Preparing Bootstrapped Companies to Scale the Business

We are pleased to invite you to the Playbook Roundtable on “Preparing Bootstrapped Companies to Scale the Business“. A clear GOAL and action plan to achieve the GOAL, are essential to scale your business. This #PlaybookRT is led by Shoaib Ahmed from Tally Solutions and is intended for companies that have a bootstrapped business (SMB or enterprise), have initial customers and are trying to scale to the next level. They are keen to make more crisp their value proposition to the target audience and more clearly articulate their position relative to competitors.
This roundtable will be interactive and will help your team in
– Setting an Organizational Goal
– Realize the Benefits of achieving the set Goal
– Big Mountains to climb as an Entrepreneur to Reach the Goal
– Skills and Knowledge, Ecosystem players / partners required to reach the Goal
– Action Plans (Short term and Tactical) to reach the Goal.
This 4 hour roundtable is designed for Companies who are bootstrapped and have some visibility in market and product has been validated through an initial set of customers.
To apply for this roundtable please send the below details to [email protected] with the following information:
•The top two practical problems your company faces in Scaling your Bootstrapped company, that you would like help with.
•Please share, as briefly as possible, your current resources and efforts, the “what” and “why” of your bootstrapped business.
Applications are due by the 3rd of September. The goal is to have at most 10 companies so as to make the interaction effective. If there are other interested attendees, we will arrange subsequent roundtables. We will confirm the short-listed companies by 3rd of September 2015.

Software Products: Funding and Opportunities, Shoaib Ahmed, Tally Solutions (Part 3 of 3)

Read the Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.

Shoaib Ahmed, President of Tally Solutions, began his career as a retail
software developer in the early 90s. Formerly the Founder-Director of Vedha
Automations Pvt.Ltd, Mr. Ahmed was responsible for developing Shoper, a
market-leading retail business solution — and the first of its kind in India to
bring in barcoding to the retail space. The company was acquired by Tally
Solutions in 2005, where Shoper merged with the Tally platform to offer a
complete enterprise retail software suite. In the last of a three-part series,
Mr. Ahmed gives entrepreneurs some advice from the product development

In your opinion how important is the concept of funding? Do you think
people can bootstrap easily without funding?

Unfortunately, I come from a bootstrap background so I have to admit that I haven’t
watched the successfully funded companies very closely! Looking at the components,
you need money for development and marketing. I also feel one key component is
requiring enough money to bring on board people with enough leadership qualities and
understanding to pre-empt issues on all fronts. You have to have the working capital to
confidently bring on board people with these qualities. In this kind of context come the
questions: who should fund and at what period of time. There are the elements of the
seed and angel fund — in my mind the concept of angel fund hasn’t matured completely
because there is the expectation is that there isn’t complete clarity but there
is an element of being able to patch the company through so that they experiment through
the formative periods, and the VC comes in when the company is ready to scale, like for
marketing to get big numbers.

The sharpness, unfortunately, is not yet there because the maturity hasn’t been
established. For example, once a product company has been funded, there is an
expectation that the trend set by early adopters is what the remaining set of customers are
going to adopt as eagerly. However, this set may not have bought into the idea yet — but
there now is an expectation that based on the reaction of the first set, the next set will get
automatically attracted and it’s just a matter of reaching out to them. However, the method
and timing of reach out will be different. What it takes and what can kind of expectation
to set is dependent on the fund, but it also largely depends on getting the right kind of
mentoring and product mindset so that the entrepreneur is geared in a sensible manner.

What opportunities should entrepreneurs in the SMB space be
focussing on, other than in the accounting space?

Typically, the mid or large market gets most of the attention. For small businesses,
however, the pain-point is bringing hygiene into working systems like managing books,
inventories and people. At this point, there are options for the small business owner

to opt for enterprise integrated business solutions or specialised applications. The
opportunity lies in recognizing that different segments with different nuances exist —
and your focus is to design in such a way that their respective problems are solved. For
example, keeping in mind what a pharmacy needs both from a software and form factor,
I would say that billing is not the problem but replenishment is. Therefore, a large PC
may not be the solution — maybe an iPad or a mobile app makes more sense. So I would
say that you would need to wear the hat. To find a customer is the first element, and
giving a suggestion which works and bringing new technology in place are areas which
entrepreneurs in the SMB space should be focussing on.

What advice would you give to people who are getting into the product
development space?

First, they should understand the product mindset, which is to be able to identify if they
are building a value proposition. The whole process of product development shouldn’t
confuse them – there is the whole question of what the customer is asking for and what
the product will provide them. This is important, but product development shouldn’t just be
about reacting to market opportunities – arriving at a product design is also critical.

Secondly, there’s also a tendency to concentrate on providing too many features,
understanding customer requirements and being in a perpetual development mode. This is
why the development team has to have a strong business and marketing background.

Thirdly, having a face in the Indian market is a huge opportunity, but technology adoption
continues to be an issue so that needs to be kept in mind. This has a bearing on how you
design the product and experience. How much of that product you’re designing needs a
deep engagement, as well as elements like value and price. There’s a catch-22 situation
here because these elements of the product will still be in infancy – I don’t see a method
which a product company can use to address a market across the entire country. This is
where a lot of product companies fall into a gap because they might move to a partnership
model to sell to more people and this may not always be logical because a partner will
be interested in someone who has already created a market! A product company falls
into this gap where it sells to a few people, finds that it cannot reach out to more, gets
into a deeper engagement with the few customers it has and then loses the shape of the
product. Over the past 25 years, many product companies have morphed into service
companies because of this reason. Yes, environments have changed today: there’s
internet penetration, elements of communication have evolved and so product companies
should leverage this.

Read the Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.

Start of the Product Journey – Shoaib Ahmed, Tally Solutions(Part 1 of 3)

Shoaib Ahmed, President of Tally Solutions, began his career as a retail
software developer in the early 90s. Formerly the Founder-Director of Vedha
Automations Pvt.Ltd, Mr. Ahmed was responsible for developing Shoper, a
market-leading retail business solution — and the first of its kind in India to
bring in barcoding to the retail space. The company was acquired by Tally
Solutions in 2005, where Shoper merged with the Tally platform to offer a
complete enterprise retail software suite. In the first of a three-part series, Mr.
Ahmed talks about how and why he decided to develop a software product for
the retail space.

What was it like to develop a software product way back in the late
80’s – early 90’s? Would you say it required a lot of guts?

Well, at that point of time I think you could say we were a little mad! Back then there was
no money, there was nobody willing to fund us – there was hardly anyone even using a
computer. You need guts when you have clarity or visibility of a situation, but we didn’t
have that. For example, when Shoper was still in a nascent stage, we implemented it for
a retail customer with five stores. Now, we had to automate a manual system: this meant
taking each item, entering its details into the software, printing out a sticker and sticking
that on to the item – essentially counting each item twice. What we hadn’t bargained for
was that there were nearly 10,000 items in the store! We had no idea how long it would take, but we pulled it off despite facing some major hardware hurdles along the way.

To give you an example of the level of innovation employed, another customer wanted
barcoding at the POS stage — something which hadn’t been done in India before. So
then we found ourselves having to reverse engineer a dot matrix printer into printing out
a barcode with zero information (since there was no internet) and then using scanners
(located and bought in Hong Kong) to work with dot matrix printouts of 15,000-20,000
items in the store. So you need to be crazy because you’re often going to be working in

What was the rationale behind choosing to develop a product for the
retail space?

We felt that there was a clear opportunity for material inventory management. Perhaps its
because we also come from a community of retailers in Bangalore, so there was a natural
orientation towards the retail space. Without a system in place or a method of working,
inefficiencies are numerous. In hindsight, working with some of our larger clients who had
eight-ten stores each gave us a sense of what it takes to run a retail chain back in 1993.

Tell us about the talent involved in helping you develop this retail
software product.

I believe that the excitement of the product domain is the driving force. It’s the fact that you
can make an impact. I can tell you that guys who came in didn’t join us because they were
salary-driven. There’s this thrill that accompanies the thought of your product being used
by different people, and you’re not directly involved in the implementation. As a product
company, you are not in front of the customer: it’s possible that the customer himself using
the product or there’s a third-party who is installing or implementing the product. That’s the
big kick which acts as a motivating force.

Interview Cont’d  (Part 2 of 3)