Startup Sunday || Season 4 Episode 35 ||Desperate times call for desperate measures : COVID 19

The coronavirus pandemic has forced people around the world to give up their daily lives and limit themselves to their homes. Such a drastic change in behaviour has obviously had an impact on businesses everywhere, including in India, where many IT giants, startups and corporates have asked employees to work from home. However, this impact is not just limited to their balance sheets but also in their day-to-day operations.

 

Of course, this goes beyond just adjusting to working outside the office — it’s also about finding new ways to connect with teammates, reviewing targets and approaching consumers and customers in a more responsible manner.

Startups and venture capitalist firms in India acknowledge these challenges and have already had quite a few learnings from these first few days of operating a remote workforce. Based on our conversations, some of the prominent challenges faced by companies include team bonding, delay in hiring processes, and infrastructure inadequacies.

Some very normal activities which were taken for granted while physical presence was a given, have been hampered once and for all. However efficient we proclaim the virtual ways are this cannot cater to the possibilities and collaborative opportunities the physical presence permits.

Following are some of the activities which were vital for a smooth running of the company which are affected and how innovatively have companies tried to overcome these issues-

  1. Team Building
  2. Hiring
  3. Education
  4. Consumer Goods
  5. Entertainment
  6. Logistics

Let’s have a brief view of the success of these implemented techniques.

Team Building

Not to mention that letting a single person work from home saves the average company $10,000 and the average employee–$6,000.

Clearly, there is a problem here that needs to be solved. Remote work also has a dark side. A growing number of studies shows that one of the biggest challenges to distributed teams is none other than isolationism. Everyone is working on their own. There is no watercooler to hang around and no co-workers to socialize with. No company lunches.

Virtual team building is a method to bring remote teams together and create a work environment that mimics a co-located office environment. It allows the entire team to become familiar with one another and create meaningful relationships that leave all members feeling more valued and satisfied. Some of the tools you can use to keep in touch with your remote team are Calendly (for easy scheduling), Chanty (for simple team chat), and Appear.in (for video conferencing). Knowledge sharing part also bring the team even closer together. With tools like Helpjuice, you can create a knowledge base that contains your team’s collective expertise and is available to anyone at any time.

Remote brainstorming may be difficult to organize but it’s certainly doable with the right tools. If you’re gathering to figure out a new product name, you can use just about any document management tool such as Google Docs or Synс.in. If you’re working on the user experience design of your product, you can use virtual whiteboarding software such as Miro.

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Other ways are-

Work in pairs with Zoom. Show your appreciation with Hey Taco. Make everyone feel Engaged with Icebreakers. Meet up in Real Life with Donut.

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 Many companies fear that millennials working from home are not used to social distancing and may end up depressed or may show psychological side-effects. In such cases, counsellors and psychologists are helping them navigate this phase and focus on work while being away from the workplace.

Hiring

The overall hiring sentiment in the country is likely to witness an adverse impact in the short term with almost 60-65 per cent interviews getting delayed, especially in the services sector, following the slowdown across industries triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Sectors including banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI), retail, logistics (delivery) where a lot of frontline-hiring takes place are likely to witness this delay.

Worldwide travel restrictions also mean people aren’t travelling for business, one of the biggest challenges for recruiters trying to meet potential hires.

As a solution to this many companies are moving to virtual methods where, interviews are usually by phone with follow-up interviews in-person or sometimes by phone or video conference. It comes as recruiters and hiring managers switch from face-to-face meetings to online interviews using apps such as Skype, Zoom and WhatsApp.

Recruitment firms are going online to interview candidates who are working from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

The in-person Welcome Day event for new University employees on the Seattle campus is on hiatus during the COVID-19 outbreak and replaced with ONE UW, which is an online onboarding checklist tool helping new staff on the Seattle, Bothell, and Tacoma campuses prepare for their first day at work and beyond. Some Welcome Day presentations, such as Addressing Discrimination and Harassment, are also to be offered online.

Though Online interviews also suit potential hires as they take up less time and are more convenient., job seekers share that it can be more challenging to connect with the interviewer online because there is often less small talk and it’s harder to pick up on non-verbal cues.

Education

Educational technology companies are taking online education to the next level, as schools, colleges and coaching centres close down following the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Many students and professionals are signing up for online classes, for entrance exams like the JEE and NEET or for up-skilling. Even school students are making best of this social distancing phase.

As a result, a clutch of ed-tech players, such as UpGrad, Vedantu, CL Educate, Imarticus Learning, Simplilearn.


Professionals are utilizing the time they have saved by working from home and upskilling themselves.

Consumer Goods & Entertainment

As the global spread of coronavirus continues, a handful of brands appear to be, at least in the short term, uniquely profiting, such as antiseptic labels, medical suppliers, canned food brands, and at-home entertainment companies. Meanwhile, conventions, sporting events, concerts, movie theatres, and basically any place where people congregate are taking hits — and that’s just the beginning of the fallout. People  are worried about germs. They’re turning to Purell, Lysol, Clorox, and other disinfectant products. Brands like Clorox, Netflix, and Campbell are benefiting from the coronavirus.

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The Environmental Protection Agency released a list of antimicrobial products in early March that are effective against Covid-19, which includes Lysol, Clorox, and Purell branded items, but for weeks, people have been scrambling to stockpile household goods. As per Bloomberg shares for Clorox were also on the rise in late February alongside two drug makers developing potential treatments for the disease.

The restaurant industry at large is bracing for declining sales and a pivot to delivery options in the coming weeks, as more people are choosing, or being forced, to eat at home.

MarketWatch, and certainly the restaurant industry, is predicting that demand for food and grocery delivery will grow if the outbreak takes a turn for the worse. That’s good news for the likes of Zomato, Swiggy, GrubHub, InstaCart, but not necessarily for service workers, the people who cook, serve, and deliver food, who often work without paid sick leave. Indian food delivery services like Zomato and Swiggy have introduced a program of “contactless delivery,” which was first implemented in Wuhan to reduce risks. Food couriers will drop off orders at a person’s front door or a location they requested in advance to minimize human contact.

As for the entertainment industry, Film releases have been pushed back, musicians and performers are scrapping concerts and tours, and major cultural events, like the Cannes Film Festival, are at risk of being cancelled. A series of high-profile companies, including Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, and Apple, have cancelled or withdrew from major tech conferences, signalling how these companies are not willing to risk employees’ well-being.

Logistics

Air freight operators and logistics firms are being forced to suspend operations because goods are piling up at cargo terminals due to lack of staff and trucks have been halted by police enforcing the Covid-19 lock down across the country. That could lead to essential supplies grinding to a halt as the country embarks on a three-week lock down despite express government assurances that this wouldn’t be the case.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, the measures we can take up during these testing times should be above material gains and should be backing up Humanity. Cumulative efforts and religiously practicing safe hygiene and maintaining social distancing are the solutions which we can exhort.

 

Startup Sunday || Season 4 Episode 34 || PitchGround

PitchGround, is SaaS (Software As A Service) Marketplace which helps creators, agencies, solopreneurs, and businesses to grow their online business with the help of software and the Education-First Driven approach.

The clientele of PitchGround include SaaS company, digital marketing agencies, bloggers, authors, teachers, podcasters, digital marketers, solopreneurs, and anyone and everyone who is looking to establish their business online.

The team at PitchGround believes that education should be free, software should be affordable, and easily accessible.

To truly make an impact, the team behind PitchGround has assembled together what they call an Education-First approach to educate the online businesses and help them with affordable software solutions, which earlier has been very expensive otherwise.

The Entrepreneuship Cell, IMI New Delhi reached out to Mr. Udit Goenka, Founder & CEO of PitchGround for an interview. We asked him about this startup in detail. Read below to find out more about the startup –

Q- What is PitchGround all about?

Udit – PitchGround is a SaaS (Software As A Service) Marketplace looking to bridge the gap between early adopters and SaaS Founders.

Q- How did PitchGround start? What was the Eureka moment?

Udit – PitchGround officially went live on 25th September 2018. The first Eureka moment for us was when MarketPlan.io trusted us to launch their SaaS on our platform.

Q- What exactly is the business model of PitchGround? What are the sources of your revenue?

Udit – PitchGround has a very straight forward module. We charge a certain percentage from every sale that happens on our platform.

Q- What are the challenges you faced while launching PitchGround?

Udit – The biggest challenge that we have faced so far has been dealing with fake & fraudulent affiliates in our 16 months of the journey so far. For that, we are currently working on a piece of tech that we are making public in June end, 2020.

 

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Q- Please share something about your experience in making your own place in the market.

Udit – When making a list of the edges that our competitor had, we found many loopholes and problems with their approach. Hence we started focusing on what we call our education-first approach which has made all the difference.

Q- How do you differentiate and compete with your competitors?

Udit – We focus on education and quality rather than quantity.

Q- What are your plans for expansion and scaling up?

Udit – The US, UK, and Australia are our top three market so far, however, we have started focusing on the Indian market very heavily since the start of this year and we are hoping to quickly tap and capture the Indian market as soon as possible especially due to the fact that I am an Indian, and I understand the mindset of a fellow Indian. Currently, we have that cultural edge that’s helping us to grow rapidly in India.

Q- How did you fund your start-up, to begin with? What difficulties you are facing for funding your start-up?

Udit – I have made some good previous exits, so cash flow wasn’t a challenge for me. So far, PitchGround is completely bootstrapped. With PitchGround now cashflow positive and profitable, we are focusing on scalability.

Q- Is there any point in your life when you wished to give up? How did you overcome this challenge?

Udit – Never. I am a very focused and determined entrepreneur. Challenges are a part of any entrepreneurship journey. If one is afraid of tackling challenges then they cannot be an entrepreneur.

Q- Please share your key learnings for the benefit of budding entrepreneurs as a person who has been there done that.

Udit – The biggest key learning has been focusing on value and not selling. The entrepreneurs who focus on value more than anything else are likely to succeed faster.

Also, it’s important for entrepreneurs to find their value proposition at an early stage of their business. Until they find the right value proposition, it will be hard for them to grow and scale-up.

Startup Sunday || Season 4 Episode 33 || Hostiffy

“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.”
-Leonard Bernstein

Events which come up every second day needs a lot of planning and having a one-stop solution is all that you need in your busy schedule for a pocket-friendly event.
Here we present you a journey of a startup “Hostiffy”, a one-stop technological friend for planning all the events.

hostiffy

Hostiffy is a tech platform for all your party supplies starting venue, food, decoration, and whatnot. As most startup ideas are considered to random this one also came as a peculiar idea in two young minds, Mr. Nimith Agarwal and Mr. Nitin Pal. Around Diwali, there was a wave of having a card party. So these guys thought to start planning for it. Within 5 days they had a lead of around 600 vendors for the supplies which became a eureka moment as the event was just on head and they had so many vendors on board.

“A small trial which became huge” were their lines. Whereas it becomes critical to understand the business model of such a tech platform. It is a combined version of B2C and B2B models. As B2C model consumer can visit their websites and gets detail information of all the vendors they need for their suppliers with a comparison. They give their customer micro insights for better customer relationships. In terms of B2B, they enable small planners to do big business. Business transactions with margins are their revenue model.

Now the question arises of uniqueness from other event planners, being a one-stop technological solution with no hurdles of the delivery part acts as a differentiator for them. Everything is technologically executed and delivered by their vendors themselves.

Starting from selection, curation, and delivery are their offerings. Consumers need not to only select the vendor but also the menu as per their budget and get it delivered at their doorstep.

For the execution of such ideas funds are required and they got their seed funding from Venture Catalysts. Scalability was a question for all the investors before investing in any of the business whereas their idea was quite feasible for them as in such markets events are quite visible in numbers.

Being a consumer or an entrepreneur, all are fickle-minded which makes it important to come up with remedies to grow the business. So an idea which can make you do your bookings within minutes rather than spending exhaustive hours or days in finding what you want is all that you need.

In the end, they gave us a lesson of “Hustle beat talents, when talent doesn’t hustle”, the hustle is the execution and nothing is possible without execution and persistence. You just need to go on and see a dent work on it and you will overcome all the challenges that come your way. “There will be changes and you will be able to see it.”

 

Startup Sunday || Season 4 Episode 32 || Flock

Each day we see different applications popping up, trying to solve various issues. Some succeed and some don’t. Well, there are a few which succeed in making their mark as they go creating their own niche market. One such start-up is Flock. So if you are looking for an alternative for Slack or Microsoft Teams, meet Flock!

Flock is a proprietary messaging and collaboration tool, founded by tech entrepreneur Bhavin Turakhia in 2014. The app is available on Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS and Web. Flock allows users to configure external apps and integrations from the Flock App Store and receive notifications and updates directly in Flock.

Flock functions on a freemium pricing model. The application was launched in 2014.

How is it different?

Flock is different than other competing tools in that it provides all the features in one place. It is a perfect amalgamation of collaboration, productivity and integration.

Collaboration

It lets users bring their team together. Discuss projects, share ideas, and get work done in real time.

  1. Start a direct chat or group conversation with anyone

With the entire company directory at your fingertips, you can begin a chat with just about anyone. Or, simply create a channel and get everyone to share their ideas. Use a private channel for focused discussions, or a public one to let your teammates easily discover and join meaningful conversations.

2. Jump onto video calls with just a click

With Flock’s video conferencing tool, it’s easy to connect with remote teams. Get on a video call directly from within a chat or channel and share your screen to get into details. Keep everyone on the same page – even on the go.

3. Share all types of files and find them easily

Need to share multiple images with your teammates? Simply drag and drop files of all types and see previews of shared files as well. Need to find a file someone shared? You can view all shared files and content in one place in Flock.

 Productivity

Boost your team’s productivity and efficiency with Flock’s inbuilt tools. Collaborate with team members, share opinions, and manage your tasks more efficiently.

  1. Convert discussions to tasks instantly

Launching a new product? You can create a channel for the project and quickly turn those discussions into tasks by creating to-dos for you and your team. Add due dates and that’s it. Let the Shared To-dos bot remind you every morning of tasks due on that day. No need to chase deadlines at the last moment.

       2. Make sure everyone gets heard

Wondering where to go for your annual offsite? Post a question on the channel, and allow users to vote anonymously. Take it up a notch and create fun, image-based polls for your team. Polls are automatically updated across channels and you can download a vote tally to get the final word.

        3. Create notes and collaborate with your team on the go

Got a fantastic idea in the middle of a meeting? With the Notes feature, you can quickly jot down your ideas and share with your teammates. Anyone you’ve shared the note with can make edits, and all the changes will be updated across the chats you’ve shared the note in.

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Integrations

Integrate your most frequently used third-party apps with Flock. Choose from over 60+ apps listed on Appstore or build your own. No more switching tabs!

  1. Access your entire Google Drive from within Flock

Change the way you collaborate with Google Drive’s deep integration with Flock. Access your entire Google Drive from within Flock. Find and share any Google Drive file or folder. Or create new ones from within the app, and share them with your teammates.

2. Reach every meeting on time with Google Calendar

With Flock’s Google Calendar integration, playing the guessing game is a thing of the past. You will receive a reminder on Flock when it’s time for your meeting. And even notifications about event invites and updates. Now, time is on your side!

3. Manage your GitHub Repos without switching tabs

With Flock’s deep integration with GitHub, you can access your entire GitHub universe from within the app! Receive personal and team notifications, navigate through all your repos, and even share rich GitHub content. Save time spent on switching between apps.

The reason Flock is doing so well is because of its numerous UseCases. Let’s look at the use cases one by one

Flock for engineers-

  1. Collaborate faster on your code
  2. Manage downtime like a pro
  3. Automate your workflows

Flock for Marketing-

  1. Collaborate with your distributed team with Flock
  2. Never miss a deadline on your posts, events or campaigns
  3. Track social media conversations and gather valuable insights

Flock for the Product Management team-

  1. Plan the perfect product roadmap
  2. Coordinate with teams across the product life cycle
  3. Get real-time feedback on your product

Startup Sunday || Season 4 Episode 31 || Ross Clinics

Dr. Devashish Saini, the founder of Ross Clinics is an AIIMS alumnus and has a postgraduate in health informatics from the University of Birmingham and in family medicine from CMC Vellore. He lived in the US from 2004 to 2008, while he studied health informatics. It was during the time that he was a resident physician at the University of Missouri-Columbia that the entrepreneurship bug bit him.

He decided to come back to India with a mission to build something that will change people’s lives forever. And, after a lot of hiccups, he finally started Ross Clinics, a chain of everyday care clinics providing quality healthcare services.

Today, Ross Clinics has multiple locations in Gurgaon and New Delhi and more will soon open in Ghaziabad. His mission is to bring back the trusted family doctor, making quality healthcare accessible and affordable for the teeming middle-income Indian families.

He is also working on getting doctors on board who want to set up their own clinics. Ross Clinics provides professional expertise and information on how to set up a clinic and how to accelerate the growth of the clinic. He also showed this concept at an entrepreneur conference in Mexico and many entrepreneurs there expressed their interest to replicate the model out there.

Well, although he is today a well-known figure in the Indian primary care physician community and running a wildly successful chain of clinics, the journey has not been as smooth as it may seem.

Read on to learn his take on running a startup.

#1 Only Start a Business If You Are Passionate About It

You do not only need skills, talent, and experience to start a business and make it successful. First and foremost, you also require a passion to solve the issue that your startup will solve. You need to live it, dream of it and die with it. (Well, do not actually die!)

Dr. Devashish adds that there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Only if you feel passionate and strongly about the issues will a reasonable amount of money be made.

Also, your services or products should have a value proposition and entrepreneurs must think from the customers’ perspective.

#2 Do Not Have a Cofounder Unless You Really Need One

Dr. Devashish suggests that you should not have a cofounder simply for the sake of having one. Only if you really have a role that you cannot fill yourself, which is especially applicable to tech startup founders, is a co-founder of the way to go.

This is because, although having a cofounder offers some benefits, it also comes with a set of complex challenges, especially if you get a cofounder onboard who you have never met before. This, in fact, may rip your business apart because, if you do not know the other founder well enough, there are bound to be some communication issues.

We do have differences in our values and it is hard to distinguish when these changes are affecting your relationship because the other person is working against you. So, it could be happening when you do not even realize it is happening.

#3 Pivot Really, Really Fast

Dr. Devashish suggests that you need to pivot really fast, depending on what the customers’ needs are and when you find low hanging fruits. So, you need to be quick to adapt your business to work around what will bring more clients.

Also, accept the easy projects that you are offered, instead of confining yourself to only one type of project. And, make sure that you present a professional image so that you can get more projects.

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#4 Do Not Get into a Pricing Competition

Startups often get into a pricing war and offer huge discounts, which ultimately kills them later on.

Dr. Devashish says, “the price should be above your cost, but less than the customers’ perceived value. It is also unwise to get into a pricing competition. Discounts are good and easy, but anyone can come and offer greater discounts than you are offering. So, it is best to deliver a better quality service or something which no one is offering.”

#5 Focus on Building Competencies and Not Just Huge Profits

Businesses exist to make profits, no doubt about it. However, the focus should not necessarily always be on making huge profits.

If a client does not offer huge profits, you should still take the job and do it. It will help you pay the bills, even if it is not very exciting, and it will help you build new competencies. And, according to Dr. Devashish, building new competencies will be beneficial in the long run.

He cited his own example of how he is doing it:

“At Ross Clinics, the core value is to provide all the services a typical Indian family needs on a daily basis. Home visits are one of Ross Clinics’ offerings, which a lot of doctors are hesitant to do. But, it has proven to be a very big revenue stream for us. Similarly, we do vaccines, corporate vaccines, and corporate health checkups which are traditionally the job of the diagnostic centers. We, as a primary care clinic, believe in preventative health checkups and it too has become a good revenue source.”

#6 Startup Founders Need to Be Control Freaks

Dr. Devashish says that, at the starting point, the founders need to be on top of everything to ensure good quality services are delivered. They need to be control freaks. They should also set up a process for those things that can be standardized and for those that cannot be and how they can go about doing it.

In addition, it is important to start thinking about middle management, especially if you are a single founder. This is because the small tasks will become tiring and boring very soon.

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#7 Do Not Expand Too Soon

Patience is key to the success of all startups. According to Dr. Devashish, do not expect too much too soon. Your business model has to be reasonably well-defined before you can expand; otherwise, you will lose a lot of money.

Also, if you are in the service industry, there is bound to be a loss of quality when the business expands. So, your core model should be able to deliver excellent care before you expand.

In addition, only expand when you have the whole budget to do so: Do not spread yourself too thin.

#8 Never Give Up

I am a big believer in not giving up, no matter what happens. So, learn the lessons you need to from your setbacks and keep moving forward. Remember what Rocky Balboa said?

“It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

Dr. Devashish also advises that if you have an idea, work on it for a year, as there are a lot of opportunities and you will only get to know about these when you have worked in the industry for long. So, if you give up within two months, you will lose out on the opportunity to actually study the market.

Once you know the industry, you will know what the low hanging fruits are and what gaps you can fill.

#9 Be Optimistic and Always Think Positively

Dr. Devashish shared his personal story on how being optimistic and positive helped him achieve great heights:

I used to be a very calm and quiet person and working in a startup was a very anxious experience for me at the beginning, when things were not going so well. I then realized that my expectations are not going to be met. I changed from medicine to informatics to health consulting and finally to primary care. But, I have always had the thought that I should quit if it’s not going well and should do something else. So, I always have to instruct myself and say, ‘No, I have to commit to this. Maybe things are going bad, but it’s not the worst and there is still potential and if a tweak is made, then we can make it work.

So, you have to be optimistic and always think positively, no matter what you are going through.

My personal definition is that if I did not try, it means I failed. And, if I tried and it still did not work, I still learned a lot of things and I will not consider that a failure because I have learned so much from the experience.

I think that learning is one of the greatest things in life. We need to keep learning; keep going as human beings and as professionals. Also, it does not work to compare ourselves with others. If you can define your own terms of success, then you can reach for those goals.

Startup Sunday || Season 4 Episode 30 || Wink and Nod

Wink and Nod is an innovative sleep-focused company which creates premium mattress and pillow products designed for the modern Indian consumer. Through innovative use of internationally certified materials, they aim to leave the users relaxed, refreshed and ready to dream. We are publishing an interview with Mr. Sandeep Prasad, Founder & CEO – Wink & Nod.

Q) Please tell us about the founders?

Picture1                                 
Ans:
 Wink & Nod was founded by Sandeep Prasad and co-founded by Vishal Mundhra. They started working together and built the company from the ground up. Sandeep over the past few years had acquired skills through various jobs across finance, strategy, and operations which provided him the relevant skills to manage Wink & Nod’s growth. His most recent experience as the COO of a luxury watch startup based in Florida set the perfect training platform for him to transition into the role of Wink & Nod’s CEO. Before that, he worked in the finance heavy Investment Banking role which trained him to get very good with finance and accounting as well provided the work ethics to endure long hours at work with intense attention to detail.

Vishal, on the other hand, is Wink & Nod’s technology guide and guru, Vishal is a business-technology entrepreneur and an advisor to global businesses. Most recently, he was a product manager and the head of the user experience group at TIBCO Software. In this role, he led large scale business transformation initiatives for Fortune 1000 companies. He has lived and worked (and slept!) in 6 different countries in his career.

Q.: Tell us about the Product / Solution. How did you get your first customer? Explain how you went about the Product-Market Fit Process.
Ans:
 The startup idea didn’t occur to Sandeep in his sleep. Sandeep’s mother helped him identify a pain point. His parents lived in Pune and they had to hunt for a good mattress for two to three weeks but ended up buying an expensive one for Rs 30,000 or so. When he asked his mother what mattress it was, she had no clue. Around this time, Sandeep was also handling investments for various consumer brands in the US, one of which was making innovative sleep products. Sleep-related products were a burgeoning market in the West, given how elusive sleep had become in the lives of millennials. It piqued Sandeep’s curiosity, and he wanted to know what was happening in India.

A few months of research ensued, and he discovered that the domestic mattress market was largely driven by traditional players like Kurlon, Sleepwell, and others. Not only was the distribution model broken, but there was also confusion over product categories from a consumer’s point of view. The cost too was superlative “for something that was not even good”. There was a lack of innovative products. And good mattresses weren’t affordable. That is when he decided to quit his VC job, get back to India, team up with a few people from the e-commerce and logistics sector, and eventually, launch Wink & Nod in July 2017. Sandeep always wanted to start a business. For him, it was about finding the right pain point and taking the risk, as he had some experience growing an e-commerce business in the US. Sandeep’s team took four to five months doing the R&D before coming up with the first iteration of their product.

Q: What has been your biggest failure as an entrepreneur and what did you learn from it?
Ans:
 Failure is a part of an entrepreneur’s everyday life. For me, the biggest learnings have been related to areas where I didn’t focus very early on in the business. E.g. Finance & Accounting – these are functions that most founders consider as back office and don’t pay a lot of attention initially. After a year of growing the business, we realized while filing our taxes that there were a lot of issues and gaps in our processes which resulted in fines as well as loss of time to fix the finance and accounting data. Moreover, a lot of strategic decisions depend on accurate finance data and due to lack of this data on a timely basis, a lot of our decisions got delayed. Post this experience, we hired an in-house finance person and continue to invest more time in the finance department to ensure that our book-keeping is accurate and timely.

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Q) Is there any interesting success story of your startup? If yes, please write about it?
Ans:
Wink & Nod started selling its premium memory foam mattresses in early 2018 off its website and Amazon. Sandeep was able to leverage his experience to build an efficient process so that the company was cash positive from Day 1. Wink & Nod mattresses are loved by consumers and the company has grown in revenue by 5x in the last 1.5 years.

Q) How are you pricing the Product? What is the logic behind it? What is the model you are following – Free / Freemium / Premium etc.? Explain your thought process.
Ans:
Pricing depends on the product. If we launch a product that has similar versions in the market, we try to price it close to the competitors. We also have some internal metrics related to the margin that we need to make sure to adhere to when we price a product. For unique products that do not exist in the market, we try to figure out a price that justifies our margin structure as well as consumer’s ability to spend.

Q) What is your USP?
Ans:
The company believes that it can distinguish itself through an extreme focus on product innovation, international certifications (OEKO-Tex and CertiPUR-US) and patented technologies. Brands cut corners and use low-quality foam and fabrics to sell cheap priced mattresses. But people spend many hours on the mattress, and through the certifications, Wink & Nod ensures that the products are not harmful to health in the long run. This gives them an edge in quality and assurance, and Wink & Nod remains one of the few sleep-focused startups with quality certifications from renowned international bodies.

Startup Sunday || Season 4 Episode 29 || Indifi Technologies

An IIT Delhi graduate, Alok Mittal is a first generation entrepreneur, who spent years traversing India’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. An active angel investor and the founding board member of Indian Angel Network (IAN), Alok also co-founded JobsAhead.com, which was later acquired by Monster.com.

While Alok was looking to return to his entrepreneurial roots and set up his next business venture, at the same time, US-based VC firm Canaan Partners was looking to set up its base in India. Caanan brought Alok on board, who worked with the venture capital firm for nine years.

Indifi

While working with Caanan, Alok identified there was a huge financing gap in the MSME sector, with an estimated $397 billion of unfulfilled credit requirement.

“When I came out of Canaan, I had three business ideas – one was about lending business to SMEs, the second idea was about chronic disease management, and the third about supplementary education. While I invested in startups in the two sectors, the third idea was Indifi,” Alok says.

To enable the country’s micro and small enterprises gain greater access to debt financing, Alok started Indifi Technologies along with Siddharth Mahanot in 2015.

“MSME-focused online lending seemed like an interesting place to begin. Lending platforms were finding global traction and were a good fit for addressing the financing gap in the Indian MSME sector. We conducted preliminary research and established Indifi with a mission to address the lack of credit available to smaller businesses. It was the best idea for us, both from an opportunity perspective and our respective skill sets,” says Alok.

He adds: “Indifi’s idea was to cater to this market with unique digital lending solutions that enabled smaller businesses gain access to credit. We wanted to create a platform that facilitated financing solutions that were tailored to the specific requirement of the industry in which the borrowing business operated,” explains Alok.

The startup today provides term loan, line of credit, invoice discounting, and merchant cash advance services to small businesses in categories such as travel, hotel, ecommerce, restaurant, trading, and retail. 

Indifi

“The addressable market for MSME financing is massive. Catering to this demand-gap is a challenge by itself, but becomes even more challenging when one considers that different industries have different requirements and risk triggers. On top of it, the digital adoption in India was nowhere at the level that it is at right now. Being a new player, we also needed to create awareness about the differentiation that our offerings delivered.

Today, Indifi Technologies serves about 10,000 active customers. It claims to have also facilitated more than 25,000 loans for MSMEs across multiple sectors, including travel, hotel, ecommerce, trading, restaurant, and retail. It currently has more than 80 partners, and is catering to customers in over 200 cities.

In 2019, Indifi raised Rs 145 crore in Series C funding led by London-based CDC Group. It also appointed former FreeCharge CEO Sangram Singh as its president in the same year.

According to Alok, their goal is to serve 1,00,000 active customers in the next four to five years. “We are looking at both horizontal and vertical expansion to strengthen our product portfolio. We will be expanding into newer verticals and will also be looking to penetrate deeper into the sectors that we currently cater to.”

Alok says that with tech disruptions such as account aggregators and GST data in the pipeline, the team plans to upgrade its in-platform framework to facilitate better decision-making and to ensure more creditworthy businesses and individuals have access to the credit they need.

Startup Sunday || Season 4 Episode 28 || LuggageHero

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You’re familiar with the predicament: You’ve got a few hours before you can check into your vacation rental, or before you leave for your flight, and you want to do some sightseeing — but that means slogging along crowded sidewalks with your luggage in tow.

Or does it?

LuggageHero comes to your rescue with their growing network of 38 luggage storage sites in: New York, London, Copenhagen, and many more major cities across Europe and North America. You no longer have to drag your luggage all over a city or hunt for the elusive storage locker, where you need exact change in the right currency. LuggageHero is a network of short-term luggage storage options in shops, cafes, hotels and more. LuggageHero offers online booking with a credit card, hence eliminating the need for users to have local currency on hand.

Luggage storage sites are located inside existing businesses, including retail outlets, hotels, cafes, and more. All of these sites are vetted by LuggageHero’s local representative, who perform regular quality checks.

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Jannik Lawaetz
Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder

Jannik Lawaetz, the founder of the company, had the original idea for LuggageHero in 2016 after dragging around his own luggage too many times. He created a peer-to-peer economy-sharing concept that is easy to use, trustworthy, and where customers pay only for the hours their luggage is stored. He started in his hometown of Copenhagen.

Kristian Loekkegaard reached out to Jannik after reading a newspaper article about Jannik’s idea and early traction in Copenhagen. Initially, he was interested in becoming an investor, but he ended up joining Jannik to head up the technology side of the business. Together they founded LuggageHero as it is today and expanded the service to London and New York City in 2017. In 2019, LuggageHero raised $2.25 million in funding and grew to more than 35 major cities in Europe and North America.

Jannik has become a sought-after speaker, including appearances at several tech startup and short-term rental conferences, including HOST 2019 | The New Business of Accommodation in London, Tech BBQ in Copenhagen and the Short Stay Summit in Barcelona. In March 2020, he’ll address the Guest Experience Show in London.

As for the funding, the company got funds on a crowdfunding platform, Seedrs, and within 28 hours, LuggageHero had fully funded its €1.23 million equity crowdfunding campaign. With more than 600 investors, it is overfunded and has closed its campaign on May 3, 2019.

Steps undertaken to avail the service

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Watch the following video to get a better understanding of how the whole process works:

LuggageHero concept video

Startup Sunday || Season 4 Episode 27 || Avail Finance

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A person may, at any point, need a personal loan for a variety of situations: It could be a marriage loan for a loved one’s wedding, a medical loan for an impending surgery or as an advance paycheck because they may have used up their monthly salary. And personal loans can quickly become a necessity when one’s income is low or unsteady. The sources of finance they immediately seek can be- Friends & Family, Local moneylenders or chit funds. All of which come with their own inherent shortcomings.

Asking friends and family for a loan can often be uncomfortable. Borrowing from a loan shark is quite expensive and sometimes unsafe too. Chit funds don’t allow people to withdraw money when they need fast cash. As a solution to this issue the Avail instant loan app was established by Bengaluru based start-up Avail Finance.

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The Avail instant online loan app aims to save customers from embarrassment, harassment or long-term investment when they need low-interest loans. Avail Finance provides Indians with an instant online loan app built for them to have access to fast cash anytime, anywhere. Avail provides unsecured online loans in a quick and easy manner with a hassle-free loan application that requires minimal paperwork. Not only that, but Avail’s low-interest personal loans also help one build a credit history through timely, simple repayment.
Started in 2017 by Ankush Aggarwal and Tushar Mehndiratta, Avail Finance focuses on the blue-collar segment by offering them easy credit solutions. Its multiple products like personal loans, salary advances, and savings are customized for the blue-collar segment. It also helps its customers in understanding the importance of being financially independent.

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The target group of this start-up, as mentioned earlier, is the blue-collar segment in India, which includes security guards, delivery executives, drivers, housekeeping staff, etc, who have a monthly income in the range of Rs 8,000 – Rs 25,000. Avail Finance has two main products. One is a short-term personal loan of Rs 20,000 for five months — the average ticket size and tenure. The other product is of an even smaller ticket size of Rs 5,000 for one month and is an interest-free one to assist them during their frequent cash flow problems. Borrowers have the flexibility to leave a tip if they are satisfied with the service and experience. And this is one of the ways of revenue generation apart from the interest payments.

In June 2019, the start-up raised its Series A funding round of $9 million led by Matrix Partners India. In March 2018, the company raised pre-Series A round of $17.2 million led by Matrix Partners. This round also saw participation from Co-founders of Ola Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati, Flipkart Co-founder Binny Bansal, Cred founder Kunal Shah, and Mswipe Founder Manish Patel.
The competitive advantage it has against its competitors is multifaceted. Some of these are-

  • Avail loan through a smartphone- A mobile app-only service that puts personal loans just a few swipes away
  • Flexible Repayment Plan- No rigorous repayment schedule. Repay according to your convenience
  • Quick Disbursal
  • Low-Interest Rates
  • Paperless Approval- Helps you out from the hassles of paperwork. Upload minimal documentation digitally.
  • The borrower can get up to 200% of your salary in advance

Considering Avail is operating in a high volume, low ticket size market, Ankush says he looks to sachetising his products like the FMCG companies. One big challenge they face is the missing credit history of the customer. In order to cater to this challenge, they look for alternatives like professional history and other information on the app. The start-up has a 150-member team that works closely with its customer segment. “Our culture is being customer-first and data-obsessed,” says Ankush.

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Ankush Aggarwal (on the right) and Tushar Mehndiratta Founders Avail Finance

 

 

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