Best Social Enterprises of 2009

26 06 2009

Check out the best social enterprises of 2009 http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/131/eureka-social-enterprises-of-the-year.html

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Innovation Series #9: Business Model Testing

22 03 2009

Recently, I was in a converstion with Kallol, a good friend and Director of HeadStart Network Foundation and we were discussing various aspects of Entrepreneurship. One interesting aspect of the discussion was about Business Model Testing. I was inquisitive to learn more about this when he mentioned the term. Over the course of the discussion I understood that this is what I was trying to do with various people I speak with too.

What is Business Model Testing?

Well, the first thing which comes to my mind when someone has an new business idea is How will it fit? Three years back, I too had a great, facinating and passionate idea. My friend and I came out with a business plan and a colourful presentation to show it to investors 🙂 Well, we were successful to a certain extent. We presented at the first TiE-EAP Program and got an 8 ranking (1 being the least and 10 being the highest) for the idea we had. As expected, we got a 2 in Financial Model. We were techies and thought that our product will be accepted and definitely we will be able to hit the target customer base in the next five years. Well, that was a bit of over-confidence. How many of you are in the same boat?

The key aspect we forgot is the business viability and the research. We did not go to any potential customer and ask if he/she would be interested in a service like what we wanted to provide. We ASSUMED that they would accept. This is the first step to failure.

I wrote about Business Model Innovation in one of my previous posts. What I am emphasizing here is the importance of Testing your Business Model. Here are few aspects of the framework which you might want to consider:

  • Identify your Idea and WRITE it down.
  • Evaluate your idea yourself, as if you are the customer.
  • Take it to your family and friends and ask for their feedback. Remember, you need to accept the feedback as it comes. Do not JUSTIFY your idea at any point of time. JUSTIFICATION RUINS!
  • You would have surely got feedback and suggestions. Make the modification and take it back to the same set of people. REPEAT this step until you have the buy in of at least 95% of your first customers 🙂
  • Now, work on the prototype. Prototyping is very important. You need not have money to prototype, use the various open source tools available on the net to build your prototype.
  • Take the prototype back to your potential customers 🙂 Take feedback and build on it.
  • Ask your potential customers if they are willing to buy your Innovation and how much are they willing to buy it for. Take a buy-in (don’t hesitate to take it in writing too) from all your potential customers that they would be willing to buy your innovation once it is out in the market.
  • Work on the economics of costing. Build your financial model along the lines of the cost which your potential customers promised. This becomes your FINANCIAL MODEL.
  • Make decent and practical projections of potential sales.

You might not be a gauranteed success story, but am sure, you would have definitely averted loads of unpredictable risks if you followed the above process.

Also, you may seek guidance or suggestions from any one who is willing to listen to you too.

On these lines, if you are interested in getting a productive critic for your Innovation, feel free to write to me at harinath {at} dazasya {dot} org {dot} in. Well, I don’t charge anything though 🙂





Angel Investors in India

2 03 2009

If you are an entrepreneur and looking for some Angel Funding, the below is a list of Angel Investors in India:

Indian Angel Network
Accel Partners
Ojas Ventures
SeedFund
Axon Ventures
Mercatus Capital
Epiphany Ventures
Garage Again





Is Recession Real?

26 02 2009

Well, many people asked this question and many people responded with what they thought. I am not a financial expert nor an Economist who can answer this question. But, I have been in the Industry for close to 10 Years now and have friends who have been in the Industry for longer than me and also many of my close friends have their own startup’s. This post comes with my interactions with them and also what I have been seeing in the Industry I work. 

During 2001-2003, we saw the Internet bubble burst. There were many people who sacrificed their lives, given up their line of work and moved to the IT field to make their name and fame. There were many organizations born, but eventually, most of them faded away. Let us also not forget, that organizations which had their fundamentals correct, grew up to be giants in their own fields. 

So, are we seeing the same phenomenon here today? The only similarity I see from my eyes in the two recessions is that they are man made. We have been hungry for more in a shorter span of time and this has really effected us. If this is human’s thought process, we should never forget that the nature also has its own ways of sustaining itself. This is a natural cycle and if the 2001-2003 recession helped in streamlining the speed at which we travelled in making a new world, this recession is setting expectations for us to ensure we have our fundamentals correct for a better future. 

Fortunately, most of my very good friends organizations have not been disastrously hit by this current situation and also quite a few of reputed organizations are also not hit. Organizations which have been disturbed are the one’s which missed out one or two of the key elements of ensuring the life of the organization works the way it should. 

What are the fundamentals which I am talking about? 

The fundamentals I am speaking apply to both individual and also the organization. The fundamentals which each of us should be aware of. The precautions we take to ensure we have a healthy living (not money, but health). Eat good food, have healthy habits, keep your mind calm and peaceful and ensure that you perform your responsibilities well. The same applies to even organizations. They have life too. 

I once received a forwarded email about Recession and it made a lot of sense to me. I just wanted to summarize the story here as an illustration of the concept. 

There was a poor man, who made eateries on the roadside. He worked very hard, to ensure he maintained cleanliness around the place he ran his business, he had few chairs for his customers to sit, clean drinking water and his USP was that he always ensured that he was presentable and welcomed his customers with a big smile. He did this for all the last 15 years since he started his small outlet. He was contended with his earning, and ensured that his customers left with a smile.  

This businessman had a son and ensured he provided the best of the education to him, with what he could earn. His son went on to study well and acquired a very decent and dignified job for himself.  One day, his son stopped over at their eatery and was explaining the current situation to his father. How people are loosing jobs, how banks are going bankrupt and how access to money was getting difficult day-by-day. With this, the poor father began to think. Over the period of time, he reduced his expenses. He was getting the place cleaned once in two days instead of every day. He stopped buying fresh water every time, but instead managed by mixing tap water to the water he bought. With various thoughts and tensions in his mind, his smile went away, he cared less about his presentability.

Over the period of time, his customers stopped coming and his business went gloomy. He told his son that he was absolutely correct and the economy is really very bad. Their business has come down heavily and tomorrow does not look bright. 

What is the morale of the story? It is actually not a story, but REALITY. The reality is that we are more worried and hence our productivity is reducing. What would have happened if his son never studied and helped his father? I am sure their business would be the same and their lives would have definitely been the same. At times, too much of thought also hits our overall productivity. 

Let us stop worrying about recession and concentrate on our work. Organizations should do what they need to do and individuals need to do what they need to do. I am sure, our tomorrow is more bright.

In my next post, I would share about my experiences with the industry and entrepreneur friends who are definitely working at the same pace and ensuring they get their business 🙂





HeadStart – Compute 2009

14 12 2008

HeadStart has been our annual event for showcasing Startup Talents in the country. We started organizing the annual event since 2008, along with ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) Bangalore Chapter.

Why HeadStart and ACM?

HeadStart is a community of Entrepreneurs, Investors, Industry Professionals and Evangelists. We came together to contribute back to the community which has brought us to this level and given us lives.

ACM is a focused group which concentrates on future of technology and how it fits into today’s world.

As an Entrepreneur, it is very important for us to understand the Business Model, writing the Business Plan, speaking to Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors, bringing the product/service to the end user, legalities in building your organization, employee management and last but not the least – the future of your innovation.

You have a cutting edge idea and you are excited about it. You speak to various stakeholders and lo! you idea has hit everyone. What next? You are starting up your baby. That’s great news. One important and key aspect you need to consider is what is the future? Today, we see many Insurance companies advertising –For your retirement solutions and your child educational / child future plans, do contact us. In the same way, you need to understand the future of technology to ensure safety and security to your baby (your enterprise) and yourself. We feel safe when we have life insurance and few plans for our children, but we ignore our tomorrow.

Yesterday, I met an aspiring entrepreneur and he invited me to be his Devil’s advocate (I am not going into details of his idea or our conversation with due respects to him). He shared his idea with me and I honestly did not see a tomorrow in that. I did not see a strong bonding of the idea with the stakeholders. But he is passionate. Passionate about the idea and his tomorrow. I am sure he would succeed in what he is doing, but definitely few of my questions have kept his bells ringing.

During HeadStart – Compute 2008, we had two eminent personalities from GE to speak on the future of Database. The two scientists shared their research information on how the future of Database would change. This is what is needed for an Entrepreneur.

A classic example of not looking into the future is the Y2K. Many organizations realized and started working on this issue a bit late in the 90’s. What if these organizations had the guidance to think about this earlier during their startup stage? Things would have been different. If everyone took the necessary precaution, I am sure there would not have been many people who would have got job’s in the west during late 90’s.

HeadStart and Compute are dedicated to create the perfect ecosystem for Entrepreneurs. If you recollect the Project Triangle, then it is very easy to relate to what we do. We do exactly the same – Ensuring for a healthy startup focusing on the key parameters – Technology, Capital and Eco-System.

HS Model

Be there on the January 09-10, 2009 and participate to help create the ecosystem for Startup’s.





Innovation Series #5 – What is Entrepreneurship?

8 07 2008

The spirit of Entrepreneurship – the notion of human progress, development, achievement and change – motivates and energizes the people and organizations that improve our lives.

5 out of 10 people today want to be entrepreneurs. Why? Is the term fascinating or gives a social status? Is entrepreneurship new? No. It did exist since the beginning of human race. This post concentrates on speaking about what is Entrepreneurship all about, a basic definition and its dimensions.

There are by far many definitions of entrepreneurship, however, let us look at one of the best definitions which I ever read…

Entrepreneurship is the creation of an innovative economic organization for the purpose of gain or growth under conditions of risk and uncertainty.

Let us understand the underlined words above more in detail.

Creation means founding or starting or origin. So, this clearly means that if you are buying out an organization or if you are hereditarily taking over, you are clearly not an entrepreneur, you are simply a business person. However, there is one factor which can determine if you are an entrepreneur or not – the degree of change in the organization you are taking over.

If you would want to be an entrepreneur, you will need to create an opportunity. What kind of opportunity? If you are offering a new product or service or creating a new line of business. All these factors attribute to determine if you are an entrepreneur or not.

Economic organization means that you are creating an organization whose purpose is to allocate scare resources to bring out a new line of operation. What this means is that you might be creating a new business venture, a new line of operation in existing organization or even starting a not-for-profit organization.

Risk and Uncertainty are the conditions in which you begin your venture. They co-exist in any organization and go hand-in-hand. Risk refers to the variability of outcome. If there no risk in the organization, then the organization is operating in a risk-free environment and the organization is bound to grow over the period of time. Without risk, is there entrepreneurship? No. However, making calculated risks is what is recommended. If you are writing your business plan and you have not identified your risks and potential measures to overcome them, then the chances of you getting investments is very less. However, the more the number of risks you identify and device a contingency plan, the better is your execution.

Uncertainty is the confidence the entrepreneur has in his/her estimate in how the world accepts their offering. If there is no uncertainty, then it would be an everlasting profit making organization J Uncertainty is how markets works and this is what makes entrepreneurship exciting. The better you estimate your customers and how the world operates, the better are prospects of your organization profit making.

Where does Entrepreneurship exist?

Entrepreneurship clearly exists in countries which have higher economic freedom. Hong Kong, for example is the most economically free country, which clearly encourages entrepreneurs. Singapore, Bahrain, New Zealand, Switzerland, USA, UK, Taiwan, Bahamas and Netherlands appear in the top 10 countries in the world which provide the most economical independence.

On the flip side, North Korea is one of the most orthodox countries in terms of economic freedom. Angola, Azerbaijan, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Vietnam, Iraq, Cuba and Laos add to the list of most strict countries in terms of providing economic independence.

Sam Walton’s 10 Best Rules

Before I end this post, let me list down the 10 best rules Mr.Sam Walton has mentioned for his success.

Rule 1: Commit to your business and believe in it.

Rule 2: Share your profits with your partners (employees)

Rule 3: Motivate your partners, challenge them and keep score.

Rule 4: Communicate everything

Rule 5: Appreciate your associates with well-chosen words.

Rule 6: Celebrate your success.

Rule 7: Listen to everyone and get them talking.

Rule 8: Exceed your customers expectation.

Rule 9: Control your expenses.

Rule 10: BREAK ALL THE SULES. Swim upstream and go up way.

To put it in Mr. Sam’s words, the above rules might not apply to everyone, and also might not be the success factor for every entrepreneur. However, these were his success tips…





Innovation Series #4: Entrepreneurship Life Cycle

7 07 2008

The aspect of entrepreneurship is very inspiring and many have taken this path to create history and to change the way we live. However, there are many areas where we see gaps and these gaps play a very important role in building the enterprise and making a mark.

It can be a commercial organization, not-for-profit or social organization, each start-up has its own way of building up and it has its own life cycle.

Below is the typical life cycle of an Entrepreneur:

Aspiration for Entrepreneurship

One day you get this beautiful idea and aspire to make your dream come true. The journey begins here. A journey, which is adventurous and most satisfying.

Is aspiration all enough?

Normally, it is good enough to realize your dreams. But, the commitment to your ideology plays a bigger role. Entrepreneurship is about contribution to the society, rather than thinking it to be a source of extended income. It is tough and it is a penance. Attitude is all what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is about living in Risks. If you are a person who does not like taking risks, then you are not set for setting up your own organization. Entrepreneurship is just not about setting up an organization for profit making, but for solving a particular problem – be it commercial or social.

In short, the way I define an entrepreneur is:

E – Energetic
N – Neutral
T – Tough
R – Romantic
E – Elaborative
P – Passionate
R – Researcher
E – Empowered
N – Novice
E – Enterprising
U – Understanding
R – Rich

Energetic – Need to have energy to face failure.
Neutral – Never get carried away, you need to always be on ground to take off.
Tough – When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.
Romantic – Need to Romance with your Passion.
Elaborative – If you cant be straight forward, then the road ahead is bumpy.
Passionate – Eat, Sleep, Drink only your thoughts.
Researcher – Only when you explore, do you succeed.
Empowered – Empower yourself with Passion.
Novice – Because, every day is a new day.
Enterprising – Because, every day you need to be creative.
Understanding – If you cannot understand others, you can never solve their problem.
Rich – Attitude, Passion and Commitment to Succeed.

Identify the Problem / Need

If there was no problem / gap in life cycle bothering your mind, you definitely would not have aspired to be an entrepreneur. However, this is not the only reason for you to aspire. But, in most of the cases, there is a problem / gap in the life cycle which bothers your mind and you want to provide a solution / better solution to solve the problem better / faster / economical / convenient. Think differently to identify the problem. Just because the whole world or people around you are taking about mobile or web, just don’t fix your ideas only in that spectrum. Look around and you will find many areas which need better solutions.

One of my favourite examples is from the book Innovative India. An auto is a common mode of transport in our country; however, have you seen a change in the structure or working of an auto since its inception back in the 1980’s? NO. Bi-cycle’s, 2 Wheelers, Cars, Bus’s, Lorry’s and all have seen a drastic change in their life-cycle. But, an auto has hardly seen a change. Why? One main reason for this is because the competition is very less. There are hardly 2-3 companies which manufacture autos and all of them have been very contented with the design and working of their innovation. Try speaking to any auto driver; he would give you an enormous list of good to have things in the auto. Looks like a good problem? Try solving it J

My intention of quoting the above is to request you to look around. There are many trivial things which need attention and which people can benefit.

Probable Solution

When you have identified the problem, you definitely must have given a thought about a probable solution. Lay out and outline your solution. Put it on paper for you to evaluate.

The Bottom of Pyramid is one area you would want to concentrate while designing your solution. The concept of BoP elucidates that the need for better and optimized solutions for problems which are frequented by majority of people. Do not aim your solutions at a high level, instead have a humble beginning and make the impact.

When you are designing a solution and want your solution to reach the majority, focus on the Pyramid. Identify your potential customers and then plan your solution. This gives your solution a better mileage than what you anticipate.

Assess the Solution

Meet with people, talk about the problem and share your thoughts on how you wish to solve. You might not want to speak to everyone, but definitely speak to your friends / family / mentor’s about your ideas because, without evaluation, it is like jumping into the lake without knowing the parameters of the lake.

If you want to make toys, spend a lot of time with children and understand their thought process. Many a times, we think we are providing a better toy, however, when it reaches the child, you might not be able to attract him/her for a long time.

If you are building a security system for home’s, speak to as many people as you can and understand the nature of problems they encounter. Example, in villages, there might be a threat with animals coming into homes. In cities, it is just not burglary, but children or domestic help might be at home and parents want to secure few things from them.

The list goes on. What I want to iterate here is that spending a lot of time with the end-users will give you a deep dive into their thinking and you will benefit because, when you get to design a solution, it is easily accepted.

Practicality of the Solution

How practical is your solution? Is it trying to provide Mobile Commerce solutions or search capabilities in the rural areas? You might have the most cutting edge technology, but the target customers are very important. We are not debating if your customers should be based in rural/urban areas, but we are looking at the usage and practicality of the solution.

As an example, I can mention the platform ticket vending machine in railway stations which have come up in the recent past. Do you notice one common problem with them? They accept only one rupee coins and five rupee coins. And if you insert a five rupee coin for one ticket, you do not get back the change. What happened? The queue at the counter still remains the same, because many might not carry change always. So, what happened to the innovation, it simply added burden to the organization – the return on investment (RoI) is not met.

Build the Business Plan

The most important aspect of realizing your dream is to have your business plan in place. You will need to put it in writing as to how you would accomplish your goal.

There are many versions as to how you should write a business plan. I only recommend only one way – write your plan in simple words. Do not use jargons which are very common and a common person might not be able to read/understand. Be Simple, Manageable, Achievable, Result-oriented and Time bound (SMART) while writing.

Few important aspects which you might want to consider/have them mandatorily addressed in your business plan:

  • Vision
  • Mission
  • Problem Identified
  • Proposed Solution
  • Financial Plan
  • Road map (Building the Solution and Return on Investment)

What I mentioned above is the minimum. If you can elaborate and write more, there is nothing like it. A Business Plan is not a frozen document, but a continuous working document. So, keep re-visiting you plan from time to time and keep updating the same as your idea evolves 🙂