August 10, 2012

Team & Culture Building @ Gozoop

Rohan Bhansali, Founder of digital marketing firm Gozoop, shares interesting HR practices at his company in an interview/profile at TheRodinhoods.com:

Culture wise: These are the things we do. All may not be unique but they make our culture unique.

1. Every Saturday the team comes together (no matter how busy they are) and we do crazy things – Idli eating competitions, back to school drawing competitions, ragging new recruits, dancing to 90’s Bollywood tunes, Dumb charades, etc. Last week we played passing the parcel.

2. Gozooper of the Week – Every Thursday, an email is sent to the entire team mentioning one odd (or weird) fact of a team member. The team then has to guess who the person is. Great way to get to know each other.

3. Every year we write a hand written letter to the parents of our most dedicated and earnest team mates highlighting their achievements. There is no prouder moment for parents than hearing about their child’s success.

4. We have weekly Foosball mash ups where we bring together as a team, the people who don’t work together on a day to day basis. The winning team gets a Bournville ‘cause you can’t buy it, you have to earn it!

5. A certain percent of our profits our committed to our CSR. The team together decides the cause or foundation that we donate to.

6. We definitely have an open door policy but once every 4 months we choose a random set of 10 people who are literally “forced” to speak up and suggest at least 2 improvements or suggestions to our work, culture or process.

7. GZ Good Times – Every month, the guys who consistently reach office on time are treated to something nice. Last Saturday this set of guys went for The Dark Knight rises.

8. Our HR head Bansi is our “Happiness Officer”. She sometimes surprises a randomly picked team member with a cupcake on their desks when they are back from lunch.

9. While hiring, the focus is first on soft skills. We constantly ask, “Will he/she add to and fit into our culture and happiness?”

10. Our FB page speaks more culture and less digital marketing.


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.

Saying No to Expensive Startup Awards

The inimitable Alok 'Rodinhood' Kejriwal has an interesting account of an invitation from an international publication to nominate his company for an "hot startup" award.

- The call was pleasant and kinda, "How is the weather" type of talk (read - "Entrepreneurs are this and that", etc) - I participated and humored the caller.

- In the end I was told, "We like to see the entrepreneurs. We want them to come to Hong Kong and present in front of a jury. On that day in September, something will happen at 4pm, then something at 5pm and winners will be announced at 8pm. So please come."

I said NO.


This is the point I made:

- Entrepreneurs don't have time to pitch for awards and mentions. They have time to do business.

- As an award, you have done lots of research on all the companies concerned.


This is the age of the INTERNET!

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.

How to Foster the Desired Culture

From an article by Rajeev Peshawaria in The Mint.
I define culture as what your people do when no one is looking.

...The first step is to articulate the desired culture in terms of the specific behaviour expected from all employees. Use full sentences that tell people exactly what to do and what not to do. “Excellence”, “passion” and “collaboration” are large, abstract words which mean different things to different people—a clearer way of articulating the cultural principle or value of excellence is to say, “Find better ways of doing things.” Similarly, instead of just saying “collaboration”, a better bet might be to say, “Proactively help others to succeed”. Most companies have prescribed corporate values, but they usually stay on the hallway posters they’re relegated to—because nothing is done to socialize or reinforce them.

The next step, therefore, is to socialize the desired culture. Repeatedly communicate it at every possible opportunity. This sounds easy but there are two common pitfalls. The first is over-reliance on verbal communication; giving speeches about collaboration at town hall meetings is not enough. Leaders must communicate through their actions as well, because employees hear their leaders’ actions louder than their words. In essence, humans are hierarchical by nature and look towards people of authority to get clues on how to behave. A culture of collaboration must begin with the senior leadership team. Companies cannot hope to establish a collaborative culture through their ranks unless they get into the habit of regularly assessing the leadership team culture first.
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.

August 08, 2012

"E-Commerce Reality Check" - Article by Sanjay Anandaram

A July 2002 Business Week article had this to say about Amazon: “after seven years and more than US $1 billion in losses, Amazon is still a work in progress.” The company posted $5m in profits, it’s first ever, in the last quarter of 2001 on sales of $1.12 billion. Amazon is the poster boy of e-commerce around the world, the incredible survivor of the 2001 dotcom meltdown - when naysayers said that Amazon with over $2 billion in debt (largely used to fund warehouses) would become insolvent - and naturally enough inspires Indian entrepreneurs as well.

There are a great many lessons to be learnt from amazing Amazon. Founded in 1994 as Cadabra, Amazon.com went online in 1995 raising about $300K from friends and family. In June 1996, KPCB invested $8m and it went public in May 1997. It had sales of $15.7m in 1996, did $16m in the quarter ending March 1997 before the IPO, raised $54m in the IPO at a market capitalization of $438m on the first day. The company had gone international, had a wide range of product offerings, had thousands of affiliate and distributors around the world. And it was rapidly growing.

Amazon’s revenues were over $48billion in 2011 with an operating profit of $862m.

So, will companies in India follow a similar trajectory?

For an Amazon and multiple other successful ecommerce companies to have become successful in the US, a set of “hard and soft” pre-requisites had to be in place. Let me explain:

a) People had to have trouble free internet access – PCs and telecom infrastructure had to be in place. 22% of the US was online in October 1997
b) Credit cards had to be in use – Over 125m credit card holders existed in the US in the late 1990s.
c) Logistics – transportation and warehousing – infrastructure had to be in place.
d) Taxation policies across the country was to be clear
e) Laws to protect customers and merchants had to be in place and enforceable.
f) Capital availability across the funding continuum – private and public

These are the hard pre-requisites. Let us look at the softer ones:

a) People had to be comfortable with (i) online and (ii) online purchases – issues of comfort and trust had to be resolved. In the US, mail order catalogues were in vogue since the late 1890s (yes!), telemarketing was popular since the 1970s and TV shopping since the 1980s.
b) Retail brands had to be organized and be a huge industry – this implied familiarity with brands, customer service, comfort with products on display and the like

In India, it is only now that the basics are slowly coming together. Infrastructure matters like payments, logistics and top class technology are still matters of enormous friction. The Indian online consumer and the Indian retail (online and offline) environment are still evolving. Media is playing a role as is the lack of retail / brand penetration in smaller towns in generating aspiration and demand. Capital availability across the funding continuum is a challenge. Finding experienced management to run an online business isn’t easy as it is a new phenomenon. The question of having a seamless taxation policy (viz GST) remains a vexed one.

Given the unique Indian scenario, I believe ultimately a hybrid Indian model (offline and online one) will emerge. Companies that can raise sufficient capital to stay afloat, while this model emerges while growing at a breakneck speed and able to demonstrate a path to profits, will be immensely valuable.

Remember Amazon took 7 years in an evolved market like the US to turn a profit while rapidly growing. In India, it will take much longer as a new generation becomes savvy online consumers. The first wave of ecommerce firms first emerged and then disappeared in the 1999-2001 years. The second wave emerged about 5 years ago and is fortunately being built on far stronger foundations. Some leaders are clearly visible, yet, this isn’t an opportunity for all and sundry to jump in; Entrepreneurs and investors with a long term view, access to deep pockets, and the management ability to corral risks and growth are required. For the others, it is better to attempt something else till more opportune times arise.

What do you think?

Sanjay Anandaram is a passionate advocate of entrepreneurship in India; He brings over 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 02, 2012

Cheat Sheet for Fund Raising on Angel List

Rick Perreault of Unbounce has a nice guest post at OnStartups on the topic.

Tip #1 Use video to tell your story


In hindsight, probably the most effective thing I did was include a link on our profile and in all my email correspondence to a video of me giving our pitch I had the opportunity to pitch at the last GROW Conference here in Vancouver and lucky for us, they recorded it. I included it on our Angel List profile and almost everyone that contacted me commented that they watched it and especially liked the Q&A. Here is the link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WcpFqKA7So

You don’t need to spend any money doing this either. Record yourself giving your pitch and providing answers to all the typical questions that you get from outsiders and post it on YouTube. Your passion, conviction and knowledge of the problem you are solving will come across in ways that a deck can never achieve and by presenting your own Q&A, you’ll skip all the typical questions and have a much more constructive meeting when you get on a call with an investor.

...Tip #3 Prepare your email responses in advance

In our first 24 hours on Angel List, we received a lot of followers and request for introductions. Both are opportunities to pitch your company as both enable you to contact the investor but unless you are prepared in advance, it can be overwhelming...


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.

Have an Unfair Advantage and go for White Spaces

Extract from an article by serial entrepreneur K. Ganesh in The Economic Times.
Startup infant mortality rate is over 95%. You don't want to be among the casualties. And for that, you need all the aces or high-value cards. So be it the right co-founders, adequate capital, unfair access to supply chain or disproportionate advantage over others make sure you have the secret sauce. This will ensure you are part of the 5% that make it alive.

...Almost all entrepreneurs out there are passionate, hardworking and intelligent. At best, you can incrementally and marginally improve operational efficiency. But then you will make other mistakes. So, it's better go for new, uncontested spaces or disruptive business models. You would then have a better chance of success.

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.

August 01, 2012

"Balance Ambition & Risk"

Manish Sabharwal of Teamlease provides this great contrast in an article for Economic Times.
We are frugal with capital because we know that entrepreneurship is the art of staying alive long enough to get lucky.

But we also understand that entrepreneurship is a leap into the unknown so if you are going to jump from the 10th floor you might as well jump from the 50th floor! What is happening in India today is not once in a decade or once in a millennium but once in the lifetime of a country. This offers unique entrepreneurial opportunities.

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.