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Mindshare predicts platform and media trends in 2014

Mindshare, is one of the leading media firms in the world with offices across 115 cities. It handles media buying and selling for brands such as Unilever, IBM, HSBC and Volvo among others.

The firm recently released its digital outlook for 2014 to predict trends across platform and media, consumer technology and digital marketing. YourStory presents to you this indepth report in two parts. First up is platform and media trends.

Read on for indepth insights.

1. New building blocks of digital content

Constant experimentation with the new building blocks is key to winning in mobile Thanks to the shift in consumption of digital content towards mobile devices, increasingly digital content is being packaged in smaller ‘building blocks’ which can be routed across mobile networks and suited to smaller screens. Examples of these new building blocks include Twitter’s ‘Cards’, short-form social video (Vine and InstaVid), ephemeral content (Snapchat), and Buzzfeed’s ‘Listicles*’ – which have enjoyed massive growth across platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The one thing that all of these new building blocks have in common is their inherent shareability.

The opportunity : Many brands have already tested some features of Twitter Cards, but there are 8 in total so we recommend testing all versions, and supporting these with paid media. Similarly, many brands have tested Vines and InstaVids, but there is more experimentation needed – with support from paid media.

2. Clipping & sharing live TV/gaming video content

livesharingpostheadReal-time sharing of live footage just got easier. New technology allows the capturing and immediate sharing of live content from video-based entertainment (eg TV and Console gaming), either by broadcasters, or by users themselves.
Twitter launched their ‘Amplify’ product in the UK at the end of 2013 which enables sponsors of programmes to work with broadcasters to distribute sponsored instant replays and footage in real-time as the content goes out on air. This can all be ‘amplified’ using paid media in the form of Promoted Tweets which will allow this instantly-distributed live content to be targeted to the most relevant audience.
Similarly, Playstation and Xbox’s new consoles also allow in-game footage to be shared in real-time – eg the goal you just scored in FIFA14.

The opportunity : Be one of the first brands to do a Twitter Amplify campaign and join the small but elite cadre of brands who are leveraging live TV content across social.

3. Ecosystem integration
Making the most of Google. The power of the entire Google ecosystem has yet to be exploited by most brands. Over time there have been more and more integrations between Google products – eg a single sign in across all areas – and recently we have seen a step-change in the level of integration. Of course this is largely driven by a desire on Google’s part to create more connected experiences for their users, but these developments have the useful side-effect for marketers of being better able to join the dots between content, search and social.

The most recent development has been the integration of Google+ ‘commenting’ with Youtube comments – effectively allowing a conversation about a piece of Youtube content to live and grow across both platforms. This particular development has been beset by ‘spam’ issues, however we believe that there is a significant opportunity for brands in the medium term. The reason for this is that social signals are becoming increasingly important in Google’s natural search algorithm, so an integrated approach to the entire Google ecosystem across content, search and social is gradually becoming more important for brands.

The opportunity : Explore a true partnership with Google to leverage each area of the ecosystem and measure the incremental effect of bringing all elements of their portfolio together, using content as the glue.

4. Mobile social networks & messaging

Messaging-Apps-SMSPrivate messaging makes a fight-back. Dedicated mobile messaging apps like WhatsApp, Snapchat and Kik are growing at a rate not seen since the early days of social networking. WhatsApp now has over 350m users globally and is growing exponentially. Meanwhile, Facebook stated in a recent earnings call that it was seeing a “decrease in daily users, specifically among teens”. So, whilst teenagers are still on Facebook, it would appear that they are increasingly turning to dedicated messaging apps which are more focused on private messaging. Essentially, teens are looking for platforms where they can be less inhibited than they are on Facebook. On Facebook there is always a risk that your parents or family could see sensitive status updates.

The opportunity : When a big digital trend develops in the teen space it is always worth brands watching closely. The opportunity for brands is clearly limited by the fact that currently there is no available media inventory. However, Snapchat did just hire Instagram’s advertising development director so it appears they are developing an advertising-based business model. In the meantime, it seems the best brand use cases on these messaging platforms are in mimicking or taking advantage of current user behaviours and acting like those users – eg Absolut.

5. Special interest social networks
Whilst Facebook has been busy cornering the ‘social graph’ market, and Google has been focusing on the ‘knowledge graph’, there has been an explosion of new community platforms which aim to corner specific vertical interest areas. People with very specific interests are finding that their specific interests are better served by bespoke targeted networks.
There are already thousands of examples of these special interest-based social communities – eg Learnist (essentially a Pinterest for teachers), Letterboxd (film buffs) and styledon (fashionistas).

The opportunity : Brands need to develop an understanding of the opportunity for adding value to users within these specialist vertical interest networks. At the very least – the depth of interest-signal to be gained by authentically working with these niche vertical communities should easily outweigh the relative lack of scale.

6. Paid-for digital entertainment content increasing exponentially
Brands must adapt to the new premium landscape. A few years ago, piracy was king in the premium digital content world. Nobody paid for digital content. Nowadays – whilst filesharing sites are still popular amongst younger demographics – it is the turn of premium content to be king. Paywalls around news websites (eg News International), premium versions of social networks (eg linkedin), and an exponential increase in people who are prepared to pay for music and film (eg iTunes, Netflix, Blinkbox) are all evidence of a bright future for paid-for digital content.

And with increasing numbers of users prepared to pay for streaming or downloads it means there is a corresponding decrease in advertising opportunities around the most premium content.
So how can brands reach these ad-free premium content audiences?

The opportunity : The long-term opportunity for some brands is to publish premium quality branded content themselves. But this is not suitable for all brands and also requires proper sustained investment over time.
In the short term there is an opportunity for all brands to advertise at the point of entry in to premium paid-for content – eg within Xbox Live – or to develop more integrated promotions with streaming partners like Spotify or Microsoft – eg to subsidise free streaming of movies.

7. The Internet of Things

iotPhysical objects become internet-enabled and connected. Gone are the days of computers, smartphones and tablets being the only objects to connect to the internet. Today, nearly everything around us from fridges to light switches & TV remotes to cars has the ability to become an inter-connected web object. Today there are 12 billion devices across the world that can connect to the internet, but by 2015 Cisco predicts that there will be 25 billion – jumping to 50 billion by 2020 (almost 7 times the number of people of the planet). As an example, UPS fitted trackers to all their delivery vans then analysed the route data. They calculated that vans sat waiting to make left turns equated to 206 million minutes of idling time. As a result, they re-routed their delivery routes to minimize left turns and saved more than 1.5 million gallons in fuel.

The opportunity : The opportunity is in using the data produced by internet connected devices to enhance consumers’ lives, making tasks quicker more straightforward or adding genuine value. Additionally, there is an emerging opportunity to create branded apps which tap in to connected objects (eg branded recipe app for connected fridges) For brands there is also potential to work with partners who are taking a leadership position in this space. For eg Telefonica/O2, who in 2013 signed a £1.5bn deal to deliver smart meter systems in the UK. Their aim is to install 53m smart meters in UK homes by 2020 which could become the predominant platform for ‘the internet of things’ in the home in this country.

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5 Ways to Boost Innovation

Creativity and innovation are often stymied because there just aren’t enough resources.

One of your responsibilities as a pragmatic leader is to make sure you remain within budget while ensuring your team is performing at its peak. You can’t throw every dollar at a project. You can’t get people all the support they would have in an ideal world. The sad truth is that supporting one project often means diverting resources from others.

You have to cut costs, save resources, and keep in step with a budget, all while trying to sponsor creativity and fuel innovation. It’s no easy juggling act.

Here are five strategies that will help you do it.

1. Forget about the bells and whistles

While Google and other tech companies have in-house chefs and ping pong tables, there’s no need to follow suit. You won’t be able to inspire much more creativity or innovation with expensive toys, nice workplace amenities, and other small perks.

In fact, employees may end up taking advantage of all the gifts and, worse, get used to the office luxuries. Too much of a good thing can even demotivate your team. Improving their equipment and adding little perks become the main goal, rather than the work they’re supposed to be doing. This happens all the time.

2. Don’t sew your wallet closed

Leaders often err on the side of too much cost-cutting. Too much belt-tightening can undermine the progress of your most important projects. When people feel they don’t have access to the resources they need to do their job, their enthusiasm will weaken. They may start rethinking whether they really want to stick with you and your agenda. To sustain momentum and move ahead, you have to make sure, as far as possible, that everyone has the tools they need or at least the possibility of attaining them in the future.

3. Don’t use more resources as a goal

Some leaders tempt teams with the promise of more resources if they can meet certain goals. That’s fine if the team can meet the goals, but it’s a different story entirely if they fail. Then they’re missed their goals, they don’t get their resources, and they end up feeling disappointed and resentful. And they can always argue that the reason they failed is because you didn’t give them enough resources to start with!

4. Educate and listen to the team

During projects, leaders should be very clear about the size of the budget, what’s going where, and why. If your expenditures aren’t transparent, team members may see certain purchases as wasteful or grow aggrieved when their bid for new resources is turned down.

The best way to figure out if your team is happy with their access to shared resources is to simply ask them. You may wish your team could work on vapors, but they can’t. You cannot afford to be insensitive to their needs.

5. Balance the allocation of resources

Don’t vacillate between feast and famine. Find the sweet spot where your team has the resources it needs to move ahead, but isn’t kicking back on your welfare system. Facilitate what they need, and scrutinize what they want. Don’t slam on the breaks and then hit the gas. Find a steady pace.

As a pragmatic leader, you need to make sure your group’s access to organizational resources doesn’t fall below a certain threshold-;from “hungry” to “discouraged.” There is no science here. There are no quantitative metrics. You have to be intuitive and sensitive to your group’s level of motivation and creativity.

Mobile Startups: Insights from Mobile India 2014 conference

The Mobile India 2014 conference, held recently in Bangalore, showcased a range of opportunities in the space of Social, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC). In addition to SMAC, there are also opportunities opening up in security and smart sensors, leading some speakers to joke that the acronym SMAC should actually be SSMACS!

In an earlier article, we looked at the top trends in enterprise mobile as identified by speakers from the 2014 conference. The 2013 edition of the conference also featured a panel on mobile startups (see my coverage here).

Mobile FI

“Mobile is the centre, cloud is the backbone and analytics is the nerve centre of digital business,” said Manjunath Gowda, CEO, i7 networks. Here is my pick of the Top 15 tips for mobile startups, based on the discussions at the Mobile 2014 conference.

1. Focus on solving real business needs

We are living in an age of realtime information overload. $300,000 is spent on online shopping every minute; 600 videos are uploaded to YouTube each minute; Facebook has over 700,000 updates each minute; and Twitter generates 12 terabytes of data daily – and this is just the tip of the proverbial data iceberg. However, for analytics to make sense of this data  is much more than just statistics; it connects realtime occurrences to the big picture and to pressing business needs and insights. Many startups are going after the low-hanging fruit, but there is much more value in sensemaking and decision support.

“The key challenge today is the inability to think big and ask the right questions to make a difference to businesses,” observed Venkatesh Vaidyanathan, VP, Product Management, Business Analytics, SAP Labs.

For example, true benefits arise when startups connect Big Data to predictive maintenance, brand sentiment, threat detection, product recommendations, fraud detection, realtime risk mitigation, realtime demand/supply forecast, personalised care, and resource optimisation. In this regard, Bangalore company Ramyam Intelligence Lab is rightly positioned by offering analytics and Big Data solutions to telcos to help address their needs of personalisation, churn reduction, loyalty management, and cross-selling of services.

2. Tell a story

The business opportunity lies not just in crunching data and unearthing patterns but building a larger narrative, a compelling story. “There are stories lurking in data. Analyse it, capture it, tell a story from it, make it actionable,” urged S. Anand, Chief Data Scientist, Gramener.

Fields like analytics are as much art as science, and players entering this space need to mix analytics skills with IT. Winning customers will depend not on technical skills but on the ability to deliver insights, discovery and new business knowledge – and thus clinch deals with powerful stories.

3. Address enterprise mobile

Much attention understandably focuses on consumer apps, but there is a world of enterprise and productivity apps also fast emerging. Startups can show how SMAC can be used to improve field worker productivity, for white collar and even blue collar workers. Services offered as “also mobile” will become “mobile first” even in the enterprise environment.

More than 50% of employee devices are purchased on their own. 70% of professionals will use smartphones by 2018, said Archana Kamath, Manager, Mobile CoE, EMC Software and Services India. BYOI (Bring Your Own Identity) is the next wave of consumerisation of IT in enterprise space.

Mobile cloud and workflow tools are now becoming available for SMEs too, and a new wave of value is being unleashed. Mobiles give companies not just deep consumer insights but continuous consumer insights, according to Alwyn Lobo, Senior Mobility Solutions Architect, IBM.

4. Offer security solutions

The increasing digital nature of the economy is also creating chaos, and the ‘attack surface’ of businesses is increasing via mobile. This calls for tools and companies who can provide better monitoring and governance of enterprise networks. For example, Misys GeoGuard uses customer location to reduce fraud for banks. The SnapChat hacking incident shows API vulnerability in world of mobile. API security will play centre stage as mobiles become gateways in the Internet of Things, predicted Shreekanth Joshi, Vice President, Cloud Practice Head, Persistent Systems.

“Look out for Trojans like mRats, host-based jammers, and tunnel borers,” cautioned Manjunath Gowda, CEO, i7 networks. 71% of mobile devices have OS/app vulnerabilities, and there has been 600% growth in mobile malware over last couple of years. 90% of BYOD enabled Indian businesses had a mobile incident in last 12 months, according to sources cited by Gowda. This opens up new markets for security products and services.

5. Watch the competitive space

Startups should aim for a ‘blue ocean’ strategy and enter fresh waters – or else figure out a way to do things better, faster, easier and cheaper than existing players. Several existing players and case profiles were highlighted by Dr. Sanjoy Paul, IEEE Fellow and Managing Director, Accenture Technology Labs India: such as blippar (mobile ads with augmented reality), and use of analytics by Walmart to predict product demand and by Google to forecast ad keyword demand. This reflects the overall trend of increasing real time bidding (RTB) exchanges; static models are declining. Reach.ly mines Twitter to help hotels reach potential guests in real time. Coursera is using analytics to better serve learners. FitBit and OnStar are other good examples of realtime analytics in action.

6. Address the “Four Vs” of Big Data

Big Data is important because there is too much data and too little time for businesses to take informed decisions in realtime. Hence startups should find opportunity in one or more of the “four Vs” of Big Data: volume, variety, velocity, value. In other words, they should show business leaders how they can help tackle data overload, data diversity, realtime data, and mining of insights.

7. Watch sensor networks, M2M and IoT

The Internet of Things (IOT) is currently at early hype stage, but will soon become mainstream, as the recent Consumer Electronics Show indicated: this ranges from wearable devices to smart tennis rackets, and also opens the door to a new range of analytics products and services. Mobiles are cumulatively becoming sensor aggregators, said Shreekanth Joshi, Vice President, Cloud Practice Head, Persistent Systems.

In healthcare, for example, the ‘digitised patient’ will become the hub for measuring, modelling and predicting treatments based on instrumentation and on-body sensors. Typical M2M scenarios encompass energy and water meters, cars, cranes, vending machines, fridges, air-conditioners, and ATM machines. The ATM attack incident in Bangalore shows the importance of monitoring all locations via M2M, said S.Girish, COO, ConnectM.

8. Move beyond location to context

Location and context are blending together to create new kinds of mobile-powered services and advertising. For example, a Tokyo company recruits drivers for two-hour time slots in different neighbourhoods; the matching is based on proximity of available drivers. Analytics coupled with mobile is a powerful combination.

9. Choose cloud for scale

Cloud computing drastically reduces barriers to entry for infrastructure improvement for startups in the growth curve, as shown by the acceleration of companies such as Animoto. The costs for launching a startup and promoting it are much lower these days than before, thanks to cloud infrastructure and social media. However, it should be noted that the business fundamentals of team management and financial models remain unchanged.

10. Evolve from being aware to becoming smart

“Tomorrow’s enterprise is hyperconnected, super-aware, and borderless. Will it be smarter?” asked Ramesh Adiga, AVP & Head, Global Delivery, Mobility Unit, Infosys. The next stage of mobile evolution is ‘superphones’ driven by platforms and lifestyle devices.

Harrah’s Casino in Las Vegas is using Big Data in blackjack tables to figure out how to make gamblers comfortable and stay longer. Designer shoe store Meatpack in Guatemala uses realtime analytics to ‘hijack’ customers from competitors. “Analytics is changing the face of what we usually think of as mundane business,” said Sanjoy Paul of Accenture Labs. Startups need to go beyond ‘the usual suspects’ and identify opportunities right at the street corners and not just main street, and help clients move ‘from dashboards to decisions.’

11. Track emerging business models

The acquisition of Bangalore-based app optimisation company Little Eye Labs by Facebook for an estimated $15 million has shown that app infrastructure and ecosystems are also ripe targets for startup activity. An interesting model to watch is MBaaS – mobile backend as a service, as shown in app cost estimation and cloud models (Kinvey, Appcelerator, FeedHenry). Nicira can reconfigure physical network into multiple virtual networks.

12. Think big

Startup founders should not just look   at the idea or product but also the overall context, customer needs, scalability, UI/UX, andMobileIndia222 viral effects, advised Bharati Jacob, Founder Partner, Seedfund. For example, Limo service Uber may work well in Bangalore, but not have as much impact in Bombay where there are reliable taxis everywhere, she observed.

Many startups with good models focus largely on the local market and are not thinking global from the early stages. A few are, such as Zomato from India. “Maybe the Indian education system does not encourage us to think big and aim high,” added Jacob.

13. Make mobile marketing more targeted

Mobile marketers should stay away from the ‘spray and pray’ model of mainstream media, advised Ashvin Vellody, Partner, KPMG. There are numerous ways in which startups can help marketers experiment and refine ways of segmenting users and messages right down to, for example, passengers stranded  at airports and train stations.

14. Focus on social discovery and not social shopping

For a range of reasons, social shopping online has not worked well, but mobile social media has accelerated the discovery, inspiration and validation of online shopping, according to Kaushal Sarda, CEO, Kuliza Technologies. Social media is about conversations, so digital marketers and advertisers should figure out how to be part of or stimulate conversations, he advised.

15. Multiple mobile payment models will co-exist

Mobiles accelerate consumption of content and commerce, according to Ravi Pratap, Co-Founder and CTO, MobStack. “Multiple kinds of m-payment models will be needed in India, including via mobile operator billing as in the US,” said Pratap. Tier 3 and Tier 4 cities are takeoff markets for e-commerce in India, for everything from the latest books to lingerie sales, said Ashvin Vellody, Partner, KPMG. Retailers in India are executing their marketing campaigns on mobile social media now, not just PC-based Facebook, added Hrish Thota, Senior Manager, Social Computing, Happiest Minds.

In sum, mobile is pivotal to sense, influence and fulfill demand. “Mobiles will be ubiquitous and pervasive,” said Adiga of Infosys. But only an estimated 15% of Fortune 500 organisations have a concrete mobility strategy, opening up a wide door of opportunity for players in mobile space.

“Every business is a digital business, thanks to mobile, social, cloud and analytics. This is happening on a scale not possible before. SMAC helps companies simplify, accelerate, adapt and make better decisions,” said Accenture’s Paul.

Interesting questions to ponder – possibly at next year’s Mobile India conference – would be whether Facebook will be eclipsed by the next generation of social media, how cross-pollination between sectors will throw up new opportunities, and whether regulation and government may dampen the enthusiasm of the tech sector.

Simplify Your SEO Program : 5 Strategies

The SEO industry is in a constant state of flux depending on Google’s algorithms, but that doesn’t mean that you need to revamp your entire strategy every time a new update rolls out. Instead, use the following five strategies to implement a simplified SEO program that’ll stand the test of time — no matter what changes the search engines make.

Focus less on keyword research. “Old school” SEO put a heavy emphasis on keyword research, requiring that webmasters spend hours measuring anticipated search volume against the relative competitiveness of each query. Not only does this take an excessively long amount of time, it’s becoming a far less viable approach as Google restricts the amount of keyword data made available to SEO workers.

Instead of wasting time chasing data that isn’t readily available (or accurate, when it can be found), simplify your research process by brainstorming a list of the keywords you believe your customers are most likely to search for and building content around these phrases. Check your stats after a month or so and then either add more content for phrases that are performing well or refocus your efforts on a new set of potential search queries.

Use SEO tools effectively. Even if fields such as page or post meta descriptions don’t have the SEO impact they used to, it’s still worth including them from a usability standpoint. If you write an extra-compelling meta description that displays in your search results listing and causes a user to click through to your site (versus your competitor’s), that’s a win for your site in terms of both overall performance and SEO.

Instead of coding these fields by hand, look for SEO tools that’ll simplify the process for you. WordPress extensions such as Yoast SEO (free) or All-in-One SEO (free) make managing blog SEO a snap, while programs such as QuickSprout Tools (free; paid versions available) or Moz SEO ($99+ a month) help you to tackle other SEO processes from a single, centralized location.

Invest in viral content pieces. Backlinking is a continual challenge for the SEO world. While it’s important to obtain backlinks from well-regarded websites, it’s best to do so in a natural fashion. But even if you do pursue links as part of an SEO campaign, you’ll find that the backlinks that will do the most for your site’s performance are also the hardest to get!

All of these challenges go away if you redirect your efforts towards producing viral-style content pieces, rather than proactively seeking link sources. As an example, one well-produced infographic could go on to earn you hundreds of backlinks from great sources — with no extra effort on your part beyond the initial creation of the graphic and any early seeding of your content that you decide to do. While it’s true that you won’t “go viral” on every content piece you create, just a few wins using this strategy can do more for your site’s external SEO than weeks or months spent trolling for backlinks.

Use responsive website design. When you use responsive website design on your site, both your desktop and mobile site versions come from the same URL — only their relative displays are altered. Contrast this with hosting two separate sites for desktop versus mobile visitors. If you have two separate websites entirely, you’ve got to run two separate sets of SEO campaigns. Using a single site that displays differently depending on the platform can cut your SEO time in half!

Outsource repetitive monitoring tasks. Finally, consider outsourcing some of the repetitive monitoring tasks that are a part of any good SEO campaign. For example, a few of the tasks you could pass on to others include:

  • Checking your monthly search engine results page rankings (if you don’t already have a tool that does this for you)

  • Conducting competitive research on the keywords and keyword phrases your competitors appear to be targeting

  • Making sure all the content on your site is accessible to the search engine spiders

  • Adding new page links to your website directory (if they aren’t added automatically)

  • Monitoring SEO news sites for algorithm changes that could require your attention or substantially change your strategy

When outsourcing tasks, you can work with either SEO agencies or individuals who are knowledgeable about these tasks. Be sure to do your research and understand the relative pros and cons of each option before bringing on a person or a team to assist with your SEO. Instead of simplifying things, failing to do the proper due diligence could actually make your SEO strategy more complicated than ever!

Have you implemented any of these strategies? Or are there other things you’ve done to simplify your SEO strategy? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Innovations For Sustainability

In India, this quote by Yunus continues to be relevant even today as a majority of its population battles poverty. Socially focused ventures that provide innovations for low-income markets and create opportunities for a better lifestyle have however made significant progress in fighting this battle – especially since India got independence from colonial rule in 1947.

As India celebrates its 67th year of freedom it seems poignant to therefore pause and reflect on eight milestones that have played an important role in shaping India’s social enterprise landscape and the lessons they teach us.

1. Founding of Amul Dairy Co-operative (1946 – 1950)

The founding of the Kaira District Co-operative Milk Producers Union in 1946 and the Amul Dairy in 1950 has over the years given thousands of dairy farmers access to a wide range of domestic markets and spurred India’s milk revolution. The diagram explains in detail how the Amul co-operative benefits numerous dairy farmers across India.

 

Amul demonstrated that the elimination of middlemen and the professional management of milk procurement could result in low-income farmers getting access to new markets thereby lifting them out of poverty. While Amul was not conceived as a social enterprise, it is a historic example of supply chain management that is relevant even today.

2. Beginnings of Fabindia (1960)

Founded by John Bissell to market the diverse craft traditions of India, Fabindia started as a company exporting home furnishings. By linking over 80,000 craft based rural producers to modern urban markets, Fabindia impacted rural artisans at a scale similar to that of Amul for dairy farmers.

Fabindia’s unique ‘community owned company’ model that promotes inclusive capitalism can be credited for the impact they have created. By providing a minimum 26% shareholding to companies co-owned by artisan communities, Fabindia not only offered artisans a regular income but also dividends from the company’s growth. Today, with a pan-India presence, Fabindia is the largest private platform for products that derive from traditional crafts and knowledge.

3. Founding of Ashoka in India (1981)

Ashoka laid the foundation for the concept of social entrepreneurship around the world and started working in India in 1981. Their yearly batches of Changemakers – a community of social entrepreneurs that work to launch, refine and scale high potential ideas for low-income markets – has proven to be a successful model that has been adopted by several accelerators globally.

 

Ashoka’s establishment in India highlighted the importance of non-financial support in the form of networks, mentors and beyond to accelerate the growth of entrepreneurs working with innovations for low-income markets. Since inception in India, Ashoka has identified and worked with more than 350 fellows with innovative solutions from diverse fields and provided them access to funding, expertise and the global networks necessary to grow operations and scale impact.

4. Establishment of SELCO Solar (1995)

SELCO Solar was established with the mission to dispel the myth that low-income communities cannot afford or maintain sustainable technologies. SELCO resolved this challenge by not only creating low-cost solar solutions for lighting, water pumping and computing but also by providing a complete package of product, service and consumer financing through grameena banks, cooperative societies and micro finance institutions.

In a time when only a limited amount of financial and non-financial support was available to socially focused entrepreneurs and affordable solar power was a distant dream even in developed countries, SELCO not only sold and serviced solar lighting systems but also developed and scaled a business model for bringing rural services to poor families. In the past 18 years, SELCO has sold over 1,35,000 solar home lighting systems.

5. India’s First Impact Investments (2001)

It was in 2001 that Acumen Fund; a powerful catalyst for socially focused ventures internationally, brought its approach to India and made its debut investment in Aravind Eye Hospital. Acumen went on to open its India office in 2006 and has since invested USD$36 million in 26 different social companies in India.

In the same year, Vineet Rai also founded Aavishkaar, India’s first for-profit impact investment fund. Aavishkaar now oversees four investment funds and over 25 portfolio companies across sectors such as agriculture, dairy, healthcare, water, sanitation and beyond in India.

The introduction of both Aavishkaar and Acumen in India showcased the demand for early-stage investments in socially focused enterprises to scale both operations and social impact.

6. Social Enterprise Reaches Indian Universities (2007)

Education has often been seen as a stepping-stone towards positive change. The introduction of the Masters in Social Enterprise at one of India’s leading academic schools, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in 2007 heralded a small but growing trend to provide formal training for entrepreneurs aspiring to create social change.

The founding of this masters program raised the academic profile for social enterprise as a career and created a viable pathway for the next generation of socially focused leaders.

7. Introduction of the Sankalp Summit (2009)

Sankalp Forum’s annual summit in 2009 was the first such event of its kind in India that brought together multiple stakeholders such as entrepreneurs, investors, experts and development partners to review the progress made within the sector and to set course for the future. It was initiated with the vision of catalyzing impact investments into social enterprises globally and has today evolved into a community of over 350 socially focused enterprises, 300 investors and 300 sector stakeholders.

The popularity of Sankalp Forum brought to the forefront the importance of local and regional events for the convergence of global knowledge and investment dialog necessary to further the inclusive ecosystem in India.

8. Passing of the Companies Bill (2013)

The passing of the Companies Bill and along with it the mandatory 2% of profits spend on CSR activities is a historic piece of legislation. While the impact of this spend has been a topic of much debate, including criticism that CSR is simply a public relations exercise, the new bill is an opportunity for Indian corporates to embrace a few large social problems that government benefits have been unable to resolve satisfactorily.

Moreover, the bill is aimed at providing important financial resources to NGO’s, social enterprises as well as incubators and accelerators with the ultimate intention being for corporates to play a greater role in eradicating social problems such as hunger and lack of education which continue to fester in India.

Steve Jobs – though unrelated to social enterprise – said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future.”

Similarly, not only do these eight milestones define India’s social enterprise landscape but they also act as important opportunities for reflection on the way forward – for entrepreneurs, investors, accelerators and governments alike.

How to do business in rural India?

India’s fast-paced growth has been a topic of much debate and discussion in the last few years. As a result of booming sectors such as IT, there is a growing sense that the country is emerging as a global leader. As a result, at times India is being touted as the mecca of ‘Jugaad’ innovations – a term used to describe the process of finding innovative solutions to problems with limited resources.

However, as only 12% of India’s population lives in cities, the remaining 88% of people are not reaping many of the economic benefits from the country’s evolving leadership status and associate growth. Rural poverty remains rampant; as a result, innovative thinking is required to meet the needs of India’s majority.

At Ennovent we spoke with Mr. Pradeep Kashyap, the CEO and Founder of MART – India’s leading emerging markets consulting firm about the opportunities and challenges of creating innovations for rural Indian markets:

The term ’India Shining’ has been given to India’s progress in recent years; does opportunity exist for entrepreneurs in rural Indian markets?

Yes, significant opportunity exists in rural India. ‘India Shining’ was a term coined by the government to showcase the economic development of largely urban India. However, in more recent years rural growth has outstripped that of urban. For example, in recent years fast moving consumer good (FMCG) growth in rural India has been around 17 – 18% as compared to only around 11 – 12% in urban India. This is also reflected in industries such as durables and automobiles.

Rural India is now a one trillion dollar economy – equal to the economy of Canada or South Korea. If you add towns with populations below one million then the rural and small towns economy accounts for 75% of India’s GDP while the 50 top cities representing urban India contribute only 25% to the country’s GDP.

What are the factors driving consumption in rural India?

Approximately 800 million people live in rural India of which at least half earn less than USD 1 per day. The other half earn between USD 1 to 5 per day. There are only 50 million ‘rich’ people in rural India – meaning those that earn more than 5 dollars per day.

The consumption story in rural India is being driven by different factors in varying income segments. The rural employment guarantee scheme has added significantly to the purchasing power of the poor through the 6 billion dollars paid as wages annually. Simultaneously, the wage rate for private work in rural India has also gone up because of the higher wages paid under the Employment Guarantee Scheme; the poor are getting more days of work at higher daily rates.

Similarly, the middle-income segment has benefitted from better road connectivity. Youth living in these areas have bought motorcycles and taken up more lucrative jobs in nearby towns. The rapid urbanization has also benefitted the rich farmers who have sold their land at exorbitant rates to real estate developers particularly around the metros.

Doing business in rural India is often termed as challenging. Could you give your thoughts on how entrepreneurs can cope with distribution and other related challenges?

Rural India is diverse, heterogeneous and spread over half a million villages – this is a daunting task for any marketer. However, there are only 100,000 villages with populations of over 200 people. These villages not only account for 50% of the total rural population but also account for 60% of rural wealth. If companies begin by focusing on these 100,000 locations first the distribution nightmare can be effectively tackled.

Additionally, rural India can be categorized into 3 development segments with the most developed states being Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Kerala – with all the remaining states are being in the developing category. Due to the higher per capita income, it is recommended that companies begin by focus on rural areas in the developed states first and then move across the country.

What are the lessons entrepreneurs can learn from large brands such as Ghari or Thums Up that have successfully penetrated these markets?

Most multi-national companies make the mistake of bringing international brands and tweaking them slightly for rural consumers – however the rural eco system is significantly different. For example, running water is not available and high voltage fluctuations and power outages render traditional products such as washing machines and televisions unattractive.

Regional brands, on the other hand, offer customized solutions. Jolly TV has captured the market in Uttar Pradesh by offering a battery backup and voltage stabilizer system. The battery gets charged when electricity is available and the television runs on battery when the family wants to watch programs during power cuts. Ghari detergent customized it’s offering by studying the water map of India to add softener and whitener according to the quality of water.

Entrepreneurs have to realize that each state in India is the size of a country in Europe and therefore it is important to develop product and marketing strategies state-wise. Engaging regularly at the grassroots level with consumers also gives entrepreneurs’ deep insights and feedback on how customers perceive the value of the product, which is otherwise not easily available.

For international entrepreneurs working in low-income markets looking to establish their footprint in India what is your advice to localize their business model?

The most important point is that international entrepreneurs must co-create products in partnership with local communities to understand and incorporate on-ground realities. As a result, hiring local talent that understands the culture and consumer behavior of these markets is key. I would also recommend that since India is a large country, entrepreneurs should first pick one state to begin operations and then consider expansion.Rural India is developing quickly. To succeed in such remote communities, small and large enterprises alike must be localized, offering innovative product and services based on a strong regional background. Early-stage enterprises also require a strong support network from innovation accelerators such as Ennovent and consulting firms such as MART. It is through the provision of a range of financial and non-financial support services that the best innovations for sustainability can succeed in low-income rural markets.

Opportunities available for entrepreneurs, investors, mentors and experts to add value to the Indian healthcare industry.

Healthcare has become one of India’s largest sectors – both in terms of revenue and employment. Although the country’s healthcare industry is projected to continue its rapid expansion, with an estimated market value of US $280 billion by 2020, increased population growth in India’s low-income communities has resulted in a lack of affordable and easily accessible quality healthcare for millions of people.

As a comparison China has 30 hospital beds every 10,000 people, whereas India has only 12. The figures are even more alarming for nurses. In the United States there are 98 nurses per 10,000 people and in India there are only 13.

Despite government efforts to improve widespread access to quality healthcare, India’s existing infrastructure continues to be insufficient resulting in limited treatment options, especially for low-income families.

Recognizing the need for innovation within healthcare, in 2012, Ennovent partnered with the University Impact Fund, one of the world’s first student driven impact-investing firms, to research the opportunities available for entrepreneurs, investors, mentors and experts to add value to the Indian healthcare industry.

It was uncovered that in rural villages and towns, where the majority of Indians reside, a staggering demand exists for affordable remedial healthcare options such as the manufacturing, distribution or provision of various healthcare products and services. Highlighted below are some of the areas within healthcare that are well positioned for innovative business models.

 

India’s eye care sector is ripe for innovation

In the context of India’s eye care sector – a subsector that is currently in strong need of practical solutions – the business models used by organizations such as Vision Spring and Drishti Eye Care are excellent examples of addressing the issues of affordability and accessibility through innovation.

 

Photo Credit: globalvillagedirectory.info - Picture may be subject to copyright - LV Prasad Eye InstituteVision Spring uses the micro-franchise approach to create vision entrepreneurs that aid in the distribution of affordable reading glasses to BoP customers. Whereas Drishti Eye Care uses a three tier hub and spoke model which offers primary eye care through telemedicine supported vision centers, and screening camps and surgical care at district hospitals. Both models are leveraging technology and unique distribution approaches to improve service quality overall.

Improved Neonatal Care will curb maternal mortality

Research indicates that 20.9% of babies in India are born prematurely due to pre-term complications such as hemorrhaging and hypertension. Since incubators are commonly unavailable outside hospitals, premature infants are susceptible to lung disease and hypothermia.

Significant opportunity exists in the manufacture and distribution of products such as incubators, resuscitators and birthing delivery kits that offer pre-mature babies born outside of a hospital and mothers a greater rate of survival. Innovations such as Embrace, affordable infant warmers regulate a baby’s temperature without electricity, are well placed to scale widely within India.

 

Emphasis on primary care will save lives

Current healthcare programs focus disproportionately on specialist care rather than primary care. By 2020 chronic diseases such as diabetes, which can be typically remedied through primary care providers in the early stages ,will be responsible for seven out of every ten deaths in emerging markets such as India.

 

Vaatsalya, India’s first hospital network operating in remote towns and villages is an example of an innovative enterprise working to reduce the primary care gap. By hiring doctors that live in the local area and focusing less on specialist care, Vaatsalya is able to provide quality primary and tertiary care in remote areas cost-effectively.

Paving the way for social enterprises to fill service gaps

As India’s healthcare industry continues to evolve, significant innovations in products and services will ensure that low-income people have access to affordable healthcare products and services.

 

Development agencies, enterprise incubators, innovation accelerators, private investment funds as well as foundations are all important vehicles to support these healthcare innovations. At the same time, public private partnerships continue to be important.

Photo Credit: Rama Lakshmi/The Washington Post Ennovent is an integrated model that discovers startups, refines their business models through on-the-ground mentoring, provides finance and enables access to specialized expertise to grow operations and scales impact. These kinds of service enable enterprises to create sustainable impact on the lives of low-income people in India.

Overall, significant opportunities exist for entrepreneurs, investors and experts to have a positive impact on people living in low-income areas with limited access to affordable healthcare.

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?

Start Business in 10 Days.

Day 1

Draw up a business plan

When launching College Hunks Hauling Junk in 2004, the first move for friends Nick Friedman and Omar Soliman was to dust off the business plan they’d written in college a couple of years prior. “Ultimately, it was a really valuable guide for us,” Friedman says. In fact, it helped turn their $80,000 initial investment ($30,000 of which was their own money) into a powerhouse with some 500 employees and 47 U.S. franchises.

Whether written on the back of a napkin or a highly detailed 25-page document, a business plan is critical for startups seeking the fast route to profitability, asserts Ken Yancey, CEO of SCORE, a small-business mentoring organization that offers free, generic business-plan templates on its website.

Day 2

Study the market

Market research is vital to a startup looking to hit the ground running, according to Yancey. You want to create a snapshot of the competitive landscape you’re entering: how your products or services compare to what’s available, who your target customers are and what government regulations and licensing requirements to expect. The SBA’s SizeUp tool provides access to meaningful demographic data, mapping potential customers, competitors and suppliers, as well as identifying possible advertising avenues.

When he was preparing to launch National Storm Shelters in 2010, company president Jeff Turner conducted market research at trade shows and held discussions with potential customers and competitors. This confirmed what his instincts told him: that he had a winning product. The Smyrna, Tenn.-based company, which designs, manufactures and installs above- and below-ground safe rooms and storm shelters, was profitable virtually since day one and now generates about $1.5 million in annual sales.

As valuable as prelaunch research and planning can be, beware of paralysis by over-analysis, especially when you lack the luxury of time, cautions Fish from Integra Staffing. “Defining your sandbox is important. But don’t over-think or over-plan, and don’t put a lot of stock in sales forecasts.”

You’re bound to have questions about strategy and practicalities leading up to launch. To get answers without ringing up an expensive consulting tab, enlist someone with the acumen and willingness to provide advice, coaching and skills to augment those you lack. A former boss provided free advice to Ostermiller initially, then became a paid advisor once Altitude Digital could afford the expense.

Day 3

Build out your brand

A brand identity, including a name and a professional-looking logo, can bring instant legitimacy, even before launch. For DIYers, online tools like LogoMaker offer libraries of icons, color combinations and other elements to help develop a logo fast–no design expertise required. Services such as Logoworks are available if you want the work done for you quickly and inexpensively. Once you have your logo nailed down, take your file to a quick-turnaround print service for letterhead, business cards and marketing collateral such as posters, mailers and sales sheets.

In most cases, startups need some kind of web presence to solidify their brand identity (see “The quick-start startup” on page 20). Don’t forget to stake out a position on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn. You may not use social media right now, but you want to plant your flag ASAP.

Day 4

Incorporate the business

The nature of the startup dictates the extent to which it should rely on an attorney to incorporate, trademark ideas/products, formalize partnership agreements, etc. While it’s best to let an attorney tackle any complex legal matters, Friedman of College Hunks Hauling Junk suggests considering some of the numerous online tools available to help you handle simple undertakings yourself. “Our first bill from an attorney to set up an LLC was $1,500. Little did we know we could have done that ourselves for $300 online,” he says.

Day 5

Set up a lean machine

With the clock ticking toward launch, Ostermiller needed help. He found it on Craigslist, taking on two unpaid interns (both recent college grads) whom he immediately put to work–one on sales and one on operations–with the promise to hire them full time after 90 days if things went well.

With no office yet, Ostermiller’s interns worked from coffee shops while he did so from his kitchen table. Likewise, Friedman’s parents’ basement served as the first office for College Hunks Hauling Junk. For Fish and Integra Staffing, a modest office, spartanly furnished with used furniture, sufficed. From the outset, she says, the goal was to “minimize the monthly burn.”

Another tip: Beware the glowing promises of efficiency and speed from shiny new technology and software. “Unless technology is part of your core competency, you need to be careful how much you invest in technology early on, because it can become very expensive very quickly,” Friedman says. “You really need to fine-tune your model before investing a lot in technology solutions.”

Day 6

Start selling

Bringing in profits means making sales. Ostermiller and his interns chased leads even before his company launched officially. Fish’s sales efforts began with tireless networking. “I didn’t have any money then, so I got my ass out of the chair and into the community,” she says. “Any event in town with more than 25 people, I was there. Breakfast, lunch or dinner–it didn’t matter.”

To lay the marketing and sales groundwork for his startup, Friedman let people in his personal network know about his new venture. “We had a support network, a group of cheerleaders who were really inspired to help us with our idea before we launched.”

Day 7

Work the media

To generate buzz and sales, make media relations a priority. As Turner and Friedman discovered, media outreach by a business owner can pay quick and substantial dividends. “I called different TV stations the first day we went to market to tell them about [National Storm Shelters] and ended up on the 5 o’clock news,” Turner says. “That was huge!”

Similarly, right around the time of its launch, College Hunks got a major boost from an article that landed in The Washington Post thanks to Friedman placing a call to a reporter there. “We shot high, and it got us on the front page of the Metro section,” he says. “Our phone rang off the hook from that article.”

Day 8

Fake it to make it

Success is often a self-fulfilling prophecy. However modest your beginnings, however short your track record, think big and act like you belong. “We were scraping by, but we walked, talked and acted like a bigger company,” Friedman says.

College Hunks launched with an 800 number, a memorable logo and a website that provided e-mail addresses for a range of company departments (pr@…, marketing@…, HR@…), all of which funneled back to Friedman and his partner. “It made us look like we were an established business,” Friedman says. “Having that image not only gave us confidence, it established a level of credibility and confidence in the consumer’s mind. I think that’s what got us those large corporate accounts early on.”

Fish took a different tack. She says she invested in a receptionist prior to launch, primarily to impart a sense of professionalism to callers.

Day 9

Work in and on your business

For startup entrepreneurs, the fast route to profitability often means working in and on the business concurrently–at least in the first days and weeks. It’s a constant battle for time between hustling up new business and taking care of new customers with outstanding service. “We were at the dump at 5 a.m., doing all the physical stuff, while also doing all the customer-facing stuff whenever we could,” Friedman says.

When the day-to-day workload from the business becomes too heavy–a good sign, because it means you have customers–it’s time to move tasks such as strategic planning, hiring and marketing programs to the back burner. Focus on generating cash flow first, Friedman suggests.

Day 10

Throw a party

With the foundation for your business set, invite your network of contacts, vendors, friends, family, customers and prospects to a grand-opening celebration to generate buzz and goodwill within your community. Doing so solidifies your image, telling people you’re open for business and you mean it.

At the party, take a breath, sip some champagne, make a speech thanking everyone who’s helped and seek feedback from your guests. In short order, you’ve created your first focus group, one that will likely provide you with a laundry list of tweaks, ideas and improvements that you can start on tomorrow.