On April 17, I was in Pune for a 1M/1M live event. Pune has become a hotbed of product entrepreneurship in India, and I was curious to see what kinds of ventures are cooking there. Well, Persistent Systems and IncuCapital hosted a highly interactive and engaging session. Here are the companies that pitched at the roundtable.
First up, Manoj Dharap presented EzeeBank, a core banking solution for credit co-operative societies. Manoj has deep domain knowledge in the CCS market segment and has designed a solution that addresses the missing real-time data dashboard functionality of the industry. Today, the financial picture of a CCS is updated only once a month in a batch process.
Manoj is experiencing a long sales cycle of close to 12 months, but he has already created a sustainable company that has revenues and profits. He is exploring outside financing, but my concern is that unless the growth rate accelerates, this particular business may not fit the venture model. On the other hand, it can be a perfectly fine owner-owned-and-operated business.
Indian In A Box
Next, Ashish Sondhi pitched Indian In A Box, a retail concept for take-out Indian food. Ashish has three outlets in Pune, but wants to open one in London. Besides the fact that he is from London, I could not figure out why; instead of expanding the franchise in India, it makes sense to jump to London. The business is very different in London, and my feedback was that investors want a repeatable business model. Ashish wants to raise money and scale rapidly. For that to happen, he needs to show investors how his India model scales, without introducing a random London factor in the business.
Then, Rohit Rawal discussed Quadmo, an employee reward and recognition SaaS system for large enterprises. Rohit has already developed good validation in the Indian market, and is able to penetrate some sizeable accounts. In one of those accounts, Quadmo is integrating their software with SuccessFactors. Rohit is interested in exploring a U.S. go-to-market strategy, and I advised him to try to recruit a channel partner like SuccessFactor or Taleo with major presence in the talent management space. Since Rohit is a 1M/1M premium member, I will help him execute on this strategy. I also advised him to apply for the Microsoft Startup Challenge grant in the cloud category.
We also had Parag Shah present DIYComputerscience.com, an intriguing concept for teaching foundational computer science through an online mechanism. In India, there is an abundance of programmers, but most of them lack a foundational computer science education. Parag's pitch was somewhat all over the place, and he needs to focus on one market segment and a corresponding business model that can then be validated.
My hunch is that he should focus on the corporate training market, and train programmers for small and medium companies that lack in-house training departments. Most of the larger IT companies in India have some form of in-house training departments. But for the SME segment, this may be a value proposition that he can monetize. Two CEOs of product companies in the audience offered to validate this on the spot, and Parag had a rather productive afternoon from the look of it.
Wish Them Today
Last up was Pratik Rokade pitching Wish Them Today, a paid SMS birthday reminder service. While the service is useful, my impression is that it is very easy to copy and is likely to get subsumed into some other product's feature. I advised Pratik to keep his job, and while it is OK for him to play with this idea, I would not jump into this particular opportunity with both feet.
Overall, the most promising company in this group is Quadmo, although I also liked EzeeBank and DIYComputerScience. The last of these needs a lot of work to extract and polish the diamond in the rough, but it may be a worthwhile endeavor.
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.