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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.

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.

Small Business, Big Vision

There is so much written these days about how to attract investors that most entrepreneurs “assume” they need funding, and don’t even consider a plan for “bootstrapping,” or self-financing their startup. Yet, according to manysources, over 90 percent of all businesses are started and grown with no equity financing, and many others would have been better off without it.

According to the book, “Small Business, Big Vision,” by self-made entrepreneurs Adam and Matthew Toren, it’s really a question of need versus want. We all want to have our vision realized sooner rather than later, but it can be a big mistake to bring in investors rather than patiently building your business at a slow, steady pace (organic growth).

In fact, most of the rich entrepreneurs you know actively turned away early equity proposals. Too many founders are convinced they “need” equity financing, for the wrong reasons, as outlined in the book and supplemented with a bit of my own experience:

  • Need employees and professional services. Of course, every company needs these, in due time. In today’s Internet world, enterprising entrepreneurs have found that they can find out and do almost anything they need, from incorporating the company to filing patents, without expensive consultants, or the cost to hiring and firing employees.
  • Need expensive resources up front. Many people think that having a proper office and equipment somehow legitimizes their business, but unless your business requires a storefront, everything else can be done in someone’s home office, or a local coffee shop, on used or borrowed equipment. Consider all the alternatives, like lease versus buy.
  • Need to spread the risk. Some entrepreneurs seem to get solace and implied prestige from convincing friends, Angels, and venture capitalists to put money into their endeavor. If nothing else, these make good excuses for failure – no freedom, wrong guidance, etc.

On the other hand, there are clearly situations where your needs call for investors. Even in these cases, all other options should be explored first:

  • Sales are strong – too strong. If you are not able to keep up with demand due to lack of funds for production, and your company is too young for banks to be interested, you will find that investors love these odds, and are quick to go for a chunk of the action.
  • Your company has outgrown you. Some entrepreneurs are quick with creative ideas, and even excellent at managing the chaos of initial implementation. That’s not the same as instilling discipline in a larger organization, where most the challenge is people.
  • You need a prototype. When you have invented a new technology, you need expensive models and testing, including samples for potential customers. If you don’t have the personal funds to make these happen, investors might be your only option.
  • You need specialized equipment. If your solution depends on high-tech chips, injection molding, or medical devices, and you can’t get financing from suppliers, giving up a portion of the company to investors is a rational approach.
  • General startup expenses are beyond your means. Investors are not interested in covering overhead, unless they are convinced that you have already put all your “skin in the game” (not just sweat equity), and have real contributions from friends and family.

When deciding whether and how an investor can help you, remember that finding outside investors requires a huge amount of time and work, perhaps impacting your rollout more than working with alternate approaches and slower growth. Perhaps you really need an advisor rather than an investor.

Even under the best of circumstances, working with an investor requires give and take. More likely, you now have a new boss – which may be counter to why you chose the entrepreneur route in the first place. Maybe that’s why bootstrapped startups are the norm, rather than externally funded ones. You alone get to make the big decisions on your big vision.

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!

 

Six things Entrepreneur should Avoid !!

Entrepreneurship is like creating your own world with your own rules.

A world where you are the King, and your decisions will make or break your world. Not surprisingly though, there are more failures in entrepreneurship than success.

And this clearly shows that not every Entrepreneur is capable of making the right decisions. Heck, even most of the human beings are not able to take the right decisions at the right time.

But that doesn’t mean that decisions should not be taken or the fear of failure should make you hide. Bad decisions are of course bad and should be avoided. But the brave makes the decisions and then makes them right.

In this same endeavor, let’s go through some of the decisions which can make or break a business enterprise.

Entrepreneurship advice | 6 Things an Entrepreneur Should Always Prevent From Happening

If you are the entrepreneur, then these 6 things should be clearly avoided:

1) Lots of Thinking and Very less Action

Don’t be late and miss the train. Lots of new entrepreneurs and startup founders face this dilemma in the early stages. And there are some seasoned entrepreneurs who go through this phase as well: the period where lots of thinking and brain storming is done but nothing concrete comes out. If you have an idea and have a vision of making it big, then just do it.

Solution: This small formulae can help you: Think Big ; Start Small ; Scale Fast.

Yes, you are thinking big and its very appreciable but start small. And focus on scaling fast.

2) Focus on raising VC money

The main focus of the entrepreneur should always be on building a great product; nurturing a great team and finding out what your customers want. Venture capital will follow suit automatically. If you primary focus is to grab the millions which VCs have, then it can prove disastrous for your business.

It is said that the VCs find the best Businesses to invest in and rarely it’s the other way round. 9 out of 10 VC funded companies actually fail!

Solution: Instead of looking for VC money, you should rather be focused on finding the true 1000 fans for your business.

3) Over-promise and Under-deliver

Human psychology tells us that we humans tend to remember negative things more than we remember positive things. And the news channel and newspaper know this fact. This is the reason bad news sells faster than good news. Our brains are wired this way; we can’t help it.

Now, if you are a new entrepreneur and just starting your journey then one thing you will definitely do is over-promise. And once you do that, you have lost an excellent chance to impress your customer or clients.

Over-promising leads to under-delivering most of the times and it creates a bad impression in front of your customers and clients. And this bad impression will remain longer than you expect.

Solution: Under-promise and over-deliver to your customers, which can turn the tables in your favor, instantly. Over-delivering is an art and when rightly used, it can pave your way to success.

4) Scarcity of new ideas:

Today’s information age is all about innovation and ideas. Being an entrepreneur, you should always and always look out for new ideas inside your domain. If you are not able to find the ideas, then hire a person who can.

But at any cost, bring on new ideas! Failure to embrace innovation will result in your company’s downfall. Even Blackberry and Nokia couldn’t stop it.

Solution: Bring in the idea guy into your team. Find a person who has lots of ideas in store, and use it. Don’t discourage anyone from sharing anything. Even a stopped clock shows right time twice a day!

5) Going Solo

An entrepreneur’s mind is like a puzzle, which gets complicated with each passing day. There are plans which are in the pipeline and the operations which should be taken care of right now. There are tax related issues which should be handled with care and there are angry clients wanting your attention.

Admit it, you can’t make it to the top all alone. You need a team which supports you and believes in you. Going solo is the worst decision any entrepreneur can ever make. And here is a small VC tip which comes from straight from a VC: They don’t invest in companies; they invest in teams.

Solution: Find a co-founder as fast as you can. If not a co-founder then atleast find a person who can handle the operations when you are not around. Focus on building the team, and the team will build you.

6) Stop Marketing

When I asked one of my entrepreneur friends about their marketing efforts, he replied me, “Who needs marketing when your products rock?” 6 months down the line, he is begging me to spend money on PPC to bring in business.

PPC is instant marketing, no doubt. You spend dollars and you get instant customers. But the real marketing is when you get customers organically, absolutely free of cost, without spending a penny on PPC.

We call it Content Marketing, which actually rocks.

But more than often, entrepreneurs fail to understand organic marketing practices and lose a big chunk of profits and business. It is said that marketing should be started even before you launch your product.

Solution: First find your customers and then sell your products. Here is an interesting blog by Seth Godin (America’s greatest Marketer) about this question here: Which comes first, the product or the marketing?

Do you want to share any story related with Entrepreneurship? Any decision which you wished that you had made? Or any decision which you shouldn’t have made! Please share your views right here.