now, just 254 waiting for their final mentoring.

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 entre
preneurs 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

Delhi Mentoring Session

Kamini Auditorium, one of Delhi’s finest auditoriums generally used for theatre and music came alive this time with a session designed to inspire young aspiring entrepreneurs.


The scorching Delhi heat didn’t deter the participants and even before the registration desks opened there were more than 400 excited faces abuzz in the auditorium’s lobby. Soon everyone was herded into the cool comfort of the auditorium and a relay of advertisements on the ‘Power of Ideas’ looped impatiently.


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

Bangalore Mentoring Session

On 17th April, the Elevator Pitch Mentoring Sessions moved into its Bangalore Edition. Kicking off with its trademark entrepreneurial celebration, the session left aspirants inspired and no questions unanswered. Bangalore's contribution to The Economic Times - The Power of Ideas contest is noteworthy- the maximum business proposals came in from this city.

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:

Question:

What’s the kind of ROI that makes an idea attractive to investors?

Answer:

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.

Question:

It's not possible for me to conduct a research to ascertain consumer acceptability of my idea. What should I do?

Answer:

In such a scenario, base your answers on observations without second guessing.

Question:

Are we allowed to extend our Elevator Pitch submissions beyond six slides?

Answer:

Stick to the preset limit! The shorter your presentation, the more crystallized your idea is likely to be. And, the clearer your proposition!

Question:

How important is SWOT vis-a-vis competition?

Answer:

While answering this question ensure you include how you will tackle competition. Ensure your business story is presented in the most compelling manner.

Question:

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

Mumbai Mentoring Session Part-III - 'Q&A - The panelists take on questions from the audience'

Question:

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.


Question:

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.


Question:

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.


Question:

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.


Question:

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.


Question:

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.


Question:

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.

Question:

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.

Question:

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.


Question:

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.


Question:

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: etideas@indiatimes.com. We'll be pleased to help answer your queries.

'Mumbai Mentoring Session-Part II' - '6 by 15- An in depth guide to getting the Elevator Pitch right'

Download The Elevator Pitch Format, by clicking here.

Once you've downloaded The Elevator Pitch Form, here's some useful tips to ensure your submitted form matches panelist expectations.

PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

In this segment, begin by including a clear and concise description of your product/service. Also include how your product/service fits into your potential consumers' need. What sets your product apart from competition?

What is the one distinguishing factor that sets it apart from other businesses? Answers to these questions should help refine your business proposal.

With respect to the target audience, make sure your business is well-targeted and well-defined. Include a sharp description of your target consumer to the extent that the venture capitalist can visualize who you're talking about.

Answers should be presented in an attention grabbing tone.

MARKET ANALYSIS

Define your target audience not just in terms of geographical location but also a clear description of the market space your business will occupy, preferably citing leading examples/names. Ensure the challenges your business will face are outlined, and more importantly include how they will be overcome. Your market should be accurately defined, down to its narrowest most relevant description. In this segment ensure the information entered is original and relevant.

SALES STRATEGY

A detailed description of your sales strategy and distribution model should be included in your submitted form. How will your product reach the consumer and how will you sustain delivery are critical questions. Distribution is an oft neglected part in any business proposal and it's important to determine whether you will reach out to your consumer or vice versa. This helps ascertain the economics of what businesses are possible, and what businesses aren't. In case of a digital portal, do include how customers will be attracted to your portal.

A marketing strategy that helps differentiate your offering from others is also critical to a good business proposal. Make sure you include a sharp, unconventional marketing approach that'll help set your business apart.

THE TEAM

A category B idea with a category A team easily shines over a category A idea from a category B team. It's important for the team to have the right educational background, domain expertise and share synergy. A well-founded team helps add to the business venture, and especially stands steed in turbulent, stressful times. It is after all, not just a matter of coincidence that the greatest businesses in the world come from strong, nurtured partnerships. Strong partnerships help balance opinions and build stronger ideas. Just like a good marriage partnership, the right chemistry is essential!

FINANCIALS

In the Financial segment it is critical to include three years financial projections. It's important to pick the right numbers so your business isn't OVER FUNDED or UNDER FUNDED. Both are potential problems. Determine where your revenue is coming from, and where your costs are being incurred. When submitting financial data, be frugal, recheck facts and remember CASH is king. If you're worried about how to calculate your projections, consider the first rung of investors- the 3Fs- your friends, family and fools. And, base your calculations on how you manage your first rung of investors.

Mumbai Mentoring Session - Part I

At the Mumbai leg of The Elevator Pitch Mentoring Sessions, the auditorium was abuzz with potential entrepreneurs hobnobbing with other aspirants and angel investors. A crowd of 350 plus turned up for the two hour Mentoring Session that included insights and learnings from experienced, successful entrepreneurs across the country. The session took off to a ceremonious start with Vinod Mahanta, Editor-Corporate Dossier, saluting all the entrepreneurial hopefuls that had the courage to believe.



Mr. Harish Mehta, Co-Founder Nascom and Founder Indian Angel Network, then kicked off the session that included prominent panelists Mr. Priyank Garg, Mr.Satya Bansal, Mr. Bharat Banka and Mr. Vipul Mankad among others.

Commenced Mr. Mehta, “In today's turbulent financial times, the Entrepreneur will act as a change agent in society and create jobs, not the existing multinational companies.” Moving on, he encouraged the audience to believe in their talent, passion and keep intact their ability to convert an idea into a business reality.

Adding to Mr. Mehta's learnings was Mr. Rayver Khan, Founder-Flora2000.com, an international flower delivery specialist. Mr. Khan asserted the importance of building a core business team whilst embarking on an entrepreneurial venture, “My top team took time to build. It was critical to find people who would aid my venture, who would take charge. Finding people you can rely on is half the battle won.”

Mr. Krishna Jha, Member-Indian Angel Network, took on from Mr. Khan stressing the importance of luck, getting it right, and discovering your entrepreneurial call. Facing rejection too, is of utmost importance in Jha's books. “When you're an entrepreneur, you have to face rejection. You get paid for the trauma, get paid for listening to people say: NO! This is what sets you apart from merely being an employee.”

Concluding a round of introductory speeches, Mr. Mahanta then opened up questions to the panel, starting with one on everybody's mind: Is this the right time to take on an entrepreneurial challenge? The panelist responded with an uproarious yes: “Irrespective of when the question is asked, the time is always now. Of course, it's important to have a cracker of an idea.”



Mr. Satya Bansal, CEO-India Barclays Wealth, advises that the financial downturn is the best time to test an idea. “The power of an idea gets tested in tough markets, allowing it to then thrive when markets open up.” Mr. Vipul Mankad, President-SIDBI Limited, pointed at two parameters for adjudging a business idea- customer acceptance and profitability. And Mr. Bharat Banka, CEO-Aditya Birla Private Equity, stressed how it was important to determine if you wanted a large share of a small pie, or a smaller share of a larger pie.

The discussion then moved to discovering the entrepreneur within you. The panelist believed this was critical to attracting venture capitalists. It's also critical to test yourself, minus the pretensions and to allow for flexibility whilst continually keeping your eye on the goal post. “There's a difference between being passionate and obstinate!” the panelist pointed out. Mr. Mankad too, addressed the importance of staying focused. “Be resilient, and quickly adapt to changing environments,” was his mantra.

The final question to the panelists addressed the importance of adapting to Indian markets. While there was nothing wrong in being inspired by Western counterparts, the panelist believed it was critical to adapt suitably to India's distinct needs and mannerisms. Lastly, entrepreneurial aspirants are adjudged largely basis soft skills, the process is also emotional as much as logical. This, the panelist believed, was important for aspirants to understand.

This message was brought out successfully in Mr. Krishnan's speech. The founder of start-up Quench, an Online Library, Krishnan spoke of his journey from the pitch stage to finally attracting venture capitalists. “Nothing quite prepares you for the challenges to come when you convert a great idea to its scalable form,” said Krishnan. He spoke of the passion, the emotion whilst emphasizing the need to remain objective especially when taking in distilled wisdom from varied sources. “The process was rigorous, as it was painful and yet the process helped us to evolve and crystallize our own thoughts into a realized entrepreneurial dream. Conserving cash was a handy decision.”


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Shortlisted Candidates Prepare for Elevator Pitch

With the results of the first short-list declared in The Power Of Ideas initiative, it is time now for the short-listed candidates to gear up for the second round of the programme. In order to proceed to the final stage of meeting investors, all short-listed participants will be required to make an ‘Elevator Pitch’ in the next few days.

What is the Elevator Pitch?

It is just a brief dialogue between a potential investor and a participant so that the investor gets a quick grasp on the robustness of the business idea and the ability of the participant to execute it. The date and time for the individual Elevator Pitch will be made available on our website, http://ideas.economictimes.com/, starting Apr 10, 2009. Short-listed candidates should make a note of the schedule. Investors will call you within the given time band and you will be required to complete the Elevator Pitch telephonically.

All participants have been sent the Guidelines and Format for completing the Elevator Pitch by postal mail, besides some literature on entrepreneurship. Please complete the Elevator Pitch format and email it to etideas@indiatimes.com.

The timelines for submission of the Elevator Pitch format is:

Mumbai - on or before April 12, 2009

Bangalore - on or before April 21, 2009

Delhi - on or before April 25, 2009

Note: The submission of the Elevator Pitch format will be followed by an Elevator Pitch made telephonically, the date and time for which will be published on The Power Of Ideas site, starting April 10th, 2009.

This email will be shared with prospective investors so they too, are better prepared for the Elevator Pitch.

To get you up to speed for the Elevator Pitch, we have also put together a Mentoring Session. You are invited to meet experts and entrepreneurs at the following Mentoring Session:

Mumbai

Date & time : April 8, 2009 4:30 PM onwards

Venue : St. Andrews Auditorium St. Andrews College Campus,Domnik Road, Off hill Road, Bandra (west) Mumbai-50

Bangalore

Date & time : April 17, 2009 4:30 PM onwards

Venue : Nimhans Convention Centre, House road, Dharmaram College, Bangalore

Delhi

Date & time : April 21, 2009 4:30 PM onwards

Venue : Kamani Auditorium No.1, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi 110001

Note: Short-listed Entrepreneurs wishing to attend a Mentoring Session in a city other than that assigned can email the change request to etideas@indiatimes.com. In the email specify the assigned city, and the city they wish to be reassigned to. At the venue they'll be required to produce their acceptance letter and photo-id as proof.

Participants can bring only one additional guest as a team member. All short-listed participants are requested to be at the venue ahead of the session and present their acceptance letter along with a photo ID card at the Registration desk as proof of identity.

PS: The venue and time for Mentoring Sessions are final. Please do not write to seek changes in either. No communication will be entertained on this subject. However short-listed candidates can request to be reassigned to a Mentoring Session basis city of convenience.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Open Source Software Potential for Entrepreneurs


Increasingly Free & Open Source Software (FOSS) is being seen as a cost effective solution, more so in entrepreneurships looking for cost effective deployments for their business ideas. Open Source Software is a given among entrepreneurs from technology backgrounds, but among the rest, entrepreneurs in Finance, Agriculture, and Education among other disciplines, OSS may not be as well known vis-à-vis its potential and deployment possibilities.

The implications of this can be serious for the success of an entrepreneurship. Financials, a critical component of any entrepreneurship, is the first to be impacted, with costs going up significantly.

Power Of Ideas spoke with Brajeshwar for insights into FOSS and the benefits to be had for the entrepreneur in adopting FOSS. What intrigued me was when Brajeshwar mentioned that his start-up, oCricket, was based entirely on FOSS, implying that except for the development effort there was no other cost involved.

Power Of Ideas: What potential do you see Open Source hold for startups in the prevailing Economic situation? Examples you can state of startups that used Open Source and the kind of cost savings that resulted?

Brajeshwar: Free & Open Source Software (FOSS) holds a lot of potential for startups irrespective of the economic situation, since it's much more about FOSS being "tweak-friendly" than FOSS being "cheap". A startup attempting to build a product to challenge market leaders would mean having to push the boundaries of software to be able to build something which is twice as fast but at half the cost. It would involve either building something awesome from scratch or taking something which is great (and FOSS) and taking it apart and tweaking its parts to squeeze out the last ounce of performance. That also means leveraging on the plethora of existing FOSS projects and building on top of them. FOSS empowers you to do that.

Having said that I must add that FOSS also has a distinct economic advantage, especially relevant in these times of Economic Depression. Using cutting-edge technology and not having to pay any license fees is "good" for a startup.

Examples of successful startups abound and they don’t come any more famous than Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, all of which run entirely on Open Source Software. Most successful startups (9 of 10) will have used Open Source. Perhaps the only successful startup/website that uses MS product .NET is StackOverflow.com.

Power Of Ideas: What kind of startups can best leverage Open Source software, and what kind of startups cannot?

Brajeshwar: I think the best kind of startups that can really benefit from FOSS are the technical, web-service oriented ones. They need to be 'technical' since you need some kind of a tech-team with people who really can bend and twist the software to do your bidding. Web oriented startups will also benefit since the Web as a whole is one platform and FOSS really dominates the scene with numerous web frameworks, libraries, and servers of excellent pedigree. You can really push the envelope with a fast, easy to maintain, website built on top of FOSS tools and technologies.

On the other hand, startups which develop some kind of desktop or niche software may not be able to benefit from FOSS as much since the desktop market is still dominated by Microsoft Windows (TM) and you can hardly use much FOSS technology to built applications on top of a proprietary platform (though a sizeable number of options certainly exist today). Similarly if you are developing something for a niche market (iPhone applications, for example) you don't really get to choose the platform as those are dictated by the platform itself.

Power Of Ideas: Do you see entrepreneurs in India taking to Open Source sufficiently enough? If not any reasons you can assign as to why they don't?

Brajeshwar: They slowly are, but that mostly because many think it's better because it's free and not because it's simply better. The main reason behind that being the fact that a FOSS ecosystem doesn't exist and India and people are mostly ignorant about the alternatives. Also the technical know-how among the majority in the Indian IT industry is not upto the International level. But things are changing slowly though. There are many initiatives being taken up by various organisations to improve the situation and it will improve with time.

Many large corporations like SUN have a good initiative going called the SUN Startup Essential. They even respond to your technical questions if you've technical problems. Of course, you get discounted Hardware from them and most of their softwares are free anyway. Check out Startup Essentials at Sun.

Power Of Ideas: What Open Source software would you suggest that startups take a look at?

Brajeshwar: It depends on the type of startup really, but off the top of my head I can name the following FOSS applications which are considered to be among the best in the world in their own categories:

Web Server
- Apache
- Lighttpd

Relational Database
- PostgreSQL
- MySQL

Programming languages
- Python
- PHP
- Ruby

Web frameworks
- Django (for Python)
- Ruby on Rails (for Ruby)
- CakePHP (for PHP)

Content Management Systems
- Drupal
- Wordpress
- Joomla

User Interface / Browser Programming
- jQuery
- YUI
- Dojo
- BluprintCSS

... and may more

Power Of Ideas: In oCricket did you use Open Source yourself? (oCricket is Brajeshwar’s startup)

Brajeshwar: oCricket is built on top of 100% Free and Open Source Software.

Power Of Ideas: With OpenMoko Freerunner what kind of possibilities do you see in mobile applications that entrepreneurs can take up, now that it is open for Open Source development.

Brajeshwar: More than the OpenMoko Freerunner, I think Google's Andriod platform holds more promise. Android is not tied to any particular mobile hardware and can be ported to almost any modern handset. Large companies like Motorola have already decided to slowly move to the
Android platform. Android is even getting ported to the OpenMoko hardware as we speak. So yes, the future is very exciting for the whole mobile platform. The kind of applications that one can build is endless; in short, it's pretty much everything. People are building tonnes of applications for the Apple iPhone ranging from games to high-precision medical applications. I don't see why the same can't be done on the OpenMoko or the Android platform.

Power Of Ideas: Do you consider your startup, oCricket, as a Media startup? If yes, what other kinds of Media startups do you feel India needs?

Brajeshwar: Well, it’s the environment that we're in that can eventually mark us as a Media Startup. Nonetheless, we're are very technology oriented and will use technology to the best we can to make things easier and useful to our users. Consider it an endeavor to marry Media and Technology.

Bollywood is definitely another sector that can be tapped and nurtured. And even the TV (Video) paradigm is something so massive that there is huge potential and India is just waking up to that. We can learn from the likes of iTunes, Netflix and model something relevant and perhaps even competitive to them.

Power Of Ideas: Can entrepreneurs really make a difference to the country as a whole without them addressing the diversity of languages?

Brajeshwar: For mobile applications languages will come into play as a factor affecting reach. So what lessons do these hold vis-a-vis them presenting opportunities for Open Source development.

Diversity in language and culture is a thing of beauty and is something which cannot just be addressed with mere solution. Technology can be just one of the many drivers for unification in this diversity. So, instead of trying to tie them up first and apply, why not start off and let it unite on its own.

Even for the mobile sector, one solution won't fit all. I would love if someone comes up with a flawless way to convert English to a vernacular language and vice-versa in a realm like SMS.

Parting Note

Brajeshwar: One should keep in mind that Open Source is just the beginning to successful Startups, saving money and making them economical. There are lot to being a successful Startup and an entrepreneur should not forget that. Open Source is just a means to an end.

Brajeshwar blogs at Brajeshwar.com.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Blog Aggregators, an Entrepreneurial Option


With blogs fairly exploding as a medium of choice for expression among over 100 million netizens who use them to document everything from the personal to the professional, it was only a matter of time that initiatives to filter blogs on their content came into the picture.

It is the way of the world that no sooner chaos begins to manifest itself in steps order.

Since the time the first Blog Aggregator (BA) came into being others have followed suit, building communities, gathering contributors along the way to help with scouring the blogosphere for quality content to bring to their readers. And occasionally, now fairly regularly, they’ve stepped in to defend the right to free speech while mobilizing the blogging community into one voice, sending ripples across the Internet. And their readers have grown, first exponentially, then thick and furious.

At some point they become viable entrepreneurial propositions if you understand the space they operate in, and are prepared to dedicate yourself to the task. As content continues to grow on the Internet the need for content filtered by Blog Aggregators (BA) will continue to grow as well.

DesiPundit, arguably India’s largest Blog Aggregator, is a case in point. With over 12,000 RSS subscribers, and over 2500 page views daily, DesiPundit is a model for how to run a blog aggregator. Founded by Patrix, it’s the morning cup of chai for thousands of people looking to catch up on their corner of India.

Nikhil Narayanan, a contributor with DesiPundit, and who blogs at Nikhil's Musings, shared his thoughts with Power Of Ideas on the issue of blog aggregators as a viable startup option for entrepreneurs.

POI: Can Blog Aggregators be viable business models?

Nikhil: Yes, but since such models work on Ad based revenues the 'when' of becoming viable cannot be easily answered.

POI: What goes into building a Blog Aggregator, the technology behind it? And the social effort that goes into building it up among the targetted audience?

Nikhil: A Content Management System like WP/Blogger, Plugins/Widgets to read RSS (for auto feeds and publish) are needed. It is always better to have a self hosted Blog Aggregator as it can help build the brand. A Blog Aggregator is a win-win. Bloggers are never unhappy with the publicity.

POI Adds: AJAX and Widgets (largely operating on XML, allow users to aggregate OPML files, feeds etc. through a single interface) are used to aggregate feeds and form key components of BAs.

POI: What's the cost of setting up a BA, and what kind of manpower effort is needed for running it since man-hours also cost money. What did DesiPundit (DP) cost to build?

Nikhil: Hosting space and a domain name would cost around 1200 INR annually. Wordpress and Plugins are thankfully free. One can use automatic aggregation like DP's Community Section and/or manual aggregation like DP's New & Upcoming section.

In automatic aggregation, the only task is setting up the list of blogs for the BA. Manual aggregation is just linking interesting posts and the time involved depends on how much time one is ready to spend surfing blogs. Linking a post hardly takes more than two minutes. Designing a template would cost some more money, again depends on the template design.

POI Adds: WordPress is Open Source. Plugins are developed by programmers to aid those who may not be able to write their own PHP code etc. Plugins can range from those that aid with Feeds, Video, Forums, Downloads, Advertising, and Admin tools you can install.

POI: What kind of an entrepreneur expertise is required to start a blog aggregator?

Nikhil: Zilch! Some experience on the blogosphere, and the time and effort to find good blogs is all what is needed.

Note: Nikhil also added that there could be a reason for conflict between Content Generators and Blog Aggregators since the latter base their business model on the efforts of others, something he opines is "unfair" (on the bloggers).

POI Adds: Blog Aggregators are moving in to address this very issue. Lonely Planet's Blog Sherpa program is a step in this direction where content generators receive payment from the Adsense program on their content tagged to Lonely Planet's Blog Sherpa project while the host platform gets to showcase their content.

In addition to DesiPundit, Blogbharti is the other major Indian Blog Aggregator.

Other Indian Blog Aggregators

1. Chitthajagat (Hindi Blog Aggregator)
2. Blogadda
3. Blogvani (Hindi Blog Aggregator)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

An Entrepreneur Story - Pop Goes The Art



Glossed over by catchwords like ‘innovation’, ‘drive’, ‘passion’ etc. what is often not spoken about is the fact that many turn into entrepreneurs because they hated their day jobs. In the glut of technology options available it is something as simple as escaping the clutches of a day job that drives many down the entrepreneurial path

Six months into her job as an investor relations executive, it was dislike for her day job more than a passion for entrepreneurship that got Nidhi Karnavat to start Pop goes the Art. In the slump after a flurry of numbers, returns and financial figures, Nidhi began to rediscover her passion for art and reinvent her approach to how she would bring it back into her fold. And, in two weeks she decided to hone her passion into an enterprise; giving birth to Pop Goes The Art.

A delightful collection of personalized gifts including paintings and cushion covers, Pop Goes the Art came out of Nidhi's love for creation and a simple realization: “In today's word, people are often willing to spend large amounts of money for personalized gifts.”

In the months following her decision, Nidhi focused all her energies in developing the business, theorizing, creating pieces of art and deciphering how and when to reach out to people. Besides setting up her website, Nidhi also made some quick decisions- like booking a stall in an exhibition to be held six months later!

In November 2008, Nidhi held the first exhibition of Pop Goes The Art at the Blue Orange Exhibition. Besides she also distributed fliers and visiting cards designed by her- suitably showing off her logo, and the brand.

Starting out with an initial investment of Rs. 53,000/- (Rs. 50,000/- towards the stall and Rs. 3,000/- towards website development) Nidhi painstakingly steered Pop Goes the Art towards visibility, and in time to popularity. Among the studied decisions she took it was her decision to price her creations appropriate to age groups, styling and otherwise, that paid off. It was a decision that came in handy given the current financial meltdown. The premise behind the decision was to retain an interested customer by allowing them to pick up a cheaper variation of a design they like. Nidhi's latest expansion of her collection to include lower price variations- laptop covers, laptop sleeves and knick-knack boxes is a step in that direction.

Nidhi recalls another business move that has worked in her favor- the brand building exercise. Nidhi designed tags- with a point of contact that were attached to every product she sold. It ensured anybody who viewed her work, and liked it, knew how to reach her. Nidhi's client√®le includes friends, contacts, and friends of friends' as well as a recent splurge of customers on the web. “About 10% of my customers come from the Internet,” says Nidhi.

Twelve-hour work days seems like little work to Nidhi, who loves what she does. She is constantly innovating her brand- her latest move includes incorporating care labels and branded packaging. “My ideas are often born out of listening to my customers, and answering their queries,” explains Nidhi.

Her next move, Nidhi reveals, is tying up with boutiques in Mumbai that give credit to individual designers. “To reach varied price points again, these boutiques will exhibit digital prints of my products. But, there won't be digital prints of my range of personalized products, ensuring my digital market doesn't cannibalize my market of personalized art work,” says Nidhi, pertinent as always.


Do you have an artistic skill, you'd like to base an entrepreneurial move upon?

Maybe, we can help you realize it! Visit The Power Of Ideas to find out how.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Query Update I: Financials Section in the Business Summary


In response to purogovind on Twitter

Purogovind: “Am wondering how important are financials. I just have a vague picture of it.”

(Context: filling up Financials section in the Business Summary for submission to The Power Of Ideas)

The Economics Times response:

“For those with an existing business, please use a table to summarise your past years’ revenues and profits and project the same for the next three years (if applicable). Also, state the funding you have received to date (whether venture capitalist, family, etc) and the funding that you are now seeking and how you plan to use the funds. Please give forward projection of your funding requirements for the next three years. If you are planning a new venture, please give projected financials, investment sought and plan for use of funds.

Essentially, it is important to have a sense of financials. This will help the VC to understand how much he needs to give out.”

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Power Of Ideas Submission Deadline Extended to 23 Feb


UPDATE

The submission deadline for entreprenurial business summary to The Power Of Ideas is now extended to 6 P.M., Feb 23, 2009.

Visit The Power Of Ideas to submit your business entry.

Yesterday in Mumbai



Yesterday, The Economic Times concluded its The Power Of Ideas series of seminars with 'Capital Idea' - How entrepreneurs can access and bring their business ideas to life.

The Speakers on the panel were Jitender Balakrishnan, Deputy Managing Director, IDBI, Sandeep Singhal, Founder, Nexus Capital, Gautam Patel, Partner, Battery Ventures, Rahul Khanna, Clearstone Venture Advisors.


As reported by the Mumbai bureau


WHILE the slowdown has hit the mainstream corporate world, entrepreneurs with commercially viable business ideas will not find a dearth of venture capitalists (VCs) to fund them. Infact, at an ET roundtable ‘Capital Ideas,’ the VCs were ruing the fact that there was a dearth of ideas with sound business models and potential to scale.

“There are not enough quality ideas that we receive these days. There might be a few who satisfy some of our criteria, but there is still a lot that is left to be desired for,” said Gautam Patel MD Battery Venture. “While we have funds, there are not sufficient workable ideas for the funds,” added Jitender Balakrishnan deputy MD and head corporate banking IDBI. The roundtable was part of the ET’s “Power Of Ideas” campaign.

While there might be a large number of new entrepreneurial concepts floating around and lot many willing entrepreneurs, only a handful hold promise for VCs. “Between my partners and I, we receive at least five calls every day. But we would only invest in 6-8 companies this year,” said Nexus India Capital’s partner Sandeep Singhal. The VCs agree that the entrepreneurial activity has dipped in the last few months as the slowdown deepens.

Post the period of crazy valuations and unrealistic expectations, the VCs and entrepreneurs are a much more cautious and grounded lot now.
The consensus view was that the time of exuberance and out of whack valuations has gone for good.

“There was a rush to glory over the last 18-24 months, but this has changed now,” said Rahul Khanna of Clearstone Ventures. “Clearly, the valuations expectations have sobered down.” In the good old days, it was the money chasing the good deals, but now the scene is different. “Tables have turned as there are more quality deals chasing scarce capital,” said Singhal of Nexus.

The VCs were however all praise for the Indian entrepreneurs for their capital management skills. Though the entrepreneurs had issues with the level of stakes to be divested but that done the Indian entrepreneur were one of the most cash efficient. Infact, the VCs even went on to say the Indian entrepreneurs were the most cash efficient in the world and there were very few cases of fund being misused.


As the debate progressed, some members of the blogger community and some prospective entrepreneurs, who were also present at the ET roundtable, questioned the VCs on their indifference towards freshly minted entrepreneurs who were straight out of colleges.

“We are taking a more hard-nosed approach now as we have put in place stringent criteria’s for entrepreneurs to match if they want their projects to be funded,” explained Singhal.

The discussion then veered towards the lack of options for entrepreneurs for raising money, especially on the institutional side. The institutional investors have nearly exited this space and entrepreneurs are forced to go banks that have strict norms not compliant to entrepreneurs. “Ten years ago, it was easy for entrepreneurs to raise capital for their projects as there was a lot of help from institutional investors like IDBI, ICICI. Now the risk perception has increased and so it is difficult for them to find funding and also state-level institutions have moved out. They have to approach banks that have a 90-day norm in place making it unfavourable with these guys,” said Mr Balakrishnan of IDBI.

But, the entrepreneurs with sound business models need not worry, each of the three VCs told us that they have the cheque books ready: If the idea is worth it.

Read what bloggers had to say about the Seminar in Mumbai yesterday.




And from the Delhi seminar held earlier


Power Of Ideas Update I


Submissions for Start-up Funding Received

2,500+


Some sectors Start-up Submissions received in are

Retail
Media & Entertainment
Healthcare
Education
Agriculture

To submit your Start-up idea for possible VC funding, visit Power Of Ideas

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Today In Mumbai


In a little over an hour and half from now, at 11:30 A.M. panelists who’re in the business of helping entrepreneurs achieve their goals will speak in Mumbai at the Economic Times seminar on - 'Capital Idea' - How entrepreneurs can access and bring their business ideas to life.

The Speakers

Jitender Balakrishnan, Deputy Managing Director, IDBI
Sandeep Singhal, Founder, Nexus Capital
Gautam Patel, Partner, Battery Ventures
Rahul Khanna, Clearstone Venture Advisors

They'll be speaking on

1. How entrepreneurs can access capital.
2. What should be the approach.
3. The barriers / limitations that entrepreneurs face in accessing capital, and ways and means open to them to overcome these hurdles.
4. The role of entrepreneurship in building a strong India.

Date: 18th Feb, 2009
Time: 11:30 A.M.
Venue: 4th Floor, Conference Hall, The Times Of India bldg., Dr. D.N. Road, Fort, Mumbai-400001

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mumbai, Tomorrow


Tomorrow, The Economic Times concludes its The Power Of Ideas series of seminars with the last one in Mumbai. With Kolkata, Bangalore, Delhi, and Ahmedabad done, Mumbai will now hear what a distinguished panel of speakers has to say on

"Capital Idea" - How entrepreneurs can access and bring their business ideas to life.

Speakers

Jitender Balakrishnan, Deputy Managing Director, IDBI
Sandeep Singhal, Founder, Nexus Capital
Gautam Patel, Partner, Battery Ventures
Rahul Khanna, Clearstone Venture Advisors

They'll be speaking on

1. How entrepreneurs can access capital.
2. What should be the approach.
3. The barriers / limitations that entrepreneurs face in accessing capital, and ways and means open to them to overcome these hurdles.
4. The role of entrepreneurship in building a strong India.

Date: 18th Feb, 2009
Time: 11:30 A.M.
Venue: 4th Floor, Conference Hall, The Times Of India bldg., Dr. D.N. Road, Fort, Mumbai-400001

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Friends Of Books


Unlike overseas, there are few or no large bookstore chains, musty second-hand bookstores, or sprawling public libraries in India outside of the cities. In recent times however several book stores have cropped up here, but they are few and far-between. Perhaps, it is an indication of how little India reads, something that rankled and goaded Manish Kumar and Arti Jain into founding Friendsofbooks.com.

Friendsofbooks.com is a business initiative that came about to make India read! It now ensures cold wintry evenings, steaming cups of coffee, and lonely summer nights have suitable company. And that too, quite comfortably – picked off a virtual bookshop, and delivered to your doorstep!


Friendsofbooks.com uses a digital platform to communicate and connect with its members. Users log on to the website to browse through virtual bookshelves and select a registration plan. “Registration plans vary, keeping in mind different reading patterns among Indians. The entry plan has been kept at a nominal sum of Rs. 150/-,” explains Arti. Once registered, the user picks up a book to read which is then delivered to their doorstep. When the user finishes the book, he hits the 'Ready for Pick up' tab on the website to make way for his next read, again delivered to his doorstep!


Whilst the idea sparked in the US, where both Arti and Manish were working as an independent media professional and software professional respectively, it was later modified and adapted to suit Indian markets. The pre-launch period entailed an in depth study of the Indian publishing business and reading habits among Indians. While Arti busied herself in researching the market and building the virtual bookshelf including sourcing and collecting books, Manish put his skills to use in setting up the website.

The books came from book store chains, second-hand bookstores, well-wishers and members who generously parted with their books. The initial investment for setting up the website came in from Manish and Arti. Setting up the website included the creation of a payment gateway to ensure a safe and secure payment environment for membership registration. The registration begins at Rs. 150/- going on to Rs. 4,750/-. Says Manish, “I studied different payment websites and zeroed in on PC Avenue. Besides their promise of safety and security, it also helped that they were reputed and known for their efficiency.”

In the book-lending business, dynamics such as quantity, delivery and pick up are factors that affect demand for books, and as also do awards and accolades the books win. Finally maintenance and storage of books is also critical. Friendsofbooks.com realized the functional difficulties involving book pick-up and delivery. “So we decided to hire the services of a courier agency to aid with our book pick-up and delivery service. We decided to focus on what we're good at, and outsource what we're not!” explains Arti. Friendsofbooks.com stores books in cartons, and on bookshelves and takes a security deposit from its members to safeguard against books not returned, or returned in bad condition.


“But, that's rarely the case,” explains Manish, “after all, all our members are Friends of Books!” The initiative uses book reading events, social media and a blog to reach out to its readers and keep them updated with their thoughts and events. Informal newsletters are sent out each month to inform readers of their latest additions. “Building our library is one of our most important tasks,” reveals Arti. Additionally, they keep book dynamics in mind- ensuring they have optimum number of copies of a popular book to meet reader demand. Reviews too are posted up on the website, a habit that Friendsofbooks.com hopes to extend into an ongoing activity.

In the future, Friendsofbooks.com hopes to garner support, pick up business and spread their mission to other cities. Tie-ups with publishing houses may also be considered. But, most importantly, Friendsofbooks.com hopes to spread and increase the reading habit in India!

Entrepreneurial ambition around books is significant for the contribution it makes to the society for, it is books more than anything that help hold a culture together, enriching minds and affording experiences that stir imagination. A book is a leap of faith on the experience of another.

Arti and Manish converted their passion to an idea that worked for them. Do you have a passion you want to convert to a business reality?

If you do then maybe we can help you to realize it. Visit The Power Of Ideas to find out how.


Related Links

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

You've Got Mail



Now that letters are rare to come by, and there’s little or no sense of anticipation of arrival of letters from friends and relatives, letter boxes have become redundant save the occasional subscription, and the household bills.

With fewer people reading books, subscriptions stand even lesser chance of being read. But if there’s one thing why we return to letter boxes, time and again it is for the various bills: Electricity bills, Telephone bills, Maintenance bills, Internet bills, and Cable TV bills among other things. More so if you don’t use the Internet to pay these off, and most people don’t. So a check of the letterbox for incoming mail becomes necessary.

I do it.

I wouldn’t mind as much if the bills landed on a pattern, but they don’t. It is quite common to have electricity bills land a day or two before the last date, or worse still not at all. Unless you check the letter box daily chances are you’ll miss the bills, and heaven forbid if you’ve make it to the Government department to rectify the missed deadlines, worse still disconnections.

It is common to check the letterbox for mail one day and not check it for the next five, maybe even ten, only to be surprised by their arrival when you least expect them. I believe in Murphy ’s Law, and suspect that bills land in the letterbox the day after I’ve checked them.

And I wonder

Why I cannot be notified automatically no sooner a letter or a bill or something is slipped into the letterbox. Surely if there’s a chip programmed with my mobile number it should be able to send me a SMS no sooner a circuit is broken on paper being slipped into the letterbox. Better still if a sensor were to detect the same so that even if a circuit stays 'broken' the sensor will still detect mail slipped in. Add a reminder if the mail is not picked up in a certain timeframe.

Ah, the conveniences folks desire! Like someone once said, if wishes were horses . . . Ahem.


Unless ofcourse no letter or bill mattered! What a blessed life that would be, without bills that is.


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