Over the last twenty years, I have had a great experience in starting, building, transforming and operating large and small businesses in the consumer and technology space.
The Tata Group, and the Tata Administrative Services, gave me variety of experiences from tea to telecom, a sense of how to build companies under a large conglomerate umbrella, and an unshakeable belief in core human values and ethics. Microsoft taught me precise execution, planning rigour, building great teams and having a global mind set. Baazee.com, now EBAY India, taught me in a very short time on how to start a business out of an iCafe, how to execute super-fast, and how to break things and move on. AskMe taught me, in my toughest two years, how to transform a company inside-out, acquire and merge large companies, and how to manage very difficult Boards and circumstances.
While the above have been my day jobs, and have been a lot of hard work and fun, I discovered many years ago that one of my true passions was to work with, and help start-up entrepreneurs, largely of the tech variety. It started with a trickle almost ten years ago, but since then I have met and worked with possibly hundreds of startups, as tech entrepreneurship boomed in India. A few of them are major success stories today, many continue to chug along, some are on the edge of great things, and more than a few have folded up.
I have learnt hugely from them, and they tell me that they have learnt a few things from me. They give me learnings on how to build great teams, nurture a fantastic culture, be lean and mean, survive major downs and a few ups, see and realise dreams, and live their passion. I believe I have helped them get people, work together as a team, raise money, market their products, find partners, build and manage sales forces, build processes and systems, and, above all, execute and manage scale.
This year, I have decided to give some structure to my passion, and hopefully, evolve some sustainable business models around this.
Everything that I have done with startups – mentoring, advising, Boards, investing, consulting, building – will now be under the umbrella of my new company: Startopia ™.
It is the golden age of entrepreneurship in India.
There are 3100 tech or tech-enabled startups in India – the third largest globally – and 800 more are being added every year. By 2020, there will close to 12,000 startups employing 0.25mn people. VC funding for startups has nearly quadrupled in a year: from $1bn in 2013 to $3.9bn in 2014; 2015 promises to be a blockbuster, exceeding $5bn. There have been $1bn worth of M&As amongst 20 startups in the last three years. 85% of early stage startups employ more than a 100 people. At last count, I believe that there are at least seven billion-dollar startups already – Flipkart, Mu Sigma, Olacabs, JustDial, Makemytrip, Snapdeal, Inmobi. There should be 20 by the end of 2015.
For every one startup that makes The Economic Times headlines, there are a hundred which could have. All have passionate founders, most have great ideas, and many solve big problems in India and beyond. However, most of them stall mid-flight, because they lack core inputs at critical times: finding the right people, figuring out where to get money and stretch what they already have, identify and leverage willing partners, what products and features to build and how to market them, and how to prioritise, operate and scale their fledgling businesses.
This is where Startopia™ and I come in: to mentor and help tech entrepreneurs with people, partnerships, operating experience, smart funding and building scale.
Over my many years of experience with scores of startups, I have figured that while there seem to be a plethora of problems and issues in an entrepreneur’s life, they can be distilled down to three core challenges:
- Operating in Scale
Startopia™ will help address all three of them, using my own expertise and experience, and the vast network of people, agencies and resources which I have built up over the last many years.
The details of how I do this will be explained in subsequent blogs, as well as in www.startopia.in, which is currently under construction.
I do have a vision for Startopia™, again something I will talk about later. However, what I can say now, is that like all good start-ups, Startopia™ will be organic and malleable – amoeba-like in its flexibility. As I work with multiple companies and startups, under its umbrella, I might like something which I would like to do as my full-time mission and job. If I do that, Startopia™ will pivot, and adapt itself around that pursuit, and continue its job of enabling entrepreneurs.
Hopefully, one day, Startopia™ will transcend me.