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Rise of Game Changers: AAP

Love them or hate them, you can no longer ignore the Aam Aadmi Party. Much to the dismay of both Congress and BJP, the mammoths of Indian politics, Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP has transformed itself from a mere fringe player to the giant killer in a spectacular electoral debut in the Indian capital. What makes this victory sweeter is that it took this mechanical engineer from IIT Kharagpur, who quit the Indian Revenue Service to become a social activist, just a year to build his party from scratch, make his presence felt and eventually, upset the status quo in Delhi.

The Delhi Assembly election results – BJP won 32 seats; close on its heels is AAP with 28 seats, reducing the ruling Congress to a third position with 8 seats – has forced the established political parties to relook their strategies, and even ape the newbie. In fact, Rahul Gandhi admitted on Sunday (December 8) that AAP succeeded by being different from other political parties. “I think the AAP involved a lot of people who the traditional political parties did not involve. We are going to learn from that and do a better job than anybody in the country and involve people in ways you cannot even imagine now,” Rahul said.

Startups, especially those gunning to be a disruptor in their sector, have much to learn from the AAP. Right from the start, AAP banked on being a differentiator. They discarded time-tested theories, and stuck to their guns. They gave the people a much-needed alternative. They did it their way and won.

arvind kejriwal

Let us analyse the success of AAP from the point of view of strategy. Here are five lessons from their success:

1. The different pitch

Since its inception, AAP has had a different pitch from that of the major parties. While Congress banked on consumer politics and BJP on majoritarian politics with a Modi-fuelled performance pitch, AAP reached out to all the people – rich and poor – by focussing on the basics. Issues of citizenship, governance and accountability were AAP’s focus. They steered clear of the usual identity politics, caste-based vote banks and so on. Instead, issues that affect the aam aadmi like corruption, price rise, water scarcity, cost of electricity, inadequate public health facilities, poor state of government schools and women’s security were AAP’s planks. While big parties also use these as populist slogans, they were never the main pitch. The AAP was the differentiator here. They promised a clean break from politics of the past.

2. A clean new identity

The 70 candidates of AAP were handpicked by Kejriwal keeping in mind their clean image. In fact, they announced that not a single tainted candidate would be allowed to contest with an AAP ticket, and made details about them available online for public scrutiny. They invited people to give feedback on a helpline and promised to remove candidates if any credible evidence of wrongdoing came up. True to his word, when allegations surfaced about some of their main candidates, Arvind Kejriwal removed them. The candidates were restored only after the evidence submitted against them was proved to be false. This stood out in contrast to both Congress and BJP, who fielded several tainted candidates. According to the AAP website, in the last Delhi Assembly elections, Congress and BJP gave tickets to 19 tainted candidates each.

3. Market was ripe

Delhi was ripe for disruption because of several reasons. The state had been under Congress rule for 15 years. Though Sheila Dikshit had a strong image as someone who had done good work, the people were bored, if not tired, of the Congress. Scams and scandals that had plagued the party didn’t help either. Also, protests and demonstrations over various issues ranging from the Jan Lokpal Bill – which first catapulted Kejriwal to fame – to the Delhi rape case, were held in the capital city. This had a direct impact on the government. The market was ripe for a change.

4. Offer an alternative

Usually, in a scenario crying out for charge, it is the main opposition party that stands to gain. But in Delhi, the BJP wasn’t able to fully capitalise on this as they were no different from the Congress. It was evident to all that the BJP suffers from the same problems that plague the Congress. The 32 seats they won came from their majority vote-bank. Liberal-minded people were not comfortable with BJP’s communal image. Even the performance pitch didn’t work much magic because many people saw it as rhetoric. So there was a clear gap, which the AAP had the guts to occupy even though it meant disregarding the tried and tested recipes parties had always used. AAP gave the people an alternative and they grabbed it.

5. Thinking big

Almost every political pundit had sworn that AAP would be just an also-ran. At best, AAP would win 22 % of the votes, ie 10 seats, they said, especially after the initial Anna Hazare brigade split, and Anna refused to back Kejriwal. Remember what happened to former Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyruppa? His breakaway party KJP did worse than anyone had expected. Even in the US elections, where some billionaire usually shows up at the hustings, he is no more than a nuisance factor and makes no big dents into the major players’ votes. But here, Kejriwal managed a feat similar in scale to that of NT Rama Rao, who took his new party Telugu Desam to power within nine months of its formation in Andhra Pradesh in 1983.

When everybody else dismissed them as a fringe player, AAP looked at themselves differently. They believed in themselves. They thought big. They saw themselves as a differentiator who would emerge as a major force, and worked towards it. When Kejriwal dared to take on Sheila Dikshit in her constituency in New Delhi, everyone thought it was political suicide. But he usurped the throne by a thumping majority — 25,864 votes more than Sheila Dikshit — and created a larger profile for himself and his party.

By refusing to dilute their stand and persevering, they have transformed themselves from a fringe player to the giant slayer.

[Book Review] Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Steps to a Successful Startup

Many believe that entrepreneurship cannot be taught, but it is possible to teach people how to make great products and thus create a successful startup, as clearly illustrated in the insightful and actionable guidebook, ‘Disciplined Entrepreneurship.’

Bill Aulet is the managing director in the Martin Trust Centre for Entrepreneurship at MIT and also a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He has launched initiatives like the MIT Clean Energy Prize, Energy Ventures Class, Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (REAP), “t=0” Entrepreneurship Festival, Beehive Cooperative, Entrepreneurs Walk of Fame, Corporate Innovators Sponsor Group, and Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator.

Bill has had a 25-year track record of success in business himself. He has directly raised more than $100 million in funding for his companies and led to the creation of millions of dollars in market value in those companies.

Many of the case studies in the book feature the company he founded, SensAble Technologies. The other case profiles in the book are from Aulet’s course, with startups in sectors such as footwear, water filtration, furniture shopping, baseball fantasy games, wind turbines, bio-sensors, landfill technologies, silent alarm clocks, arts education, skin care, digital marketing, and e-commerce for handicrafts.

The book also has a companion Web site (http://disciplinedentrepreneurship.com/) with case studies and other resources. Entrepreneurship is a team sport which can be taught and should be considered a legitimate profession and discipline, according to Aulet.

The book covers many iterative loops along the startup roadmap, and the steps are illustrated by Marius Ursache. It is not knowledge that sets you free, but action, Aulet explains. To begin with, entrepreneurs must have an idea, a passion, and preferably a tech breakthrough.

One chapter is devoted to each of 24 steps in the startup toolbox, and I have summarised them briefly in Table 1 according to six themes; each chapter makes for a superb read and is backed with references and resources.

Table 1:  Steps to a Successful Startup

Theme Steps Activities and Items
Customer identification Market segmentation, beachhead market, end user profile, TAM size, persona; next 10 customers Primary/secondary market research (users, benefits), word of mouth channels, qualities of customers, top-down and bottom-up determination of total addressable market
Customer offering Full life cycle use case, product spec, value proposition, core definition, competitive positioning Product acquisition/installation/payment, brochures and mock-ups, USP (‘secret sauce’ – eg. network effect, UX), meeting customer needs better than existing offerings
Product acquisition by customer Customer’s decision making unit, acquisition process of paying customer, sales process mapping Decision makers and primary/secondary influencers, budget cycles and times, adjacent customers, sales activities over near/medium/long term
Monetisation Business model, pricing framework, lifetime value (LTV), cost of customer acquisition (COCA) Models to capture value from customer (eg. subscription, licensing, ads), price points and ranges, charges and recurring fees, top down costs of lead generation and conversion
Product design and development Identifying key assumptions, testing assumptions, minimum viable business product (MBVP), proof of purchase List assumptions in the market and customer mindset, test through observations and polls, design basic product which customer will pay for and give feedback, demonstrate intent to purchase and engage
Scaling the business Calculate TAM size of follow-on markets, develop a product plan Determine product features for beachhead market, determine adjacent markets and product changes needed

Aulet distinguishes between SME entrepreneurship (more focused on non-tradeable jobs such as running a restaurant, with linear growth rates) and innovation-driven entrepreneurship (with investments, more risk, and potential of global exponential growth and profits).

He also highlights the unique nature of ‘two-sided’ markets which need two kinds of communities to succeed, for example buyers and sellers (e-Bay) or readers and advertisers (AdWords). This calls for multiple total addressable market (TAM) calculations and persona descriptions for each.

“Beachhead TAM calculation is your sanity check that you are headed in the right direction,” Aulet flags off in the beginning. It is a combination of customer base and estimated product price. Value proposition itself is a combination of how the product makes life better, faster, cheaper or less risky for the customer.

Entrepreneurs should stay out of the ‘reality distortion zone’ and not fall victim to their hope and hype; dealing with customer feedback – even from naysayers – will help focus on real solutions, Aulet advises.

‘Core’ aspects of the startup would be unique features such as network effects, outstanding customer service, lowest cost or best user experience. This will then need to be backed up with business models such as up-front charge, hourly rates, subscription, license, ad support, reselling of analytics, transaction fees, tiered models, shared savings and franchise.

Pricing should be flexible for a range of customers, example for early testers, lighthouse customers and co-creators. Lifetime value calculations are important to gauge the long-term viability of current and future products, and go hand in hand with calculation of customer acquisition costs.

Once a product has been launched, the startup founder then needs to address the challenges of building company culture for the long term, HR strategies, cash flow skills, and corporate governance.

“The world needs more and better entrepreneurs because our world’s problems are becoming more dire, complex and ubiquitous,” Aulet concludes.

The book has a number of witty and inspiring quotes, and it would be nice to end this review with some of them.

“Entrepreneurship is not only a mindset but a skillset.” – Mitch Kapor, Founder, Lotus

“While the spirit of entrepreneurship is often about serendipity, the execution is not.” – Joi Ito, Director, MIT Media Lab

“Ideas are a dime a dozen but great entrepreneurs are what create value.” – Paul Maeder, National VC Association

Financial inclusion: Banking the unbanked.

Pic courtesy: http://www.currencyofprogress.in

Pic courtesy: http://www.currencyofprogress.in

We recently wrote a post on YourStory on how financial inclusion poses a very real business opportunity for startups. In this post, we delve a little further into the social aspects of financial inclusion and the burning need for empowering India’s underserved sections.

Dr. K.C. Chakrabarty, Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India, has defined Financial Inclusion in these words, “…the process of ensuring access to appropriate financial products and services needed by all sections of the society in general and vulnerable groups such as weaker sections and low income groups in particular at an affordable cost in a fair and transparent manner by mainstream institutional players.”

In an emerging economy like India, financial inclusion becomes a question of both access to financial products and also the knowledge about their fairness and transparency. Many people who fall in the unbanked category are not adequately informed about the nature of the financial services that might be available to them. Having proper delivery systems and information sharing mechanisms are important for promoting financial inclusion, but at the same time we can’t afford to ignore the demand side factors. Many regions, segments of the population and sub-sectors of the economy have a limited or weak demand for financial services. Their level of inclusion can only be enhanced once issues related to demand side have been addressed.

Government initiatives – heart in the right place but are the effective?

The Government of India’s agenda of inclusive growth is reflected in the kind of policies and regulations that the policy making and regulating institutions, like RBI, IRDA, PFRDA etc. have been developing over the past decade. There has been in multifold increase in the number of back branches, especially in rural areas; the branch network was around 8,000 in 1969 and now it is more than 89,000, spread across the length and breadth of the country.

The KYC norms for bank accounts with smaller sums of money have already been relaxed. In rural areas, new account holders can be introduced by local citizens. Public Sector banks are providing poor and marginalized sections of the population with a choice of a ‘no frills account’ where the minimum balance is nil or very small, but with restrictions on number of withdrawals etc., to facilitate easy access to bank accounts. Aadhaar can also be very useful for financial inclusion, as it provides all the citizens of the country a rather foolproof way of proving their identity in an easy and seamless manner.

However, these initiatives for strengthening financial inclusion are yet to have a substantial impact on the lives of the excluded population. Over half the Indian population is unbanked. Only about 55% of the population in the country has a deposit account and around 9% has credit accounts with banks. According to data from Reserve Bank of India (RBI), India is the home to largest number of unbanked families (more than 145 million). There is only one bank branch per 14,000 people. The total number of villages in the country is estimated to be more than around 6 Lakh, but the number of scheduled commercial banks (SCBs) and Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) stand at only 33,495.

Financial inclusion for small businesses – a possible solution

In all the hype about welfare initiatives for the bottom of the pyramid population, an important segment that often gets missed out is the small businessmen. According to the MSME ministry, there are around 26 million small enterprises in India, and only 5% of them have access to capital. Moreover, 94% of these are not even registered and have minimal records, making it even more difficult to establish income and expenditure tracking, required by the formal sector.

According to Tom Hyland, Co-Founder & Partner, Aspada Investment Advisors (an early stage risk capital fund for innovative businesses targeted at underserved communities), “The market for small business finance in India is significantly underserved by the formal sector, as often the only real source of capital is from an informal moneylender. Local banks often insist upon a significant security or/and collateral cover in addition to formal lending being a cumbersome, relationship driven process.” According to Tom, there is a dire need for lending models that provide much-needed working and growth capital to small businesses that would otherwise face difficulties in accessing funds and for which few alternatives exist beyond informal sources.

The effectiveness of this solution is that players working on financial inclusion will find it more lucrative, while masses will benefit from the trickle-down effect. Tom substantiates that, “Small merchants are the backbone of the Indian consumer economy, and improving access to credit for them is critical in order to sustain and improve the livelihoods of people (most of whom belong to the low income segment) that are employed in this sector, especially if credit tightens due to an economic slowdown in India.”

Some interesting work but lots remaining

Last year, YourStory covered the story of Kinara Capital, a young, nonbanking finance company (NBFC) that lends to micro and small businesses led by Hardika Shah. Kinara focuses on lending to those that are too big for microfinance but too small for commercial loans and reduces lending risk by acquiring reliable borrowers by plugging into existing supply chains, such as that of retail chain, Mother Earth. In the next five years, Kinara hopes to expand their portfolio to 20,000 loans, to create 100,000 new jobs, and to impact one million lives.

Another interesting player is Vistaar Finance, that targets the missing middle segment, consisting of customers with an annual income of Rs 120,000-1,000,000, which is not effectively served by the formal financial system. Vistaar has 2 primary lending products – Small Business Mortgage Loan of upto INR 20 Lakhs for upto 7 years and Small Business Hypothecation Loan of upto INR 60,000 for upto 2.5 years. They have a unique credit methodology wherein templates of cash-flow assessment are created by studying an overall sector, thereby by-passing the need for such statements for each borrower within that sector. These are then validated for individual borrowers by studying income, ability, intention, business sustainability & credit behaviour through non-traditional income documents & reference checks.

Learn more about the nuances of inclusive growth and find out the best ways to expand financial inclusion in India at FIPS 2013 – a global conference on Financial Inclusion & Payment Systems. FIPS is being organised at Eros, Hilton Hotel, New Delhi on 24-25 October. Connect with FIPS 2013, http://fips.eletsonline.com/2013/

Start Up Phases and Tips

“Entrepreneurs are able to walk the fine line between being focused yet agile, and visionary yet reactive,” the authors begin. “Knowledge alone isn’t power, it’s potential power. Knowledge combined with action is power,” they explain.

Starting up is a mix of art, science and business. It involves the steps of questioning, observing, hypothesising, experimenting and analysing – with lots of creativity and instinct thrown in between.

“You must become a scientist and look at your startup as a science experiment,” the authors advise. I have summarised the authors’ startup phases and tips in Table 1 below; each chapter explains them in more detail.

The book is packed (almost half of it) with illustrations but not all of them add value and the book could be much shorter; more industry examples for the principles would have been a good addition.

Table 1: Agile Startup Phases and Tips

Phase Insights
Understanding Agile Philosophy Have fun! Understand and align with your motivation. Grapple with reality. Be prepared for highs and lows. Understand the scientific method. Focus on problems and not just solutions. Listen to customers and don’t worry about embarrassing yourself. Launch to learn. Fail fast and often; beg for forgiveness rather than ask for permission. Understand and contain risk early.
Understanding Feasibility Repeatedly ask and examine whether customers will buy your product/service. Double your worst-case scenarios. Test mock-ups. Go beyond the idea to a product/service. Ask open-ended questions in surveys, not leading questions. Go beyond surveys to actual observations. Are you offering a cure, painkiller or vitamin? Think like a VC.
Customer and competitive strategies Ride the wave or create it. Understand the market and the customers’ pain points. Ask people “what sucks” about your product. Focus on core customer segments. Draw up a competitive matrix. Beware of fast followers.
Revenues and profits Draw up a comprehensive business model (eg. inventory, sales, contractors, office costs). Examine hybrid revenue models. Balance variable and fixed costs. Get the minimum viable product into the market fast. Calculate how much runway you have left. Monitor KPIs.
Marketing Get the positioning right. Go to press only when ready. Use different strategies for old and new markets. Sell wants, but deliver needs (“emotion + reason”). Address customer needs not just product features. Test messages. Leverage guerrilla tactics (eg. Red Bull’s stunts). Create and frame customer personas. Promise but overdeliver.
Team building Sign a ‘pre-nup’ with co-founders and partners. Find the right people, get them to the right positions. Align visions along the company’s evolution. Be prepared to move aside and let professional managers take over from founders in the scale stage. Design the vesting stages, amounts and periods carefully. Delegate but don’t abdicate. Form an advisory board.
The Startup Pitch Develop the tagline, one-liner, elevator pitch and full presentation. End the pitch with a call to action. Get used to rejections and learn from them. Strengthen the use-case scenario. Reiterate key takeaways. Stress the hot buttons. Fake it till you make it. Don’t dumb it down but aim for simplicity.
Investors Show traction, otherwise you are just a ‘wantrapreneur.’ Show your obsession with the company. Pick your investor based on portfolio match. Find the balance between money, power, control and lifestyle. Dialogue with serial entrepreneurs, startup experts and industry veterans. Chart key milestones. Use demos to pitch effectively. Fundraising alone is not a sign of success; valuation isn’t everything. Factor in long-term defensibility of the product with your team.
Building the business Nail it before you scale it: get the business model right. Jot your thoughts down to track key issues. Sharpen a sense of clarity and purpose. Manage meetings effectively. Be prepared for the worst, expect the unexpected. Be your own customer. Thing big, but also execute the smallest details. Design a short rallying mantra which is inspirational, aspirational, attainable. Evolve your metrics. Your network is your net worth. Leverage the underdog story, and a tangible enemy. Guard your reputation. Hire other rainmakers also. Be frugal but not cheap. Know when to quit, there is no shame in shutting down.

The authors identify five kinds of risks faced by entrepreneurs: product (will the technology work), market (will people buy it), financing (can you get off the ground and thrive), competition (are there fast followers/incumbents), execution (can you pull the whole thing off).

“The most important thing you should do as an entrepreneur is to turn assumptions into facts as quickly as possible,” the authors advise.

A solid customer-acquisition strategy is one of the most important aspects of the go-to-market plan. The value proposition must be 10X better than that of the competition, and a moat strategy will be needed to build sustainable competitive advantage (eg. via patents, secrets, speed, brand, cost advantage, regulations).

Marketing is one of the hardest things to get right in business, making it a common startup killer, the authors caution; marketing is as important as product development for a startup. “Luck is not a plan,” the authors add.

“Marketing that leads with emotion and justifies with reason delivers sales,” they explain. Customers buy with emotion, but also justify it with reason.

Entrepreneurs should factor in a range of parameters such as customer acquisition costs, customer switching costs, customer lifecycle value, length and cost of sales cycles, serviceable available market, and serviceable obtainable market.

In the entrepreneurial journey, it is important to get alignment with the team’s basic human needs: certainty, variety, significance, connection, growth and contribution. Startups offer employees a unique mix of flexibility, challenge, variety and the feeling of accomplishment.

“Investors are an indispensable part of the startup landscape, especially when it comes to technology companies,” the authors observe. Seed investments are usually less than $2 million; VCs typically want to own 20-40% of a company in exchange for a $2-10 million investment.

The authors also cut through the media hype about startups by explaining that almost 98% of startup work is monotonous and painstaking; there are many near-death moments; there is a strong sense of isolation; and there can be severe family pressures.
The average age of an entrepreneur is 39, and rather than physical age the most important success factor is emotional age and resourcefulness. Having sounding boards with mentors and other entrepreneurs is a big help.

“It’s not a startup until you build something, and it’s not a business until you sell something,” the authors conclude. “Building a successful business from scratch is nothing short of amazing. Start living your entrepreneurial dream,” they add.
It would be fitting to end this review with some of the useful inspirational quotes in the book:

Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” – Dwight Eisenhower
When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me.” – Oscar Wilde
Every business has two major functions: innovation and marketing.” – Peter Drucker
If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” – Isaac Newton
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci
Skate to where the puck is going to be.” – Wayne Gretzky
Fail fast, succeed sooner.” – David Kelly, CEO, Ideo

Are You Creative ?

They say genius and madness often overlaps. In fact, numerous studies have been done on this. For instance, research done by Shelley Carson, an associate of Harvard’s department of psychology, an expert on psychopathology, has found a connection between high levels of creativity and strange behaviour and actions.

In his book Creativity: The Work and Lives of 91 Eminent People, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, seminal professor of Psychology and Management, also the Founding Co-Director of the Quality of Life Research Center at Claremont, writes about nine traits he found in creative people. Matthew Schuler has quoted it in his blog.

Creativity

Tell us if you agree.

01

Most creative people have a great deal of physical energy, but are often quiet and at rest. They can work long hours at great concentration.

02

Most creative people tend to be smart and naive at the same time. “It involves fluency, or the ability to generate a great quantity of ideas; flexibility, or the ability to switch from one perspective to another; and originality in picking unusual associations of ideas. These are the dimensions of thinking that most creativity tests measure, and that most creativity workshops try to enhance.”

03

Most creative people combine both playfulness and productivity, which can sometimes mean both responsibility and irresponsibility. “Despite the carefree air that many creative people affect, most of them work late into the night and persist when less driven individuals would not.” Usually this perseverance occurs at the expense of other responsibilities, or other people.

04

Most creative people alternate fluently between imagination and fantasy, and a rooted sense of reality. In both art and science, movement forward involves a leap of imagination, a leap into a world that is different from our present. Interestingly, this visionary imagination works in conjunction with a hyperawareness of reality. Attention to real details allows a creative person to imagine ways to improve them.

05

Most creative people tend to be both introverted and extroverted. Many people tend toward one extreme or the other, but highly creative people are a balance of both simultaneously.

06

Most creative people are genuinely humble and display a strong sense of pride at the same time.

07

Most creative people are both rebellious and conservative. “It is impossible to be creative without having first internalized an area of culture. So it’s difficult to see how a person can be creative without being both traditional and conservative and at the same time rebellious and iconoclastic.”

08

Most creative people are very passionate about their work, but remain extremely objective about it as well. They are able to admit when something they have made is not very good.

09

Most creative people’s openness and sensitivity exposes them to a large amount of suffering and pain, but joy and life in the midst of that suffering. “Perhaps the most important quality, the one that is most consistently present in all creative individuals, is the ability to enjoy the process of creation for its own sake. Without this trait, poets would give up striving for perfection and would write commercial jingles, economists would work for banks where they would earn at least twice as much as they do at universities, and physicists would stop doing basic research and join industrial laboratories where the conditions are better and the expectations more predictable.”

Most entrepreneurs we spoke to agree to this completely. They share all the nine traits. What do you say?

Offline Retailers Launch Online Protest “We Will Act’ For Price Undercutting By Ecommerce Sites

I have heard this from number of my friends who run physical stores – This year they have experienced much lower footfalls from consumers, especially in the electronic and apparel segment. And many of them believe it is due to rise in ecommerce in India. People now increasingly prefer shopping online rather than going to physical stores.

And this trend will only increase…and why not, consumers buying online are getting much better deals, sometimes nearly half the price at which local offline retailer will offer you.

While this is great for consumers, have you thought how this is affecting lakhs of local offline businesses? Obviously, they now see online retailers as their biggest enemy.

So what do offline retailers do to overcome this?

These physical store owners are now getting together to protest against the undercutting of prices by online retailers. They have launched a website – We Will Act – that condemns the business practices undertaken by ecommerce sites (mind you, in very strong words). They have also written to the Competition Commission of India, complaining that their online counterparts are selling goods below cost and skirting Indian laws on foreign direct investment in retail.

We Will Act | Offline Retailers Launch We Will Act Protest For Price Undercutting By Ecommerce Sites

The website wewillact.com have put up Appeals to Government of India, Political parties of India, to consumers, to manufacturers and vendors and even to Venture Capitalists who are putting millions of dollars of investment.

Sample this – Here is what “We Will Act” asks consumers to do, in their own words:

?Let’s take some small steps

We will not purchase or supply anything to these unethical online retailers. ( XKart, Ydeal, KBong..)

?Lets boycott them.

Let’s now punish them:

1- Let’s place Cash on delivery orders for Rs.40000.00 rupees items every alternate day and cancel when delivery boy comes to delivery. This will make them to lose their fat by Rs.1000.00 at least.

2- Whenever you are free call to their customer care and waste their time. This will increase their customer care expenses.

Here is what they say about online retailers:

Some online retailers in India are like BIGDE BETE of their BIG PAPA of USA. They are getting so much money for doing so much of experiment in India and kind of playing GAMBLING. Every six months they are changing their business models, spending heavily on advertisements, selling everything to everyone at much below their cost prices, running business in huge operating losses and that is adversely affecting the traditional physical retailers.

There can be possibility if some enemies of our country or terror outfits giving funding to these MONKEYS to do so much drama and make lakhs of retailers loose their piece of mind and livelihood.

Will This Protest Help?

I really don’t think this it is going to make any difference. While they have a right to be frustrated with price undercutting, it is a business model which online retailers are following with a view of garnering consumer base in long term. I don’t think anyone can object online retailers’ business practices.

Rather than doing a protest like this, they need to accept the new world order and join the flow. They have to find a way to compete and probably move their business online.

Suhail Rizvi, Mysterious Indian Origin Investor Makes $3.8 Bln With Twitter IPO

IPOs or Initial Public Offerings are exciting because it is just like a lottery. Investors buy the lottery tickets years in advance, hoping that when the curtains are raised, they hit jackpot.

And one such jackpot has been won by a mysterious India born investor, who has just made $3.8 billion after Twitter’s IPO went public this week.

Meet Suhail R. Rizvi, 47, who runs Michigan based Rizvi-Traverse Management LLC and host of other funds which invests in companies and then make a fortune out of that. Besides Twitter, he has invested in Facebook, Square, Pinterest and Flipboard. Out of tech world, he has invested in Playboy, and several movie producing companies such as Summit Entertainment which has distributed Twilight movie all over the globe (yes, Twilight, the multi million dollar movie series)

The Twitter IPO Player: Suhail R. Rizvi

In the year 2010, his long time friend and advisor Chris Sacca, who is a former Google executive, informed Rizvi that Evan Williams has resigned as Twitter’s CEO and wants to sell his 10% stake in the company. He didn’t take more than a second to make a major decision, and hours later, he owned 10% stake in Twitter, by paying $340 million to Evan.

In fact, right now, he is the biggest ‘outside’ investor in Twitter with 17.9% stake; which translates to 85,171,093 shares. Taking into consideration $44.90 price of each Twitter share at the closing of opening day trade, this amounts to $3.8 billion in hard cash.

Value of Equity Holdings in twitter | Suhail Rizvi, Mysterious Indian Origin Investor Makes $3.8 Bln With Twitter IPO

[Chart created based on numbers from Reuters]

Suhail is a low profile investor, and his whereabouts are known to only select few such as Eric Schmidt, Google co-founder, Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, Salar Kamangar, chief executive of YouTube and few other high profile entrepreneurs and rich Arab princes. He is definitely not a Page 3 person, and there is hardly any interviews of him published anywhere.

Last year, his name gained some prominence, when he invested $200 million in Jack Dorsey’s payments company, Square. Other than that, he is sometimes spotted partying in yachts owned by Eric or at Playboy mansions. He is very close to Richard Branson, and it is rumored that he has helped him clinch several high profile investments in the last 20 years.

Suhail was born in India, but was brought up in US. He did his graduation from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and sits on the Wharton Undergraduate Executive Board as well.

Would you have invested in a company like Twitter, way back in 2009-2010? As an investor, how will you describe Suhail’s strategy? Please share your feedback!

 

Startup business and technical founders, and developers who are eager to take their idea to “minimum valuable product(MVP)” and scale fast to build their next big thing.

John Taschek, VP of Strategy at Salesforce.com recently wrote, “Yes, after 5 years of being a big fan of cloud computing, I admit defeat. I am, as of today, changing my worldview.” Don’t get shocked, his next words were, “Cloud Computing is no longer the future. Cloud Computing is now an accepted reality – it’s the present – the market has tipped.”

That tech solutions today must be cloud-based, is a foregone conclusion. But how do you truly leverage cloud computing as a startup? After New York, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines, YourStory is delighted to brin

g the global AWS Cloud Kata learning sessions to India. Kata (型 or 形 literally: “form”) refers to a series of choreographed patterns of movements used for teaching, through which successful techniques are mastered. And that’s exactly what the Cloud Kata sessions aim to do.mapos

Join the AWS team for a day of live discussions as well as business and technical mentoring on the latest cloud computing best practices. Geared specifically to growing startups and development teams, the Cloud Kata sessions will guide you through tips, customer testimonials and technical best practices to help you grow faster on the AWS Cloud.

Who should attend?

  • Startup business and technical founders, and developers who are eager to learn how to run lean and scale fast to build their next big thing.
  • Development teams, engineers, architects and system administrators from enterprises who are eager to learn how to deploy applications in highly available, scalable architectures.

Ten reasons to attend:

  1. Discover pro tips that help your startups as you go from idea to minimum viable product (MVP), to scale, and ultimately to profitability.
  2. See live demonstrations and learn more about services such as Amazon EC2, Relational Database Service (RDS), S3, CloudFront, and AWS Elastic Beanstalk.
  3. Leverage AWS reference architectures, SDK, and services to build your MVP quickly.
  4. Get hands-on guidance and coaching on how to build your MVP on the AWS Cloud.
  5. Gain insights on the six best practices for “cost aware architecting”.
  6. Explore smart ways to lower your costs by leveraging various AWS pricing models.
  7. Learn first-hand from India startups on how they succeeded with AWS.
  8. Find the best fit for your co-founder, your technical stack and services, and the right architecture for now and the future.
  9. Network with your peers and the AWS team.
  10. Bonus: Understand venture capital (VC), how it works, and how to pitch to VC’s to obtain the capital needed to grow your startup.

Where & when

  • Mumbai: 14th December, 2013. Venue: IIT, Powai
  • Delhi: 11th January, 2014. Venue: IIT, Delhi
  • Bangalore: 8th February, 2014. Venue: TBD

Broad agenda

  • Welcome address
  • AWS Training: Hands-on training and coding on the latest AWS services and APIs
  • Getting to Minimum Viable Product ‘MVP’ on AWS
  • Getting to scale on AWS
  • Getting to profitability on AWS
  • Technical Co-founder Handbook
  • Panel discussion: Venture Capital, Funding and Pitching with top VCs
  • VC break-out sessions: Share your business plans and get direct feedback.
  • AWS Coding Challenge:  Watch 20 developers compete head-to-head at the AWS Coding Challenge live.
  • Networking reception and snacks: Network with entrepreneurs, hackers and AWS members.

 

More details will follow shortly. But as seats are limited, apply for the free learning session right away!

 

4 Sectors Set for Ideas to become Billion Dollar Company

Inspired by the morning read “Indian-American teen creates 20 second mobile charger”, I set out to think about all the BIG IDEAS that could change the way the world works.

Sure, you could build a Tumblr-like site and be bought for $1.1 billion, but I’m talking about ideas that could actually make significant strides in making the world a better place.

New Battery Tech surely does look like one of those life-altering ideas. Imagine the power of these ultra-fast rechargeable cells not only in terms of better smartphones but say, in a rural setting, where power is not an oft-discussed phenomenon. The ramifications seem huge.

Big Ideas 3 part series | 12 Big Ideas that could lead to the next Billion Dollar Companies   Part 1
Here is the first part of this series of three articles which discusses ideas with major upsides:

Part 1: Education, Energy, Housing and Healthcare

Education

A sector which almost 100% of the population agrees is ripe for disruption, but changes seem to be materializing tad too slowly. This is easily the biggest existent market and the beauty of it is that it has got enough space for 10s, if not 100s, of firms to thrive about and co-exist.

India is definitely the go-to market for education and Indians have the best vantage point going forward; for the bigger long-term opportunities lie in the even less developed Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asian, Middle-Eastern and South American countries.

It becomes even more important, when one realizes the other facet, that is, the effect of better education opportunities in these countries on their healthcare, socio-political and economic systems.

Economical Solar Energy

The Sun is unmatchable when it comes to being the king of all energy sources. Nothing that human technology could ever produce would even come to touch the dominance of the Sun. Even with a very small fraction of its energy reaching the earth, the capability, if harnessed, is 10000 times that of all the commercial usage on the planet.

Scientists are working hard to bring down the initial cost of solar, but it looks like it would require someone with the passion and zeal of Elon Musk to come and turn the whole industry upside down.

Affordable Housing for the masses

An ever-increasing population coupled with a steeply increasing lifespan, gives us our next big idea. Affordable and quick-to-setup housing will make someone billions starting in the next 5-10 years.

Affordable housing includes value housing, which is the need of every middle class family, as well as low income housing, where the most significant need of India lies.

Over one-sixth population of the world lives in appalling conditions. Over a 100 million people live in slum and slum-like surroundings in India alone. They could reach up to 200 million by 2020.

Building mass-scale housing by aggregating the waste land in the outskirts of the urban hubs is the simplest solution when it comes to tackling the problem of housing due to urbanization. To make it affordable, statistics suggest that the costs should be around 5-6 times the per-capita income of the region.

Advanced Health Information Systems & Better Medicine

Even as countries like India discourage patenting in the drugs business to offset the costs of medicine to the poor, companies like Ranbaxy take undue advantage of the system and dupe billions of innocent people into buying their generic but harmful drugs.

It is a long-known fact in medical circles that different people have different levels of susceptibility to diseases and so they respond differently to medicines. But, treatments developed have been adjusted to work for the masses rather than being individualized. Advances in Genetic Science changes that and can be used to develop better systems that will be able to do fast genetic profiling of a patient.

Now, collection and management of these massive amounts of data on individual patients presents us with another opportunity in the form of Health Informatics.

Medical records, today have a prevalent problem of, being mixed up in the form of old technologies (paper) with new ones (computers). Even within the same hospital, there would be usage of different programs and platforms for different data. Sharing information over regional, national, or global networks is rendered, almost impossible.

Future healthcare systems need to be engineered to facilitate seamless sharing of data. Apart from this there should be checks in place for ensuring that the updating of this data is absolutely correct and that the profile of any individual can be easily tracked using the system.

Tomorrow I’ll discuss the next 4 BIG IDEAS as Part 2 of this series of articles.

Comment with your suggestions, on what you think are the big ideas, that could make billion dollar companies and change the world at the same time

India Needs More Entrepreneurs than Graduates ?

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Do you know that there are millions of unemployed youth in the country and by the time you graduate, this number would have increased substantially? Do you want to be part of that group which keeps knocking from pillar to post, checking with employment exchanges, relatives, friends, and neighbours and still not able to get a job to their liking and then settle for a second or third rate job?

You can also choose to be like Mr. Patel of Nirma who was a chemist’s assistance and has a Rs. 2500 crore company today. Did you know that the original Mr. Bata was a cobbler? And now has stores in more than 30 countries all over the world. Or you could be like Dhiru bhai Ambani who started life as a clerk in a French company in Aden. He was not born into a business family nor did he possess an MBA degree and yet, he is a household name in India and figures in 2 the Forbes list of the richest Asians. Lakshmi Mittal, the steel giant, Sabir Bhatia of Hotmail fame and Narayan Murthy of Infosys are some other names in the endless list you could choose from.
If your answer is yes then you can definitely opt for a career in entrepreneurship. We will help you to understand the process of setting up a small business, running it successfully and seeing it grow. And let us remind you that this career opportunity is not only for boys but also for girls – all those girls who think smart, are ready to act and script the story of their own life – like Shehnaz Hussain or Ritu Kumar or Kiran Majumdar Shaw.

If you have a desire then we will put your energy for solving the daily life problems faced by common man, and this will take you on the path of Entrepreneurship.