What better way to start off this spectacular New Year, than with a special Startup Saturday on 8th January. Aside from the usual excitement, something different was in the air at the venue this time – a slight frenzy, a lot more participants and that extra whirl of enthusiasm. Not only did we have an interesting theme “Products vs. Services” for discussion, but we also had the pleasure of being telecast by ET Now on its show Starting Up. There were lights; there were cameras and even the audience got to be a part of all the action!
The event kicked off with interesting presentations from four entrepreneurs- two with a perspective on products, and two from a services background. It was great to see both sides to the story and watch viewpoints collaborate, counter-question and converge.
Sujay Karampuri from Sloka Telecom, a radio access network solution provider, was the first speaker of the day. With vivid examples and anecdotes about his experiences creating and selling base station products, Sujay first explained the rationale for products in India, and talked passionately about the inherent struggles associated with the product business, bootstrapping and scaling up. His pointers on going beyond skepticism and winning trust were fantastic, and he clearly differentiated the business behind products and services, talking about them being different kinds of war and requiring specific warfare. He spoke about his biggest challenge being making his team better at product discipline, creating a sense of product ownership and the litmus test he used to create his committed team with a different attitude and working style. His pointers on dreaming big, learning to say no, adaptability and scaling were memorable. He stressed on simplicity for the user and complexity for the engineer as being the key elements to making a good product. All in all, a great start to the discussion.
Continuing the product viewpoint, Narasimha Suresh from TELiBrahma, talked about Products and Services comparing it with the difference between Coma and Convolution. TELiBrahma is a partner for global brands to deliver rich brand engagement campaigns. He talked about success in business being not just about playing the game, but shaping the game, and determining what customers want not just before your competitors do, but before the customers themselves do. Suresh brought products and services to the forefront in terms of Purpose, Proposition and Profit, and talked about how to deliver a product as a service and how to productize a service. He also helped people figure out if they were doing products or services with some tips and talked about doing services while focusing on products, the pros and cons of doing products, and advised people to ‘keep tweaking the tweet and tweeting the tweak’ in his interesting, thought provoking discussion.
As the first speaker from a services standpoint, Karthick Purushotaman from Chimera Technologies spoke about preparing for a battle whether one chooses to work with products or services, cautioning entrepreneurs from attempting product businesses too early in their organizations’ lifespan. He also brought up a key point of motivation, and drew up an entire flowchart of a business plan that worked with products and services from the starting phase, clearly demonstrating the issues and flaws in such a plan. He enthusiastically listed out the learning from his own line of work and talked about the services mindset, serial vs. parallel execution, getting an execution team in place and a reality check based on continuous funding, using his experiences with a classroom recording project to give relevant examples. He ultimately stated that lasting success is the result of not just a product or services mindset, but a business mindset- which was a great take-away from his talk.
Vinoth from VINJEY software systems, a leading multimedia solutions provider, spoke next. He talked about the business behind products or services, clearly differentiating between the two in terms of the cash conversion cycle. He also explored the possibility of losses in either, and about working with both scenarios. He vividly described his journey from products to services and from services back to products because working with products was his company’s dream. He stressed on the importance of timing and circumstance and talked about special or customized services, saying that large customers don’t want just products, but also want support through customization services. It was the perfect end to an inspiring round of viewpoints from the four speakers.
Keeping up with the momentum and bringing a new thrill to Startup Saturday, ET Now hosted an ‘Entrepreneur’s Huddle’, a great way to celebrate the bonhomie between entrepreneurs and utilize the opinions and ideas of people with different skill-sets from the audience. Along with the enterprising host Sudhir Syal, the stage was set for three entrepreneurs who were presenting a unique business challenge that merited opinions and suggestions from an audience filled with aspiring and successful entrepreneurs. To add a fun twist to the game, yellow smiling plastic balls were handed out to the audience- to quickly throw at irrelevant suggestions or points that were uncalled for!
Sean from Babajobs, a job site focused on people in India making less that Rs. 10,000 per month presented his challenge of making mobile services effectively reach the common man in India. Excellent suggestions ranging from targeting families and children, common distribution points like grocery shops and milkmen, tie-ups with telecom service providers for recharge cards and advertising, as well as radio and regional language advertisements came galore from the audience. People also brought up the issue of creating a pull instead of just a push- which was very well received.
Kumar from OoBI made a quick, amazing presentation on their new multi touch interactive surface display table and presented his challenging questions on what type of business model they should follow (product or service) and what kind of apps could be developed on it. Given that it had to be both functional and experiential, suggestions flew in about covering several verticals, sticking to one type of service and treating it like a product. Great suggestions on using this table in industries like education, advertising, software modeling, presentation of business ideas and decisions, retail and fashion, design and manufacturing were given, and it will be interesting to see how this product finally hits the marketplace.
Varun from LifeMojo, a wellness company that provides Nutrition and Diet consultation services on the Phone and allows people to track their health and well-being online, presented his problem- of getting enough users to sign up for their paid services. He got some great suggestions on making his apps compatible with smartphones, establishing trust through testimonials and the credentials of his dieticians and experts and offering the services for a free trial period. Endorsements from Aishwarya Rai were also discussed, leading to some great light moments in the huddle.
Along with the tossing of a few smiling balls and laughter, the entrepreneurs’ huddle turned out to be a great success, and everyone at Start-up Saturday walked away with smiles on their faces as well. This event was proof that there’s innovation everywhere- and if you haven’t experienced it already, you should start coming to Startup Saturday to experience it.
Here’s wishing everyone a great 2011. Let’s all start up something new in our lives this year!
Contributed by Ramya Rajan