January 23, 2008

Speaker Lineup for APEX '08 Summit & Awards

We are delighted to announce a stellar list of speakers for APEX '08, the Indian Private Equity Summit, scheduled for January 31 at Mumbai. The Annual Summit brings together the cream of the Indian Private Equity/Venture Capital-Entrepreneur Ecosystem to introspect, brainstorm on the way forward and reward its best.

Confirmed Speakers at the Summit include:

Leading PE/VC-backed Entrepreneurs

NIKHIL GANDHI, SKIL Infrastructure

KRISHNAKUMAR NATARAJAN, MindTree

ROHAN AJILA, Indiamarkets.com/Capvent

GOPALA KRISHNAN, mobile2win


Other Entrepreneur Speakers:

  • Goutham Reddy, Ramky Group
  • Jairaj Kumar, Ocean Sparkle

Leading Venture Capitalists

SUDHIR SETHI, IDG Ventures India

VANI KOLA, NEA-IndoUS Venture

SUMIR CHADHA, Sequoia Capital India


SARATH NARU, Ventureast

Leading Private Equity investors

MAHESH KRISHNAMURTHY, India Value Fund

ANIL AHUJA, 3i

RAJA KUMAR, UTI Ventures

LUIS MIRANDA, IDFC PE

SHAILESH PATHAK, ICICI Venture

P.R. SRINIVASAN, CVC International

Participants at the Summit will include PE & VC firms, Entrepreneurs, Limited Partners, Service Providers and the Media.

Click Here to view the detailed event agenda as well as a list of other speakers.


Sponsors

Capvent










Contact for Participation
:
Tel: +91-44-45534303 I apex@ventureintelligence.in

Contact for Sponsorship:
Nataraj. S I Tel: +91-97890-67955 I nataraj@ventureintelligence.in

FLASHBACK
: APEX'07

January 16, 2008

Dealing with Competition - By Sanjay Anandaram

The founder was agitated. He had just read in the papers that some VCs had funded a company that appeared to compete head-on with his company. Some of his partners had also recently told him that other companies had contacted them with a better value proposition than what he had offered. And they were therefore re-thinking their position. A couple of his employees had also left to join a competing firm. It seemed that the whole market was, all of a sudden, conspiring against him! After all, he was the first company in the market (and the only company, as far as he knew). What was going on?

What was going on is all too common in the world of startups. Founders usually believe that their companies are unique. In fact, so unique that they believe there’s no competition of any kind whatsoever. Which is why VCs get to see pitches where the entrepreneur has positioned only his company in the top right quadrant of the familiar 2by2 market positioning landscape! Two of the most important things for the founding team to keep in mind is the following:

a) If you are absolutely the only company in a market, there’s a more than even chance that there’s no market at all OR,
b) You have not understood the market well-enough

Both the above are not exactly pats on the back for the capabilities of the founding team. It is fair to assume therefore that if there’s a market, there’s bound to be competition. And if there’s competition, it is but natural that they too are focused on the same customers as you are, are hell-bent on making sure that they win these customers, and will try everything possible to make sure that you don’t win. It would be na├»ve to think otherwise. Sometimes, the startup is the 1st company to offer a product or service. If you are making money and winning customers, then you can be sure that others will be attracted to the business. How does one then therefore build ‘sustainable competitive advantage?”, to use jargon.

Competitive advantage is obtained through multiple sources such as:
- Top class team
- Intellectual property rights
- Speed of execution
- Financial strength
- Business model
- Exclusive deals with customers, suppliers, partners
- Brand value
- Low cost
- Unique design
- Customer support

Usually, it’s a combination of these and other factors that give rise to competitive advantage. It is important for the founding team to therefore think through the sources of their advantage, continuously build upon them and create newer sources over time as the nature of competition changes. Competition could initially come from similar sized small companies. But very quickly, the big boys of the business could get attracted to the market and decide to come calling.

Speed is usually one of the key advantages that a startup enjoys. It is therefore important to deal with competitive pressures head-on, quickly and ideally, before they become pressures. How? By anticipating competition, market & technology trends, and by understanding the customer. And how does one do these then? The short answer is by being in the market and talking to customers, partners, suppliers and others who make up the market system. By spending time with them to understand their needs and motivations. Understanding why they aren’t interested in your company is as important as knowing why they are. Developing a competitive strategy therefore isn’t an ivory tower exercise at all.

Being proactive allows the startup time to rectify mistakes quickly as well. After all, trial and error is an accepted learning methodology but only if done speedily. Many a time, entrepreneurs believe that being first to market is sufficient advantage. Being first to market provides some initial advantage but not enough unless it is backed by relentlessly efficient execution. In addition, there must be a visible path to profits. After all, a company cannot win in the long term unless it starts generating profits. There’s an interesting saying that is worth remembering: “First to market doesn’t mean being first to arrive. Rather, it means being the first to survive!” And generating cash and profits is the only way to do so.

What do you think?

Sanjay Anandaram is a passionate advocate of entrepreneurship in India; He brings close to two decades of experience as an entrepreneur, corporate executive, venture investor, faculty member, advisor and mentor. He’s involved with Nasscom, TiE, IIM-Bangalore, and INSEAD business school in driving entrepreneurship. He can be reached at sanjay@jumpstartup.net. The views expressed here are his own.

Is governance important at the start-up level? - By Sanjay Anandaram

The young founders of the young company looked happy. They had just finished a long meeting with a top class candidate for CEO of one of their soon-to-be-launched businesses. They had decided to bring on board seasoned professionals to help them achieve their long term goal of building a nationally admired and respected company. The CEO candidate too felt energized after the meeting with the founders and was excited by the passion and drive exhibited by the founders. He was impressed by their open style, frank assessments of themselves, their understanding of the market landscape and by their willingness to share financially.

Yet, he was a little uneasy. He called up the next day and wanted to meet the founders. He was concerned about “governance”. The founders were taken aback – what was this guy talking about?! They were taken aback only because of their lack of awareness about the intangible issue called governance. Sure, they had heard about it but hadn’t really worried about it enough to find out what it really meant. It was something, they thought, that only large public companies needed to bother about, that it was something bureaucratic that would only hamper their freedoms.

The above situation regarding governance related concerns is quite common in India. In an India that’s globalizing rapidly on multiple dimensions, Indian entrepreneurs too need to wake up to the important issue of governance. Especially in family owned companies. What is this thing called governance and why is it important for startups? A few sample concerns from the CEO candidate illustrate the types of issues that come under the umbrella of “governance”.

“Are the founders taking salaries or are they siphoning money out of the company?’
“Are all family members getting involved in the management of the company just because they happen to be shareholders?”
“Do family members report to each other in the hierarchy? How do they then do performance appraisals?”
“Does the company do business with related parties or persons?Is there a proper arms-length relationship”
“Is there a board that takes decisions or does the family decide?”

The delineation between ownership and management is an important aspect of governance. All too often, the distinction gets blurred and downright murky in India. It is important for a startup to seriously think of governance because good governance results in the creation of truly valuable, respected and admired companies. Professional executives tend to migrate to better governed companies. Investors feel very comfortable dealing with well-governed companies. Employees believe that their company will be fair not out of a patronizing attitude but out of respect for due process. Customers and partners trust a company that practices good governance. Stock markets reward well governed companies.

However governance, like many other things, isn’t a set of statements that’s written on a piece of paper, laminated and hung on a wall only to be forgotten. Governance is something that the company has to relentlessly demonstrate every day. There are multiple so-called “moment of truth” that will confront employees and management each and every day. It is through the execution of “well-governed” practices that the truly great company emerges.

The founders of the company have to practice it every day. It is hard work especially for a startup when cutting corners to achieve a short term goal seems very appropriate. But remember that there are others in the company who are watching and observing. And if the right company culture, namely one of a well governed company, is to be really brought into play, then each and every action has to be weighed against the yardstick of governance.

One of the critical issues relating to governance in a startup comes from the fact that the founders tend to identify themselves with the company. It takes emotional maturity to see that the company and the founders are two distinct entities with different interested stakeholders. What is therefore good for one might not always be good for the other. So, the realization that “what’s good for the company is almost always good for the founders” and that “what’s good for the founder isn’t usually good for the company” is what makes or breaks the governance issue.

What do you think?

Sanjay Anandaram is a passionate advocate of entrepreneurship in India; He brings close to two decades of experience as an entrepreneur, corporate executive, venture investor, faculty member, advisor and mentor. He’s involved with Nasscom, TiE, IIM-Bangalore, and INSEAD business school in driving entrepreneurship. He can be reached at sanjay@jumpstartup.net. The views expressed here are his own.