November 13, 2011

"Work-Life Balance" - Article by Sanjay Anandaram


“My wife walked out of the house last week. I’ve known her for 7 years and we’ve been married for 5years and now I feel our relationship is purely transactional. I’m consumed by my startup and think about it every waking minute. Am obsessed with it and want to make it a roaring success. My wife works in the financial services industry and she too works long hours. We moved to Bengaluru from Mumbai so that our quality of life would be better. She travels on work and so do I. I get back home late and she’s either in bed or on her laptop. There’s no time for anything else. I don’t or can’t talk to her about the pressures I’m under. Don’t think she’ll understand. I keep responding to emails and SMS messages  when I’m home. I don’t want to lose out on any business opportunity. She wants children and I am not sure I’m ready to be a dad till my startup is done. Am depressed and lonely. But I cannot give up on my startup dream. What should I do?”

So said the 31 year old CEO of a startup. And he wasn’t the first such person saying this to me. Have rather unfortunately been at the listening and counseling end of such laments increasingly over the past couple of years. It seems that the pressures of a startup are putting enormous strains on personal relationships.

As India undergoes a huge socio-economic change, pressures on each one of us is bound to increase. Pressures brought about by changes in traditional expectations and aspirations in gender-roles. These changes are fuelled by the media, financial independence, confidence and an assertion of individuality. Nothing good or bad or right or wrong about this. These are the ways things are they need to be understood and managed in context. As more and more youngsters decide to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams, they will need to grapple with the issue of managing their work and personal lives.

A digression: in the month that my son was born and my mother passed away, I decided to quit and do a startup. The urge was uncontrollable and I took the decision without consulting my wife! I was in Silicon Valley and she was in India (we had decided to have our son in India). She was surprised and understandably upset but then was fully supportive. I travelled several times from the US to India during those initial days. Those were the days of emotional roller-coaster rides. After several months, my son and wife joined me in the US (visa issues delayed the family reunion!). The startup went through ups and downs – emotional and financial. It wasn’t easy by any stretch of imagination but I was confident that I’d get all the support from my wife. Yes I did get all the support though it wasn’t always visible or expressed!

It is important therefore to ensure the following:
-       That the partner or spouse understands how important the startup is for you and they support it wholeheartedly. Openly talk about the trade-offs and sacrifices both have to make.
-       That you understand how important it is to have that support and therefore make efforts to show it
-       Spend time with the family and don’t keep checking messages during this time. Consciously keep aside time. My time, your time and most importantly, OUR TIME. Be religious about this.
-       You don’t have to respond to every message in the next nano-second. You will be surprised that the world still spins on its axis if you don’t!
-       Be open and discuss things. Take interest in the other person’s day
-       Remember to take pleasure in the small things eg just hang out together listening to music.

It is important therefore to remain grounded in one’s beliefs and values. With a rapidly growing consumerist mindset, there’s this pressure to enjoy the next great car, house, gadget and vacation. The startup doesn’t offer one the luxury to splurge on these or even if it is one those startups that does, then the time to enjoy these isn’t available. Therefore before you jump into a startup, think about why you are doing it and be clear about your motivations. A startup is not a cool place to hang out in or a get rich quick scheme. It is a vehicle to make your passion and dreams come true. And it is very critical that those who you want to share your life with understand this. As you should their point of view and understand the difficult trade-offs before you decide to do the startup.

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. 

November 02, 2011

"Develop Selling and Communication Skills" - Article by Sanjay Anandaram

“Who is your customer? Can you create a profile of your ideal customer? How do you find them or do they find you? Which set of customers are your most profitable? With which customers do you think a long term relationship can be established? How many of your customers do you meet regularly? How do you charge your customers? Who do you compete against? Why do you think you’re better? How do you think you will knock the socks of your competitors? What other products and services are you willing to give up to focus on the most profitable ones? How do you sell? What is the cost of acquiring a customer? How long does it take from the first customer contact to receiving an order and then to receive payment? What the specific value proposition to your customers – why should they buy from you and continue to do so? What exactly do you do? What made you choose this offering? What is your personal experience with the pain suffered by customers”

The above is a sample set of the questions asked by a panel at a recent selection of the top entrepreneurial companies. While only a handful were able to respond meaningfully, convincingly and forcefully, the vast majority hadn’t either thought of these questions or weren’t able to articulate their thoughts or were very obviously uncomfortable presenting to a panel.

“Have you contacted the CEO?” I asked the entrepreneur who I’d introduced to a CEO of a company. “No, not yet” replied the entrepreneur. “Why not?” I asked quite flabbergasted. “It has been only 36 hours since you did the introduction and I thought I’d wait for some time before writing to him”. Here was a sales opportunity and the founder of a startup was worrying about waiting! In another case, the founders had to pushed very hard to reach out to potential customers and partners by way of attending industry conferences, becoming members of e-groups, connecting with other players in the eco-system, meeting members of the press and the like.

What is it that prevents or inhibits the founders of a startup from aggressively peddling their company’s value? What is it that prevents or inhibits them from forming partnerships, forging alliances and pursuing sales leads? As India becomes an increasingly market oriented open economy, the “build it and they will come” mindset has to give way to “build something the market desires and make sure that the market knows it”. The production oriented approach has to give way to a market oriented one. As a culture, we’re naturally inhibited about talking about ourselves. It isn’t right. It is a sign of immodesty to tom-tom one’s own achievements and offerings. But as the saying goes, if you don’t talk about yourself, who else will? The rest of the market will then inconveniently and inappropriately perhaps, position you because you refuse to position yourself. As Jack Welch, the legendary Chairman of GE wrote -  “Control your destiny or someone else will!”

Communication and presenting skills are crucial as well. In the limited time available, one has to learn to make a compelling and persuasive pitch. There are no short-cuts to this effort but a lot of practice, taking of feedback and learning are required. No different from any other activity. Perception is reality so it is crucial to make that pitch work. Clarity of thought, focused approach to customers and markets, understanding of what the value to customers are of no use if the person listening doesn’t hear it.

Very many years ago, a very senior well respected VC from Silicon Valley told me this:
All I want to know is:
-       Who are you?
-       What’s the problem you’re solving?
-       Why will you knock the socks of competition?
-       How will you make money?

It is not unusual to find the names of the founders and management team missing from presentations or even web-sites of Indian startups. But remember, people don’t do business with spreadsheets and presentations. They do business with people. So it is always a good idea to talk about the team and its background and why it is doing what it is doing!

So why this strange modesty in discussing oneself and one’s vision? Churchill once famously described someone as “….is a modest man with much to be modest about!” but a confident entrepreneur surely cannot be a person with much to be modest about? Remember, there’s a thin line between arrogance and confidence. Arrogance precludes learning, includes bombast and demonstrates a lack of humility. Confidence ensures humility, learning and certain relentless and adaptable focus.

So please remember, that selling and communication skills are critical for the founding team of a startup. The first set of sales have to be done by the founders. A sharp understanding of their customers, the value being created and the ability articulate this value are skills that are honed through practice. These skills cannot and should not be wished away as being distasteful. Remember company building involves a disproportionate share of these two invaluable skills.
 
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.

October 17, 2011

The Math of How Dilution Affects Founders

Mark Suster has a Great InfoGraphic on the topic in his TechCruch post

Moral: (as Misha Sobolev · Harvard Business School sums it up in the comments):
- go with as few founders as possible.
- get to cash flow positive with fewer rounds.
- bootstrap till you get product/market fit and learn what your engine of growth will be before raising so that you pre- is higher... did I miss anything?

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private equity, venture capital and M&A deals in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs reach out effectively to the investing community.

September 28, 2011

"Mistakes to Avoid in PE Fund Raising"

Extract from an Economic Times article by Manish Kanchan, managing director of SAGE Capital.
Very often we see entrepreneurs consulting with well wishers, old-time chartered accountants or their loyal CFOs during the deal-making process. Usually this is the first time anybody is dealing with private equity transactions and are therefore completely out of their depths. Sometimes, they are also insecure about their own future position in the company.

...Investment bankers are your allies. Choose them based on their track record of having closed similar transactions Ask for references and speak with them. Do not appoint them based on the valuation they promise you. Investment bankers do not sign the cheque. Once appointed, trust them and encourage them to provide you with honest feedback directly. The same applies for lawyers as well.

...The business plan must be realistic with a slight optimistic bias. It should also be linked to past performance. If the business has grown at 15% over last 3 years do not project it to grow at 60% suddenly after the deal closes. The fund managers seek to understand your thought process, how you assess risks, how you deal with competition, from where you will get people to manage the growth. The level of detail, correlation to industry growth rates, and honesty, will win respect and improve the chances of raising money.

... Do not sign the term sheet too readily. The term sheet lists out the key commercial terms and rights and obligations of each party. This is a nonbinding document which is typically subject to legal, financial, commercial due diligence and approval from the investment committee of the fund. This allows the fund to modify its offer (or sometimes walk away). However, clauses relating to exclusivity are binding on the promoter and the company. Exclusivity prevents the company from engaging in discussions with another investor usually for periods ranging from 90 to 120 days.


Venture Intelligence is the leading provider of data and analysis on private equity, venture capital and M&A deals in India. View free samples of Venture Intelligence newsletters and reports.

articleArun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private equity, venture capital and M&A deals in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs reach out effectively to the investing community.

August 16, 2011

"Entrepreneurs against Corruption?" - Article by Sanjay Anandaram

“I had to apply for a new passport booklet as I had run out of pages. Having applied online – an altogether different experience - under the tatkal scheme, I was hoping to receive the passport in under a week as I intended to travel for a conference soon. I then was confronted by this uniquely Indian phenomenon of a “police verification”. There was a change in my address since the last passport and my new address had to be verified by the police. I was therefore visited by a constable from the local thana. A few days later, upon enquiry, I was informed that the police verification process was still underway. Surprised, I visited the local thana. To cut a long story short, I was told by the constable that it would help if I paid some “speed money”. I refused and demanded to see the officer who, I was told, wasn’t available. I waited for some time and left. I returned much later in the evening and met the officer and complained. The officer immediately called for the constables and admonished them asking them to clear my “case” and how could they not see what kind of a person I was!”

This was the tale recently narrated to me by an entrepreneur. There are myriad such cases that all of us have to deal with on a daily basis. The issue of corruption isn’t limited to any one government department alone. There are an immense number of cases of corruption involving various functions in the private sector as well. For example, kickbacks in functions such as purchase, administration, finance and recruitment are not unheard of. Fudging of travel bills, using company resources for personal work, taking advantage of say, the largesse of a channel partner are other examples. In fact, award conferences too have their versions of such corruption. Satyam Computers was the recipient of the 2008 Golden Peacock Global Award for corporate governance. Lobbying, influencing of judges and the like are after all “legitimate” and “pragmatic” business practices. It is not unusual to see unknown companies with less than stellar credentials claim via loud media advertisements how they’re better and bigger than everybody else. The media doesn’t expose any of these companies lest they lose the big advertising bucks that these companies spend via their channels.

The last thing an entrepreneur should be is be idealistic – right? An entrepreneur should be pragmatic, no? How else will he able to negotiate the maze of Indian laws, bureaucracy and ethics? Idealism? That’s reserved for the NGO-social activist sector, isn’t it? An entrepreneur has enough on his plate, struggling to build a business in the best way he knows, frustrated with having to deal with several road blocks and we expect him to be idealistic? Idealism is meant for those who can afford it or those who have nothing to lose. Or so goes the dominant logic. So is it acceptable to inflate expenses to save on taxes? After all, the entrepreneur is focused on creating shareholder value and higher profits are what shareholders want. Is it OK to take money out of the company via inflated invoices to a friendly contractor? The list goes on.

We live in a world of declining ethical standards where making money – somehow, anyhow – is the new standard of social acceptability. The standard therefore tends to settle at the level of the lowest common denominator and that’s perfectly understandable for all of us who unquestioningly embrace the dominant logic. Of course, we can all rationalize and explain away our situation as a special case. Of course, we all love to complain and blame the other person, the system for the state of affairs. But as entrepreneurs and those interested in it, are we not supposed to question the status quo, the dominant logic. Isn’t that what entrepreneurs do? Don’t entrepreneurs take matters into their own hands and decide to upset the apple cart because they’re unhappy with the status quo and because they believe there’s a better, faster, cheaper way ahead for everyone? Don’t entrepreneurs work hard everyday to make their ideal, their vision for how things should be come true?

No - successful or otherwise - entrepreneur ever admits to paying a bribe! They’ve all built their businesses the straight and narrow way. Is this true?

So would it be idealistic to ask every one of us to introspect and make deep personal commitments to fighting corruption? Or would it be pragmatic to just go along with the way things are?

But that wouldn’t be the way of the entrepreneur, would it?

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.

August 06, 2011

"Entrepreneurship By Design" - Article by Sanjay Anandaram

I recently had to renew my passport and learnt that “everything could be done online”. I then went to the web-site (passport.gov.in) and learnt that for a resident of Bangalore (and some other cities) one had to “refer” to the home page of the Bangalore passport office (rpobangalore.gov.in) and there was no way to get to this from the home page. Anyway. Filling in the application form is certainly a test of patience requiring intuition, guess work, luck and prayer. And to think that India’s largest IT services company designed this!

Anyone who has filled in forms (and there are more than plenty of those to fill in our great land) will certainly, more often than not have had experience in micro-calligraphy since the space allotted for entering names and addresses is miniscule, while that for entering say a 6 digit number will be an inch wide.

How many times have we stood in a queue not knowing information might be sought by the clerk on the other side, many times not knowing if one is indeed in the right queue!

There are many thousands of such examples where lack of thinking gets demonstrated from web site designs to application forms to chairs and pens to buildings and cities. Thinking that relates to the context, the ease of use, the need, the clarity and cost. And perhaps it isn’t surprising. In a nascent developing market economy, basic utility and functionality is the dominant requirement as even a small obvious change (such as say, offering the ability to fill an application online) is actually enormous given the starting point. As awareness, aspirations, affordability and expectation of consumers and citizens change, the demand for well designed, affordable products and services will naturally increase.

But is that the way it should be? Shouldn’t there be any effort on the part of suppliers to provide a great experience to their customers – right from the point of interest to the purchase and post purchase service? By not putting in the effort to create new better designed products and services, aren’t suppliers at grave risk of being outflanked by nimbler, customer friendly entrepreneurs? Better design doesn’t mean higher costs. It could mean higher prices though - because customers will always pay for a better overall experience.

That hardy symbol of post independent India’s automobile engineering prowess, the Ambassador, is a case in point.

World class companies spend enormous amounts of time and effort to get their “user-experience” right. They employ experts in human behaviour, design, sociologists, technologists, man-machine interface, time-motion studies, scientists, and the like to observe, study, document, measure, take feedback, and prototype as part of the process of designing products and services. How many Indian companies can make that claim?

Design is still a hugely under-appreciated discipline in India. It shows in the way our cities are designed, our buildings are architected, the way everyday goods and services are created and offered. Either they’re crude and terrible copies of designs from the West which are out of place given the differences in usage and context in our country. A look at the glass and steel monstrosities dotting our cities as part of “modern” India is a case in point. Unfortunately, designs have come to mean designer – usually outrageously expensive and over the top - in India!

Given the appalling lack of design aesthetics, surely there’s a great opportunity for entrepreneurs who think in terms of design and user experiences. Who are demanding, innovative and willing to push the envelope.

Many years ago, a young entrepreneur in Silicon Valley decided to make “insanely great” products. He stuck to his core beliefs even as Steve Jobs is acknowledged today as the entrepreneur who’s redefined consumer experience with technology. To him, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works. In most people's vocabularies, design means veneer. It's interior decorating. It's the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.”

Surely, there are many equivalents of Steve Jobs all over India. Let us celebrate entrepreneurship by design!

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.

July 28, 2011

"Startup Financing in India: Then & Now" - Article by Sanjay Anadaram

A sound financial system is the bed rock on which entrepreneurial dreams can be built – within companies as well as without. Access to investment capital and credit financing are critical aspects for any business. Interestingly, in the 100th year of such access in India, it is worth looking back and realizing that it took the efforts of many entrepreneurial, philanthropic and visionary people to achieve all this.

Providing organized professional access to commercial finance in India is at least as old as 21st December 1911 when Sir Sorabji Pochkhanawala set up the Central Bank of India which claims to be the first commercial Indian bank completely owned and managed by Indians. The “Cradle of Indian Banking” - Dakshina Kannada and Udipi districts in Karnataka – saw the setting up of Canara Bank, Syndicate Bank, Corporation Bank, Vijaya Bank, Karnataka Bank, Vysya Bank, State Bank of Mysore among others, thanks in large part to the Swadeshi movement which aimed to cater to the needs of the Indian community. These banks were set up by entrepreneurial and philanthropic individuals with the interests of the community at heart. For example, Ammenbai Subba Rao Pai collected handfuls of rice from each household, pooled it, sold it and used the money as the capital to start Canara Bank in 1906! Syndicate Bank was started in 1925 to cater to the needs of the local weavers after a handloom crisis; Vijaya Bank was started by A B Shetty and others in 1931 to help the farming community. In 1908, Bank of Baroda was established by the Maharaja to serve the people of Baroda with money lending, savings, transmission, and for the encouragement of arts, science, commerce and trade for the people. There are many examples of similar efforts from other parts of India as well.

All these banks were nationalized in 1969 and they started getting again liberated from 1991 onwards.

India has been a capital starved economy for as long as anyone can remember. In the last decade or so, availability of capital has increased for entrepreneurs and businesses. Yet most of this capital has come from outside the country whether be they in the form of private equity and venture capital or from Foreign Institutional Investors in public markets. Domestic banks, government and financial institutions are either inadequately capitalized for funding large projects or are so hamstrung by bureaucracy and regulation that they aren’t able to meet the rising needs of the rapidly growing entrepreneur class.

It is a sign of the maturing of the financing ecosystem that various segments are getting professionally organized and are clearly emerging with distinctive focus areas– angel, early stage and growth. The heartening thing to note is that angel (ie money provided by high net worth individuals who in addition to money provide mentorship and expertise) and early stage capital have, over the past few years, become more widely known and are increasingly becoming the first ports of call for innovative entrepreneurs.

It is therefore important that the efforts of angels and early stage funds that take risk, share the vision of the entrepreneur, mentor and help build companies be rewarded by their investments performing well. It is also important for concerned policy makers and commentators to encourage, by policy and otherwise, fund raising and simplify bureaucracy so that more and more angels and more early stage funds emerge. Media must celebrate the rise of this new category of investors and risk takers and help disseminate learnings and experiences from entrepreneurs, angels and funds across the country. This will set off a virtuous cycle – more angels and early stage funds leads to more entrepreneurs (or is it the other way around?!) which leads to more angels and early stage funds.

It is said that India is a rich country with poor people. It will become a rich country with rich people if all of us who can participate in any way, through any ethical means - by using any of our experiences, expertise, capabilities, resources - actually do so to assist those less fortunate or able but with dreams.

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.

July 18, 2011

"The Entrepreneurial Journey from Goan Feni to Scotch Whisky" - Article by Sanjay Anandaram

India is the world’s largest whisky (in all its variants) market and it’s fast growing market for alcoholic products is worth in excess of $22billion. About 40 million bottles of Scotch whisky was imported into India from Scotland last year, up by 40% from 2009. Recently, India granted geographical indication of origin (GI) status to Scotch whisky, a legal protection that will help reinforce the authenticity of the product and enhance the market potential. This recognition is “good news for Scotland and great news for one of its most important exports” according to the Scotland Office Minister. Scotland’s whisky producers naturally see India as a priority market and the granting of the GI will ensure that Indian whiskies (99% of the consumption today) will not be able to use the term Scotch whisky on their products.

What was once an unorganized and illegal family activity of distilling is now a global recognized branded product. The Scotch whisky industry is over $6 billion in size (with 80% being exported internationally), employs around 10,000 across around 140 distilleries and generates a gross value-add per employee of over $400K with employment costs of $72K.

Huge investments in marketing, visitor-centres, processes, education and training, research, technology and production facilities has generated this. Mythology and legend have been created around this product has been created and subsequently consumed around the world.

Now compare this with say, the state of Goan Feni or Fenny which too has a GI tag - obtained in 2009. Most people are unaware of the GI tag (including producers). The industry is unorganized, small and family owned, home run, with low levels of education. The processes and technology are traditional with little or no investment in research and training. Businesses are self-financed. The branded segment is tiny with most of the produce geared for consumption in bars. About 40,000 people are employed across 4000 mini-distilleries/stills and about 1million bottled litres of cashew feni were made in 2005.

In other words, the Goan Feni industry is largely like what the Scotch whisky industry was a century ago. And worst of all, because Goan Feni is classified as a country liquor, it cannot be sold outside Goa! Goan Feni is losing market share rapidly as well.

This scenario isn’t unique to Goan Feni but is hugely illustrative of the state of affairs across a range of industries in India. So what’s to be done? How does one convert commodity, fragmented & unorganized, inefficient, self-financed businesses into brands that deliver a value to customers, partners and suppliers who have a choice and who will therefore pay for that value? The lack of an entrepreneurial mindset (one that sees opportunity and solves problems where others don’t) across the value chain – regulators to producers to distributors – is painfully visible.

Investments in technology to deliver products and services efficiently, in a scalable and transparent manner; Investments in marketing understand customers, market segments, define products and create brands; Investments in processes to ensure that consistency, predictability and reduce human dependency; Investments in partnerships and relationships to grow the entire industry; Investments in training, research and development; Accessing and harnessing capital and top quality people to deliver on the vision of the entrepreneurial mindset. It is the aggregation of all of these that create scalable organizations that last rather than small cottage business.

The good news is that a new breed of entrepreneurs are emerging to convert the Goan Feni metaphor to that of the Scotch whisky one. Companies like MakeMyTrip in holiday packages, Via World for travel, Flipkart in retailing, Vaatsalya in healthcare, redBus in bus ticketing, Bharat Matrimony in matrimonials, Bill Junction in bill payments, Naukri in jobs are some examples. The bad news – there’s a need for many more such entrepreneurs in many more areas!

The word Whisky comes from ancient Gaelic that means “Water of Life”. There’s a need for more passionate people with the entrepreneurial mindset to deliver the water of life to the India story and to convert Goan Feni to Scotch whisky!

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.

"Startup Employees: The Heroes and Villains" - Article by Sanjay Anandaram

It takes a village to raise a child, says an old African proverb. It takes more than just the founder to raise a startup. It takes people of all types, some who join and stay, some who join and exit rapidly, others who join and after a while move on, and finally those who join, grow and become leaders.

It is the last category that needs to be nurtured by startups. Large companies have elaborate HR plans and policies for identifying, training, nurturing future leaders. In as much as it is a truism that it is more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep and mine existing one, it is also true that growing talent in-house, especially in a startup, is crucial. VC backed startups splurge money on attracting and hiring the “best” and “most experienced” from larger companies but then apart from raising expectations all round (within and without the startup), it is hard to put one’s finger on the real value of such hires. The situation is particularly acute in India because of the overall lack of managerial talent along with the difficulty in attracting experienced executives to a startup. The “best and experienced” therefore command hefty premiums.

On the other hand, how many startups really invest time, energy and effort in growing leaders. Of course, not all employees can become leaders. But everyone’s capacity and capability can be enhanced through exposure, responsibility, training and mentoring. Here, based on my experience, are typical attributes of employees who need to have their capabilities and capacities enhanced so that they can continue to contribute to the company. Without adequate attention, they can become road blocks to the growth of the company:

Khoon Pasina:
The backbone of the company. They’re the ones who’re the passionate, driven and “no problem is too hard” sort. They can go overboard with their passion as they don’t know how to get their passion to permeate across the company.

Main Sundar Hoon (MSH): These are employees who’s self-image is at variance with their actual capabilities. MSHs are parsimonious with information and cagey with their plans, are loath to disclose reasons for their actions, aren’t excited by performance reviews and the like. They’re happy being in their comfort zones and are generally reluctant to experiment and attempt new initiatives. They’re very good at what they do and know it.

Laawaris: This type suffers from low confidence. This type needs constant molly coddling and reassurance. Have fragile egos as well. They shy away from confrontation and cannot say “No!” to anyone’s face. They’d rather send emails justifying or rationalizing or complaining.

Awara: These are people who have ideas galore, many of them very good. Problems occur when they’re asked to implement them. They prefer a “seat of the pants” management style and hate working to a plan or following guidelines. They roam around the company and have a good understanding of the various functions that exist.

Gumnaam/Anamika: These are the silent largely unknown and unheralded diligent workers. They enjoy the comfort that anonymity confers on them. They’re the worker bees in the company.

And then watch out for these attributes that can harm a company:

Chupa Rustom: These are the dangerous ones. One never knows where they stand on an issue. Seeing isn’t believing with this bunch! They always seem to say the right thing, are there at the right place at the right time when things are going well and it is always someone else’s fault when things don’t go well.

Rajneeti: The “politicians” who carry tales from one end of the company to another. Who revel in gossip and innuendo.

Nalayak:
The incompetents who are a drag on the company. They neither have the inclination or the desire to learn, take feedback and contribute.

Khuddaar: The selfish kind. Who’re in it for personal glory and for making money, never mind the company. They aren’t also immune to resorting to throwing tantrums to get their way.

Kaminey: The blatantly unethical kind. They will resort to lying, cheating, fudging bills and the like.

It is the job of the leadership to identify these employees and put in place mechanisms to ensure that the right kind of employees remain and thrive while removing the ones that work to the detriment of the company. Those who remain must believe and work towards making their company “Hero No. 1”.

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.

June 13, 2011

Challenges of Scaling Up

Pradeep Gupta of the Cybermedia Group has a nice article in Business Today on the topic:
Another bottleneck is absence of delegation. When a company starts, the entrepreneur behind it often performs multiple roles, from chairman to caretaker. He takes a wide range of decisions from technical ones to marketing, from production to administration. His team too depends on the entrepreneur for every kind of decision. At a later stage, this hampers growth. The entrepreneur soon finds his knowledge inadequate to tackle challenges, or faces time management problems, which hold back the company. To achieve genuine delegation of responsibility, a second rung of leadership has to be created and empowered. Till this is done, businesses cannot scale up. Entrepreneurs often feel that by delegating they are giving up control. In reality, they are helping the business to bloom.

...There is also the pitfall of execution. In entrepreneurial companies, much work gets done without being formally recorded. Inherently, a small group shares more information and has greater clarity about the company's plans than the rest. But as the company grows, such informality has to be replaced by processes, technology and internal communication.

Resources - both money and people - present their own challenges. Entrepreneurs often bootstrap their companies and use the same philosophy for scaling up. This needs to change. Execution plans must be adequately funded for people to execute and deliver as expected. The key to scaling up is to scale up the organisation's capabilities. Once this is done, the scaling up in terms of performance, revenue and profitability will automatically follow.

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private equity, venture capital and M&A deals in India. View free samples of Venture Intelligence newsletters and reports. Email the author at arun@ventureintelligence.in

"Synthesised Communications" - Article by Sanjay Anandaram

With more and more communication taking place electronically, one would think that marketing folks would be looking into each leveraging every interaction as a means of building a brand relationship. However experience suggests that there are miles to go before e-communication gets integrated into the traditional marketing plans of even leading brands.

After checking mail in my “Inbox”, I usually review the mail in the “Junk” folder to ensure that no important message has inadvertently been routed to this folder. Upon a recent review, I came across a mail from “Webmaster” and had “Despatch of documents through electronic mode” in the subject line. Even though it seemed like this mail was in the right folder, wanting to be doubly sure, I clicked on it and was surprised to learn that it was a message from the Investor Services Division of a company where I am a tiny shareholder. The message contained an attachment – a circular informing me that all communication (including notices and copies of the annual reports) henceforth would only be done electronically and, to quote the cold officialese, that “in view of the above, it would not be necessary to respond to the attached Circular”.

Why couldn’t the company – ironically, a top player in the hospitality business, no less – have communicated to me in a manner that was more personal, friendlier and more importantly not be confused with junk or spam mail? Why couldn’t the name of the company be mentioned? Why wasn’t the subject line different and one that would make me read it? Instead, the mail was in my “Junk” folder and worse, there was the real danger that subsequent, more important communication could get diverted to that folder with me perhaps losing out? Did the letter have to sound cold, impersonal and distant? How could a leading company in the hospitality business communicate so unthinkingly?

I received an e-bill from bill@tataindicom.com. After making the payment, I received an acknowledgement from Tata-Indicom-Support@tatatel.co.in. Why the two different domain names? Why isn’t e-communication with customers an important branding tool? Were customer support and marketing two different silos in this company?

Startups too aren’t immune. The official names of startup companies isn’t as well known as the “market names” or brands they represent. So why have this unknown company name in the email id of the employees? Why not use the brand name in all communications? Still several startups make the mistake of using both the brand and the official name and some make the bigger mistake of just using the official name. For example, imagine receiving an email from infoedge.in as opposed to naukri.com!

Few governments, certainly not the Indian one, can be accused of being innovative, citizen friendly and brand conscious. Consider this:

A senior Central government functionary from Ministry of Science and Technology used to use email to communicate very courteously, promptly and knowledgeably. The only issue I had was that his official email id (even printed on his letterhead) was “dept@rediffmail.com! Recently, I was informed by the gentleman who replaced this functionary that henceforth all communication was no longer to be sent to the rediffmail.com address but to another. Only this was a Yahoo.com account! How come the Govt of India doesn’t provide an official email id to its officers? The point is not whether it can (of course, it can) or should (of course it should!) but what it reveals about the mindset behind such efforts. Isn’t anyone in Government thinking of issues like security, storage or the impression this creates of a so-called IT Superpower (even discounting for hyperbole)? Isn’t there a CIO or CTO for the government who lays down, implements and enforces such simple policies and guidelines across ministries and departments? And this is the government that is implementing the world’s most ambitious IT project, namely the UID!

India’s great leap forward will be driven by a mix of policy, attitude, procedures, technology and governance. Someone once described India as a country with its head in the 21st century and its body in the 19th. While it is perhaps natural to wax lyrical and get all pumped up about the coming Indian dawn, it is important to note that it is in the minutest of details that the devil lies. Details that, for example, harmonise activities across departments, that showcase a single brand, that highlight a common set of values and propositions.

And in spite of this nation with its millions of gods, the devil can easily trip us all up.

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.

June 08, 2011

Narayanamurthy's farewell letter to Infosys shareholders

Great notes on people management and scalability.

Had received this scanned copy of the relevant pages by email.

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private equity, venture capital and M&A deals in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs reach out effectively to the investing community.

May 19, 2011

Beware of Corporate Duryodhans

From Devdutt Patnaik article in Economic Times:
Vivek wants to make sure that he gets 100% of the promised bonus.For that he to get 5/5 on appraisal,something that according to the bell curve of the company less than 10% of the organisation can get.So he has spent the past three months doing everything that the boss has asked him to do.He knows that obeying his boss and ensuring the boss feels like a boss guarantees him that score.He does his tasks exactly the way the boss tells him to,he makes fun all the people the boss makes fun of,he admires everyone the boss admires,he reads the same books his boss reads,he does everything to please his boss.

In his team,there are people who much better at work,and who are of greater value strategically for the organisation.But they do not invest as much time on the boss.And so while Vivek and others get an equal score on quantitative matters,only Vivek gets full score on qualitative matters.A week after Vivek gets his bonus and his raise,he submits his resignation and moves on to the next job and to next boss.And the boss,who had told the management how committed and deserving Vivek was,feels like a fool.A victim of yet another corporate Duryodhan.



Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private equity, venture capital and M&A deals in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs reach out effectively to the investing community.

May 18, 2011

Opening at Venture Intelligence: Head – Research Services

We are looking to hire a suitable candidate for the following position:

Designation: Head – Research Services

Location: Chennai

Reporting to: MD & CEO



Roles and Responsibilities

o High quality of research that enrich the Venture Intelligence product offerings
- Provide hands-on leadership for a team of analysts to create and update financial transaction and valuation information in user-friendly format.
o Assigns daily workload to analysts and follows through on all tasks assigned to the team. Contributes to production as needed.
o Ensures deliveries are on-time and conform to quality standards.
o Accountable for performance of the team and effectiveness of production processes. Responsible for intra-team policies, procedure, and workflow.
o Assist in recruiting new team members by evaluating candidates
o Implements training for new hires and existing team members as necessary
o Develop new features/products for existing customer segments
- Should be able to interface with programming (internal/outsourced) to develop new features, products, etc
o Develop new target segments (by working with the BizDev team)

Qualifications
Ideal candidate would have 10-12 years experience in the financial services/research domain with at least 3 years in a start-up environment.

Must Haves
• Keenness for an Entrepreneurial leadership role
o Excellent coordination, organization and multi-tasking skills
o Strong problem solving capabilities with hands-on approach
o Self motivated & ability to work in an unstructured environment
o Act independently to manage projects from start to finish
o Ability to communicate with people at different levels of the organization
o Exceptional oral and written communications skills.
o High familiarity with corporate finance instruments ; PE/VC deal terms and M&A structures
o Understanding of Indian market place
o Interest in hiring and grooming a research team

Desirable
o CA / MBA Degree
o Hired & managed a team of research analysts before
o Familiarity with international database products
o Quantitative Modelling & Familiarity with Alternative Investments Analysis
o Exposure to Indian market place – offerings / pricing/ sales strategy
o Technology savvy – ability to create specs and work with programmers for new feature/product creation

Interested candidates can email their resumes to arun@ventureintelligence.in

May 11, 2011

ET NOW launches ‘Super Angels’ Series

Edited extracts from the Press Release:

24-hr English business news channel ET NOW has launched ‘Super Angels’, a path breaking series which will witness start-ups raising funds on national television, for the first time. The show will feature 20 of India’s most innovative start-ups and 4 of India’s most influential investors along with a national audience who will choose India’s next ‘Super Entrepreneur’.

The 4 Super Angels on the show are Mahesh Murthy, Managing partner; Seed Fund, Vishal Gondal, Founder; Indiagames, Harshal Shah, Founder; Reliance Ventures and Sanjay Parthasarthy; Entrepreneur and Angel investor. The show will be anchored by Sudhir Syal, Editor; ‘Starting Up’.

Every week one start-up will make a pitch to an investor; the TV audience will then be given a chance to vote for the pitch through SMS, email and Facebook. Five months, after the completion of 20 start-up pitches, the audience votes and the investor’s votes will be collated to choose the final 8 Start-Ups, which will then make their pitch in the grand finale. These finalists will have the opportunity to raise funds between Rs.50 Lakhs & Rs. 2 Crores on the show live. During the 5 month period, the start-ups will be mentored by entrepreneurs handpicked by the show’s Mentoring Partners – ‘TIE’.

The series premiers on 10th May at 10:30 PM and will be aired every Tuesday at 10:30 PM with repeats on Saturdays at 10:30 PM and Sundays at 10:00 AM.

The promo video for the show can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoOvpk-iNZw

April 30, 2011

Fund-raising options other than VC

Economic Times has an article on some of the lesser known funding options available for start-up ventures.
Govt grants and loans
The Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) has also formed the SIDBI Foundation for Risk Capital to develop and provide appropriate risk capital products for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in different industry segments. Some of the products introduced are equity and equity-like instruments and mezzanine instruments like optionallyconvertible debt and subordinate debt for MSMEs.

With a corpus size of 2,000 crore, the fund will invest a minimum of 25 lakh and a maximum of 10 crore in the form of term loans or assistance. “Our products are easy to work around with. Risk capital has both the characteristic of equity and debt. It’s a very flexible product,” says SIDBI general manager R Dharmaji.

...Credit Guarantee Scheme
It is to bypass the issue of collateral that the government has come up with the Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE). Set up by the government of India and SIDBI, this fund gives a guarantee to banks that the fund will make good, up to 85%, the loss incurred by the bank on account of nonrepayment. Loans of up to 1 crore are given under this scheme to SMEs and are collateral-free.

In an accompanying article, Kanwaljit Singh, MD of Helion Ventures, recommends an angel investor round before approaching venture capital firms.
A new class of investors has started emerging — high network individuals, very aptly called Angels; and seed funds who will back you as a start-up if they see the potential. Every city has some of these and it's worth reaching out to them. You could also link up with a lot of wealth managers who manage HNI money as they are also looking to pool their client money and invest behind interesting businesses.

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private equity, venture capital and M&A deals in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs reach out effectively to the investing community.

Effectual Entrepreneurship

Extracts from a Mint interview with Stuart Read, professor of entrepreneurship at Switzerland's International Institute for Management and Development, and author of Effectual Entrepreneurship:
The first thing they do differently is they start with the stuff they have available. This is called starting with the means rather than the goal. An entrepreneur will, for example, set out saying he knows software and partner with someone who knows graphic design and get into making graphic skins for the iPad. But in talking to the customers, he may discover that a security service is what people really want and he will end up making this.

...The other thing they do differently is how they approach competition. In management, we teach how to look at competition using Porter’s five forces. Do you think the Freitag brothers bothered about competition? They cared more about working with partners, their bicycle messengers who would help them create a market. Looking at partnerships in the early stage is more useful than looking at competition.

...Thirdly, people love talking about the risk-taking entrepreneur. The truth is expert entrepreneurs take on very little risk...Our research shows that expert entrepreneurs look at the worst case, instead—if he’s spending six months and $20,000, he will ask himself if he will be broke and on the streets when it doesn’t work. If the answer is no, he will do it. All of a sudden, the huge uncertainty about whether five million people will buy the iPad application goes away. Expert entrepreneurs make it okay for themselves to fail. They always make investments they can recover.

The next effectual entrepreneurship trait is how they deal with surprise. If you make a plan, what do you do when a surprise comes? The expert entrepreneur uses it to create a new opportunity. The best example is the Post-it, an engineer at 3M trying to make an engineering adhesive.

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private equity, venture capital and M&A deals in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs reach out effectively to the investing community.

April 16, 2011

"Which floor are you on?" - Article by Alok Kejriwal

Extracted from Alok's blog at http://rodinhood.com. (Emphasis mine)

I consciously notice the floors of the buildings that I visit and try to indentify the people who occupy these floors.

That’s where I see interesting patterns between management styles and the floors of buildings:

The Ground Floor

The people on the ground floor are ‘hands on’.

Mop in the hand, doing the dirty work. Sitting in an office that has no cabins. Talking to the people around them while trying to manage the crowds that come in. Quickly getting hot and tired. Blowing their fuse while trying to be civil. Just wanting to do everything themselves.

The challenge being on the ground floor is that it’s easy to lose perspective. You can’t elevate yourself and peep outside – to get a chance to view what’s new & happening in the big wide world outside or spot encroachments that appear dangerously near you. Your life begins and ends on the ground floor.

All the firms I work with and respect in my personal capacity – my PR & Travel agencies, Tax and Investment Consultants, etc. neatly fall in this category. The more the business leans towards ‘service’, the more it seems rooted on the ground floor. The owners of these ground floor shops are busy running their businesses while personally attending to demanding customers like myself. They rarely get a break to do ‘bigger’ things.

They are martyrs who are happy the way they are.


The 5th Floor

It’s that in-between, hanging, middle floor. Stuck between the ground floor and the top floors. If you operate from the 5th floor, you are involved in day-to-day ops and once in a while manage to get out and lean forward. You can leave your job or work unattended for say a week, before things go crazy.

It takes hard working people a while to reach the 5th floor. So it’s not even easy to abandon.

This also seems to be the ‘inflection’ floor for lots of entrepreneurs. You can get a view of the world outside and can really see where you stand in your current position and where you can reach.


In early 2008, I met an entrepreneur in San Francisco who ran a Photo Sharing website (piczo.com) for teen and tween girls. The business was fully funded by Sierra Venture Partners. Clearly, this Company and the entrepreneur were on the 5th Floor. The CEO could see the Facebook Tsunami hurtling towards him and yet could do very little to escape. He was so patient during our girls’ games discussion while silently acknowledging the death by drowning that awaited him.

My humble advise to those on the 5th floor is to stand on your window ledge and try to climb upwards. Do whatever you can to ascend that building even if it means using your bare hands & feet like Spiderman – with lots of hard work, prayers and hope thrown in. In the end, if you stumble and fall, it will be worth it because it’s better to launch again and aim for the to once again rather than getting stuck on the 5th floor.

The Club Floor (One below the top).


It’s the floor that belongs to those who have arrived. The kind of floor that’s always granted a special status. It’s the floor everyone wants to visit and check out. The occupants have the world at their feet, silently comfortable with the fact that they are living with one more floor above them.

Unfortunately, heights make some people nauseous. You have to have a strong demeanor to enjoy the height – while not falling sick.

I place Jerry Yang and Yahoo! at the Club Level. Both are cult brands and have attained a very lofty status. However the height of success made Yahoo dizzy. It fumbled. The mist surrounding that floor made Jerry Yang miss the big revolution of Search and Social and he along with his Company now remain humbled forever.

Say what you may, Yahoo will always remain an iconic media brand worth billions of dollars. They have their name etched in Gold on the ‘floor plan’ in the building lobby forever.

The Penthouse (with high speed elevators)


Google occupies the Penthouse. So does Facebook. Twitter and Linkedin will join them soon. These Penthouses come with special elevators, which are only meant for the owners of that floor.

The promoters of all these Companies have one amazing similarity – they ride their Penthouse’s high-speed elevators with a vengeance! One moment they are on the ground floor starting up new features and businesses from scratch – the next they are on the 5th floor reviewing what’s happened within the business and then, kaboom – they are back in their Penthouse doing mega deals.

Just look at the way Google monopolized search, bought Youtube, Admob and routinely buys businesses almost every week.

Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Marc Zuckerberg actually own not just the Penthouse but also THE Building. Each and every floor belongs to them and they are comfortable being on whichever floor the situation demands.

The Terrace (with the Helipad)

Rupert Murdoch and Steve Ballmer come to my mind when I think of Terraces with Helipads.

They have the Capital to ‘land’ anywhere, arrive on top of any building as they please and then buy it if they want. ‘Hey – the MySpace building looks interesting; let’s just buy the damn thing. I like this tower called ‘Search’. Let’s just call it Bing.com and party like never before.’

The guys on terraces with helipads fly out when they feel like. One building more or less doesn’t mean anything for them. Observe how MySpace is crumbling and Bing.com is going nowhere. Now look carefully and see that the party is getting wound up as the helicopter’s pilot is whipping up his blades to fly the owners to the terrace of another building.

The Murdochs and Ballmers of the world can never repeat the glory of starting at the Ground Floor and climbing to the Penthouse. They are too spoilt and old.

Finally, given that we have traveled from the Ground Floor to the Terrace, the point to ponder is not to get stuck on the floor that you are on but to make sure you carefully move UP from whichever floor you are on.

April 15, 2011

Persevrance Pays: Profile of Privi Organics

From the Times of India profile of the company which recently raised capital from StanChart Private Equity:
Two years into the business and Privi had not yet created a sufficient client base, pushing it to the verge of shutting down. In 1994, its losses eroded its equity and the company's prime creditor, State Industrial & Investment Corporation Of Maharashtra (SICOM), served a notice to take over.

"We briefly thought of quitting and trying something else," Rao says. "But then we decided to fight it out rather than accept failure." Those days, the big players in aroma chemicals were Bush Boake Allen, Reckitt & Colman of India, Hindustan Lever, Hindustan Polyamides and Fibres, and Tata Oil Mills Company (Tomco).

The partners did their best to turn around the business. They brought down operational costs, switched to synthetic raw materials and negotiated for cost-effective order sizes. The firm also changed its strategy. "Rather than just catering to the incense sticks market, we targeted attar, detergent and soap makers. We rolled out amberfleur (woody notes), sandalwood and dihydromyrcenol (citrus). And our efforts began to pay off," Rao says.

Today, exports contribute 70% to Privi's Rs 370-crore turnover and its clients include Procter & Gamble, Henkel and flavouring and fragrance manufacturers such as Givaudan, Symrise and Firmenich - all based in Europe.
Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private equity, venture capital and M&A deals in India. View free samples of Venture Intelligence newsletters and reports. Email the author at arun@ventureintelligence.in

April 12, 2011

Press Release: CCCL CEO R Sarbeswar to deliver Entrepreneurship lecture at IIT-Madras

Interactive lecture to feature as part of research firm Venture Intelligence’s “Entrevista” series

Venture Intelligence, India’s leading research service focused on Private Equity/Venture Capital and M&A deal activity, has partnered with IIT Madras’ C-TIDES, to produce multimedia recordings of interactions with successful Indian entrepreneurs from across sectors. Branded as ‘Entrevisa’, the interactions in this series will be available for free and downloadable in audio (mp3 “podcasts”) and streaming video formats from the Entrevista website at http://www.entrevista.in.

As part of the partnership, Venture Intelligence and IIT Madras propose to invite, on a regular basis, successful entrepreneurs from across the country to deliver interactive lectures at the IIT campus. Mr. R Sarabeswar, Chairman & CEO of leading construction services firm, Consolidated Construction Consortium Ltd., will deliver the first such lecture at the Department of Management Studies, IIT Madras on Friday, April 15, 2011 (7.30 pm to 9.00 pm).

“The main objective of Entrevista is to create a single point archive for the best entrepreneurial thought leadership content for the benefit of budding entrepreneurs in India,” said Arun Natarajan, CEO of Venture Intelligence. "At IIT-Madras, we have been observing and encouraging the rising interest in entrepreneurship among our students and faculty in recent years. We are therefore happy to associate with the Entrevista initiative which aims to disseminate a realistic view of entrepreneurship in the Indian context and examine various business models in-depth," remarked Professor Job Kurian, Dean of the Centre for Industrial Consultancy and Sponsored Research (IC&SR) of IIT Madras.

Interested members of the media can register for the April 15 program by contacting Varatharajan at media@ventureintelligence or +91-44-4218-5180.

About CCCL & Mr. R Sarbeswar

Consolidated Construction Consortium Limited (CCCL) is a publicly listed, ISO-certified company with a turnover of around Rs. 18.41 billion. CCCL’s services encompass Construction, Engineering, Procurement, and Project Management. The company has been involved in projects ranging from IT Parks, Biotech Parks, Resorts and Hotels, Commercial, Industrial & Institutional structures and Infrastructure facilities. The company’s various divisions span Mechanical and Electrical Division (M&E), Consolidated Interiors Limited (CIL), Building Products Division, Information Technology Department (Yugasoft), Software Design Division (Yuga Design), Noble Consolidated Glazing Limited (Glazing Solutions). Further, CCCL’s Specialty projects involving Precast Pre-stressed Structures, Pre-engineered structures and Shell Structures are remarkable for their innovative and revolutionary application of technology and expertise. It has offices in Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi, Kolkata, Pune and Trivandrum. It has also recently opened an office in the Middle East marking the beginning of its international operations.

Mr. R. Sarabeswar is CCCL’s Co-founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. He was a gold medallist and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the Regional Engineering College, Trichy, and holds a Management Degree in strategy from London University. Mr. Sarabeswar has over 30 years of experience in the construction sector and has previously worked for Larsen and Toubro Limited, SPIC and the Shobhakshi Group, Saudi Arabia. In 2007, he was awarded the best alumnus award by the Regional Engineering College Thiruchirapalli.


About Venture Intelligence

Venture Intelligence, a division of TSJ Media Pvt. Ltd., is the leading provider of data and information on Private Equity / Venture Capital and M&A deals in India. Its research and analysis is used extensively by financial and strategic investors, the media as well as government/regulatory agencies. Its customers include leading PE / VC Firms, Limited Partners, Investment Banks, Law Firms, HR Services Firms, Corporations and Consulting Firms. For more information on Venture Intelligence, please visit http://www.ventureintelligence.in.

About IIT-Madras C-TIDES
C-TIDES, the Cell for Technology Innovation, Development and Entrepreneurship Support is responsible for promoting entrepreneurship and related activities in IIT Madras. More information about C-TIDES is available at http://www.c-tides.org.

March 29, 2011

"Forget biz plans & the competition"

From the Inc.com article titled "How Great Entrepreneurs Think" based on a in-depth survey of 45 US-based conducted by Saras Sarasvathy, a professor at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business. The article also contrasts the entrepreneur way of thinking versus the corporate executive way of thinking.

Doing & Course Correcting
Brilliant improvisers, the entrepreneurs don't start out with concrete goals. Instead, they constantly assess how to use their personal strengths and whatever resources they have at hand to develop goals on the fly, while creatively reacting to contingencies....That is not to say entrepreneurs don't have goals, only that those goals are broad and—like luggage—may shift during flight. Rather than meticulously segment customers according to potential return, they itch to get to market as quickly and cheaply as possible, a principle Sarasvathy calls affordable loss. Repeatedly, the entrepreneurs in her study expressed impatience with anything that smacked of extensive planning, particularly traditional market research.

..."I always live by the motto of 'Ready, fire, aim.' I think if you spend too much time doing 'Ready, aim, aim, aim,' you're never going to see all the good things that would happen if you actually started doing it. I think business plans are interesting, but they have no real meaning, because you can't put in all the positive things that will occur...If you know intrinsically that this is possible, you just have to find out how to make it possible, which you can't do ahead of time."

...Sarasvathy says expert entrepreneurs have learned the hard way that "having even one real customer on board with you is better than knowing in a hands-off way 10 things about a thousand customers."
"Forget the Competition"
...the study subjects generally expressed little concern about the competition at launch. "Your competition is a secondary factor. I think you are putting the cart before the horse...Analyze whether you think you can be successful or not before you worry about the competitors."

Hat tip: Alok Mittal @ Venturewoods


Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private equity, venture capital and M&A deals in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs reach out effectively to the investing community.