July 20, 2012
During this past spring's SXSW conference in Austin, Bangalore came up in a conversation with Paul Singh of 500 Startups. At that time, Paul mentioned running an angel investor education series to get more investors into the Indian ecosystem; he also mentioned investing in some startups in India. I am in India right now, and I got to at least see the tip of the iceberg by meeting a few entrepreneurs in Bangalore.
The image of India has changed from being a center of outsourced business processes to driving growth and progress through entrepreneurship. When I lived in India a few decades ago, the dream job for people (and their parents) was to get a government job or become a doctor or engineer. Today, it seems more and people are looking at startup entrepreneurship as a pathway to their success.
I met several entrepreneurs at the Toozio-Insight talk I gave on July 9th in Bangalore on “Entrepreneurs – Network Your Way to Success.” I also met other entrepreneurs at a meet-up at the Le Meridien in Bangalore. My friend Mukund Mohan, a tech entrepreneur who divides his time between Silicon Valley and Bangalore, shared a few insights with me on Indian entrepreneurship.
Tech Cocktail: Are people moving more towards startups and entrepreneurship in India now?
Mukund Mohan: The number of product startups has increased 789 percent, and funded startups by 2,173 percent in the last 3 years according to Zinnov (they are a consulting/advisory firm). There are 3 primary catalysts: Organizations such as the National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN) are encouraging students in colleges to view entrepreneurship as an option after they graduate. Second, the ecosystem has a lot more support networks to help companies start, grow and scale, and finally, the number of successful product companies from India getting global attention is increasing.
Tech Cocktail: How does startup entrepreneurship compare between India and Silicon Valley?
Mohan: The Indian entrepreneurship ecosystem maturity is a few years behind the Valley, but the entrepreneurs are top notch. The investors are still very focused on revenues and profit early on, so you will not get Instagram-like opportunities yet out of India anytime soon. The customers (early adopters) are still too few, so breakout scale is rare, and as a result, many companies (unlike the Valley) are stuck in their adolescence. The other parts of the ecosystem resemble the Valley – lots of events, many passionate individuals trying to make a mark and lots of coffee shops and bars where everyone seems to be working on a “stealth-mode” startup.
Tech Cocktail: What kind of companies have a better chance of getting funded?
Mohan: The market for technology products in India is still fairly small, so you will find most companies that get funded and target the Indian market are primarily focused on eCommerce. There is a lack of early adopters in technology, so consumer Internet startups are few and far between. Most companies are looking to target global (read: US) markets instead of India and emerging markets. You will find that SaaS applications, education-focused startups, and healthcare startups get the most funding.
Among the entrepreneurs and companies I met on this trip to Bangalore, the following caught my interest:
- Toozio: Gautam Devaiah, CEO, has his sights on connecting CXOs globally and is building a platform that helps local and cross-border connections and networks. That startup offers networking, customer acquisition, and knowledge enablement tools, including research, networking (online and offline), consulting, knowledge forums, and global product directory (ultimately eCommerce) – particularly useful as the world becomes flat and the West increasingly focuses on Asia and the Middle East markets.
- FlipKart: I met Karthik Srinivasan, the head of corporate communications for this eCommerce startup, which has a unique perspective on online ordering: you can pay “cash on delivery,” which is very rare. Friends who ordered from Flipkart in India are ardent fans and highly excited by the next day delivery, which must take a lot of sophisticated logistics to achieve in India.
- Gitgrow: Founded by Vinita Ananth, this startup brings you daily personalized tips to optimize your website and simplify the process of understanding web analytics data. GitGrow provides simple interpretation of Google Analytics data, a benchmark against competitors, and a recommendation engine to drive action.
- Zivame : This is another niche eCommerce startup funded by IDG Ventures India. I met TC Meenakshisundaram, founder and marketing director of IDG Ventures, who told me about this startup, which is solving the problem of “social discomfort” around lingerie shopping. Richa Kar, CEO, explained more in a recent Economic Times article on niche Indian eCommerce sites.
- Kritique: Krithi Uthappa, an investment banker turned entrepreneur/fashion designer is soon launching Fashionkritique, an online fashion boutique that sells a range of ready-to-wear clothing and accessories – with an option to ordering custom made clothes online.
- Future IP: I went to school with Bala Chitoor, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of FutureIP, an umbrella eco-system for 4 other startups and possibly more – it is great to see him as a successful entrepreneur. Sudhir Sarma, Co-Founder and CEO, is a successful entrepreneur who mentors many startups in India.
- Zunaa: Roshni Singh provides social media marketing services to small business clients under the Zunaa umbrella.
On every visit to India, I see a tremendous amount of change. Technology has bridged the physical location gap, and I am happy to see India’s entrepreneurs grow and flourish. I want to point out that woman entrepreneurship in India is growing. This is clearly illustrated by the fact that there are many women entrepreneurs in the list above which is very cool. I look forward to returning and seeing more positive changes.
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