A Look Back At How Startup India Has Eased The Journey Of Startup And Investors

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It’s been two years since the fateful 2016 budget which recognised “Startups” as a separate breed of companies unto themselves, demanding bespoke treatment from the government and authorities. The clarity brought forth helped quell the nerves of both companies and investors, who had to otherwise resort to exotic exercises, supplementary structures, and platoons of professionals to keep their entrepreneurial dreams alive.

As we all await with bated breath for the slew of reforms expected of the Finance Minister, it behoves us to see how far we’ve come and how much further we need to proceed so that a billion dreams may become a reality.

This article is the first part of a two-part series which explores how Startup India has eased the friction in the Startup ecosystem so far, from an investor’s perspective with the second part talking about the next step of reforms which would have a multiplier effect on the ecosystem.

Flywheel of Funding

More often than not, any coverage about fundraising covers the journey of startups and entrepreneurs and the travails of raising their multimillion dollar rounds. But there exists another dimension to this story, that of fund managers raising their own funds. A large section of the investor community was elated that the government recognised this oft-ignored story and created the Rs 10,000 Cr (USD 1.5 billion) Fund of Funds managed by SIDBI which invests into SEBI registered AIFs and Venture Capital Funds.

This approach seeks to galvanise an ecosystem through a flywheel effect, instead of gardening it via direct intervention. The 10,000 Cr corpus can help seed AIFs worth Rs 60,000 Cr in India, which when fully deployed, is estimated to foment 18 lakh jobs and fund thousands of Indian startups. By contributing a maximum of 20% of the corpus of a fund, many fund managers can hasten they fundraise and concentrate more on helping their portfolio companies raise, instead of competing with them.

The Fund of Funds has invested into 88 AIFs so far, thus galvanising more than 5,600 Cr (USD 873 million) worth of investments into 472 Startups.

Bringing back tax breaks, not a back-breaking Tax

The Government’s support of Indian investors found its way into the Income Tax Act, with several measures to incentivise investments into the Indian Startup ecosystem, such as:

  • Insertion of Section 54 EE, which exempts Long-Term Capital Gains up to Rs 50 lakhs provided it has been invested in the units of a SEBI registered AIF
  • Insertion of section 54GB, which exempts Long-Term Capital Gains of up to Rs 50 lakhs provided it been invested into the shares of a Startup which qualifies for section 80IAC
  • Clarifying that the conversion of debentures or preference shares to equity shares will not be considered as a transfer and thus subject to capital gains at the point of conversion (the entire Venture Capital industry is based on convertible debentures and preference shares and this move has settled long-standing disputes regarding the instruments of investments)
  • Issuing a notification that the dreaded angel tax will not apply to shares issued at a premium to domestic investors by those startups who qualify under the DIPP scheme (although the scope of this needs to be extended to rid the spectre of angel tax that haunts various investors and entrepreneurs)
  • Clarifying that the stance of the assessee in categorising the sale of listed securities held for more than 1 year as Capital Gains or Income from Business can’t be questioned by the taxman
  • Changing the definition of a capital asset to include any securities held by a Foreign Portfolio Investor, thus removing the friction arising from asset classification (a similar provision is sorely needed for domestic hedge funds and Category III AIFs)

Capital without Borders

The Startup India scheme over the past few years has rolled out the red carpet to foreign investors while rolling back the red tape. The success of this is evidenced by the percentage of funding foreign capital represents in the Indian startup ecosystem, which is 9 times higher than domestic capital investment.

Some of the initiatives include:

  • Liberalising Foreign Direct Investment into most sectors including financial services, single brand retail, pharma, media and a host of other sectors up to 100% in most areas
  • Abolishment of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board
  • Relaxation of External Commercial Borrowings (ECBs) for Startups for up to USD 3 million
  • Allowing for issue of shares for non-cash consideration to non-residents under the automatic route
  • Marshalling foreign investment into Indian entities primarily for the purpose of investing in other Indian entities has been brought under the automatic route as opposed to the previous government approval route
  • Dismantling the approval mechanism for the transfer of securities by a Foreign Venture Capital fund to an Indian resident
  • Moving most of the filings (FCGPR, FCTRS, etc) to an online window managed by the RBI (ebiz.gov.in)

Well begun is half done

The government’s efforts to improve life for Startups in investors have begun to bear fruit in tangible ways as evidenced by the reduction in the number of companies seeking to have a Delaware entity with Indian operations. The recent leapfrog in the “Ease of Business” rankings also stands testament to this.

The Government must now seek to consolidate all these gains and clarify its stance and the stance of the tax department on long pending issues which have been a bane to all startups. While we have miles to go before we sleep, we must look back and take note of what we’ve achieved before we seek to scale greater heights.

This post has been authored by Siddarth Pai of 3one4 Capital

Creating a company brand — outside a product brand

One of the top two responsibilities of the CEO is to ensure that there is sufficient cash in the bank at all times. That often requires raising money from investors; an unpleasant task for most people! This article discusses a mindset change that is useful for fund raising.

The company by itself is a product that is best sold gradually and continuously to the investors — both public and private.

When we buy any product — say a mobile phone — we do so either because someone told us to or because our research led us to it. Even when we research a product, our view gets influenced by what we have heard about it. In the world of consumer goods, this is the power of the Brand. Raising money also relies a great deal on how the company is “perceived.” This perception is the company’s brand. The first round of money is largely driven by this brand perception. A lot of other aspects of the company (including fund raising in subsequent rounds) are affected by brand, as we will discuss in this article.

A company has two types of brands that coexist — the brand of the company and the brand of its product(s). Frequently the company’s brand gets forgotten or confused with that of the product. Yet, the company brand is omnipresent; created by the team, vision, past success, market opportunity, etc. For e.g. Nandan Nilekani’s next startup will have an immediate brand because of the team — well before the product has even been identified. As mentioned before, the first round is primarily driven by the company brand because there is nothing else.

The importance of company brand to fund raising often diminishes with time because delivered financial and operating metrics become the criterion for evaluating the company. When customers start using its product, the company’s brand gets pushed even further back because the overwhelming brand is that of its product. However this neglect is a wasted opportunity. In most companies there is no explicit recognition of the company’s brand and it has no identified owner. Given the criticality of the company brand for raising money, it’s imperative for the CEO to build that brand. CEOs who are very skilled at raising funds realize that they need to maintain the company brand in addition to the product brand. Consider for e.g. PayTM where Vijay has successfully navigated in and out of many businesses, while keeping the company brand associated with the promise of the future. Another example of the company brand being a driver is Theranos, the Palo Alto based Health Tech Company; of course the Theranos story did not end well because their brand was not backed by execution. However just that brand alone enabled Theranos to raise a fortune.

The Company Brand is not built in a day

Company brand building happens well in advance of fund raising and ideally never stops; the intensity just varies with time and circumstances. There are many ways to build the company brand in the early years of a company’s life.

  • 1–1 engagement with investors to cultivate familiarity: set up periodic meetings with relevant investors to keep them updated, get their views, and build a relationship. These same people will talk about your company in forums and eventually people buy from people.
  • PR — press appearances are noticed by investors (and by prospective employees, and customers). Its often hard to stay in the press for the right reasons so this has to be dealt with conservatively.
  • Presence in forums — establish the position of a thought leader, be seen by peers in the correct context. These same peers will be used as references by future investors. So speak at events like the NASSCOM product forum or TIE.
  • Key influencers in many areas; they can be cultivated as references or engaged as advisors
  • Customer proxies — for e.g. head of HR of INFY if the product is to be sold to HR
  • Product experts — for e.g. an advisor from Apple for a company that banks on usability
  • Go-to-market experts — for e.g. someone from the sales team at Workday, for a SaaS company

A good company brand offers benefits that go beyond fund raising. It drives recruitment and retention (e.g. “best place to work”). It drives sales because customers often buy the company before they buy the product (e.g. the proverbial purchase from IBM). It drives policy/public acceptability (e.g. Google/Infosys wanting to be seen as doing good.)

Company brand building therefore needs to be owned explicitly — often by the CEO — and catered to as one of the critical outbound agenda items. By investing in the company brand from day one, the company’s odds of successful fund raising go up substantially.

Guest Post by Ashish Gupta, Helion Venture Capital

Inadequate liquidity for Indian Startups

Recently was having a conversation with a Private Equity friend and was trying to explain the challenge that has captured my imagination and full attention, ie exits for software product startups in India. He felt that the data about the exit structural deficit that I was trying to point out felt too bearish to be true. My counter argument was that my intent is not to sound bearish but instead be a realist, after all acknowledgement of a problem is first step to solving one.  Post that conversation I thought should put this data out publicly so that through crowdsourcing can at the very least improve my understanding if it is off by wide margins.

2012-2016 VC vs M&A

India VC vs Exits 

India VC vs M&A


India Software Products VC  (in $m)

2012 2013 2014 2015 2016*
$801.00 $1,021.00 $4,883.00 $6,526.00 $2,419.00 $15,650.00
147 123 173 330 223 996

India Software Product M&A  (in $m)

2012 2013 2014 2015 2016*
$205.00 $308.00 $799.00 $1,350.00 $1,339.00 $4,001.00
43 39 59 137 113 391

Source iSPIRT M&A Report https://www.slideshare.net/ProductNation/india-technology-product-ma-industry-monitor-an-ispirt-signalhill-report?ref=http://startupbridgeindia.com/

Israel VC vs Exits 


Israel Software Product VC  (in $m)

2012 2013 2014 2015 2016*
$1,878.00 $2,404.00 $3,422.00 $4,307.00 $4,775.00 $16,786.00
567 667 684 706 659 3283

Israel Software Product M&A (in $m)

2012 2013 2014 2015 2016*
$8,149.00 $3,704.00 $4,493.00 $6,462.00 $6,782.00 $29,590.00
74 81 109 98 86 448

Source IVC Report, http://www.ivc-online.com/Portals/0/RC/Survey/IVC_Q4-16%20Capital%20Raising_Survey-Final.pdf

Above data indicates that Israel was able to generate 1.8X of the money that went in while in India in the same period it was 0.2X. The right comparison is exits from 2012-2016 with VC investments from 2005-2009, iSPIRT report does that comparison but results are even less encouraging.

Exits follow a power law distribution, however in India it seems like a power law’s power law.

Not only is the volume of exit a challenge but also the structure, any ecosystem exits follow a typical power law. For every $1 bn exit, there are ten $100m deal, for every $100m there are hundred $10m deals.

Top 7 deals in India account for ~$2.5b of the $4b in exit. About 250 of 391 deals total a deal volume of $97m which means the size of an acqui hire i.e in long tail is about 0.5m, which is inadequate even for an angel investor (in other ecosystem long tail is >$10 m, hence being referred to as power’s law power law). Lack of many $10-100m deal means there is a missing middle of the long tail.

Source iSPIRT M&A Report https://www.slideshare.net/ProductNation/india-technology-product-ma-industry-monitor-an-ispirt-signalhill-report?ref=http://startupbridgeindia.com/

Anything in the data above that does not feel kosher  ?

 

iSPIRT M&A Connect program takes a multiyear view to design interventions that can address the middle and long tail of the market coordination challenge.

Volunteer Hero: Vivek Raghavan

 iSPIRT volunteers build public goods inspired by open-source Linux and Wikipedia. Our volunteers are selfless, committed and conflict-free. They are animated by a burning cause.
 
One such cause is about creating technology platforms that will help make India a Product Nation. Building a successful country-scale technology platform is hard. And doing this as an open and public platform is even more challenging. It takes talent, sweat, and toil to do this.
 
Vivek-RaghavanVivek Raghavan for instance. He stepped in as a part-time volunteer to help build Aadhaar back in late-2010. Soon he was working as a full-time volunteer. Had he known that he would be volunteering full-time even after so many years, he might not have taken the plunge! In fact, two years ago, he gave up. After all, it’s not easy to work in a government system to make things happen. But, his sense of mission sprinkled with some emotional appeal from other iSPIRT volunteers had him back in action again.
 
We have many full-time volunteers in iSPIRT who take a year or two to give back to the ecosystem. But few have done it for six years! Here is a successful entrepreneur – with two notable exits in the US – waking up every morning to make the world better for all of us. His example inspires other volunteers. He kindles the fire that keeps iSPIRT running.
 
Vivek’s uncommon ownership and determination make him an iSPIRT volunteer hero.
 
Guest post by Pramod Varma & Sanjay Jain
 
“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”  – Arthur Ashe

 

How we built iSPIRT from scratch, with nothing except a lot of spirit. #iSPIRTturns4

I missed the 4th anniversary celebrations of iSPIRT in Bangalore today as my father has been unwell for the last couple of weeks and I have been avoiding travel. I thought it will be good to refresh my memory by reading up some of the old emails and also share the journey of the 9 months of preparation before we officially launched iSPIRT. In the early months we called ourselves as SPIRT — Software Product Industry Roundtable.

iSPIRT officially got launched on 4th Feb 2013 after missing the launch date on 26th January 2013. You should read up the annual letter issued today which talks about the journey, the good progress made and why India has the potential to innovate for the next six billion.

Why I started?

The idea of setting up a product body came about after I ended my ten-year stint with NASSCOM in February 2012, where I was lucky to have worked closely with a number of inspiring individuals in the software product space. While my next career milestone took me back to the corporate world at One97 and I remember Paytm was in the early day: I never knew VSS would make it so BIG one day.

The desire to contribute to the start-up and software product eco-system in the country never left me. This desire in me forced me to reach out to Vishnu Dusad, MD of Nucleus Software. I met him at his office and he encouraged me to stay focussed and he will put all efforts behind convincing and engaging with people like Bharat Goenka of Tally & Sharad Sharmawho chaired the NASSCOM Product Council.

While I was at One97, I had a candid conversation (of leaving One97. I was just 3 months in the system) with Vijay Shekhar Sharma about my passion as I didn’t want to be unfair to a friend who had offered me a job when I needed. I still remember the brief conversation that I had with Vijay where he said “You go ahead and follow your passion, I will support you in whatever you do, be it on the rolls of One97 or outside”. I think that was a big commitment, I know very few people who can do things like that. He said — don’t worry about sustaining yourself, I will take care of that, you go and follow your dream.

I still thank him as he was the first person who freed me and became the angel for the Product mission.

How the key people came together

Vishnu was able to convince Bharat & Sharad that it was time to focus on creating something unique for the Software Product companies in India. We also engaged with Pari Natarajan of Zinnov as he had a good understanding of the ecosystem and also knew some of the gaps that had to be filled. I remember, we did few calls and everything would stop for few weeks as people got busy. I had to again nudge people so that they start contributing back. Many a times, I thought it was difficult to pull something together, but something inside me didn’t allow me to stop.

We always were trying to identify more people, but early on someone had suggested that it is better to start with a small team and then keep adding more people. I remember in one of the calls, how Bharat had motivated me by giving some valuable advice. I remember I had written it down somewhere, but it was more on the lines of when you have a dream and when you discover your mission, it will fill you with enthusiasm and a burning desire to work on it. It was always good to hear Bharat on how much passionate he was for India and for Software Products from India.

Once everyone was aligned, we virtually laid the foundation for SPIRT on 15th August 2012 where Bharat & Sharad met at the Tally office and Vishnu and I joined on the call from Delhi. I came officially on board after that.

How we ideated on the mission and the core beliefs…

After lot of back and forth and around 8–10 calls, we arrived at the Draft 1 of what SPIRT should be focussing on. Once in a while, we would also get an outsider to share their perspective and we got advice on how to create another trade body on software products. I’m glad we did not go ahead with the trade-body concept and created a think tank thanks to Sharad.

Also, since most of the conversations were done on phone, i don’t have any photographs of the team in the early days. Normally, startups always show their photographs from the garages 🙂

Sharing what Pari of Zinnov had put together on. Since beginning, we had lot of confusion on the name, as you can see, SPIRT became SPIRIT 🙂

In one of the initial meetings, it was decided that we will be taking the 3 pillar approach — Policy, Market Catalyst & Playbooks. This was articulated beautifully by Sharad and what SPIRT would be focussing on..

Over the period of time, Bharat, Sharad and Vishnu crystallized the vision and we put together this document, although I remember lot of efforts went behind this.

Launch of ProductNation — the community for Product Founders

Once the core team had decided launch the mission, I was assigned the task to build the community for software products. I remember i had proposed few names to Sharad out of which ProductNation was picked up. The other two names which were close were ProductoNomy.com & ProductsFrom.In

The other list which got dropped was:

TheIndusValley.com & theindusvalley.in are available (this is inspired from The Silicon Valley).

The ProductNation Blog was launched in the first week of September 2012 and I was fortunate that many product folks came and supported this by writing blogs, doing interviews and few meetups.

One of the early versions of the ProductNation newsletters

This is a writeup that I had done at that time

Productnation aims to be a forum for these individuals to contribute their points of view and opinions and energize the software product industry with their passion for enhancing the product eco-system. The citizens of this great “nation” bring experience, diversity, information, knowledge and cut across caste, creed, race and color! In a nutshell, Productnation.in is by the product guys, for the product guys.

The initial name was SPIRT and why we changed to iSPIRT.

Sharad came up with the name of SPIRT which stands for Software Product Industry Roundtable. I guess after few weeks, Sharad came up with this beautiful analogy of why a think-tank positioning is better than the trade body approach. He had all his facts & data ready with him and others also agreed and we were all set.We tried the following domains early

  • spirt.co.in
  • SPIRuT.in (Software Products Industry RoUndTable )

But when we applied for the name at MCA, it got rejected twice and that’s when we thought about adding i for India. Luckily, the third attempt(i was told it is the last attempt) was successful and we got the name registered as Indian Software Product Industry Roundtable Foundation and called it as iSPIRT Foundation. I added the i in the name 🙂

the first version of the iSPIRT website

We again had a tough challenge in getting the domain as someone had registered ispirt.org and few other domains that we wanted. I also wanted to block ispirit.in as many people continued to call us iSPIRT(with the I) in the end.

Joy from WoodApple, a dear friend helped us with the design of the iSPIRT logo…and you can see the wonderful options that he created and I think we picked up the best.

Joy put his heart in designing the logo which is why it came out so well. We didn’t do any iteration, change of colour, style nothing. We just picked one of them.

How the funding happened…

It was clear that iSPIRT will not be a trade body and will not have members. Instead it will be funded by grants and contributions from products firms and individuals. So, we made a list of 30–35 product founders in the month of December 2013 and started to reach out to them.

  • VAS: One97, OnMobile, NetCore
  • SaaS/PaaS: OrangeScape, Zoho (has announced India launch)
  • ERP/CRM: Tally, Ramco, EmployeeWise, Saigun, Impel,
  • Banking — Nucleus, Infrasoft, iCreate
  • Cloud-SI: ABS, Kuliza
  • Digital platforms: Komli, Inmobi
  • Payment platforms: CCavenue, Billdesk, Paytm
  • TECI: MediManage, RedBus

The second list that we had created

  • BI — Manthan, MAIA Intelligence
  • Security/Anti-virus — iViz, EliteCore, K7 Computing, QuickHeal
  • Power — KLG Systel
  • Mass Visibility — Flipkart, Bookmyshow
  • SMB — Gradatim
  • Micro-Banking — EKO,
  • JustDial, Zomato
  • Income Tax — ClearTax, elagaan
  • Retail — Capillary technologies, GoFrugal
Most of my meetings with Sharad would happen at KGA, that was the place where all discussions would be done on the donor funding.

In the first list, I remember we had not even put Freshdesk and today, you can’t do anything in the product eco-system without the Girish’s touch. So happy to see that Girish has built a powerful brand in the last 4 years.

This would be a 20–30 minute led by Sharad on why we are setting up iSPIRT, how it will be different from a trade body model and how they can be part of this movement and support it. To our surprise, most of the founders believed in the story and came forward and donated money to iSPIRT.

Some of the meetings in Bangalore were face to face whereas the meetings in other cities were on phone. The meeting with Naveen of InMobi was pretty good as he gave us lot of insights on what kind of companies/Founders we should be adding in the first 30. The meeting with Shashank of Practo was also insightful as he shared some pain areas of a growing startup and no help he was getting from the eco-system.

The meeting with Pallav happened at Mainland China and Pallav was on full fire, he asked so many tough questions on why we are starting? 🙂

The conversation with Suresh of Orangescape was the easiest as he was one of the early guys who always believed and supported the work been done by us.

I remember collecting 4 lakhs form companies which were in the early stages, but believed so much in the mission, that they did not even question us on the mission or on where the money would be used.

Before the launch, we had 30 founders who had signed up for the mission and came for the first meeting scheduled at Pramati’s office in Bangalore.

The Launch

We had most of the founders who attended the first meeting on 4th Feb, some of them flew from different places to be part of the meeting. You can see some photographs here. It was good to share the mission, what we had planned to do and also how we were planning to execute it.

The Founder Circle at iSPIRT launch on 4th Feb 2013 at Pramati office

Before the launch, Sujit John & Shlipa Phadnis of TOI did a breaking story of the launch by calling it as 30 software product firms break free from Nasscom. This created lot of issue for me & Sharad as both had played an active role in NPC and the EMERGE forum.

The story that I really liked was by Rohin Dharmakumar of Forbes. He did a very balanced story titled “Is iSpirt an Alternative to Nasscom?

Luckily those days, I think @Sumanthr was not active or he did not notice us and hence we never got some mileage 🙂

When we launched iSPIRT, I remember after few weeks we had Manish Bahl of Forrester questioned that iSPIRT will not be able to make an impact as it is driven by volunteers and doesn’t have a proper secretariat, etc. Based on his blog post, i remember there were couple of stories written about iSPIRT as why we might not be able to do what we have set up as a mission.

Surviving and thriving against all odds!

Initially, some of the leaders also thought that iSPIRT will be an experiment for 1 year, if it worked, we will continue, if it failed, the spirit will just evaporate 🙂 I’m glad that we continued the spirit and good to see the movement has taken off. I can see that now we are a large number of volunteers with many initiatives and happy to be one of the volunteers part of this amazing journey, onwards to many more years of thought leadership as #iSPIRTturns4. It has been an awesome journey!

Special thanks to my friend Sairam who did take a look at the blog inspite of his offsite. 

2017 iSPIRT Annual Letter

4th-bday-logo (1)

Problem solvers, responsible builders of companies, communities and ecosystems are the foundation for progress and growth of any nation. What drives all of them is a sense of challenge, ownership of problems, allegiance to autonomy, demonstration of personal accountability and the thrill of finding a solution. This energy is fueling a growing product movement in India. iSPIRT is proud to be part of this movement.

Every movement sees itself as a moral enterprise. Our moral imperative is to help lift India out of poverty over the next 20 years (see 2016 Annual Letter). Technology platforms are powering this ambition. These technology platforms have a significant role to play in driving innovation everywhere. Where India stands apart is that it has carefully thought about digital colonization and has boldly decided that its core technology platforms will be public goods.

Since our public technology platforms are open-access, we expect both Indian and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to participate in building solutions for India’s hard problems. Thus, Indian entrepreneurs will compete with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs not just in the US market, but in the Indian market as well. This inevitable competition will play out in the context of the maturity of the two ecosystems. Hence, unless we develop the Indian technology ecosystem rapidly, our Indian entrepreneurs will not succeed. iSPIRT brings an intensity to building our technology ecosystem that an entrepreneur displays for building her startup.

Four years on, there has been good progress but there is much more to do. We believe that Silicon Valley does an admirable job of innovating for the first billion. India has the potential to innovate for the next six billion.

PAY-IT-FORWARD PARADOX… The More You Give, The More You Receive

PAY-IT-FORWARD PARADOX… The More You Give, The More You Receive

Ever noticed how the busiest of people are often the ones that find time more easily than others?

It is about making the time versus having the time!

When you make time despite busy schedules and packed days to share your experience and perspectives it helps so many people, definitely more than you could individually imagine. In the process though, you get so much back, more than you could individually imagine. And, I am not just talking about the ego boost you get from your audience, it is the whole process. Deciding what to share allows you to spend time reflecting, perhaps even researching. You learn and remind yourself of what you knew and could have forgotten. The prep certainly helps you articulate and verbalize your thoughts. When you hear your audiences’ perspectives, another learning opportunity. When you get asked a question you couldn’t answer at first, yeah, another learning opportunity. It is the gift that keeps on giving. You very quickly see that making the time to share your thoughts and experiences is a really good way to learn.

At Pensaar, we are crazy biased towards design thinking as a mind set and a process to innovate.

We are practitioners and have used design thinking in our own jobs to innovate and are able to share war stories, trials and tribulations from our experiences. Being less than 6 months old, this August we took on the arduous task of putting together the Design Thinking Summit. The first draft was a vision more than a plan. Here’s what was serendipitous… as we shared our vision, many good people came to support our vision.

NSRCEL-IIM Bangalore, Intuit, iSPIRT and YourStory gave us their support. Many friends and fellow practitioners gave us their time, ideas and mentorship. What was the result? 70+ people went through a 3-day experience of applying design thinking to a real problem and 250+ people spent 1-day in large discussion formats learning about design thinking from each other.

It was truly inspiring and motivating to see so many people pay it forward, we were blessed to have that kind of support. Gave us more passion and energy to realize our vision to spread the awareness and application of design thinking.

Paying-it-forward is wonderful but then you imagine doing that for a bunch of people you have no vested interest in, it is pure humility.

The magnanimity with which they approach knowledge sharing is humbling. There is recognition of the notion that there are millions out there waiting to interact and hear their encouraging and inspirational stories. We asked a few design do-gooders we have had the honour of working with about why they work pro-bono. Here is what they had to say… we are indeed grateful to all the pay-it-forward individuals, makes us want to do more!

“One of the most wonderful experiences in life is to see an idea evolve into a feature or a product and then into business. There are a great many ideas out there that are ready to take this journey. Helping others navigate and experience this journey is what addressing larger audiences is all about” Tridib Roy Chowdhury, GM | Sr Director Products, Adobe

“I do it to pay it forward to peers, practitioners, designers & society at large for better ways to solve problems by design thinking. It is great to be part of something, where it is not driven by the idea of an individual but as a collaborative effort for change.I also get to be part of a platform where I can exchange idea/thoughts/ methodologies and more importantly learn, since there is no single right/wrong way to do design thinking” Harshit Desai, Design Thinker | Digital Transformation Lead | User Experience Strategist, KPMG India

“I see two extremes in the practice of Design Thinking. One pretty serious and offering the best for innovating for better lives. The other is lighter and sometimes belittling the practice. I am a pure play Design thinking practitioner and like to spread the message that for some DT is life changing and for some it betters lives. I have been part of such experiences. It is inspirational! Whether it is pro-bono or not I have been doing this for some years and will continue to do so, to reduce the negativity about design thinking to my best possible ability” Lakshman P Seshadri | Strategy | Innovation & Design, SAP

“Success for individuals or organizations is about what we can do for others as well. I consider it valuable to make the time to share knowledge. Empowering outfits and individuals is just as important. Pensaar’s mission to evangelise and spread design thinking at a nascent stage ties into my belief of sharing is learning” Venkat Kotamaraju | Growth & Strategy Leader, Pensaar

The joy in knowing that that they are changing lives is what makes evangelizing the methodology so important. Also, it triggers a beautiful snowball effect of only inspiring others to do the same.

Guest Post by Deepa Bachu, Pensaar 

iSPIRT is ending the year on a high note

ispirt-is-ending-the-year-on-a-high-note

At the beginning of the year when we wrote down our thoughts in the 2016 Annual Letter about aspects such as break away from copy paste entrepreneurship, innovation bridge with Silicon Valley, progress on open market policies, etc. we thought we will score a few wins in the year. The pace of progress has surprised us. In many areas we have exceeded our best expectations.  

The last few months have been particularly hectic for iSPIRT. Some of the wonderful work of iSPIRTers is captured in the four events that took place in the last five weeks:

#PNgrowth, Nov 25th – 28th: This intense 3-day bootcamp is grooming the future category leaders of our Software Product Industry. This was our second PNgrowth bootcamp this year. Read about it in Avinash’s evocative blogpost: Behind the scenes of $2 billion Indian startup movie #PNgrowth.

Startup Bridge India, Dec 2nd: This was our first roadshow in Silicon Valley and was done with TiE SV and Stanford University. We sought out strategic partners for 28 startups that traveled from India. This was organized by our M&A Connect Program, which is now led by Rajan. Read about the matchmaking event in a descriptive blogpost by Roxna: Startup Bridge India: Breaking Down Borders, Barriers and BS.

InnoFest #IndiaInnovates, Dec 8th: We are slowly and steadily building a community of hardware product innovators to cater to the needs of 100m families in ‘India 2’ (beyond metro). Financial inclusion will soon allow them to improve their lives using Indian products. Prathibha, the anchor volunteer behind InnoFest, captures the mood in her blogpost: InnoFest 2016 – Innovation celebrated in Bangalore, and how…

FinTech Leapfrog Council, Dec 16th: India is set to leapfrog the rest of the world in financial inclusion driven by India Stack. The FTLC program combines global best practices with a home-grown, world-class architecture for financial inclusion, and helps incumbent Indian banks create a “leapfrog roadmap” for their organizations. Venky, the anchor volunteer driving this initiative, describes the thinking behind FTLC in his blogpost: A Leapfrog moment for Indian Banking.

We are ending the year on a high note!

Next year will be a busy one for us given market inflections and the heightened expectations from us. This presents iSPIRT and each of us with a unique opportunity to contribute and make a difference.

With loads of best wishes for 2017 from all of us volunteers at iSPIRT.

What to expect from draft National Policy on Software Products?

Ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) has released the draft of National Policy of Software Product (NPSP) for public consultation.

Click here to see the announcement and how to respond to the consultation process.

Click here to see the draft pdf document.

This blog aims to explain where the draft NPSP policy statement stands at present and what to expect further.. The blog also answers many questions arising out in the minds of stakeholders in Software product industry as well as IT industry in general.

This may help Software product industry stake holders in responding to MeitY on this consultation process, which ends on 9th December 2016.

How does NPSP help India?

The first Software policy came up in 1986. It resulted into Software Technology Park (STP) scheme in 1991. Even after 25 years the old Software policy (1.0) of 1986 still prevails, with focus on IT services.

But, past few years have seen serious decline in growth, owing to rapid transformation in technology and Software industry, globally. India’s IT sector is strong enough to face changing technology challenges. India’s national competitive advantage has taken a shift towards innovative stage and ‘product’. Please see another blog on this subject here.

To address globally relevant strategic paradigm shifts, a Software 2.0 policy is needed with ‘product’ as focal to it.

This consultation process will lead this Software 2.0 policy. It will help in India in capitalizing on the existing matured IT industry and build a phase 2 of Industry in form of product based Industry. There are 3 advantages that NPSP announcement brings us.

Firstly, with NPSP announcement, India will give recognition to Software product industry.

Secondly, schemes and programs emergence from NPSP that will catalyze Software product industry eco-system.

Thirdly, Software product industry will have legitimate governance structure in Government of India that help solve problems and provide level playing field.

The draft policy does not have any actionable but only intent statements?

Yes, presently the draft is only a macro policy statement with a vision, mission to be achieved and ten strategic areas to be addressed. Let us understand different aspects of it.

There were two challenges to framing if this draft policy. One most people in Government system link the Industry policies framing directly to a package of fiscal incentives that help in direct market intervention. On the other hand, IT industry having matured, there is less appetite at ministry of finance to easily carve out a fiscal incentive program.

Two, iSPIRT believed that innovation and product based industry needs multi-layered action plan that can help promote the eco-system central to product industry. Adding any fiscal package right in beginning, to the policy statement would have put the efforts in jeopardy.

Hence, most areas that need to be acted upon are summed up in 10 Strategies in the draft. This macro policy announcement helps in getting policy rolled out in two stages.

First, set strategic intents and recognize a product industry.

Second, Action plans (schemes, programs, incentives and institutional setups) can follow on need basis and in phased manner after the policy is finally launched. Policy can be leveraged through multiple threads focused on defined actionable. It could be a) immediate action item list; b) ecosystem building programs; c) segment specific packages and lastly d) incentive schemes.  For example, SaaS based product segment needs an early support in form of a booster package that solves their multiple problems.

This is a right flexible approach adopted by MeitY. This is how it happened in Software 1.0 policy as well.

Let us achieve stage one and then proceed to stage two.

Are there stages envisaged further to announcement?

At iSPIRT, we believe, after the promulgation of NPSP the very first action that is required to be taken by MeitY is a new institutional setup (instead of relying on old or existing vehicles).

Hence, a ‘National Software Product Mission’ (NSPM) should be setup urgently, as nucleus of activity to cater to emerging Software product industry. NSPM can operate under an inter-ministry board, thus drawing legitimacy to understand and solve problems of this emerging industry, across Government departments, at a single point.

NSPM should become a forum for intellectuals and industry practitioners for issues of technology, boosting R&D, international competitive dynamics, steps and actions needed to handle challenges that industry face in a continually evolving dynamic world etc.

Let us welcome the NPSP with open mind and right expectation

Some point in NPSP may not be rightly synching with every segment of Industry. However, one must also note that, the Government’s stake in an industry policy is also multi fold which also including the generation of employment and income.

In view of above, it is in favour of Software product industry to welcome this step 1 of formulating a viable National Policy on Software products. An early approval of NPSP is in the interest of Software product industry of India as well as country to look at a bright future.

A positive welcoming feedback will help MeitY in early approval.

We sincerely hope NPSP will soon be approved and help in building a “Software product nation”.

If you still have any questions you can write to sudhir@ispirt.in or nakul@ispirt.in

Behind the scenes of $2 billion Indian startup movie #PNgrowth

Last month, for the first time, I witnessed something really special. Even for someone like me, whose very job and calling is to evangelise this nascent software ecosystem of ours, this was something extraordinary.

I’ve been doing this a while, and what happened last month was one of the best feelings I’ve had in this journey.

This is what happened: Some of the leading B2B enterprise startups in the country, including FreshdeskEka SoftwareCapillaryZenotiFusionChartsKiSSFlow, etc all got together under a single roof.

This is what they got together for: To help 52 other, smaller B2B startups in achieving scale, like they have.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the founders of these companies are some of the most important product leaders we have.

In the first session itself, Shekar Kirani pointed out that a platform like this will not be easily available, and the assembled startups needed to leverage the best from the network and from the folks who had arrived with the the express intention of helping them. And the product leaders who also made an important point – that they did not want the new age startups to go through the same grind, or make the same mistakes they had made in their years of scaling.

I was amazed. It is almost never that you see such accomplished professionals come together towards helping and nurturing young startups from their own learnings.

And what was this? What was happening?

This was the 2nd edition of #PNgrowth.

The first one had been in Jan 2016 at the Infosys Campus in Mysore where we had assembled around 186 founders to help companies think about Category Leadership. It went really, really well, but the feedback was that that perhaps keeping it focussed for fewer founders would help the cause better.

Many heated discussions were conducted over breakfast, lunch, dinner, and beer (especially beer) on the program for the 2nd edition and on how we can add value to the content.

These conversations were typically 4-6 hours long, which meant that the entire program/content took us over 200 hours with 12 founders brainstorming for the past 3-4 months.

It really did take us that long.

And those deep discussions based on the 1st edition’s feedback was what the program for November was based on.

And now that #PNgrowth 2016 is over, I decided to take a look back and share some of the learnings in organising this, and on how we pulled this together. 

This year, the program was designed to help companies chase ‘Good Scale’, that is, to achieve high growth without compromising on quality. There were 52 founders with us, from all over India, and a few from outside as well.

Before we get into the details, a larger question must be addressed again, largely because it keeps getting brought up. This time, I’m trying to use a different approach to explain this. Bear with me.

WHY IS iSPIRT DOING THIS ‘MOVIE’ CALLED PNGROWTH?

iSPIRT’s mission is to make India a ProductNation. We have many initiatives like Playbook RoundtablesPNcamp, etc which are focussed around building products and helping companies achieve good scale. Although there are many accelerators in our country, very few offer value to the founders/companies. Keeping this in mind, iSPIRT wanted to do something unique and create a platform which would help companies think about growth in an effective manner. More importantly, we want to make ongoing mentorship accessible to the founders.

_mg_0662The goal was to create 8-10 companies every year which would eventually go on to become $10mn revenue companies in the next 3 years.

WHO ARE THE DIRECTORS OF THE MOVIE? 

These are the co-chairs.

The first edition of PNgrowth had just finished and I was looking for someone to be the architect for the second edition. I met Shankar Maruwada for lunch at Muffets & Tuffets and was having a completely different  conversation. But, as we touched upon the PNgrowth topic, Shankar had lots of suggestions on how we could do this better. I immediately requested him to help in designing the program and helping me organise it better.. He accepted graciously, and was keen to help.

_a5a7389My next request was to get Pallav Nadhani involved again. There is a reason for this. Pallav, in many ways, was the person who forced us to think around Category Leadership. The first meeting took place at Pallav’s place which went on till 2:30 am.

By then, I had had several interactions with Aneesh Reddy, and the early playbook roundtables on Product Management had been done by him. I reached out to him and he was very keen to be part of the program and help us.

With Shankar, Pallav and Aneesh on-board, the pillars of the event were erected.

WHERE DID I FIND THE STAR CAST FOR THE MOVIE?

These, of course, were the facilitators.

Around 4-6 months in advance, we started working on the content for the event. Various topics were discussed. One thing was clear to me: Every founder had immense passion and commitment to add value to a certain topic. The format we had in mind was to make very interactive session. All of us had had enough of the ‘sage on stage’ approach. The founders were to lead sessions and work along with the participating entrepreneurs to help them extract maximum benefit.

Many discussions later, Pallav & Shankar actually started with using the frameworks & mindflips and were later joined by Girish & AneeshManav & Shekhar also used the same in their session. 

_mg_7722It was great to see that all the facilitators did an outstanding job of delivery of the frameworks and ensured that they shared real life stories and lots of data and numbers from their companies. What was more important was that they made sure they spent time with all the attendees and ensured they received personalised attention. They were able to build a personal connect and trust within the startup community by sharing internal information even though they didn’t have to, thereby making the discussion even more credible.

WHO CAME TO WATCH THE MOVIE?

Oh, that. We had huge demand for tickets from the audience, the founders of India’s growing startup community.

_mg_9870HOW DID WE THEN SELECT WHO ACTUALLY GOT TO SEE THE MOVIE?

This time, right from Day 1, we only wanted to get select founders to be part of PNgrowth.

To begin this selection process, we laid out which stage of startups would benefit from PNgrowth. We then went on and created a list of founders and reached out to them. Apart from this, we reached out to folks from within the eco-system and got them to recommend companies to us.

Each company was recommended by atleast 2-3 founders from the PNgrowth curation team. We did zero marketing for PNgrowth except for a video, which we used to communicate to potential participants. We received overwhelming response for the event thus putting me in a fix at several situations where I had to inform founders that they have been rejected for a program/event. It was difficult, but in the interest of the event, it had to be done.

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We finally had 54 founders who confirmed their participation, out of which 52 showed up for the bootcamp. These companies were divided into groups of 6 based on the type of customer/geography they were catering to.

WHERE DID WE HIRE THE SUPPORTING ACTORS?

These were the mentors, and we were able to get around 14 founders as mentors and were simply amazed by their commitment for the two and a half days of the event. Mentors were involved in all facets of the event – from intense board room discussions to the dance floor. Let me go little more deeper on the role that they played. In every session, the founders got access to few frameworks, mindflips which they had to fill and discuss with their peers + mentors. Lot of learnings were shared by mentors and it became very valuable to the founders. Very few of them tweeted from the program as everyone was busy interacting, engaging, absorbing content, but here is one of the tweets which acknowledges the mentors.

_mg_9832WHAT ABOUT THE CREW?

Getting to them, the volunteers.

In my work, I get to interact with many volunteers in many initiatives, but this time the commitment and the passion with which the volunteers worked was unimaginable. Folks would go to sleep at 5am and be ready next day at 8am. They would ensure that mentors/founders have had breakfast, etc and would go an extra mile to take care that founders are focussed on their work and don’t get distracted.

Volunteers also interacted with the founders to understand if the pace/level of the sessions suited them. Lot of planning was done in advance that each and every person who is part of PNgrowth goes back with a WOW experience. I still wonder where they get so much of inspiration from.

_mg_8120I don’t know if i would ever be able to do something like that. Hats off to all the volunteers who put together an awesome experience for the PNgrowth family.

SO, WHAT WAS THE MOVIE ALL ABOUT, THEN?

Day 1

The Founders started with a cricket match between the cohorts itself. 

Sharad Sharma, our guiding light, kick started the event with his words of wisdom for all the founders.

And then it began with Pallav’s session on Who are you? As founders, entrepreneurs have to pitch or sell their ideas constantly, so as to inspire the listener to believe in their dream to either fund the idea, join the team, tie up with the startup, or write about the startup. Is there a method to this? Can this be an acquired skill? 

In this session, founders learnt and practiced a simple framework that enables them to improve their ability to pitch their ideas in the shortest time, to the desired target audience – VCs, journalists, co-founders, customers, business partners, and employees.

The next session was focussed on how to maximise the value of your product. If you as a founder were to increase the perceived value of your offering (Increase average MRR by 1.5X and/or reduce churn to 0.5X),how would your economics change? How would it change your CAC, margins? What would you as a founder then do differently with your product strategy, go to market strategy (positioning, marketing, channel, pricing), team/organization structure, to increase pricing by 1.5X, in the scenarios below as relevant to you. This was followed by an interactive session with the mentors. 

This was end of Day 1 and then we had networking dinner, drinks, some dance and lots of conversations led by Vinod & Ashish.

Day 2

The second day was a more power packed with two sessions. To their credit, the founders were highly engrossed in their sessions, sans their mobile phones and laptops which helped in making these sessions successful.

During the first half, Girish and Aneesh engaged in an extremely fruitful session on product-market how to scale 10X with emphasis on how to establish your sales funnel and building a repeatable sales cycle. This session covered on selling processes from SMBs (by Girish) and enterprises (by Aneesh). They also shed some light on how pricing, positioning and selling varies from one geography to another.

Apart from this, Suresh also gave his insights on selling global products out of India.

_mg_7993The complete session went on till almost tea break after which the candidates came back in for the third and final session by Shekhar and Manav.

This session was meant to give a befitting end to the two rigorous days of activity.

While Manav spoke about how to choose your niche category and expand to other similar industries and geographies, Shekhar’s session was centred around what a VC looks for a in a startup. In the session,

Shekhar did a Q&A round with Nags and Girish on what it takes to build a successful organisation.

He also delved a bit deeper on aspects like how to choose the right market and how to intelligently figure a way out of a market and move into one that is expanding by extracting maximum business value.

Here Raghu also added his thoughts on what it takes to raise venture capital and how one should structure an organisation for a CEO to utilise his time in the most efficient manner.

Though the mentors tried to cover as much ground as possible over the two days, they took questions from audiences on anything they still might have a doubt about.

After this was a complete group photograph since some of the mentors had to leave that night. The energy of the picture speaks for itself. Before calling it a day, the founders were given tasks/homework for them to present on the final day.

Day 3

The third day, we had some inspirational stories from Sanjay Anandaram(Seedfund), Mohit Dubey (CarWale),  Phanindra Sama(RedBus), Raghunandan G(TaxiForSure), Sanjay Deshpande(FortyTwo Labs). We had actually planned for only Sanjay to talk about “entrepreneurial mindset” and then we thought about inviting all of the above folks to share their energy.

Something which we had planned for 20-30 minutes went on for around 90 mins and it was an absolute pleasure to hear some of the learnings/failures from all these founders. Below is the NPS score of 89 for PNgrowth 🙂 

nps-score-pngrowthAfter this, all founders were made to do this exercise on “Getting to 3X Growth in 12 Months”. All mentors with their cohorts spent time with the founders and helped them on what they should be thinking about this. Six Founders got an opportunity to share with the whole group.

Finally Shankar invited all volunteers to share few words on why they volunteered for PNgrowth. With it, a spectacular three days came to end, with some photographs and a lot of hugs, cheers, and greetings.

For me, it was a great feeling to see all of this happen, and at this scale. This probably capped off the year of 2016 for me and iSPIRT as a year in which we were actually able to make the ecosystem function as a cohesive, united entity. Lots of work is ahead of us, but as I write this, I acknowledge a task well begun.

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Many thanks to Sairam for editing & Shruti for filling the blanks.

Innovation Diplomacy & Software as India’s Soft Power

Mr. MJ Akbar, MoS, Ministry of External Affairs, brainstorms with iSPIRT.

Mr. MJ Akbar is the Minister of State (MoS) for External Affairs and a Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha. An author of several best-selling books, and a veteran Indian journalist who launched newspapers like The Telegraph, The Asian Age and magazines like The Sunday. Mr. MJ Akbar, met up with iSPIRT, in Bangalore to understand the plethora of Technological Breakthroughs that iSPIRT is facilitating to empower more than a billion Indian citizens, by deploying technology in the service of humanity. Mr. MJ Akbar has also agreed to co-create an era of Innovation Diplomacy, by using Software as India’s Soft Power. He provided some very useful advice by participating in interactive sessions for close to 2.5 hours.

On Saturday, at ITC Gardenia, in Bangalore, Mr. MJ Akbar, along with Mr. Bala, Jt Secy, and his team, consulted and deliberated extensively, on opportunities that can be Game Changers for Innovation Diplomacy. iSPIRT with its team of Volunteers which included Sharad Sharma, Sanjay Anandaram, Sanjay Jain etc, along with several innovative startups, presented various breakthrough solutions that are helping India leapfrog the West.

Below are some of the key highlights of the Learning Session.

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iSPIRT Show-case – INDIA Going from Software Services To Software Products & Platforms.

The session started with a presentation by Sharad Sharma on how India is transforming itself to Software Products and Platforms. He explained how iSPIRT with IndiaStack is helping new-age startups to build platforms which will drive formalization of the Indian economy. This will materially enable Financial Inclusion, Health Inclusion and provide access to more than 200 million households, by digitization and democratization of essential services, and in-turn will create millions of jobs.

Mr. Akbar’s feedback on this session was that we should highlight stories and narratives which resonate with the aspirational identities of people. Like how did India manage to reach MARS? This was an interesting segway, to then have about 8 startups including Team Indus present their stories. Team Indus, is planning to be the 1st private organization in the World, to land a rover on the moon in Dec 2017.

The remaining 7 teams which presented their stories included companies like Pratco, Foradian, Forus, Indian Money, Knolskape, Hashnode, Niramai. Covering Healthcare, Education, Finance, Technology and Medical Devices, these Startups showed how they are helping millions of Indians not only in Tier 1, but in Tier 2 and Tier 3 India, leverage technology, and avail critical services at a fraction of the Global Cost. It affirmed that yes, while America innovated for the 1st One Billion, India can innovate for the next 5 Billion.

The last session, was by Sanjay Anandaram, who made an intense pitch, for using Software as an Instrument of India’s Soft-Power. India needed to leverage its highly credible and respected brand in global IT to use effectively for political-economic leverage. The 3 pillars for this could be (a) “Digital Non-Alignment” ie advocating Net-Neutrality, (b) “Governance for Hire” ie offering the India Stack to countries in Asia and Africa for running of their programmes and (c) Software as an integral part of bilateral and regional trade deals. Software was an area where India can outmaneuver China in Innovation Diplomacy. India has the requisite legitimate & moral authority to make software a key instrument of its foreign policy to achieve its political-economic goals compared to any other nation.

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Insights and Advice from Mr. MJ Akbar

Mr. Akbar was impressed by the Innovation Diplomacy agenda and commented that India would make an orbital shift in the Arab, West Asian and African region with its Knowledge Capital and Strategic Advocacy of Shared Prosperity. He advised that some of the Startup stories of India should be used to co-create external affairs initiatives of the Govt. of INDIA. He gave several golden nuggets of advice, like Value of Knowledge increases only when it is given away for free. Hence a partnership towards Shared Prosperity in the Knowledge economy is vital. Listed below are 5 important pieces of advice given by Mr. MJ Akbar

  • Empires are not built by Armies, (giving the Genghis khan example), they are built by Technology, Skills and Communication.
  • Why does a country like India, which had such sophisticated science & architecture like Step Wells (Bawadi) even in the 10th century, keep getting defeated?
  • We need to showcase to the World, with good statistics, what we represent in terms of Technology and Communication.
  • We need to highlight to the World that the Frontiers for the Future Lies with INDIA.
    Knowledge Economy should connect emotionally with the Global audience to realize Shared Prosperity.

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Conclusion

Mr. MJ Akbar set in motion a few immediate co-creation steps to learn how Innovation Diplomacy can become the bedrock of India’s External Affairs. Being a veteran journalist, he definitely had more powerful narratives to showcase Software as India’s Soft Power. As usual, iSPIRT on its part is fostering and facilitating many such learning sessions to co-create with our Law Makers, and nudge our Policy Makers to help the Software ecosystem. Let us all align our collective vigor to catalyze the effort of building India’s Software Strength to be its Global Soft-Power.

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Playbooks is one of the key pillars of iSPIRT bouquet.

Playbook in iSPIRT denotes entrepreneurial learning meant for Indian software product startups to become world class and be successful.

Roundtable is a format of learning intended for startups that have reached a happy confused stage. In this format 8-12 non competing startups are brought together to discuss deeply on a topic that holds them from jumping to their next level.A facilitator, who is an in the saddle entrepreneur deep dives on the topic by becoming metaphorically naked and shares his experience and gets a peer discussion going on the topic.Coaching including peer coaching happens through multiple mode – judgement of the discussion (VC mode), sharing experience (Sage on Stage), being a mirror (Guide by the Side). Playbook Roundtable tend to be more of the last category of mirroring.

playbook-ispirtThink of this as group study for 7th class students in an age where there no school & teacher and one has to pass the 10th standard board exam. Some one who has done that leads the group study.

Playbooks have a longitudinal impact so they are tracked via an input metric.  At the end of every roundtable session a Net Promoter Score (NPS) is calculated via survey, the average NPS score of last 85 roundtable that were held is about +80. (iPhone as a product has an NPS of +71).

Roundtable was initially architected by Shankar Maruwada, Ashish Gupta, Vivek Subramanian & Aneesh Reddy. Some learnings from past roundtable are captured here

Key organizing principles behind creating playbook roundtables

  • In the saddle entrepreneurs are the best to teach upcoming ones. Age, company brand plays no role.
  • Quality > Quantity which means traditional format of 1 to 100 classroom style  and metric of footfall attendance should be questioned.
  • Safe environment are absolutely necessary to have deep discussion.
  • Curation is highly important, ie. have non competing participants and bring people together in similar stage of startup growth.
  • A facilitator and organizer checklist.

I have had the privilege to shadow about 40 of 85 roundtables that have happened in last 3 years. If I describe it as saying that gold dust of the tacit knowledge gets shared it won’t be an exaggeration. Chatham rules apply in a roundtable i.e. to protect the safe environment no quote is attributed to a person. However this deck those captures some of the discussed tacit knowledge as directives

A good mental model to decide which roundtables can be used from the market map

2-3-map-by-rajan

Check details at the events section in PN blog

Playbooks is more than roundtable

The initial focus of Roundtable was happy confused product startup founders a later realization was that playbooks will need to extend across the spectrum of entreprenuership lifecycle.

kindergarden   > discovery (1st to 7th std) > happy confused (7th std) > pre-scale (10th std) > pre-growth(pre college)

Playbooks Progression
Playbooks Progression

 

Some of these additional formats emerged

Playbooks sets down one of the most critical foundation layer for India to be product nation.

Asserting my Maven code-of-ethics and being a Proud Maven at iSPIRT

I am Pallav Nadhani from FusionCharts. Like my fellow entrepreneurs, who dream of making India as a Product Nation and building a great ecosystem together, I found my calling answered with iSPIRT Playbook round-tables. I volunteered to become a Maven so I could share, learn and disseminate the best-practices I had learnt in my entrepreneurial Journey, with other fellow entrepreneurs.

maven-code-of-ethics

Playbook enabled many of us to learn from each other’s successes and mistakes. It was an exciting opportunity to meet incredible and passionate entrepreneurs, and help them in whatever way we can, and also learn from them. I found that there were many like-minded Mavens, who were already helping many start-up founders (attendees), in a completely self-less way by paying-it-forward and not expecting anything in return – and there was a clear blueprint that I could follow. I felt honored to be a part of this iSPIRT Maven-community.

However, during the course of this journey, an unexpected event happened. A couple of attendees, across different playbook sessions, came up to me and asked what we (or iSPIRT) were expecting in return. Baffled by the question at first, I asked them what they meant. Their answer took me by surprise – they mentioned that at a few other similar forums, which they had attended, the equivalent of Mavens had asked for (free) equity along with a senior designation (typically Director or above), in exchange of the knowledge and network connections they were enabling to help such startups. Initially, I thought this could be fair, as different members of the ecosystem may have different operating protocols, but it turned to a point where our actions, which had no such intentions of getting anything in return, were also painted with a similar stroke of doubt. And I realized that this question was not just asked about me, but also some other contributors to iSPIRT.

I was giving completely selflessly, and so were many other Maven’s that I knew, within the iSPIRT community. We never had any intentions of gaining anything, or to further our own self-interest in anyway. However, the attendees assumed, that I as a Maven, would also do such demands in the future. That day, I felt victimized by this system, as my integrity and good intentions were being questioned.

For a few days, I pondered over this conundrum, and I reached out to Sharad and other Fellows in the iSPIRT community. During those conversations I proposed that the best way is either to set a clear protocol of expectations (from Maven’s side) or to not allow attendees to assume. We needed to Sign a Code-of-Ethics and resolve this conflict once and for all. Once we pledge that we will not breach the Maven-Code-of-Ethics, it would not compromise our own integrity in the eyes of the System or other people in the System. So, with the help of the iSPIRT Fellow-Council, we decided to draft the Maven Code-of-Ethics and I have signed it & abide it.

Maven Code of Ethics

As an iSPIRT Maven, I facilitate PlaybookRTs and Bootcamps. This is part of my pay-it-forward commitment to make India a Product Nation. At no point in time, I expect any payback for this from any participating startups in any form including advisory or sweat equity. My selfless contribution is for a cause larger than myself. I hope to set an example so that the entrepreneurs that I touch also embrace the pay-it-forward spirit.

Along with me the other maven who have signed the Code of Ethics are: Avlesh Singh (WebEngage), Aneesh Reddy (Capillary Techonologies), Amit Ranjan (Ex-Slideshare), Amit Somani (Prime Venture Partners), Girish Mathrubootham (Freshdesk), Jay Pullur (Pramati), Paras Chopra (Wingify), Pravin Jhadav(Servify), Rushabh Mehta(ERPnext), Sanjay Shah(Zapty), Samir Palnitkar (Shopsocially), Suresh Sambandam (KiSSFLOW), Shankar Maruwada (EkStep), Shanmugam Nagarajan (24[7] Inc), Sridhar Ranganathan (CrediBase).

On Independence Day, India’s budding product entrepreneurs get the freedom to choose: Introducing the Product Nation Founders Hub(PNFh)

On Independence Day, we at Product Nation have an important announcement to make. This one was a long time coming, as we tried to classify, clear up, and target our efforts for the product ecosystem better. This update is mainly focused on the Playbook pillar, one of iSPIRT’s key initiatives, and will have effects on other fronts as well.

We are reviving some of the initiatives; to others we have added more rigour and form.

Depending on what stage(Discovery, Happy Confused) you are in as a founder you can leverage the iSPIRT programs accordingly. We now have a mailing list we call the PNFT (Product Nation Founders Tribe), where we will update subscribers on the Playbook and other iSPIRT initiatives. If you are not part of iSPIRT, but still want to receive our updates, please fill up the form.

This won’t make you a part of iSPIRT, though, and we reserve the right to extend invitations for smaller, more pointed events only to our members. Our programs like the RoundTables, PNcamp, and PNgrowth, are oversubscribed to, and therefore we extend invites only to curated startups.

Why on Independence Day, though? One, for purely sentimental reasons: our mission, after all is to make India a Product Nation. And two, we’d like to say that will better clarity, entrepreneurs now will have the freedom to choose which iSPIRT programs they want to be part of.

iSPIRT-Playbook LandscapeSharing some of the initiatives classified based on stages:

Pre Entrepreneurship – iKen
This is a boot camp aimed at folks planning a startup or who are in the early stages of their startup. It is based on a ‘by entrepreneur-for entrepreneur’ model and on the effectuation model put forth by Professor Saras Saraswathi. This is a 10-week exercise/task oriented course designed at gaining clarity and action. The participants do most of the work during the week and review happens at a 2-hour meet every weekend. Once they graduate, the community continues to meet to help each other through the journeys.
More details can be seen at ikenstartup.org
City: Bangalore

Discovery – PNcamp(8th October 2016)
This is a boot camp for product people, by product people. It is a day-long coming together of doers: ones who have been there, done that; and ones in the journey of getting there. Orchestrated by hand-picked facilitators, it promises focused, interactive, deep conversations within small, curated groups. PNcamp is a surefire avenue to find inspiration, insights and tips, and connections for life to tangibly get ahead in your product journey.  The 2nd edition of PNcamp is in Pune on 8th October. More details can be seen here.
City: Pune

Happy Confused – Playbook Roundtables
Playbook-RoundTable is one of iSPIRT’s most sought after community events. It’s a gathering of 12 like-minded product startups who are beyond the early stage. RoundTables are facilitated by an iSPIRT maven who is an accomplished practitioner of that particular theme. All RoundTables are conducted on a pay-it-forward basis. The only payment you have to make is to provide your undivided attention and active involvement in the process. Playbook-RoundTables are a dialogue and there’s no monologue. None.
Cities: Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad & Bangalore

Happy Confused – PNgrowth(25-27th November 2016)
#PNgrowth camp is a long term mentorship/peer learning program that is focussed and has only one one aim – category leadership. The second edition is being planned for 25-27th November and only 50 founders will get to be part of it. The theme for this year’s PNgrowth is “Achieving Good Scale”. We will be curating around 50 startups for PNgrowth this year. We have around 14 mentors who will be working with 50 curated startups for the next 12 months.
City: Bangalore

Product Tear Down sessions (Happy Confused & Discovery stage)
Product Tear Down session where SaaS founders offered their product to be teared down by expert SaaS founders and audience. The experienced SaaS founders publish guideline templates based on which they will provide feedback to brave startups. We hope to start this series on a monthly basis. Check details here
City: Bangalore, Chennai & Pune

Growth Stage – F6
A group of six founders whose startups are already making over $25 million in annual revenues, and are hungry to learn from peers about challenges unique to their life stage: namely, hiring sales professionals for tapping global markets and avoiding the mistakes that others have made. This group meets once in a quarter and is a closed group.

SaaS Community – SaaSx
SaaSx brings together best-in-breed SaaS entrepreneurs across India to celebrate, inspire & spark up the spirit of start-up ecosystem. It’s an exclusive invite-only bootcamp, created by SaaS entrepreneurs for SaaS entrepreneurs, as an opportunity to network, learn, and engage with the most passionate individuals in India’s startup ecosystem. We have done three editions and the next one is scheduled in the month of October.
City: Chennai

ProductNation Blog
We have an active blog where there is lot of information for Founders. Lots of learnings from PlaybookRTs have been captured here.

The key mavens who drive some of the Playbook Initiatives at iSPIRT are.

  • Aneesh Reddy, Capillary Technologies (Anchor for Sales Playbooks)
  • Girish Mathrubootham, Freshdesk (Co-Anchor for SaaSx/SaaS playbooks)
  • Manav Garg, Eka Software (Anchor for F6)
  • Pallav Nadhani, FusionCharts (Co-Anchor for PNgrowth)
  • Samir Palnitkar, ShopSocially (Anchor for PNcamp)
  • Shankar Maruwada, EkStep, (Anchor for PNgrowth)
  • Shekhar Kirani, Accel Partners (Anchor for Product Tear own session)
  • Suresh Sambandam, Orangescape Technologies (Co-Anchor for SaaSx/SaaS playbooks)
  • See a complete list of Mavens here

If you would like to apply for any of the initiatives at iSPIRT, please apply at http://pn.ispirt.in/apply

Amal Tiwari helped in designing the infographic & Sairam Krishnan assisted in editing this blog post. 

Company Incorporation further Simplified by MCA

Ease of doing business – Some new additions in Company Incorporation rules

Ministry of corporate affairs (MCA) has announced the Companies (Incorporation) Third Amendment Rules,2016. The set of announcements made will replace or change the the Companies (Incorporation) Rules, 2014.

There are about 12 changes announced in the notification published at MCA website here. However, the simplifying impact is well associated with few clauses with reasonable clarity.

Mr. Sanjay Khan Nagra, iSPIRT volunteer explains the new announcements in below the embedded video.

Rule 13(2) of Companies (Incorporation) Rules, 2014 following explanation has been added

2014 notification: Following provisions existed

i) The memorandum and articles of association of the company shall be signed by each subscriber to the memorandum, who shall add his name, address, description and occupation, if any, in the presence of at least one witness.

ii) Where a subscriber to the memorandum is illiterate, he shall affix his thumb impression or mark which shall be described as such by the person, writing for him, who shall place the name of the subscriber against or below the mark and authenticate it by his own signature

2016 notification: Now the type written or printed particulars of all the subscriber and witnesses shall be allowed.

Rule 16(1)(m) – of Companies (Incorporation) Rules, 2014 following explanation has been added

2014 notification : Every subscriber to the memorandum was required to submit and file Proof of Identity with the jurisdictional Registrar of companies.

2016 notification: If the subscriber is holding a valid Director Identification Number (DIN), and the same  have been updated as on the date of application and the declaration on this effect is given in the application, the proof of identity and residence need not be attached.

For other changes in the rules we suggest you refer to the Notification given at MCA website. Access this link here.