On April 16, I was in Mumbai doing a live 1M/1M event with TiE Mumbai and Indian Angel Network (IAN). While in Mumbai, I also finalized a deeper partnership with IAN, which I will discuss later in this post.
I presented my usual 1M/1M perspective on bootstrapping. After the event, I received an email from Aneesh Khanna saying, "The Saturday Mumbai TiE session was a very enriching experience. Even if there were fleeting thoughts of being bailed out by investors, they have now been banished and we are focusing on bootstrapping and making the model work with customer money." It's rewarding to hear from people who attended the session and found immediate and actionable value.
The Mumbai roundtable was extremely interactive and fun. We did two sessions of five entrepreneurs each.
First up, Vishal Agarwal with Spatial Ideas presented LocoBuzz, a social media brand analytics platform coupled with location-specific insights. Vishal showed a terrific demo that was full of cool features but completely out of context. My key advice to him was to focus his pitch and demo on the brand analytics story, which has nothing to do with earthquakes and tsunamis - events he showed in the presentation, thoroughly confusing the audience and me before I was able to peel away the layers of the onion and determine what his real business was.
Food ka Mood
Next, Tanuj More pitched Food ka Mood, a waiters-on-wheels-type-concept for the Indian corporate market. Tanuj wants to offer sizable discounts to corporations for their employees to eat at various restaurants. Obvious questions about validation and core value proposition are still unanswered. My sense was that the discount could be interesting for HR organizations to offer to their employees as part of the benefits package, but this assumption needs validation.
Then Sameer Patil discussed TravDe.com, which offers steep discounts on hotels. Sameer wants to work with hotels and create special deals for his audience and wanted to know if the Indian online travel market has room for a deal site. Well, it seems to me that all online travel agencies do have deal sites, so to compete with that Sameer needs a specific strategy - perhaps exclusive discounts of some sort. I think TraveDe's core value proposition has yet to be sorted out. The idea of exclusive deals appeals to me, but whether Sameer can get enough hotels to play ball with him and offer such discounts is something he has not yet confirmed.
We also had Pritam Roy present Gomolo.in, a social network and online hangout for movie lovers. Gomolo also has a good database of movies and related information that Pritam is trying to figure out how to create more traction for. I could not identify a good use case for the database utilization, but I learned that the company makes money by licensing content and providing mobile value-added service applications to carriers. This is good news: A revenue model is always good to have early on to sustain a venture while the bigger scaling points are still being sorted out. I advised Pritam to focus on identifying the use cases that his audience of 250,000 is interested in to start building a product strategy that is likely to monetize - whether that is through mobile VAS apps or through advertising. It would also help him figure out the audience engagement model of how to make the social network compelling.
Last up during the first roundtable session was Chetan Thakkar pitching Fragrochem. Chetan has expertise in fragrance development and the company is in a turnaround situation. The discussion centered on where in the Indian market could Fragochem sell its fragrances with less competition, reasonably good margins and adequate differentiation. I gave Chetan a framework for analysis, and if he comes back to me with the data framed accordingly, I can help him to answer the market penetration strategy questions.
After a coffee break, the second roundtable session began with Nimesh Khiara presenting Stopwaitin.com. Nimesh has pitched before, during the roundtable on March 10, 2011, and came back with additional competitive analysis on his OpenTable-like restaurant reservation system.
Ankur Tripathi then pitched IRTEX, the Indian Road Transportation EXchange, also a company that has pitched before during the roundtable on March 10, 2011. This is an excellent company, and although the business is extremely complex, it is solving a worthwhile problem. Ankur has a lot of issues with early adopters compared to late adopters, and I advised him to not waste time on those prospects that do not "get it" and are dragging their feet. Quoting Crossing the Chasm, I suggested Ankur and his team focus on identifying and recruiting early adopters. That's the only way to build traction for now. We also discussed promotion and pricing strategy in some degree of detail.
Out Of The Box
Next Nimit Shah discussed Out Of The Box, a consulting firm offering brand strategy, design services and interactive marketing services. The discussion centered on positioning and scalability and explored points such as strategic partnerships as a way to mitigate scalability challenges. Nimit has a difficult task ahead of him: Indian customers think consulting should be free. Convincing them to pay him for consulting will be an uphill battle.
Then Vishal Zinjuvadia presented StratExcel, a simulation technology for developing case studies. Vishal is looking at three different segments and use cases: management schools, corporate training and recruitment evaluation. I went over all three use cases with him and suggested he pick one for his go-to-market strategy. My sense is that he should focus on corporate training because that's where there is both budget and awareness about the case-based training method. Management schools have awareness, but not enough budget. And HR departments typically are not used to applying case-based methods in recruitment, so Vishal would need to do a lot of concept selling, which is unnecessary.
Our last presenter of the day was Ashwini Otta pitching System-Sea, a company with core competency in the shipping sector that is bootstrapping a product company using its services revenues. What I liked about this company was its deep domain knowledge and niche nature. The product is already validated at a very high-end price point, and Ashwini is planning to offer it at a substantially lower price.
Microsoft BizSpark India Startup Challenge grant applications will be open for all entrepreneurs to file. Please feel free to use the 1M/1M premium program to prepare for the grant. We have also finalized a partnership with the Indian Angel Network whereby we will offer deep discounts to IAN-recommended companies to avail of the 1M/1M premium program. To apply, please contact Apoorv Sharma at IAN.
The next online roundtable is on April 28, and will focus on entrepreneurs from the Mountain States region of the U.S. Recordings of previous online roundtables are all available here. You can register for the upcoming roundtables here.
Sramana Mitra is the founder of the One Million by One Million (1M/1M) initiative, an educational, business development and incubation program that aims to help one million entrepreneurs globally to reach $1 million in revenue and beyond. She is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and strategy consultant, she writes the blog Sramana Mitra On Strategy, and is author of the Entrepreneur Journeys book series and Vision India 2020. From 2008 to 2010, Mitra was a columnist for Forbes. As an entrepreneur CEO, she ran three companies: DAIS, Intarka, and Uuma. She has a master's degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.