Book review : The elephant catchers

the_elephant_catchersLet us talk about scale!

These days wherever I go, the topic of scale becomes inevitable topic of discussion among entrepreneurs. What was considered important during bootstrapping phase – having a great idea, creating value proposition, getting initial set of customers, building a great team to deliver, generating cash flow / revenue somehow not sounds exciting any more. There are multiple questions emerge (including our venture) as follows:

  • Do we need to come out of gorilla mode of execution and get into structured model?
  • Is sales is more about ‘gardening’ existing customer by cross-selling and up-selling adjacent diversification?
  • Do we need to create processes in the organization?
  • In case we are introducing processes won’t it kill the spirit of start-up?
  • Is process against the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation?

These questions seems are expected given the phase of the organization where, having a ‘profitable-growth’ takes the first priority in everybody’s mind. In order to scale the organization it requires a different set of thinking which is exactly called out by Bagchi in his recent book ‘The Elephant Catchers’.

As goes with other books, he takes a simple analogy (from his childhood experiences in tribal areas of Odisha) of catching rabbits and elephants. When tribes get together and go for catching rabbits there is more of noise and excitement which ensures they really end up catching a bunch of rabbits at the end of the hunt. However the same technique cannot be applied for catching an elephant, which requires specific set of expertise consisting of multi-phased process involving activities like digging a pit, identifying the path that elephant traverses, trapping the animal, pulling it out of the pit, bringing it back to the civilian locality, taming it to become sober etc. At an outset both instances (of catching rabbits and elephants) might look like ‘hunting’ but when it comes to execution they are radically different.

In similar lines, entrepreneurial ventures go through different phases at different point of time. Even though founding team might have a grand vision, it takes a lot to build specific expertise (similar to the case of elephant catching) in order to take the organization into a scalable and self-sustaining entity. Bagchi divides scaling into four parts:

  • Scaling your intellect – How far and how deep you can think?
  • Scaling your reputation – How to build a sustaining brand and re-invent on a regular basis?
  • Scaling your people – How to build an organization by scaling people?
  • Scaling against adversity – How to face un-expected issues and coming out stronger?

After introducing elements of scale, author gets into deeper aspect of every topic by sharing personal experiences and anecdotes from all possible organizations across the world. For example he quotes examples from how various religious organizations (ex: Nuns from say red-cross) are able to build scale in an area where technology and communications were totally unheard of. He covers importance of having right set of independent board of directors, ensuring organization does the right thing to build right set of reputation among customers, employees to really build on scale.

The most interesting and fascinating tales were about scaling people, where he talks about having right set of people for the right role. During my professional experience and currently as an entrepreneur I think this is the most critical and important aspect of scaling, which is the hardest thing to achieve. The main reason is because as an entrepreneur it is quite natural to get into the mindset of thinking ‘I can do everything’ as doing multiple roles in a given time is an inevitable thing to do. However when the organization requires scaling it simply boils down to scaling people handling right set of responsibilities. For example, a guy with innovative mindset cannot be in a routine-process driven role and vice-versa. It is super critical for the core team to identify this and ensure right set of people are hired for the right roles. This applies to all the cross functional roles like sales, marketing, engineering, operation, people function, strategy and finance of the organization. In my opinion chapter of ‘scaling your people’ is the most critical one from where I have drawn lot of insights about building a scalable organization.

Also scale is not for everybody. There are certain things that will be small and beautiful which can remain the same for years. All of us might have come across some of the other businesses (ex: A small fast food joint in Bangalore) which will remain the same for almost three decades no matter what is the opportunity that might exist in the market for the type of food that they are offering. The founding team of such organization might have opted not to go for scale and happy the way that they are running the business.

In summary scale is a choice, as it with any choices it comes with lot of challenges and compromises. It requires a different paradigm of thinking (remember rabbit v/s elephant catching) and a strong team to achieve the same, provided you have decided to go for it. I have been a regular reader of all of Bagchi’s books this one is very special because I have read it in right time of my entrepreneurial journey. Still there are many unknowns that needs to be conquered, but it has given me right set of mindset and framework to scale our organization.

Almabase: Building scalable alumni networks

almabaseProfessional networking plays a critical role in individual and the organization’s growth. Even dealing with customers, we are actually working with a human being, where professional connect is super important. Thanks to the Internet, there are tons of professional networking sites (ex: LinkedIn) available which do wonderful job of connecting people worldwide. However they still fall in short when it comes to alumni of a particular college, who are spread across multiple batches, courses and geographies. It is highly possible that alumnus of a particular college/university is seeking a professional help, which can be easily provided by another alumnus. Just because they are not able to connect many such win-win propositions doesn’t get leveraged. Compared to any other references, saying ‘I am from the same college’ immediately establishes trust among individuals in any conversation, that eventually make things happen.

After passing out from National Institute of Warangal during the year 2001, I have been reasonably connected with our local alumnus chapter. It is always challenging days to maintain multiple spreadsheets, mailing lists etc, in a world where information about each individual is changing very fast. Considering that we all are working professionals with pretty busy schedule it’s hard to keep the data updated all the time. Having networked with alumni helps in multiple ways (seeking mentorship, getting reference with a potential customer, applying for a new job with a company, building personal/family level connections, building social community, contributing for a special cause, simply recollecting those good-old-days etc…). In each of the situations mentioned above, when unknown people are coming together it takes a lot of time to establish trust because both parties don’t know each other. Alumni networks significantly help to establish the trust factor quickly, thereby making things happen much faster than it would be otherwise. Building this gap of connecting this trusted network with the power of technology was lacking for quite some time.

Recently came across Almabase, build by couple of my college juniors which perfectly fills this gap. It is a hosted solution that helps to build alumni portals (check out this URL, built for NITW Alumni)in no time. The main power of this platform comes from the powerful algorithms that builds the alumni tree in no time by leveraging social networks. For example today we have built about 28000 strong alumni network in no time. Once this network building (which is the most difficult task) is established, other activities like creating chapter wise sub-pages, specific events, news and collaboration activities can be done quite effectively which also this portal supports quite well. By subscribing to this service, all the college alumni network need to do is to buy a domain, configure it and forget it. It is quite easy to maintain and gives quite a lot of customization features that can be built on a per college basis. With collaborative content editing and sharing such portals make the alumni networking a real easy and effective one.

I have gained a lot both professionally and personally thanks to alumni networking. However there is a limit to individual’s ability to establish and sustain the network, where solutions like Almabase can come handy. Nowadays I am performing some specific search in my alumni portal (powered by Almabase) which is providing accurate and latest information about alumnus located across the globe. I am sure this is just a beginning, quite a lot of things that can be done with this.

Trusted network powered by technology is a killer combination, which Almabase is trying to leverage. If you are college alumnus or local chapter member or want to revive you connections, go ahead have a look into it, it’s worth your time.

Idea or Execution?

After taking up Entrepreneurial path, I have come across many interesting experiences on a daily basis. Every day is filled with unknown or unclear activities with more effort is put to make it more and more clear. In due course of time I also got an opportunity to meet a bunch of entrepreneurs, consultants, mentors and ecosystems partners in Indian entrepreneurial ecosystem. Also I also got opportunity to work more closely with a smaller entrepreneurial teams and execute things at ‘ground zero’.

It is a very popular (or hyped) belief that everything starts with Idea. If an individual has a breathtaking idea he can make it happen. Thanks to some of the recent bigger acquisitions, millions and billions are looking smaller and smaller. However when I work more closely with my organizations or meet people who are ‘really’ successful entrepreneurs it gives me totally a contrarian perspective. No matter how good an idea an individual or a team has, it’s all about execution.

The reason is very simple. Strong execution is what helps organization create customer value and business results. Let me take example of our education segment itself. It is very easy for anybody with decent technical knowledge to come up with a training program in a relatively niche area like Linux. Thanks to lower entry barrier it is easy for an individual to come up with learning materials, doing market research and coming up with value proposition of a particular training program. However following are the key questions are not hyped enough but very critical when it comes to business.

  • How quickly can I find a paying customer, who is in real need of my service?
  • How can I ensure that the customer signs a cheque?
  • How do I gauge current skill level of target audience and figure out what exactly they expect?
  • In case I already know I can’t exceed their expectations in the training program how do I manage it at least by meeting their expectations?
  • How do I tune my way of delivery so that audience have maximum take away?
  • How to I collect feedback from them, in case of negative feedback how can I address them?
  • In case of getting positive feedback how can I convert into a repeatable business?

The whole crux of all above mentioned questions directly relates with the way of a particular training program is executed. Apart from above mentioned questions there might be another bunch of questions, issues, challenges we face every day at ground zero level when we actually deliver something to our customers. When we go through this grind every day it has become quite obvious that execution is super important than idea. With technology advancements, mentor ecosystem and internet it is very easy for anybody to come up with relatively new idea. However ensuring that a particular product or service is really accepted from the customer end and generates value requires a strong execution backed up by the idea. I am not under estimating or downplaying the importance of having an important idea, building a strategy or having marketing/GTM activity, eventually execution is what makes all the difference.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Aapkapainter – Home painting at ease

Aapkapainter.com
Aapkapainter.com

It’s been quite some time since I got my house painted. As our little one was growing up, she ensured home walls were her initial canvas using pencil and wax crayons! During vendor short-listing, I came across Aapkapainter (incidentally it is a start-up done by some of my RECW/NITW juniors), eventually signed up with them to get my house painting done. It’s been an awesome experience working with them, right from shortlisting to painting work completion. Wanted to write few details about the work done by them.

Competitive pricing

Initially I had no idea about how to get the painting done. Upon some search, I came to know popular brands (Asian Paints, Nerolac etc…) are offering home painting service on a contract basis and took initial quote from them along with Aapkapainter. To my surprise prices quoted by Aapkapainter was very competitive compared to popular brands, even though they assured me that they will use standard paints for the work. Please also note the fact that standard brands redirect their work to local contractors/vendors, we are also not sure how well they do the job. Finding competitive pricing and placing initial trust (as you know they are my college juniors) I signed up with them for my house painting work.

Professional approach

Right from initial phase, Aapkapainter folks have been very professional in their approach. Understanding painting requirements in detail, providing quotes, suggesting which paint to use for what type of wall, recommending some cost optimization approaches etc, were something I didn’t expect from them. It was a very professional approach in area like home painting, I could clearly differentiate this approach from other vendors with whom I had some initial observations.

Quality in execution

After starting the work, painters showed up properly every day on time, without any major hassles or follow-up. Since we are also living in the same place, they ensured a step-by-step approach by starting the work from one room. Before starting the work they ensured house hold valuables (TV, sofa, fan, wooden/glass cupboards etc…) are well cove

Texture wall
Texture wall

red. None of my family members need to put any effort to move any single item as the painters themselves taken care of it completely. Every day before winding up the day’s work painters ensured cleaning is done in order to ensure living conditions are maintained. The same thing they demonstrated after completing painting work at a particular room by moving back things and setting up in the way they have taken the work before. During the painting they ensured work surface preparation, main-painting and minor corrections were done to the minutest level possible. Check out some main texture work done at my home wall to have a look at their quality of work.

Concerns on safety

As I spend most of the day time at workplace, I was having some initial concerns on my family safety as painters would be working throughout the day in my absence. Aapkapainter folks ensured they sent qualified and proper painters with regular supervision. This ensured here is no safety concern.

What they can do better

This article would remain incomplete if I fail to mention on areas that they can do better. Primarily Aapkapainter has taken an approach to connect consumers to paint services in a vendor independent manner, where their website plays a major role. In that context, their website user-experience can improve. I understand they started off recently, can think of making it much more interactive (ex: Some links are broken in the website). Also some interesting tools (ex: Color comparison, Paint calculator) can be introduced using which users can get a better online experience.

Definitely an area like Home-painting is an unorganized segment. Even though big brands are trying to get it organized, eventually it is up to the local vendor to execute it, where there are definite challenges that need to be met. This also presents a huge opening, which Aapkapainter is trying to address.In summary I got my house re-painting work done in a cost-effective manner with very high quality with zero hassles. I would highly recommend Aapkapainter folks for people who want to get their house-painting work done.

Innovation – Type 10 – Customer experience innovation [Case: Bigbasket]

Bigbasket
Bigbasket

The tenth and final type of innovation is around customer experience, which is all about creating a superior experience to customer’s entry to exit. In India many players attempted to do online grocery store for quite some-time now. It is extremely challenging business in Indian context (logistics, poor roads, unpredictable traffic, varying climate conditions etc…), which Bigbasket is able break by creating very good customer experience around it. I have personally tried and tested this many times, it works all the time with great experience.

Simple and effective User interface

The first thing that impressed me about Bigbasket is their simple and effective user interface. It was very easy to search/navigate for individual grocery items and create an order in a hassle free manner. Every item contains optimal information (neither too less nor too much) with put me into ease. Also when individuals go back for re-ordering, it keeps previous list handy for modification, which saves time for second time. This works very well for monthly grocery ordering.

Prompt alerts

While building an easy to use user interface might look relatively easy, integrating with backend supply chain to meet the promise is super critical. Especially in India, where the probability of providing prompt service is less (due to inherent challenges like infrastructure) providing prompt alerts to customers about the order status creates a lot of trust. In case of Bigbasket I get regular alerts (both in form of email and SMS) about my order status. Just before the final delivery of goods, authentication PIN is provided via SMS, so that both delivery person and customer can be assured about delivery.

Service delivery guarantee

Bigbasket
Bigbasket

After placing order, customers get to choose the time-slot in which they wanted the goods to be delivered. This super critical item (similar to Flipkart’s cash on delivery service) which helps office goers to get goods delivered at a convenient time. Their interface also shows the current booking status and slot availability in order to help customers choose the proper delivery time. From execution point of view, I have always seen they deliver goods on the time promised.

Return policy and wallet

During delivery, in case of item mismatch (ex: quantity) or damage (ex: broken seal), Bigbasket delivery folks take it back without any questions. Upon entering these items in backend (using Mobile application) customers again get immediate notification about when the updated item will be delivered. In case of item return, the money is kept back in a digital wallet which can be adjusted for next purchase.

In summary right from order placing to goods return, Bigbasket has done massive integration and prompt execution of their service. This gives a great end-to-end experience for customers in terms of quality, on-time delivery and reliability.

Tech entrepreneurship events in Bangalore

The San-Francisco bay area of the US is popularly known as ‘Silicon Valley’. Its wealth generation story is well known, where it created umpteen numbers of billionaires over the past three decades. Companies started from the valley literally rewritten the technology entrepreneurship, thereby creating history. The amount of contributions by valley based technology entrepreneurs to the bigger world is unbelievable. Starting from Hewlett-Packard to latest Google every other company has changed the world to a larger extent. These valley based world class product companies, literally created the term Multi National Company (MNC), which is a house-hold name today. It was mainly due to the valley entrepreneurs and their ability to take risk, identifying the opportunity and tapping the correct market had made all the difference. Added to that, world class universities, access to venture capital and world class minds created the ideal ecosystem for entrepreneurship.

India is in the similar growth trajectory what US was in the 1960s and 1970s. It needs more and more technologists to take become entrepreneurs. As known to all of us, the first wave of tech entrepreneurship came in the form of software service companies like Infosys, Wipro and HCL. These companies showed that there is a country called India exist in the world map and high quality, low cost software can be delivered from there. The second wave of tech entrepreneurship is been emerging in the past four years, where young technologists primarily based out of Bangalore are joining the entrepreneurial bandwagon. Many of these emerging entrepreneurial ventures are mainly focusing on Mobility, Software as a service (Saas), Social networking, Web based services and education. With having more technology professionals than Silicon Valley, Bangalore is catching up well with entrepreneurship.

However the entrepreneurial system has got a long way to go in India. To start with these ventures would be limited by the size of the local market, which happens to be a huge challenge. Added to that access to venture capital, mature mentorship and incubation facilities are still growing up in a reasonable phase. This ecosystem plays a very critical part in nurturing ecosystem for entrepreneurship. Apart from the points mentioned above, there needs to be a set of forums where entrepreneurs, investors and technology enthusiasts can meet up and exchange their thoughts. This story talks about such entrepreneurial events and forums in Bangalore

Barcamp

Inspired by the popular ‘unconference’ concept, Barcamps are very informal, vibrant and contagious. Any individual can nominate to provide a talk about his interested topic. These ideas may or may not have any business aspects associated with it. In facts typical topics in Barcamp can be starting from IEEE specifications to Kama Sutra. This forum is conveived, moderated and run by volunteers without any financials associated with it. However many big corporatations, like Yahoo, Google, sponsor the event management expenses.
This event acts as a platform to bring the geek community in a common forum. In Bangalore it typically happens over a weekend in IIM-B. These sessions are organized under multiple tracks, where an individual can choose depending on his interest. There is no cost associated with attending the event and happens across multiple cities in India. If you are interested in latest technology happenings, review the latest gizmo in the town or interested in meeting some energetic individuals, Barcamp is the place to go.

Web link: http://www.barcampbangalore.org
Group’s link: bangalore_barcamp@yahoogroups.com

Mobile Mondays (MoMo)

The Mobile Mondays are typically are knowledge sharing sessions, focused mainly on mobile industry. Majority of discussions happens around the mobile Value Added Services (VAS), which are driven by individuals running entrepreneurial ventures to big corporations. Many mobile industry leaders like Nokia sponsor the event. This typically happens once in a month in one of the IT company premises in Bangalore, which keeps changing depending on the availability. This is an ideal forum to network with mobile industry folks and keep updated with happenings in the industry. This event is volunteer driven, with participation at free of cost. In order to keep up with the name, the discussions are organized on Mondays to break Monday blues. This is a worldwide forum, happens multiple cities in India.

Web link: http://www.momobangalore.org
Group’s link: momobangalore@yahoogroups.com

Proto

This Proto is a more mature forum with more focus on business, which operates out of IIT-Madras campus. This forum is primarily aimed at creating the startup ecosystem in India by bringing in entrepreneurs and investors in a common platform. This forum organizes road-shows in multiple cities, where entrepreneurial ventures can showcase its product or service to prospective investors. In order to participate in the forum, one has to pay a nominal amount and register their organization. This forum is operating in a non-profit mode, where the membership fee is spent towards organizing the events. The audience brings in good amount of experience in the technology business. Some companies got funded by participating in the forum.

Web link: http://www.proto.in
Group’s link: prototalk@googlegroups.com

Kickstart

Kick start is initiated by the spirit of MoMo and Barcamps, by having tie-up with IIM-Bangalore’s NSRCEL. This forum typically organizes Startup saturdays, where companies need to nominate themselves to present their plan to a set of panel. Not much information is available about the list of companies that got funded thro’ this platform.

Web link: http://www.kickstart.in

The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE): Bangalore chapter

This is the oldest forum created to promote entrepreneurship in India, started by Indian origin entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley. In order to participate, there is a paid membership. Very senior members from the industry offer mentorship under this umbrella to prospective entrepreneurs. For members, the TiE organizes regular sessions, where stalwarts share their experiences with entrepreneurship. Unlike Barcamps and MoMo, it is more Formal forum.

Web link: http://bangalore.tie.org/

BOOK REVIEW : Go Kiss the World

Author : Subroto Bagchi

Price: 399 INR

Related posts:

Book review: High performance Entrepreneur

Book release: Go Kiss the world

The first book of Subroto ‘The high performance entrepreneur’ primarily depicted various aspects of Entrepreneurship. If the first book is all about ‘work’ the second one ‘Go kiss the world’ is all about ‘life’, thus completing the ‘work-life’ hemispheres. In the year 2006,Subroto delivered his famous speech to the students of IIM-Bangalore on the same title, where he shared some of his life lessons with management graduates. This book is an extension of that speech covering many aspects of his personal and professional life. This book has couldn’t come at a better time where India is going through a huge transformation. Thanks to economic policies and availability of talent pool, the number of jobs for young professionals is growing at an exponential phase. Well paid global jobs are getting poured into the country in every industry including — IT, ITES, Finance, Law, Services and Manufacturing. Its really amazing to see professionals walking with six figure monthly salaries, buying houses in their early twenties and getting global exposure. At the same time these young professionals (which includes me) need to learn and understand the importance of values and critical real life lessons. In this context, Bagchi shared some of his life lessons in the book, which turns out to be very for a young professionals who are ready to take on the world.

Initial chapters of the book talks about Subroto’s family members and his early life. As his father’s job had many transfers, he ends up spending time in many of the semi-urban/rural places of Orissa. He vividly shares about tiny but beautiful anecdotes of his early life and some of the lessons he learned from his parents and elder brother. As a town brought up, I was able to connect much better with them. After completing his graduation in political science, he started his career as a lower division clerk in the state government. He fondly recollects his first boss Khuntia babu, from whom he learned how to open a file. Upon not knowing where to go and what to do (typical issue faced by any person from town), he starts looking for a better job. After multiple rounds of interview he gets a job as a management trainee in DCM, which was a premium job during those days. After facing some adversities and internal politics, he quits the job and takes up an entry-level sales job with HCL by taking 40% pay cut. It was totally a different industry and job where the sales job teaches him hard realities of life. However HCL played a significant role in Subroto’s life by providing an entry into ‘less-known’ IT industry.

After working for a few IT companies in sales and marketing function, he takes early plunge into entrepreneurship along with few few friends by starting up a company called Project.21 in early 1985. The objective of the company was to provide computer training to working professionals from many companies. Even though the company was able to generate cash in the initial days, it gets into problems from multiple angles. In fact this is what happens to many entrepreneurs when they don’t have holistic understanding about building a business. After three years there, the company comes to a grinding halt after which he decides to get onto some job where he can expect some stability and a decent growth. The main turning point comes in the form of his job with Wipro, where he served for 10 years. As his initial job provided him shop-floor level experience, Subroto was able to clean up the sales function of Wipro and quickly raise in the corporate ladder. He explains some of the exceptional persons he met in Wipro and learnings from each one of them. The subsequent assignments in Wipro takes him to the US, where he builds an ‘on-demand’ R & D lab from the scratch.In pinacle of his career with Wipro, driven by internal “call” Subroto starts Mindtree along with his like-minded individuals. The subsequent chapters talks about how he and his team went on building Mindtree, providing leadership during adverse situations (during 2000/2001 downturn) and taking up the role of ‘Gardener’, inspired by servant-leadership.

The beauty of the book is not about knowing Subroto’s life and his career growth. As mentioned in the prologue of the book, he used his life as a canvas to share his significant learnings with external world. As a young professionals many of us think that a job from a company X or salary of Y or position of Z will take where we want to go. In reality the success or happiness is not all about a job, position or money but the amount of learning and value system an individual carries along with him. That way the biggest reward in life is the journey itself. Without understanding this, many of us crib, worry and complain about many things in their jobs. How many of us in the IT industry even think that the salary we draw is at least 10 times more than what our parents earned even during as their last month salary before retirement? How many of us thank the veterans who built the IT industry in early 90s where the western world didn’t even know where India existed in the world map? How many of us are able to see the difference between job and career? What is the amount of learning happens at the workplace, on a daily basis? How many days did we spend not complaining about our bosses, company or a colleague? It takes a big heart and humility to enjoy, learn and make a difference to the world we live in. As young professionals we need to learn a lot from veterans like Subroto and live a complete life.

In a way this book plays a significant role in planting thought process mentioned above.Instead preaching (which the young professionals hate anyway), Subroto used his life as an example and shared many things. In many places I felt a chord hitting my head heavily, thereby opening up many avenues to think. I would like to take a moment and thank Subroto for sharing his life lessons openly with the bigger world. I am sure it will make a difference to many people. I can proudly say I am one among them!

Book release : ‘Go kiss the world’ by Subroto Bagchi

Followed by his famous book ‘The high performance Entrepreneur’, Mindtree chief gardener Subroto Bagchi has released his second book titled ‘Go kiss the world’ yesterday. The book release function was held in Crossword book store in Brigade road and I was present there. Subroto formally released the book by handing over the first set of copies to Sudha Murthy, Girish Karnad and VG Siddhartha (see photographs below). Followed by the release, he read some chapters for the audience followed by a Q & A session.


The phrase ‘Go kiss the world’ was told to Subroto by his mother when she was in her deathbed. These simple yet powerful words have become the mantra for Subroto’s life who has become a successful Entrepreneur, coming from a very humble background. In this book he has used his personal life as a canvas to provide some of the most imporant life lessons to budding young professionals. I have bought a copy for myself and skimmed thro’ the first chapter yesterday. Found is pretty interesting. Will write the review once finish reading it. Followed by the book reading, Subroto answered some of the questions from audience. The questions ranged from attrition in IT company to building emotional infrastructure in organizations.

It was really a useful evening,worth spending time with such great people.

Startup city event in Bangalore

Yesterday I attended ‘Startup city’ event organized by SmartTechie magazine. More than 40 companies showcased their products and services in the event. There were many interesting keynote addresses and panel discussions held as a part for the event.

The event was kick started with inaugural keynote by Ashish Gupta from Helion Venture partners. He spoke about various stages/milestones of a startup and challenges at each phase. His venture capital firm has invested in many of the early stage entrepreneurial ventures. I have heard Ashish’s pod cast some time back, but it was a good experience listening to him live. Followed by that there were some panel discussions with participants from companies like Microsoft, Sun, Amazon etc. I was not that interested in listening to them, primarily because they perspective changes (or rather looks out of phase) when big company’s senior executives start talking about entrepreneurship.

The real cool thing was the product demos from many startup companies, who have built great technology products. Almost all of them have good product, have already raised capital (self/angel/VC funded) and gained initial traction with customers. I personally know the promoters of companies like Sloka Telecom and NGPay and it was nice meeting them, with their products in deployment stage.

It was 11:45 and I got back into the auditorium for the concluding keynote address by Rajendra K Mishra. He is an entrepreneur, turned activitist (by winning the Lead India campaign organized by Times of India). He is currently working on various private-public-partnerships and leading ‘change India’ campaign. He shared his entrepreneurial experiences in his keynote address, which was really scintillating. He started his first venture of selling imported American trailer houses to Japan. He came across crazy issues but successfully pulled it off. Followed by that venture, he built three ventures and made successful exits.

Then he started discussions about politics and the role of educated, urban Indians in that. He re-iterated that middle class Indians are the major culprits for the current state of affairs as majority of them won’t vote. Added to that he explained some of the initiatives he has taken with politicians, bureaucrats, and corporates to make things better. If not for anything, he has got a great communication and convincing skills. With his clear headed thoughts, he will make a difference for sure.

Compared to other entrepreneurial/startup events, this was by-far a mature one I have seen. Loads of importance and discussions happened around raising capital, marketing strategies and acquiring initial set of customers rather than talking about “that great cool idea”. I was also able to see and connect with folks from Open-coffee-club and Startup Saturday.

Last but not the least! The growth of event organizers (SmartTechie magazine) is been amazing. I have been associated with some of them from the time they launched their Bangalore edition in 2005. Initially started off with career workshops and tech career advising, the magazine has grown well over the years by covering various other aspects like entrepreneurship and professional networking. I had written couple of articles for them some time back. Hope will write some more in the near future.

It was a nice event packed with loads of energy, enthusiasm and passion. The first half of this Saturday was really worth spending out there.