Every scale has an expiry date #PNgrowth 2016

It was all about #GoodScale at #PNGrowth2016 !!

Pitching to Peers in Gurukul Style

I participated as a volunteer this time around and missed the keynote in day one since I was busy in printing #MindFlip worksheets for 50 odd entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs were handpicked by a very credible set of people who knows what #Scale means to B2B products.

Pallav and Shankar Maruwada did the priming by asking all the founders to reflect and redefine themselves within a framework that was designed carefully. Here not only they were asked to redefine who they are but were asked to open their heart and mind to play ping pong shooting game with co-participants sitting next to them. Learning to allow others become your mirror is a great way to identify your mistakes faster. These hard hitting peer challenge just bring the hidden self and does the world of good and the benefits will longer. Once they know who they are, they were told to pitch for a different context and at a different level. Mentors and peers played a critical role here and acted as an investor, prospective employee, customer etc.

When Phani talked about how he was lucky and all that happened around him at RedBus just happened and he just sailed through the wave. With all that humility he then explained if he had to present something like Girish, it will be something. The contrast was visible and it was beautiful as nature painted on a canvas. Girish spoke about #GoodScale he narrated the techniques that helped him to shape up Freshdesk. These techniques are not #GrowthHack these are practices that have been experimented, hammered and perfected. The honesty and ability to open up without ego, self-promotion was incredible to see.

Learning sales funnel from people like Aneesh, Suresh, Girish is like dream come true and Aha moment for many. These are something that can be practiced and implemented the next day !!

Manav re-iterated that it’s all about Sale-Sale-Sale for the founders to win. It truly amazing to listen how he closed big deals or key hires over cup-of-coffee, I personally loved the way Manav has navigated the journey by increasing his target market size with one step at a time. Solving one problem at a time and then moving to adjacent space which made it easier to traverse instead of starting big from day one.

Preparing for Final Pitch Selection within a cohort

The mentors were in no mood to get the feel-good emotion to sync deep inside founders, while some of them were in the go-kill-it mood, Sanjay Anandaram, and Sanjay Deshpande did a Jugalbandi and helped people to come down to earth from cloud 9. While everyone one builds a multi-billion dollar business it is also important to understand what the expiry date for the things that we do and then taking the smaller exit when appropriate does a world of good to the founder and as well as the country.

There were some discussions around “let go” — while good scale requires founders to realise it’s important to let go things and have other participate in growth, however depending comfort one could choose to hands-off-and-eyes-on model. Lots of participants participated in this discussion and shared how this could become the biggest bottleneck to scaling.

Building #ProductionNation is not an individual effort and is no less than #FreeDomFight for a country like India. People compare everything we do with #SiliconVally. However, I can’t imagine whether #PNGrowth is possible in #SiliconVally where successful founders will come and spend 3 days apart from spending days together in preparing the content and structure of the program during the last couple of months. The selfless attitude and ability to open their armouries to a group 70 odd startups are simply amazing to see.

Signature Club Resort at Brigade Orchards was amazing in the evenings. Hanging out with 50+ founders with DJ Music and beer gets even better. Ashish Tulsian and Vinod Muthukrishnan are shining star and we discovered them during last PNGrowth. After the heavy and long day, there is no better way than chilling with them. Their unique ability to hold a large group of people and make them laugh is just unthinkable and you can only relate to it if you have been part of the show before. This time the VC teardown in front of a VC was just the killer effect of the whole event !!

Mentors and Volunteers

Hope this has shaken and woken up some of the founders and they will carry all that they got and move from #HappyConfused state to a 100 Million dollar or more startup in years to come.

I am so fortunate to witness this event. Great learning for me as well even though I was not able to sit through all the sessions. My biggest learning: everything has an expiry date and learning how to map that to what I do is key to success small or big !!

PNGrowth – An Experience that transformed…

Getting up at 4am in the  morning and discovering 200 founders lined up at Madiwala, to catch the bus before the scheduled departure, instantly reminded me of  the huge line of techies in front of the American Consulate at Annasalai for my H1B visa, two decades ago 🙂

What a transformation India has gone through!!  I have no doubt in my mind that India has started a new innings and is steadily transforming into a Product Nation.

Finding Your North Star

Day One was all about defining the Vision, Goals and the Scope of our respective companies. Aaron Chatterji, from Duke, started with this analogy “Finding Your North Star” – which is about identifying that one thing that will give you direction when you are lost in the middle of nowhere. He then, conversed with  Pallav, from FusionCharts, on his “North Star”; which was then extended to an elaborate discussion on why it is important to manifest a sustainable belief statement and focus hard to keep things open and adapt to environmental changes that may occur in the future. Pallav further elaborated this with a few examples. I will pick one of them –  Adobe believes that they will help people create digital assets and publish them in an easily and creatively. Twenty years back, it was consumed by DTP(Desktop publishing) centers, then web design, and now it’s digital marketing. But with all the changes that happened over the past twenty years, their belief statement  still aligns with what they do!

Then, it was time for an “empathy interview” –  where two founders interviewed each other  in turns. Here, we tried to put ourselves into the other person’s shoes and see how we can help the other side to discover and/or realise things that he/she can’t see otherwise. If you care for someone, then you won’t be afraid to be brutal in your opinions, and that helps the person you care. So, the intent of this exercise was to get brutal, if required, and make the other person realise what they have not realised till date. On day one, everyone got tensed with all the harsh feedback from mentors like Sharad Sharma and Kunal Shah; as both of them did their best to convey the message to all the participants – that they are here to become the category leaders in their space. I guess the intent was to ignite that fire, and make participants realise they need to get their act together, if at all they want to become the category leaders in their respective spaces. You could see that people went to bed with long faces 🙂

Unfair Advantage

Day two was about discovering our unfair advantages and leveraging the ecosystem.

Aaron Chatterji from Duke started the day with beautiful remarks and helped people understand the semantics of “Unfair Advantage”. Sharad Sharma took the stage and in his usual style asked people who they are taking a “Panga” with, he then gave a case study of Sridhar Vembu from Zoho and quoted him (from the NASSCOM Emergeout event 2009), “watch out guys, I will be coming with products, which will take away your business!” Then Sharad was in the fact-taking “Panga” with all the service companies in the Indian software ecosystem. And now, Zoho is the  leader in it’s space. So the message was very clear –  if you want to become a category leader in your space, you have to take a “Panga” with someone, you have to disrupt somebody, it may be a company or a system, but you have to take a “Panga” and Sharad was aggressive while saying this.

Then Shankar Maruwada took the thread and asked the participants to travel to the future, and assume that Forbes India has just listed them as a part of the ‘Top 100 Richest Indians’ and asked everyone to list out the unfair advantage that helped them become successful. Participants were given 5 minutes… you could feel 200 entrepreneurs churning inside the cores of their body and mind and it was indeed a powerful realisation. The mentors were visibly happy that the participants were putting in real effort to discover themselves, with tools provided to them. Aaron then spoke about various resources and capabilities that could be potential advantages to the entrepreneurs, and then we all carried out the exercise of identifying the “dhobi list” of all possible resources and capability that work as an advantage to our businesses. Then, we slowly filtered the list using a few parameters like ‘valuable’ and ‘can’t be copied.’ We did a few more exercises to identify the top two or three unfair advantages, that help us be a category leader. Later in the day, we went through another critical aspect, where we went through a bunch of worksheets to identify our IPO (Information, People, Organization) that can potentially help us become category leaders. IP Framework is a very powerful tool which enables entrepreneurs to leverage the ecosystem, while building powerful companies and creating substantial value. The second day was very satisfying, and I saw many  gratifying faces during dinner time. The Infosys Campus was beautiful and green, but there was no place to hangout and have bonding sessions and fun with fellow entrepreneurs ; so, a bunch of us went out to a local pub, and to our surprise they arranged a campfire and we had loads of fun. We discovered two spontaneous and outstanding stand up comedians, who can make you laugh till you drop !!!

Action Plan

Day three was about creating an action plan and refining it via ‘SharkTank-style grilling’ interviews with mentors. Aneesh Reddy from Capillary was at his usual best in sharing how to grow, how to focus on things that matter today, and then derive an action plan accordingly. Everybody was asked to create a “laundry list” and then continue eliminating till they were left with the top two action items. The Sharks (Mentors) then picked a few entrepreneurs they wanted to grill. It was more like the “empathy interview” we did with fellow entrepreneurs. The intention here was to ensure that each one of us were made aware of the tools we had in hand to go fight it out, and increase our chances to become category leaders. Through all three days there were mentors and coaches all around us, who were helping entrepreneurs brainstorm and refine their gameplan to win, and win profoundly. It was a life changing event for many, including me, here are three essential things that I learned:

    • Have a sustainable belief statement with focus on function, so it will be easy to evolve and adapt to environmental changes  that may occur in the future
  • Having a strong disagreement is not enough, take a “Panga” with whoever (company or system) you are disrupting
  • To take a “Panga”, you need to have tools; so identify your ‘Unfair Advantage’ (read as Brahmastra)

It was a great experience for me and it was wonderful to see people like Phanindra Sama, Aneesh Reddy, Shankar Maruwada and other mentors going out of the way in helping the entrepreneurs.  


Folks at work @PNgrowth #pngrowth pic.twitter.com/0cgLRLYIBc

— Ankur Agarwal (@annkur) January 9, 2016

I have also attempted to capture some experiences from fellow entrepreneurs –

Harshit Agarwal  from Appknox: We are too busy in building our business and we don’t get enough time to come out of that loop and think from outside about where are we heading and what is our vision. PNGrowth helped us realise that we need to have a proper plan and we need to know our unfair advantages and make a growth plan accordingly. Mentors, who had gone through this journey and built successful companies shared their experience and worked one-on-one with us to make an impact. For sure, a majority of us came back with a proper executable plan to make sure we are category leaders in our space.

Suneil Chawla from Influencer.in: PNGrowth was a one-of-a-kind experience – having 200 fellow founders and some very successful founders like Kunal from FreeCharge, Anish from Capillary, Phani from Redbus –  all spending time together over a weekend with only one goal: creating category leaders who innovate and have an unfair advantage against other players in their chosen markets. Personally, it really helped us to get valuable inputs and feedback from 20+ founders and nearly 10 startups keen to launch ‘Influencer marketing’ campaigns. We also had a bunch of startup founders from Chennai and I’m sure we will continue our new friendships. Sharad and the entire Product Nation team drove this fabulous initiative as volunteers  – we definitely need more such initiatives to become a Product Nation.

Paul Mathews  from nethram.com: This was no ordinary conference or workshop. We got the taste at the end of the first day, when Kunal (Freecharge) and Sharad (iSPIRT) did not mince words, and told us that we have to call each off other’s ‘BullShit.’ The mood shifted from then on. Becoming a category leader is not easy; you need an unfair advantage; need to take a panga (fight) with a leader; and need to stay focused on an action plan for 10x growth. This was no ‘feel-good’ seminar. Calling this a BootCamp is an understatement.

Jaineel Aga from Planet Superheroes: 3 days of a turbo charged environment, where entrepreneurs from all walks of life had only one thing on their mind – Displace the incumbent, take the “panga” and not settle for mediocrity. With solid frameworks backed by academic research by professors of Entrepreneurship from Duke and Stanford, and corroborated by real life learnings from arguably the best in the business, this program and experience over three days would outshine most “entrepreneurship” programs in business schools.  After 3 days, I have been left with a razor sharp vision for our business, solid framework and metrics to track and lastly, the one that I value most – a  network of 200+ entrepreneurs and industry mentors whose support, feedback and bonhomie will be the necessary fresh air while traversing the circuitous and lonely journey to the top.

Osho Sidhant from craftemporio.com: We get so busy doing things that we forget to check if we are doing things which will bear fruits. In the life of an entrepreneur, it is critically important to do only the right things because resources are limited and every wrong step potentially takes you behind in terms of time. PNgrowth was an event which has trained our minds to run in the right direction. For the three days at the bootcamp, we were compelled to rethink our strategies and what it will take to be a category leader. The talks of seasoned entrepreneurs like Phani, Kunal, Aneesh, Pallav further let us know the highs and lows of entrepreneurship, and to keep our minds and hearts at peace.

Ravi Datanwala from AppICE.io: The best investment for any founder aspiring to be a category leader and taking a #panga with the incumbents. Knowledge sharing by those who have been there and done that and how they did it – was very insightful and helped me make the necessary corrections in our planning and execution. It helped train our mind on how we should be razor-focused on the short term goals to get to the next innings, whilst building the right long term goals for our success. Do #epicshit and learn to say NO. The best way to say thanks to all the organizers and program mentors would be to put the learnings into action and show them how you are on the path to becoming a category leader and being a part of the Product Nation.

Ajay Chanam from halfsteprock.com: PNgrowth will prove a game changer for not only the companies that participated and benefitted through its extensive learning program, but also for India as a whole in terms of our ability to produce the next wave of innovative companies. While PNgrowth evidently seeks to help the first 200 startups, it also lays precedent for ‘Paying it Forward’ and companies will do it happily having experienced its power – first hand. The conventional mindsets are at the cusp of being torn apart, paving way for a transparent entrepreneurial eco-system and while companies will continue competing with each other, the new ecosystem will empower the better company to win and make the playing field more equitable for the Davids of the world (against the Goliaths of the world). It was one such experience for me – an experience of a lifetime, absolutely. I will never be the same, Half Step Rock will never be the same, and the  world will never be the same going forward.  So, get your gear, set the stage, check the sound. There are Rock Stars from every part of India who are now only waiting to be found!

Sarang Lakare from InTouchApp.com: Someone rightly said, if you want to make a great dish, you need to mix the right contents in the right amounts. PNGrowth was one such great dish, a delicacy if I may call it that, perfected by some of the most experienced Chefs from Stanford, Duke, and the Indian product ecosystem. When you give such a dish to 200 startup founders, you are bound to get healthy product startups out of it! One day, we all hope to make these Chefs proud for what they created for us.

A perspective on Entrepreneurial Independence

‪To me, entrepreneurship‬ is a dynamic manifestation of creating connected values with compassion; so I focus on creating connected values without worrying for my funding orientation.

When I started, after coming out of Sun Microsystems, I was not thinking about money as I was able to get some money by helping people who were using the product that I built at Sun. I did not know what it takes to build a company and more so, what it takes to build it in a constrained environment. In the meantime, I developed a passion for the bootstrapping model for building company. I created a community around it called “Bootstrap Bangalore”, it’s been 3 years we have been meeting every other Sunday at breakfast.

Later on, I was introduced to another powerful tool called “effectuation”. I attended a workshop conducted by Professor Saras Saraswathi. The effectuation principles are simple and empowers bootstrapped companies more meaningfully. This has become a language for me to express my business model. The effectual principles help an aspiring entrepreneur to bootstrap quickly. It also makes it easy to navigate the future, which is unknown.

Fear is a constraint, and at times, courage can become a constraint as well. Starting with what was available to me when I begun (and acting on it), has given me amazing new possibilities. Understanding my affordable loss allows me to be courageous or passive, as the situations demand. As a result, I don’t have the fear of  failing; and if I do fail, I will be able to reassemble myself since the cost of failure is affordable.   

Predicting the future is unnecessary. The future can be created or co-created without predicting it, if we have the ability to embrace surprises and adjust to a  new situation. Sometimes, external funding could become a constraint for the entrepreneurs, and force them to predict and gamble in an unnatural manner, without an affordable framework in place.

Unnecessary courage and prediction without commitment does not enable freedom. When taking external funds, one should look deep to see whether the investor has the appetite or commitment to co-create the future, and therefore expanding affordable loss bracket. I don’t believe in a wave on my back, that’s just a feel good factor. I hate to go after an artificially created market without the commitment from the consumers. When customers don’t know what they want, they go slow and iterate to identify what they may need.

Taking external money eventually turns out to be expensive for any entrepreneur. If you can build and scale a company on revenue, there is nothing more satisfying than that; but in the same time if you must need to increase your affordable loss bracket, you can take external funds to scale up. Don’t take money simply because your competitor is raising money. On the contrary, external money does not necessary mean you are loosing freedom, but if you take the money when you don’t need it, you will eventually compromise on your freedom.

As we talk, about models and funding orientations, I would also like to quickly touch another important subject. Sales is one of the most critical challenges for any entrepreneur, and especially the bootstrapped ones. I was very fortunate to interact with sales gurus like Deepak Prakash (Former VP Tally), who helped me to understand yet another simple thing – don’t sell; demonstrate what you have or what you can do; if you are solving someone’s problem they will buy. And that has worked for us.

Finally, the best way to build a business without depending on external money is to seek commitment from the customers –  sell it before you build it. Be open, and allow others to help you in co-creating a company/product. Collaborate to create connected values. Again follow the first principle of effectuation, do what you can do now, without depending on others, look for participation from there on. Freedom is in your hand and it’s up to you make that choice.

Enjoy the freedom of creating value, that can bring impact and meaningful change.

Hope you had a wonderful Independence Day!! Let’s celebrate the freedom throughout the year and reimagine a “Start-Up India”, “Stand-Up India”. Jai Hind !!

By Ahimanikya Satapathy, assisted by my daughter, Adya Satapathy 🙂

Bootstrapping – Imagining the possible new with evolving means

“Pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps” refers to 19th century high-top boots that were pulled on by tugging at the ankle strap. It generally means doing something on your own, without any outside help. In the present day context, bootstrapping is a commonly used term used to describe startups that rather than seeking help from external investors, an entrepreneur fund the development of their company through their own money or  internal cash flow.

At a time when funding has become more a norm in the startup world than a necessity, it is common to see startups go investor-hunting even when the ‘brilliant idea’ is still at a concept stage. They have nothing to substantiate their claims before investors – no product, no customer, no traction. For some this is a new job category.

It is startups like these that need to understand that funding is not the only way forward. Bootstrapping, can be a very powerful alternative to create a more impactful company. Sometimes, a hybrid model might be more effective, where the entrepreneur could bootstrap for an initial period of time and only take external funds when the business is ready to scale. We wonder then, why most entrepreneurs these days fear to tread this path and settle for the seemingly easy route of seeking angel investors and VCs!


Someone has very rightly said, “Raising capital is not equal to success, not raising is not equal to failure.” One should understand that funding does NOT guarantee success. Also, it is important to realize that when growth occurs faster than the business model that supports it, the result is an increased likelihood of ending up in that disappointing majority.

There are many successful bootstrapped companies across the globe, including India. According to iSPIRT – the Indian ‘Think Tank’ that is actively helping and promoting Indian product companies to make India a product nation, 73% of the Indian software product companies are bootstrapped. It recently came out with an interesting Index – India Software Products Industry Index – B2B (iSPIxB2B) to highlight some surprising facts about the Indian B2B software product companies. According to the data collected, the enterprise value of the top 30 companies dealing in the B2B software product space is $6.2 bn (₹37,500 crores) and about 37% of these companies are bootstrapped.

As a matter of fact, even VCs prefer to back bootstrapped companies to those with early angel investment. They would much rather invest in a startup where the entrepreneur’s own money is at stake as well, since it shows the amount of confidence he/she has in the product or idea. There’s no denying that while it is easy to play with someone else’s money, no one wants to play with their own money unless they truly believe that they can make it work.

Bootstrapping forces entrepreneurs to constantly think about cash flow, which in turn forces them to become customer focused and create value. It forces entrepreneurs to become effectual, where the entrepreneurs navigate their journey to co-create the future that does not exist today.

Fundraising is a time-taking process and especially for early stage startups it can be a dangerous thing to dedicate so much time on meeting investors or preparing pitches, so much so, that you lose focus on your product and your customers. If you are self- funded in the initial days, you won’t have to make rapid decisions that you repent later. You can always raise funds in the future, once the foundation of the business is stable and you are ready to scale up.

Sometimes, growing slow is better. Specifically when there is a lot that is unknown; but once you find a direction, it will become easier to run faster; and then the need for external funds becomes more appropriate.

Once you have something more concrete to show to the investors after you have developed the product; tested it; and generated substantial traction – chances of getting valued will certainly be more. Moreover, you will be in a better position to bargain and negotiate the deal on your terms.

The decision to go down the road of bootstrapping and create a self-funding business has been known to provide rewards that can be both immediate and lasting. Many of the successful companies that we see today – Dell Computers, Facebook, Apple and eBay to name a few, had humble beginnings as bootstrapped enterprises. It clearly reiterates that funding is not a norm for success and as far as you can go solo, you should. Remember – customer money is the cheapest money that you get.

There is no right or wrong way; the fact remains you need funds to run a business and as an entrepreneur, the funding orientation is a choice that you will have to make. One should understand that every business is unique and demands different resources to build and operate it. Do a quick assessment for your reasons in seeking funding from an investor – big or small, angel or first/ second round of funding. You need to look at many other factors such as the industry type/ business you are into, the kind of working capital required, competition, opportunities of scaling up etc. Carefully analyze the pros and cons and then choose the path that is suitable for your business.

Remember not to be lured by the halo attached to the big funding news that is generating headlines in all the pinkies. You can go solo, yet achieve the same ‘stardom’ while retaining full control of your dream venture. However, simply put – ask for funding when you are ready to scale big time.

‪To me, entrepreneurship‬ is a dynamic manifestation of creating connected values with compassion; so focus on creating connected values regardless of your funding orientation.

#BootUpINDIA Inner Circle kicks off with 8 companies!

Thank you for your enthusiastic participation in BootUpINDIA. We received over 100 high quality applications. The Jury painstakingly went through each of them to pick 8 companies who are being inducted into BootUpINDIA Inner Circle today!

BootUpINDIABefore I share the 8 selected companies, I want to tell the applicants that didn’t make to the Inner Circle this time that there will be more opportunities to get included in the coming year(s). BootUpINDIA is an ongoing program that will expand the Inner Circle over time. We are also organizing a Bootstrap Summit for the applicants and will be profiling all the applications on the on the ProductNation site. You are part of the important Bootstrapping community and our effort is to make it stronger and more mainstream over time.

With that, let me welcome the eight bootstrapped companies to the iSPIRT BootUpINDIA Inner Circle

  1. ApnaStock Solutions: ApnaStock.com’s mission is to level the playing field for the individual home builder and small developers by getting them the wholesale price and logistics benefits usually only available to large national builders.
  2. Exclusife: A sales acceleration application for Indian Retail SMEs. This mobile application allows businesses, for the first time, to capture real-time information about all their store visitors.
  3. Global Groupware Solutions: EmployWise™ is an award winning, integrated SaaS employee life-cycle management software. Its key modules can handle all aspect of human resource needs from recruitment to retirement.
  4. Inquirly Technologies: An Integrated Customer Experience Management platform that enables companies to move beyond the limitations of traditional digital marketing, Sales, and customer service and employee engagement.
  5. PowerStores Ecommerce: A SaaS based ecommerce platform targeting the SME sector in Asia.
  6. SignEasy: SignEasy is the simplest and most convenient way to sign documents and fill forms right from your iPad and iPhone. Save time, money and eliminate the hassles of printing, scanning, faxing and shipping the signed paperwork.
  7. The Media Ant: Creating market place for offline media with currently aggregating over 5000 media option comprising Magazine, Radio, Cinema, Airport, Airlines and other non traditional media.
  8. VoiceTree Technologies: MyOperator is a call management system. In country like India where 80% business proceedings happens over phone, MyOperator acts as a platform for organizing their phone calls in a simpler and affordable way.

The gurus of bootstrapping, our Jury Members, are now going to switch into a mentoring role for these Inner Circle companies. This is not for a few months but for a whole year. We have found that there nothing more powerful than an expert entrepreneur helping another entrepreneur to achieve greatness.

In addition to this structured group mentoring, Inner Circle companies will also get press coverage of Customer Impact Stories, access to Performance Warrants, and a privileged opportunity to participate in other iSPIRT initiatives (M&A Connect, SAI Playbook Roundtables, etc.).

BootUpINDIA is a long term commitment for us. iSPIRT believes that there are two viable pathways to building strong software product companies – Bootstrapped and VC funded. We are equally vested in both these pathways.

Six months back when the idea of “BootStrap Award” was discussed for the first time in the monthly iSPIRT Fellows meeting, an intense hour long discussion ensued. As a result of this initial discussion, and the subsequent reviews that followed, we abandoned the idea on a one-time Award and formulated a one-year program in its place. This fits better with the iSPIRT model of making a big impact on promising companies in our product ecosystem. We  launched the BootUpINDIA program on August 15th as bootstrapping brings some sense of independence for startups from external funding.

The last 45 days have been extremely hectic for the BootUpINDIA volunteers. To stay synced up we have had a conference call every single night. The Jury members also pitched in. Many of them attended various planning discussions. They also did video interviews which helped convey the BootUpINDIA idea to all of you. These video interviews are of lasting value. Do check them out here…

Once again, congratulations to the BootUpINDIA Inner Circle companies! We at iSPIRT are very excited about the program and will continue to work hard in creating IMPACT and empowering startups. On this auspicious Gandhi Jayanthi, we once again commit to building India as a Product Nation.

‪#‎BootUpIndia‬ Inner Circle Members featured in ET (full page)

I Just Wanted 50K INR per month, but ended up building company with $9M revenue – Paras Chopra, VWO.com

Paras Chopra from Wingify is great story for startup ecosystem in India and I personally become a fan of him after I watched his Unpluggd Talk on “How To Bootstrap A Tech Startup In India” – His simplicity and honesty gives lot of clarity on how he started his company. All that he wanted to earn is 50,000 INR and had no plan to create company that will generate 9M USD revenue. His perseverance, hard work, and ability to learn from few failures before has out wonderfully for him. Being bootstrapped and growing at 100% rate is just phenomenal success. I am very confident his story inspires many young entrepreneurs.

It was very clear in his words, that bootstrapped startups suffer from media attention which could help them to reach to their target customers, he was envisioning a dedicated publication on Bootstrapping, YourStory started a Bootstrapping Series where they have covered more than half a dozen startups and we are hoping they will do much more soon. The main stream media has been doing some story lately and our goal is to steer that interest and bring awesome ventures to forefront and provide them what they need most.

You can watch full conversation in this video: 

If you are bootstrapping, you are not alone here – Sridhar Vembu(@svembu), @Zoho #BootUpINDIA

Sridhar Vembu is a simple person, and most of what he says are tweet sized bits of wisdom. He inspires you almost instantly when you start conversing with him.

That was the first impression when I spoke to him for the first time.

He wanted to get into action as fast as possible. Before we recorded this video I was trying to make him comfortable with what I am going to ask but then he almost immediately started talking about super-interesting things. It was fascinating to hear from him directly. I could almost feel the vibe even when it was virtual. Since I am also focusing on Indian SME and am bootstrapped, I loved this advice: “Go out and learn from the best of the best in the world and then apply them to the local context”. This very much resembles what I wanted to do and my thinking was validated.

We spoke about Zoho’s early days and his remarks will help any young entrepreneurs starting out now. When we start up, a lot of us don’t even know what is the destination and how to navigate the path and what we want to become. In such cases we need a little bit of time and freedom to figure out things along the way. Instead of being forced to adhere to fixed format, setups and rules, bootstrapping is an excellent choice. With bootstrapping there is no sandbox we have to look at.

When I asked him about his hardship to acquire his first 100 customers, he stressed that getting the 1st paying customer is particularly hard. I completely agree; its key to be able to sell to the 1st ever paying customer for any entrepreneur. And the focus here is to find the fit and area where the market leaders are unable to penetrate for some reason. So identifying what is the right place for the current time will become instrumental to get the first one, ten or hundred customers.

At this point I did not want to miss the opportunity to ask a question that I was mulling over for some time. In our first OEQ Hangout on bootstrapping, Shekhar Kirani had said it won’t be possible to build Zoho without funding in today’s times. I did not agree completely with Shekhar at that time. So I asked that question directly to Sridhar to hear his viewpoint. It appears that he somewhat agrees with Shekhar about Zoho. However he said it is possible to build a sizable company now and even after 50 years without external funding. Its just that the entrepreneur must look hard whether the opportunity exists in the current market situation.

So its fair to say that there is nothing wrong in either path. The founders need to evaluate current opportunities and choose the best path that they are comfortable with. Success or failure both can come regardless of the path you choose. So the real focus should be the business and the value the business is creating than the way they are funding their growth. The ecosystem must celebrate both pathways.

Finally, if you are bootstrapping, you are not alone here, this #BootUpINDIA program is for you, come and apply today.

#BootUpINDIA – Giving Independence to Indian Startups!

Being Independent is a fundamental right of all living being. But, as entrepreneurs and startups, when we face tons of challenge and deal with sheer hardship we end up submitting to various ideas that may or may not resemble our need.

Think about why you become an entrepreneur in the first place –  what is it that you wanted to solve and how you are creating value. The support system around us tends to make us believe that there is always one way to excel. So we start with a dream and then end up getting formated to a belief that we never subscribed to.

As an entrepreneur I wanted to build a business and I wanted to make money. But creating value has been always on top of my head. Solving a real problem and finding someone to pay for it is not such a hard thing, as long as you stay with the problem instead of dreaming to become rich overnight. There is no shortcut to success. There is no easy path.

So Bootstrappers, rejoice!

Finally, there is something for you that celebrates your independence.

BootUpINDIA is for you. So, spread the word. Get your friends to apply.


BootUpINDIA is the result of intense internal discussions within iSPIRT. Check out how we think about these issues and sharpen our thinking about making the ecosystem better in this video

Happy Independence Day! BootUpINDIA today!