India powers up its ‘Software Product’ potential, Introduces National Policy on Software Products (NPSP)

This is an exciting occasion for our indigenous software industry as India’s National Policy on Software Products gets rolled out. This policy offers the perfect framework to bring together the industry, academia and the government to help realise the vision of India as a dominant player in the global software product market.

For ease of reference, let us summarise some of the major things that the policy focuses on

  • Single Window Platform to facilitate issues of the software companies
  • specific tax regime for software products by distinguishing  them from software services via HS code
  • enabling Indian software product companies to set off tax against R&D  credits on the accrual basis
  • creation of a Software Product Development fund of INR 5000 crores to invest in Indian software product companies
  • grant in aid of  INR 500 Crores to support research and innovation on software products
  • encouragement to innovation via 20 Grant Challenges focusing on Education, Healthcare & Agriculture thus further enabling software products to solve societal challenges
  • enabling participation of Indian software companies in the govt. e-marketplace to improve access to opportunities in the domestic market
  • developing a framework for Indian software product companies in government procurement.
  • special focus  on Indian software product companies in international trade development programmes
  • encouraging software product development across a wide set of industries by developing software product clusters around existing industry concentrations such as in automobile, manufacturing, textiles etc.
  • nurturing the software product start-up ecosystem
  • building a sustainable talent pipeline through skilling and training programmes
  • encouraging entrepreneurship and employment generation in tier II cities
  • creating governing bodies and raising funds to enable scaling of native software product companies.

There is good cause for cheer here. The policy offers to address many of the needs of the Software Product Ecosystem. For the first time, HS codes or Harmonised Codes will be assigned to Indian software product companies that will facilitate a clear distinction from ‘Software Services’ facilitating availing of any benefits accruing under the ‘Make in India’ programme. In addition, this will enable Indian software product companies to participate in govt contracts through registration on GeM (Govt. eMarketplace).

Considering that we remain a net importer of software products at present, steps such as the inclusion of Indian software products in foreign aid programmes, setting up of specialised software product incubators in other geographies and promoting our software product capabilities through international exhibitions definitely show intent in the right direction. With a commitment to develop 10000 software product start-ups, with 1000 of them in tier II cities, technology entrepreneurs building IP driven product companies can now look forward to infrastructural and funding support. The policy also aims to go beyond metro-centric development with a commitment to develop tech clusters around existing industry concentrations, enable skilling and drive employment in non-metros and tier II cities while actively encouraging Indian software companies to solve native problems.  

This policy could not have been possible without the vision of the Honourable Minister Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, and continuous engagement and discussions with Shri Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Rajeev Kumar and Ajai Kumar Garg from MEITY and their team.

We have seen software companies solving native problems do exceptionally well, just look at what Paytm has been able to achieve while driving digital payments in India. There is now an understanding ‘Make in India’ can help us bridge the digital divide given that Indian entrepreneurs have a greater understanding of local issues and the challenges that are unique to us.

Setting up bodies such as the National Software Products Mission in a tripartite arrangement with the industry, academia and govt. to enable creation and monitoring of schemes beneficial to native software product companies is another much-needed step that will create a forum distinct to our software product companies and help give them a strong voice.

We would like to thank Lalitesh Katragadda, Vishnu Dusad, Sharad Sharma, Rishikesha T Krishnan, Bharat Goenka, T.V. Mohandas Pai, Arvind Gupta for their diligent efforts on the continuous dialogue and inputs for the policy.

While launching the policy is a great start, its implementation is what we all will have our eyes on. Now is the moment of action. We all look forward to fast-tracking of the various proposed measures under this policy for the benefits to start showing!

Website link to the official policy –  (


J​ANUARY​ 15, 2019​ – ​

DECEMBER 8, 2016​ – ​

NOVEMBER 13, 2016​ – ​

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APRIL 29, 2016​ – ​

JULY 16, 2014​ – ​

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Clipping The Wings Of Angel Tax


2000 startups. 100 meetings. 25 articles. 7 years. 3 WhatsApp groups. 2 whitepapers.

1 unwavering ask:

No More Angel Tax.

This evening, when we first got to see the circular from DPIIT/CBDT that formalized key recommendations suggested with respect to Angel Tax or section 56(2)(viib), we admit our minds went blank for a moment. After all, this one document represents the tireless, collaborative efforts of iSPIRT, the entrepreneurial community of India and ecosystem partners like IVCA, Local Circles, IAN, TiE, 3one4 Capital, Blume Ventures etc., and the proactive support from the government. It has been one relentless outreach initiative that has seen us become a permanent fixture at Udyog Bhavan and North Block (I even checked with the guards regarding the possibility of a season pass). My colleagues Sharad Sharma, TV Mohandas Pai, and partners such as Siddharth Pai, Nikunj Bubna, Sreejith Moolayil, Monika, Ashish Chaturvedi and Sachin Taporia deserve a big shout out for their diligent efforts at connecting with various ecosystem partners and initiating a regular cadence of dialogue with the government.

The key takeaways from the circular are as below

  • Blanket exemption for up to INR 25Cr of capital raised by DIPP registered startups from any sources
  • Amendment in the definition of startups in terms of tenure from 7 to 10 years
  • Increase in the revenue threshold for the definition of startups from INR 25Cr to INR 100 Cr
  • Breaking the barrier for listed company investments by excluding high-traded listed companies and their subsidiaries, with a net-worth above INR 100Cr or a Turnover of 250 cr, from section 56(2)(viib)’s ambit

Each of these points is a major win for the startup community. If one looks at the data from the LocalCircles startup survey in January 2019, nearly 96% of startups that had received notices regarding angel tax, had raised below the permissible limit of INR 10cr. Expansion of this limit to INR 25cr is a huge boost and instantaneously removes thousands of startups from the reach of angel tax. There is an effort here to critically analyse, define and differentiate genuine startups from shell corporations. It includes measures such as increase in the revenue and tenure threshold that will not only help startups with respect to the challenges posed by angel tax but also open up eligibility for benefits under Startup India schemes and policies. We have been talking about the need to encourage and protect domestic investments and the government has paid heed to our concerns by introducing accredited investor norms and by breaking the barrier for listed company investments.

Initiated in 2012 by the UPA government, Section 56(2)(viib) or the “angel tax” section has been a relentless shadow on the entrepreneurial ecosystem. It taxed as income any investment received at a premium by an Indian startup. This provision saw many entrepreneurs clash with the tax officials about the true value of their business and pitted unstoppable entrepreneurial zeal against the immovable tax department.

All of us from the policy team at iSPIRT have been at the forefront of this issue since 2015 when we began petitioning the government to exclude startups from section 56(2)(viib) as taxing investments from Indian sources would cripple the startup ecosystem. We laud the government for appreciating the urgency of the situation and prioritizing this issue.

We first had an inkling of things to come at the February 4th, 2019 meeting held by DPIIT. It was unprecedented as it saw a direct dialogue between government and entrepreneurs wherein both sides could better understand the issues facing each other – how section 56(2)(viib) was hampering founder confidence and how it is a needed tool in the government’s arsenal for combatting the circulation of unaccounted funds.

After this, a smaller working group was constituted on February 9th, to review the proposals made by DPIIT to address this issue, in consultation with the CBDT and the startup ecosystem. iSPIRT were part of both meetings and contributed actively to the discussion.

We can now heave a sigh of relief as we have finally achieved to a large extent what we had set out to do. We finally have a solution that ensures genuine startups will have no reason to fear this income tax provision and the CBDT can continue to use it against those attempting to subvert the law.

This could not have been possible without the help of well-wishers in government departments like Mr Nrpendra Misra, Mr Sanjeev Sanyal, Mr Suresh Prabhu, Mr Ramesh Abhishek, Mr Anil Chaturvedi, Mr Rajesh Kumar Bhoot, Mr Anil Agarwal, who patiently met the iSPIRT policy team and helped develop a feasible solution.

At long last, domestic pools of capital will no longer be disadvantaged as compared to foreign sources. At long last, Indian entrepreneurs will no longer have to fear the questioning of the valuations of their businesses and taxation of capital raised.

Who knows, someday we might have a movie on this. On a more serious note, it is a step that will go down in the chronicles of India’s startup story. This puts the startup engine back on track. More importantly, it shows what can be achieved when citizens and the government get together.

By Nakul Saxena and Siddharth Pai, Policy Experts – iSPIRT

Angel Tax Notification: A Step In The Right Direction, But More Needs To Be Done

There have been some notifications which have come out last week, it is heartening to see that the government is trying to solve the matter. However, this is a partial solution to a much larger problem, the CBDT needs to solve for the basic reason behind the cause of Angel Tax (Section 56(2)(viib)) to be able to give a complete long-term solution to Indian Startups.

While the share capital and share premium limit after the proposed issue of share is till 10 crores and helps startups for their initial fundraising, which is usually in the range of Rs 5-10 Cr. Around 80-85% of the money raised on LetsVenture, AngelList and other platforms by startups is within this range, but the government needs to solve for the remaining 15-20% as startups who are raising further rounds of capital, which is the sign of a growing business, are still exposed to this “angel tax”. Instead, the circular should be amended to state that Section 56(2)(viib) will not apply to capital raises up to Rs 10 Cr every financial year provided that the startups submit the PAN of the investors.

The income criteria of INR 50 lakhs and net worth requirement of INR 2 crores is again a move by the government that requires further consideration for the investing community. Therefore, to further encourage investments by Angels or to introduce new Angels to the ecosystem, there is a need to look towards a reduced income criterion of INR 20 Lakhs or a net worth of INR 1 crore, enabling more investors for a healthier funding environment. We also, need to build a mechanism to facilitate investments by corporates and trusts into the startups.

Most importantly, any startup who has received an assessment order under this section should also be able to for the prescribed remedies and submit this during their appeal. They should not be excluded from this circular since its stated scope is both past and future investments. The CBDT should also state that the tax officers should accept these submissions during the appeals process and take it into consideration during their deliberation.

So, to summarise:

  • Section 56(2)(viib) should not apply to any investment below Rs 10 crore received by a startup per year or increase the share premium limit to Rs 25 Crores, from Indian investors provided that the startup has the PAN of the investors
  • Section 56(2)(viib) should not apply to investors who have registered themselves with DIPP as accredited investors, regardless of the quantum of investment
  • The threshold stated should be either a minimum income of Rs 25 lakhs or a net worth of at least Rs 1 crore
  • Any startup who has received an assessment order should be able to seek recourse under this circular during their appeal

Through this circular, the government has reaffirmed its commitment to promoting entrepreneurship and startups in India. With these suggestions, the spectre of the “angel tax” will end up as a footnote in the history of the Indian startup ecosystem.

We look forward to the early resolution of these pending matters. For any suggestions, Do write to us [email protected]

The article is co-authored with Siddarth Pai, Policy Expert – iSPIRT Foundation and Founding Partner – 3one4 Capital.

Enablers for Defence Start-ups in India

Once upon a time, there was an Asian Dragon and an Asian Elephant, both wanting to be self-sufficient in defence technology. But they chose different paths. In Jan 2004 one went out to acquire four retired aircraft carriers for study, along with purchasing foreign aircraft carrier designs; which resulted in this Asian Dragon commissioning their first Aircraft Carrier in 2012. The Elephant, however, did not invest in any old aircraft carriers or their aircraft designs, but went on to buy out an old Russian Carrier which had to be upgraded to being sea worthy; with the refit alone costing it nearly 2 ½ times the price that was originally agreed. This Asian Elephant – India; still does not have its completely indigenously built ship, whereas the Dragon – China, is building its 2nd.

Our take – India needs to completely focus on Indigenization. India can achieve self-reliance by having control on design IPR, know-how and innovation. Establishing ‘Country Champions’ in each of the critical areas of technology for products today upgrades and future-proofs it. Since the rate of change in this area is comparatively higher, agility is critical. And, this is where engagement with the startup community will help India develop world-class products quickly.

There are four pillars around which this strategy needs to be developed-

  1. Indian Entrepreneurs must focus on Innovation & Design; and eventually prepare the business to scale globally.
  2. The Academia must encourage fundamental research in Warship Building Design and Innovation; and help build and drive models as per world class standards.
  3. Encourage Foreign Investments in Semi-Conductor Fab’s; Component Manufacturing Plants in India; ToT of Mature technologies.
  4. And most Importantly the Govt. needs to address Disabilities faced by the domestic industry and support Polices for R&D and Market Access.

The government needs to fund long-term investment in critical technology development; make existing policies more effective for R&D; reduce the Cost of Money for Industry on Interest Cost; and be open to fund risky R&D in the private and government sector. The Govt. Needs to encourage all R & D/ Technology Development Funds of organizations like DRDO, to be used via Challenge Grants, enabling the startups to be a part of the process to solve various challenges.

Market access is a big pain point for the Startups while dealing with the Govt. The Govt. needs to encourage a level playing field by removing restrictive eligibility conditions like prior experience and turnover to allow the budding domestic Industry to compete. Onerous NCNC conditions should be removed,; trials should be paid for or done post selection; and award of contract should come with strict penalties.

And finally, the government must increase the effectiveness of the “Offset Policy” by encouraging foreign OEM’s to support vendor development for discharging offsets and to appoint a Joint Secretary to address the R&D and market access issues and as well work with the industry to shape technology strategy and its implementation and help them look at the bigger picture.

With over 19,400 Tech startups serving various sectors of which 5000 have been started in 2015 alone, Startups in India are all set to reach over 1,00,000 startups, employing over 3.5 Million and creating over $500 billion in Market Value in this decade. Startups like Tonbo Imaging, Aurora Integrated Systems, Astra Microwave and many others are already helping the Government in solving the various technology problems.

With over $1.78 Trillion being spent in 2014 in Defence, America contributed $610 Billion by far ahead of rest of the world with 35% of the overall spends. The interesting factor is that Countries in Africa, Asia, Middle East and South America contributed to over 43% of Defence Spending at $765 Billion. This figure is going to keep increasing by 6-7% on an annual basis and see the Defence Spending from these countries touching over $1.10 Trillion by 2020. Of the 25 largest defence spenders in the world, 13 were from Asia and Middle East. This is where the opportunity is for India to supply to Africa, Middle East, South America and other friendly Asian Countries.

With the growing soft power of India, this opportunity is for us to leverage. Startups can play a pivotal role for India to leapfrog ahead of others in the defence industry.

Authored by Mohandas Pai & Co-Authored by Nakul Saxena

Q-Prize – A US$ 350,000 opportunity for Startups in Make in India week

With only a few days to go for the Make In India week, the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) is set to announce a Rs 2 crore bounty along with Qualcomm.

During the Make in India Week being held in Mumbai, the DIPP and Qualcomm Incorporated, through its venture investment arm, Qualcomm Ventures, have announced India’s largest Startup prize till date will see the winner walk away with US $ 350,000 in equity funding.

QPrize-MakeinIndia-Banner-3To submit your entry, download the application form here, fill your startup details and email it to [email protected], for further information please click here.

Don’t forget these key dates:

  • Contest opens on February 4, 2016
  • Start-ups can submit their entries on the DIPP / Make in India website.
  • Last date for submitting entries isFebruary 12, 2016
  • DIPP will announce the shortlist onFebruary 15, 2016
  • Shortlisted companies will be invited for the final pitch presentation during the grand finale on February 18, 2016
  • Jury will consist of eminent names from the Government, industry and Qualcomm
  • Winner will be awardedUS$ 350,000 (Rs. 2 Crore)as equity investment from Qualcomm Ventures

The grand finale will be held at the Make in India Centre, MMRDA Grounds, Bandra – Kurla Complex and will be televised nationally. Winners can look forward to a large dollop of publicity, glory and much more, thanks to the hundreds of CEOs and founders of top Start-ups from across the country that are attending the Make in India Week.

Announcing the CIO Mentorship Program for Enterprise Product Startups

A ‘startup’ is a company that is confused about – 1. What its product is, 2. Who are its customers, 3. How to make money.

– Dave McClure

As a startup we all struggle either with the Market Fit, the right price for the product and finally the sales. There have been times when we have wondered if the product is perfect or I could have added some new feature, all the while loosing time to launch the product. When the product is out we wrestle with how to sell – Free, Premium or Freemium models and wonder, when will we get to close the big orders. We wonder why our product is being outsold by our competition – What does he have that I don’t.

We sometime wish that how wonderful it could be if we could share our thoughts, bounce our ideas with someone who could understand us and help us in a sustained long term manner, in short become our Guiding Lights as Mentors.

To help startups with just this dilemma, we are pleased to partner with CIO’s of leading Indian Enterprises to put together the CIO Mentorship Program. Where some of the very recognized CIO’s of the Industry from Hero Motors, BMW, Ericsson, Matrix, Max NewYork Life, Moser Baer are ready to use their collective wisdom and experiences to help the startups scale over a sustained time period of 5 months.

If you are brilliant Enterprise Product who is willing to take advice, implement advice and share your pain points then this is just the opportunity. So if you are operating in HR, Education, Data Analytics, Cloud, Mobile applications, CRM’s then you need to apply here. This is only open as of now for companies in NCR region. The last date of getting the entries is 17th Dec. Only the short listed companies will be contacted for the event on 21st Dec in Delhi NCR.

This is just the beginning …..picture to abhi baki hai dost.

For every successful movie one requires a huge team effort from the story writer, producer, actors and directors to the light guys, similarly for a startup to benefit one requires the vision, passion, team work, the agility to implement and mentors. This is what the delegate exactly gets at the #PNCamp, where startups work in cohorts, learn from one another, share their insights and break barriers.

Depending on your stage of company – Discovery or Scale you go through a grueling camp supervised by your Drill Sergeant, by the end,  the cohort together achieves what they thought was not possible.

Cohort4-2So are you ready to see what you can accomplish, challenge the limits of your thought…then come on over in the 4th set at the #PNCAMP.

Explara – The new journey begins…

There are some companies which start their business with a bang but can’t sustain their growth. Then there are other firms who seize market opportunities and add value to it. These companies succeed in the Indian Market and then get ready to go Global, including taking on the hard to penetrate Asian Markets. The following Interview is of a company that has reached a turning point and  is ready to leave their footprint on the world markets. With new products in the making and a new brand name,they are ready to take Asia by storm. In discussion with Product Nation, Santosh Panda Founder Explara (formerly Ayojak) shares his strategy on the company’s plans ahead.

What was the vision with which you launched the company and how has the journey been so far? 

We saw a need in the small to medium event organizers to streamline their businesses. These organizers did not have any technology input/help and we thought we could provide the same through this platform. We launched Ayojak in September 2008 and after adding ticketing and other features to the product we upgraded it the following year. In 2008 we started with listing of events with 4-5 customers. At that time event organizers were using handouts etc. to reach out to their customers and could not anticipate how many customers would come for the event. In 2009 our turnover was 1.5 Lakhs with 5 customers that went up to Rs.30 Lakhs in 2010, clearly establishing that there was a need in the market for the product which we were offering. In 2011 we clocked revenues of Rs. 1.69 crores and since then have been growing at over 75% year on year and today we handle over 300 events per month.

What was the competition like in 2009?

There was hardly any competition, the infrastructure was getting built, we had to call customers and tell them how to use it. There were people who sold only a particular event and nobody was looking at the platform as a one stop solution for all event needs.

Ayojak has gone in for a rebranding exercise; do tell us about the same. What prompted you to choose a different name? 

Initially we were looking at solving a B to B problem, as in how to run an event, get details of people who are coming, collection of entry fee etc. We chose to address these problems for the event organizers. Therefore the focus was event organizers. But after some time the name which we had  chosen – Ayojak, was perceived to be more of a name for an event management company and thus called for rebranding. Also since we were operating only in India, even then people had problems pronouncing the name clearly.

We thought, that if we need to target B to C customers and look international we should have a name which will be easy to pronounce and at the same time clearly be able to define to the customers what we were all about.

We want to be known as the go to site for any event organizer. Hence an opportunity to all event organizers and customer to Explore hence – Explara

Which other markets other than India are you looking at operating in and why?

We are looking at Singapore, South Africa, Philippines, to begin with, since we have already operated in a tough market like India, the learning has been immense and we feel that we will be able to apply the same in other developing markets, which are equally challenging. Our foray into international arena would be by end July.

What are the new features which you are planning to launch to supplement your existing product lines?

In our view the next two features could very well be the game changers. Any event organizer today still has two problems, Firstly, to identify who all have come for an event and who are yet to come. Through a new product  – Entry Management, we will enable organizers through a smart phone to read the bar code/QR Code/NFC for every visitor attending the event, thus will at all times know the details of people who are in the event, yet to come or are outside the event.

Secondly, In India 30-40% of the attendees still come directly at the event. To help the organizers with this problem, we will give them an app based Box Office application which they can use to scan credit cards, debit cards etc, at the venue itself, thus ensuring that end moment gate collections are just as easy.

What advice would you give to product startups based on your early experience in the last few years?

Communicate clearly too all employees that you are there to stay, thereby keep reiterating to your employees the same message amplifying the fact that you are there for the long term.

Learnings from the 4th #PNMeetup – Making your product go viral on a low marketing budget

They say lighting does not strike twice, but it definetly did at Kunzum café where the 4th #PNMeetup  was happening. The theme “Making your product go viral on a low marketing budget” got over 40 people to the venue all intent to desipher the Virality dilemma. We had Amit Ranjan from SlideShare’s, Pathik Shah from HikeBipin Preet Singh from Mobikwik.

Amit from Slideshare started off first by asking What is Virality? The ability of an object to self replicate.

He took examples why sites like facebook are viral, the basics of virality being- the ease and ability to get referrals from existing users. Increasing the Viral co-efficient – for every additional user how many additional users do you get.  If it is greater than 1 than we get unbounded virality and if it is less than 1 then it grows to a certain level and then stops. The different Channels of Viral Distribution being Newsfeed, Widgets, Notifications, Email and Inviting a friend – any one will get you more additional business. These Viral channels are not the same as features, features essentially keep existing users happy, Viral channels are vectors that grow your business. He stressed that Design, Convenience, Speed of the app or website matter, to create a good user experience which has a impact on the virality of the product.

Pathik from Hike then takes over and talks about how Hike touched 2 Million downloads in two weeks of launch, he goes on to outline some basics for a startup product to go viral. In his view the product needs to truly be a great product addressing a real need thus building a strong core value for the product. Once we have a good product the Desigining and the U&I needs to be of very good quality thereby getting eyeballs to the product. The next stage will be to have a large Distribution channel focusing on Growth and Retention of all new Customers. Smart Marketing will play an important role in being able to get the message across to the user base in a fast and simple manner. This may include offering free talk time, additional storage space on referring etc, anything to spread the message especially through one customer to another. An Innovative business model will ensure that the longevity of the product is maintained.

Pathik then goes about to explain the concept of Growth Hacking –  a new process for acquiring and engaging users combining traditional marketing and analytical skills with product development skills. In the past, marketing and product development departments were often at odds where marketing groups would be spending significant amounts of money to acquire users but couldn’t get any development resources to build something as simple as new custom landing pages. And on the other side, product development teams would often build what they think users want and will attract users without deeply measuring and understanding the impact of their changes. This concept of “growth hacking” is a recognition that when you focus on understanding your users and how they discover and adopt your products, you can build features that help you acquire and retain more users, rather than just spending marketing dollars.

Growth Hacking is one very fast way to get Virality of Sales vis-a-vie the traditional Marketing Channels.

By being able understand the needs of the customers you reach the A-HA point with the customers which is essiantialy the main reason of the product going Viral.

Bipin from Mobikwik then takes over and talks about Virality. He emphasis on the 3 basic things, First Product Innovation is the key for any product. The Product needs to be disruptive to create new positive impacts for the users for them to get hooked to it. Secondly, Cheap Acquistion for a startup is essential. The Aim needs to be able to target a large audience for the product at a low cost. Thirdly, their needs to be high rates of Retention on the client base which has been acquired enabling you to ensure the client base continues to grow.

We then moved onto the session where we featured a new company, this time it was The company offers saas based platform, providing eclinics for medical practioners. The participants shared their product and got feedback from the audience in relation to scaling their businesses.

After a very interactive 3 hr session the time was just right for everybody to interact with the speakers and network with the audience. It was a session which helped people share some interesting conversations and am sure all the people who came gained a good insight .

We eagerly now await the next #PNMeetup in April.

Find out what emerged when the Geeks met #Dilliwallas #GOAP

It was a usual Thursday morning, chaos at the Mathura Road, but once you got on to the 91SpringBoard office, you could feel the aroma of the paints, etc in the new office which is beautifully done and very colourful. Few guys were sipping their early morning coffee and some interactions by entrepreneurs and some folks who usually give gyaan to them:). Few minutes and you could see the geeks walking in, interacting the dilliwallas and then also trying to figure out a space where they can settle down.
Yatin from MoonLighting kicked of the session and the Geeks introduced themselves to the #dilliwallas. We had around 50-60 startups from dilli who were here to meet with the Geeks….some of the best startups in NCR were present and we had the Bangalore Product guy – Sharad Sharma who was there to set the ball rolling. He started his talk on how entrepreneurship is happening in the small cities of rural India, software products are being made in this New India. Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore are seeming to be focusing on fixed templates, whereas the rural India’s innovation are more creative disruptions and they seem to be focusing on problems and therefore providing solutions to these problems. The guys in the smaller cities and rural areas are keeping a more open mind and are more willing to weather the storm and be persistent with product.

Don’t be dismissive of Small cities or Rural India, in the next 3-5 yrs the best start ups would be from here. A Revolution is happening in India similar to the mobile revolution – that is to do with the software as a service. Service being used by wide variety of segments from a big multinational to a small business. It is happening at a price point that will fit each and every need that is out there. India’s future is dependent on its small scale sector transforming itself and becoming competitive over time which is  based on three things –  The democratization of productivity which is happening of the mobile phones, democratization of  best practices which is going to happen in the software as a service and the third thing is building trust networks. This Revolution needs to be taken to the next level among ourselves by using the open source method which will help the industry to go forward. Creating communities of entrepreneurs to help solve the problems of fellow entrepreneurs. The Entrepreneur needs to give back to this community during the process of being successful and not only at the time of being successful. Sharad Co–founder iSPIRT seems to say what Mahatma Gandhi said of India at just before Independence —India does not live in its big cities but in the smaller cities and villages

Dave from 500 Startups takes centre stage and describes what they do by making a lot of small investments in tune of about $ 1-5 Million. The aim is not to own more than the 5% of the bigger companies. They know most companies may not see the entire life cycle therefore they do their do diligence well and invest quickly. The First tranch is the huge risk but the future investments are based on what they do with that money. Engaging with Communities of specialists in design, data and distribution which act as Elders or Mentors to these companies  help them grow. Usually the Distribution / Marketing aspect is the main factor which helps companies being successful.

Concepts of Marketing have changed dramatically compared to change in programming in the last 20 years. Therefore it is important to get the Marketing right. Entrepreneurs need to focus more on Marketing than on the programming. It is very important need to know the customer acquisition cost vis-visa-vie customer revenue being generated and the cost of financing the project for how long. Concentrate on the Indian Market, it will be easier to do business in an environment which you know of rather than a new international market of which you don’t know anything of. Things may not be that settled yet, but it will be in the next 3-5 yrs. Imagine if you are able to build now focusing on India and by the time support services improve, payment channels ease say in the next 3-5 years you as an entrepreneur will be able to go in for the kill. The Fruit will be ripe for plucking. Message : Look Inward and build slowly. Wait for the Time its just round the corner.

The Stage was set after two very insigntful speeches about what is yet to come. Kunal Bajaj then lead a B2B Space Panel Discussion with Ambarish Gupta from Knowlarity, Ketan Kapur of Mettl and Paras Chopra from Wingify  1)    How do you find the right person? Panel: The team was brought together through references and own networks. 2)    How do you market to customers? Panel – Start early, Be Focused and be Disciplined. 3)    How have you raised funds and raised capital? Panel – Raising debt in US much easier than in India. In India the process is Angel Money. But is important to know what your burn money is MOM enabling you pitch it right and get it.  Kunal then lead B2C Space Panel  Discussion with Aloke from Ixigo, Kavin Mittal from HIKE Mobile app, Rajat from SocialAppsHQ.

  • How do you find the right people and keep them engaged?
    Panel – The Challenge is to make people understand what a startup is. The Initial hiring was done through references and interactions through likeminded people. 
  • How do you market to customers and build Brands?
    Panel – Give swops on getting referrals to new clients. Understand your market clearly and go micro and specific.
  • How have you raised funds and raised capital?
    Panel – Raising debt and funds in US much easier than in India. In India to raise funds traction in business is very important. 

By the time the Panel finished answering the questions there was a group of over 55-60 people eagerly waiting to interact with them and the Geeks. 


Building Killer Products in a young startup….

It was a cold Saturday afternoon with the rain gods already drenching the earth beneath them. The location reminded me of college with its red brick interiors, jute chairs and a room which slowly but surely filled up to over 45 people. We had Harinder CEO of Paytm, Angad from Zomato & Pranav from already in the room getting ready to share their thoughts 

Harinder CEO of Paytm went first and touched upon some very basics needs to build a Killer product – A product which would make a difference to life. He showed some photographs of products which he liked and disliked – seeming to suggest that being clear about the problem which exists, and for whom its exists, the solution would not be judgeable by you or anybody if that is not clear – Good products always keep it simple. 

Simplicity means :

  1. Sensitive to products – to understand the problems around you and that the product is the solution to that problem.
  2. To be free of Baggage – Inverting the Pyramid by starting off with the problem and finding a solution for that.  A simple facility like a wallet feature on Paytm helped the company to provide their customers with a solution to a problem.
  3. Be Practical – Pixel perfection is good, but need to be realistic to the needs of the business. It may mean to launch a product by striking a balance between hygiene(the minim basics)and differentiated features of a product. 

Harinder thus set the tone and passed the baton to Pranav from Makemytrip.. 

Who spoke about the new product RoutePlanner. It became a reality by defining a special problem that of just trying to understand how to get from City A to City B 

He outlines the 10 Mantras on Building Killer Products :

  1. Why would somebody use this product? – The Mission statement
  2. The Use cases that would make a difference – Clearly define the targeted market segment. State what the product does and does not do.
  3. Solving the Problem – Solutions to problems for customers
  4. Tackle the Hard problems first
  5. Get Feedback on your product before you have built it.
  6. Simplicity of Product Matters
  7. Launch Fast.
  8. Listen to Everyone, but do your own thing
  9. Do not Underestimate marketing .
  10. You become what you measure – Daily measure the various outcomes.

The stage is then set for Angad from Zomato who believes Building a Killer Product Needs more love 

He says that the branding, look and feel are very important for any product. Many start-ups have product managers, but these product managers need to manage products and not the people. The Product Manager needs to understand the product, the technologies which you are working with, have you every built such a product, do you understand your people, your customers and do you understand the competitors customers. 

A product manager should live, breathe, eat, sleep the product. He should empathize with the users, understand their needs and keep a lot of free time enabling him to explore, experiment and evolve new products. 

A Company should ask : WHY are we building it and WHO are we building it for before WHAT are we building it for. 

Work backwards from the problem to the solution and strike a balance. Rethink and Re evolution of products is necessary. Dream a little before being practical; to reach the solutions by breaking all the rules while doing good research, research without passion is pointless, that is the commitment to make something great. Take your time building a product but don’t overbake or underbake the pie. Its very important to seek feedback but from people who give solutions to problems and not just simple problems. Customers are not as dumb as you think respect them and give them value for the product. Usability of the product is important followed by the Utility and then the desirability of the product.’ 
Design is a very important aspect of all Killer products, it comes from a good strong design culture with a sharp focus backed by clarity of thought working with autonomy with the best people pushing the limits with their passion and conviction to achieve the Vision. A fact which is very often overlooked. 

We then moved onto the session where we featured a new company, this time it was a technology start-up. The company is India’s 1st Mobile Platform making learning and revising “Simpler Faster, Anytime Anywhere”. The company hopes to increase engagement between educators and students via mobile networking and applications, to accomplish a positive effect on learning, assessing, improving and achieving. The participants shared there product and got feedback from the audience in relation to scaling their businesses. 
After a very interactive 3 hr session the time was just right for everybody to go to the foyer and interact with the speakers as well as the participants and reflect on what was discussed. Everybody over the Gol Gappas were very excited to be present and shared some interesting conversations which kept people at it for a long time. Am sure all the people who came gained a good insight and the credit for that goes to Avinash who has set the ball rolling now with very successful #PNMeetups. 

We eagerly now await with child like eagerness for the next #PNMeetup in March. 

See you all again……

In discussion with the Founders of Qualitia

Today there are proven automation tools in the market from  HP, IBM as well as open source tools like Selenium, Webdriver but the success does not lies in just investing in to tools but putting right strategies, best practices in place.

Qualitia is a one of its kind platform which intern leverages these tools as an execution engine while enabling users to adopt RIGHT strategies, best practices, where in now test automation designing, test automation development and even detailed reporting happens in Qualitia. We interviewed Rahul Chaudhari(MD & CEO) & Sudhir Patil(Founder Director) about the company’s product development journey & their advice for startups.

Q)    What was the Vision with which you launched the company ?
Vision is to empower the manual test engineers to contribute to test automation worldwide. Which has been a job of the technology resources till today, but we see a larger opportunity to empower the 90-92% of the QA community who come from the domain background or functional knowledge background and empowering them to drive test automation way faster then any traditional way of automation. Test automation challenges are primarily attracting resources who were good in development technologies and then making them work into testing. Bridging the gap between domain and technology expertise to dramatically reduce the turnover time in test automation. This will empower the SME’s manual test engineers that are the existing strength of every company to drive automation themselves. Also to reduce the maintenance effort and cost  of enterprises to help them to invest into test automation.

Q)    How will the product help startups to scale up?
In terms of startups where the focus is primarily development and they realize the importance of test automation, some barriers exist primarily:

  • The competencies required to drive test automation.
  • The Cost of commercial licenses. 

We therefore provide the solutions through Qualitia where startups can get the licenses on subscription model at around 23% of cost of their QA resource with 200% increase in the productivity leading to huge savings for a Startup from day one. 

Q)    Which are the important markets which you are looking at?
India contributes the maximum of users, where as US contributes 60% to the buying space worldwide. Therefore a balance needs to be created between them therefore both are important markets for us. 

Q) What is the next 1 year roadmap for the company?
We would look to drive success stories in the markets/segments identified and anchor  customers in these markets. Since US is a mature market where we have been present for the last 2 years we would like to build on the success realised
 by customers there.  The target is to grow the revenues in double digits. 

Q)    What advice would you give to new startups?
For any product – The idea and its research is important keeping in mind ability to take the product to the market. Time is of the essence. Therefore it is very important to ensure that the fructification of the product on real time is very important. 

Q)    What has been your go to market strategy?
Identifying the focus clearly, and slowly expanding the market.

Guest post by Nakul SaxenaNITEE

Learnings from the 2nd #PNMeetup – Selling your product Gangnam Style

#PNMeetup on Selling your product Gangnam Style was the topic at the recently concluded Meetup(Podcast link). We had over 45-50 people across products and the services who came out to gain an insight into the Enigma of Gangnam Style Sales, with their eyes wide open and all ears the speakers Mr. Sanjay Agarwala MD of Eastern Software, Ketan Kapoor Co-Founder and CEO  of Mettl and Vishal Jain Chief Product Officer of RateGain gave an eagles eye clarity of how one could reach the summit of the Gangnam Style Sales.

Sanjay set the tone of the session by sharing his experiences of Eastern Software system which he started in 1991 and where he saw an opportunity in the product space in 1997 and ventured therein. The company dived headlong into ERP where there was a huge demand in the small and midcap segment. The larger players were serviced by prominent players. They clearer pegged themselves below these big players. The positioning was very clear to all parties concerned form the beginning. Because of their positing they got Pvt Equity Investments which enabled them to concentrate on Product development and Market Development which helped them scale to 100 customers in 2 years and 800 customers by 2001-2002.

They looked for newer markets outside and concentrated on newer markets. Africa was a huge virgin market, every body was skeptical but it was an immense market waiting to be tapped. They tweaked their sales model from a direct Sales(applicable in India) to partnering with the local companies(In Africa), they believe when you partner with anyone the relationship has to be a win-win. The partners should benefit first and then you. That builds trust which is further solidified when you match your own money with the amount the partner spent, sending clear signals to all. Since the partner operates in the market and is now highly motivated he is able to better understand the changing environment and this helps in better customer deliver.

 Sanjay’s  Gangnam style  for Eastern Software

1) Positing of product to be very clear – To Market, To Employees and To Self

2) Concentrate on Product Development

3) Build the Market.

3) Focus on New regions and localize regularly

4) Most importantly Build Trust and Partner well.

5) Customer Deliver the Key

6) Understand Markets well.

Listen to the Podcast here.

The baton now passed from to Sanjay to Ketan CEO Mettl. Ketan gives a very good insight into Mettl and sets the stage.

Ketan believes that business is like a marathon but one must run it like a sprint. Therefore must Start selling Early- even before the product comes out enabling you to get the information to all. Prioritize – Initially launch the product on what you feel–then tweak it to evolve the actual needs. Use Analytics to identify differentiators and then set benchmarks. Focus on Closures but budget for long sales cycles – have enough gas in the fuel tank. Always treat your feedback seriously this helps you to better customer delivery.

Build your brand well – Build Trust – Hire the Best – Hire slow. Clearly specify the product mix therefore maintain the Brand.

Interestingly Ketan remarked that Introverts can be better sellers than extroverts- Why? Well the key is to establish strong personal connects, be clear and not over-commit. Qualities where Introverts can be better sellers.

Ketan’s  Gangnam style  for Mettl.

1) Start Selling Early

2) Prioritize and Launch Fast

3) Build Differentiators

4) Course correction based on Feedback

5) Have the Bear Fat to sustain theWinter.

6) Most importantly Build Trust.

Listen to the audio podcast here of Ketan’s talk.

Ketan gave a wonderful insight of his company and then Vishal of Rategain share his story.

Vishal says that before they launched their products they started writing articles on the subject/space of their product and this helped them to get the first order by engaging their customers and peaking their interest. This helped them to partner with their biggest competitor and thus tap their(competitor’s) home market – Spain first. Vishal believes the speed to market is very essential to launch your products fast. When you sometimes target the weakness of your competition new opportunities open up. They were able to get 300 hotels to sign up in a just a matter of 3 month. This helped them to partner the competition to market their products. This also had a problem, the local hotels did not know RateGain but knew their competitor. Team Rate Gain then made a real effort to delink themselves and market the product directly this ensured that their Brand was known. They invested in it to Build the Brand.

Since they have operated in various developed markets some things which work for them are Webinar sales – where they invite their prospective clients to join in and make their own mind. From Customers becoming advocates for them on Linkedin to localizing their business to peer marketing, all have worked to create huge amount of word of mouth and Brand Awareness which have all helped in Sales.

Vishal’s Gangnam style for RateGain

1) Write articles on the Space of the product

2) Partner with Locals or Competition

3) Prioritize and Launch Fast

4) Build the Brand

5) Focus on New regions and localize regularly

6) Use Linkedin, Twitter and Webinars to reach out

7) Partner Well

8) All Chain Stakeholders need to be targeted.

Listen to the Podcast here.

The Various inputs helped in gaining a wonderful insight into how a company could go Gangnam. Hope I have been able to capture every bit of information hear, an hope if you have attended the sessions you will be able to add your takeaways too.

The Wonderful insight shared will certainly help all the entrepreneurs out there and for this Avinash deserves huge credit in ensuring that latest trends are captured. Also Rajat for very aptly naming the theme Gangnam style.

Listen to the Podcast here.

Look forward to seeing you all at the next edition in Feb….

Guest post by Nakul Saxena, NITEE