Sunday, 28 July 2013

At Startup Saturday, 13-Jul-2013

If you thought social media is there to enable you to know about what your friends and family are doing, then it will be ironical, maybe even unbelievable, to know about a site that enables you to meet your friends because you only meet them online. That’s precisely what LetsDine does.

It’s founder was the first speaker at the Startup Saturday event of 15-Jul-2013 that was held at LaMakaan. Theme this time was convincing you first customer. Here’s what the presenters talked during the event.

Akhilesh Kumar (LetsDine) -
Akhilesh previously had an online food ordering service, and he killed that business. You should know when to kill your biz if is not sustainable. You need to have a good cofounder.

How many online contacts do you meet in real life? Not many. Hence they conduct different type of team dining events and meetups. As examples, he told Hyderabad food institute had a dinner, there was an alumni dinner, and so on.

How to get 1st customer : never build up your product too much. Make initial customers use it and get feedback. Get customer references. For his first customers, he had bloggers.

Client feedback is important as you are building your product. Build a simple product, get early adopters, take their feedback and continue to build up the product.

You need to figure out what is the important problem that you are solving. Foodies need to eat -> that’s the important problem. As a value add, letsdine makes you get to meet like-minded people and help you build social capital.

They have a price per seat from the restaurants, which are most busy on Friday and Saturday evenings. They tied up with 20 - 25 restaurants. Having started in Hyderabad they are starting in other cities like Pune.

Go to market is predominantly via social media. Theirs is already a 1000 member strong already, it consists of the average photographer, the average blogger. Typically during weekdays there are corporate lunches and during weekends it is community events.

Amar Pratap (TekWorks) - They work with digital content, get clients’s content on their platform. They even do entertainment (Bollywood and shows) marketing.

They have premier organizations as part of their customer list. They have subscription model : but are trying to figure it out. It’s sorta b2b engagement. They also use social media. It can be characterized as b2b + b2c combo model. Focus is around a brand built on not-for-profit model.

They failed to acquire first customer who was in Bengaluru. Their mindset was to go for similar customers, and have the technology to increase their footprint. They provide transcoding to multiple channels.

In their Mumbai demo, their customer got excited and asked the nitty gritties. Next meeting, the contract was signed. Two weeks nothing happened. Question is you have a product, how will you sell it?

In a nutshell, they were looking at it and asking, “can your platform get new followers, not reach existing followers.” They said: here’s a product that will help you. They had done good ground work, researched about their organization. The challenge was that the customer had content but could not scale. They understood that the customer did not have mobile presence and no biz proposition. They had video, audio content, so they showed app on five devices and they had the contract.

How do you make sure things are happening : it’s through PR, friends and contacts. Media are email, social media, and a little bit of real life outreach too.

He contrasted Isckcon Bengaluru vs Mumbai, as an example of cultural difference within the same organization. Iskcon Bengaluru was like a startup. They asked why don’t you look at our digital marketing requirements and build a revenue model. They went and made him agree this was the revenue model he wanted. It took about 1 week - 10 days to convince him.

In another case, they went to a person who was in need of surviving his organization. Amar’s advice: understand customer very well -- what’s their need in running their organization? Technology is not the only piece, understand their mindset very well. Technology will take you through the first mile, but getting the contract signed is a different deal. Always be open to hear advices from them. Make sure your biz model fits into their responsibility. Pricing aspect becomes most important, they have to convince their internal stakeholders as well.

About not for profit organizations, that work on donations he said: they want you to work on lower rates, are very finicky about user experience, service and your existence. They look at what passion do you carry? On the other hand, profit organizations ask -- can you do beta without contract?

On financials he said they follow a revenue share model. Primary competition is youtube, but they never went into service model; another competitor is ndtv. To the question on how they are better than the competition : he said they bring in credibility and sustenance.

He mentioned about entertainment customer background who was making a movie. Top on the customer’s comments was ‘when will I make my money?’

[Note : just wanted to spruce up this blog post with an image, so I searched flickr for startup saturday and lo, got Gul's photo at Startup Saturday at Mumbai in 2009. Photo courtesy : brajeshwar ]

Sachin Bhatia, Gripsell (48 countries, 2 years in India, previously in U.S., 1000+ clients.) - now Intellewise
They make package software, but started with an interesting example of chocolates. He showed a white paper bundle, and said it was chocolate and asked if we would buy it. The answer was no. Next, he showed Kit-Kat and said it was chocolate and asked if we would buy it. Some people said they would. He then showed Dairy Milk and said it was chocolate and asked if we would buy it. Most members of the audience said they would. He then said whether it is chocolate or software, packaging is very important.

He emphasized on having a very good website, if you are planning to sell online. On their website, the principle they follow is DISTRACT, an acronym standing for --
Display: website has to be real good if you are planning to sell online.
Information : more the better
Tempt : offers / discounts / add ons.
React : Avoid, be proactive
Address : all the questions even before you sd your product. refund policy, what will happen if something goes wrong Credibility : Build up, have good returns policy
Trials : trial = not free, sample = free.

Go to market: He said they are approached by inside sales organizations who want one lakh rupees per month plus 20% commission. When Sachin says no to one lakh, but will give 35%, now go get a customer first, they will pull back.

They had engaged a very large PR company, who promised they will get coverage in Economic Times, Hindustan Times, Times of India @ 70 thousand rupees per month. But there was no or hardly any coverage, and Sachin scraped the engagement.

They also don’t do advertising on Google or Yahoo. Better options are forums like -- answer questions like what are the softwares available for a particular problem, and if your software has features, they look.

He said that SEO is important, and blogs are preferred by google. He mentioned something 400 rupees per article.

Sachin advised to have an unconditional refund policy.

He said that nobody is a better salesperson than you to sell your product. So reach out and sell. He said that go into the bathroom and look at yourself in the mirror and shout ‘I can sell.’ He said that he does that and his wife wonders what these strange screams are. Sachin also made the audience say out loud, ‘I can sell.’

Members asked about his competition. On Marchjack, he said : where they exit is their entry point. He also did a comparison with Magento.

Gayathri Choda (Datapub) --
She worked as a digital analytics consultant with Sports Illustrated, worked on their web content; she also handled nytimes syndication. She said she hated the work but was good at it. Now she has come to India and started the company and her first customers were from her contacts and previous clients.

The social, search, email guys say they will do the work, but nobody delivers what they promise. Nokia has presence in 150 countries, so a single digital marketing strategy does not work.

Their usp : they will be a single point of contact, and ‘we understand your pain point. ‘ She also said ‘we will be there with your vendor.’

The digital market is fragmented. Search for digital marketing solutions and you will get like 5 million hits. There are many in India, but don’t have much digital marketing knowledge. She gave a knowledge rating: if India is at 3-4, the U.S. is at 7-8.

They also have a tech wing that develops products for clients. They have a social media site, book release function, as clients. [read the book, we said something like dis, vendor said something else.]

NDTV is a client and they were given article level analytics. Google analytics give page level analytics and additional coding is required to get article level analytics.

She also talked about publisher (product, I think) saying that while driving you want to know the news, so they have a product to read the news based on text to speech. There was feedback from the audience stating that even speech to text is required.

One value add they do: Look at Google analytics: if you give the same ad more than 3 times, but user doesn’t come back, don’t show the ad.

It was fun to have a light-hearted spar with Ramesh Loganathan. During his wrap-up he said Hyderabad was the startup capital of India. So I asked him how can he back it up. He said he made the statement, so you disprove it.

I mentioned to him about the Outlook cover page that said Bengaluru is the idea city of India. He said that it was a journalistic opinion on one page. I told him about the relatively low presence of Hyderabad in Nasscom’s 10k program. He said Nasscom is Delhi based, so they attract startups in the NCT and also, they did not do a good job in promoting their initiative in Hyderabad.

He said they are aware of 500 recent startups in Hyderabad, and assuming a ratio of 1:2 of them and those who don’t even let know of their existence, we can be sure that there are 1500 recent startups in Hydearbad. And so the arguments continued for a couple of minutes. I said I will be extremely happy if indeed Hyderabad is the startup capital of India. And we could let it know with a magazine cover story.


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