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:


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?


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'


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: 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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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,, 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,, 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

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:


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


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

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


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 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.