#startupchronicles

Within a matter of minutes, shaking hands with the CEO of one of India’s largest multiplex chains and then turning into manual labor to load our machine back into the tempo!

There are moments everyday, that one might think too much about, or nothing about.

Every moment you take to reflect, amuses you.

Oh, and I uberpooled to this meeting – and enroute, shared the ride with a guy whose family lives a couple of kms away from wifey’s family in secunderabad. And he calls the marketing head of another cinema chain, to discuss my concept – and follows up with me later during the day to discuss our entire engagement model.

Luck, sure. Leveraging – critical. I could jolly well have not spoken to that guy at all.

Confessions of a College Entrepreneur- I

It’s been long overdue. At one point of time, I was lauded for my courage in having opted out of campus placements and pursue something of my own. I didn’t see the risk as too big at that point of time – didn’t understand why it was made into a big deal.

Life’s moved in a fast forward, amidst the immature confidence I had at that time – a bit of mature rationality has crept in. I may not be able to take the same decision today. There was a recklessness to it – which the deliberation of today won’t allow.

Just like it’s difficult to come to terms with the first heartbreak, it takes time to accept an endeavor as a failure. You can move on – but you have to get the closure to be able to talk about the experience and not be affected by it.  At times, the mirror asks you questions and you fumble for an answer and what ensues, is a conversation with yourself – as you stare into space – you know it’s time to get candid.

So was it a good idea to opt out of campus placements and build a web 2.0 startup of your own?

Two and a half years hence, I don’t think I can conclusively say that it was a good idea or bad.

Perhaps if you’re the kinds who can learn and understand by listen to advice – it would be wiser to learn at someone else’s expense. But if you’re like me – you really need to experience things yourself for the lessons to stick – first hand learning.  So there wasn’t much wrong with the decision to start.

How’s LiL doing?

It’s up and live, I use it occasionally. I don’t see it as a business as of now, and am not doing anything about it professionally.

Why?

Not being a techie myself had come in the way – wasn’t happy with the non achievement of the milestones I’d set – and couldn’t see a way forward.

So what did go wrong?

A whole lot of things actually, if I were to point out the top few,

Not having a techie as a co-founder.

Not enough clarity in vision and thoughts

No idea about product life-cycle management / usability

No focus on revenue generation / sustainability

Not having an adequately hands-on approach

To be Continued!

A Career Move!

Alright, a piece of news from my life, a few weeks old though. Partly laziness and partly a new found sense of discipline kept me from writing all this while.

Two and a half years after MBA and having gotten my hands dirty in different aspects of being on my own – having had the freedom from office routines and learning a thing or two about running a company, I’m entering a semi-corporate career!

Joined MapMyIndia in Delhi, as an AVP looking after Consumer Experience and Alliances. Good part is I get to work closely with the directors. The company is in a fast growth transition phase from being a startup to a corporate, while I was apprehensive to start with – the structures seem relatively easy to handle. There’s no painful boss, or someone staring at me when I walk into office or when I walk out.

There’s ample freedom to do stuff that I feel like doing – to shape the direction of consumer internet and mobile plans for a company that has been largely enterprise focused all this while. And I have a couple of product managers to lead!

Oh, and this also means I’ve relocated to Delhi. Bidding adieu to Bombay somehow didn’t affect me a lot – expect – the friends would be missed.

The time after college has been an amazing learning curve – yet to really let go of all the naivete of youth – and yet to learn the cynicism of the mature. Getting things done – even if it’s by sheer bull headedness – is something I’m trying to learn.

For those, who ping once in a while and ask how my startup is doing – well, lifeinlines is very much on and recording the story of my life and some others – and like I’d put it earlier sometime – like the first love of life – the first startup stays in your heart.. may not get you anywhere!

I’m told it takes an average of 5-9 attempts at starting up, before one really makes it. It would be a while before I set out again. The confessions from the previous one are yet to be collated!

Anyway, unlike most of my decisions, this one was made with ample deliberation – and guidance from new-found mentors! And well, so far it’s been great. It’s amazing how someone can help you through the maze of clouded thoughts and make everything seem so logical.

Will hopefully write more often now!

How about a Kitchen 2.0?

Applying the 2.0 philosophy to non-obvious things, seems an interesting thing to do! The best part with internet, is it’s power to aggregate and disseminate information – to connect people that live in different worlds, in ways that create value for both the parties!

I’d thought over this one long ago, and more thoroughly than I remember now or am posting here..

There are ample singles who crave for good food, at home or office. (Not everyone is blessed to know cooking himself, or have a great cook). In some cases, married people might also have issues cooking regularly. Specially, if the wife’s gotta cook before she leaves for her own office!

So if one arranges for a nice quality, home cooked food, some of these guys would be happy to have it.

Now, what food do YOU like the most? on a regular basis? Perhaps it’s the one cooked at home by mom. Ok?

So if some of the housewives living in Bombay could cook a meal for you, alongside watching soaps – they’re in a job they know well, and are happy doing, and you might get food that’s more than edible.

System needs to ensure the information flow and the material flow. Use web and system generated sms/calls and a logistics system to arrange for the pickup and delivery of the tiffins. Think the dabbawalas know this job well.

Effectively, it uses internet/mobile to turn thousands of domestic kitchens into producers of food, generating value for women who can’t possibly step out of their homes to work, for whatever reasons. And provides good food to the several ill-fed guys and girls.

Little or no capital expense on the part of the kitchen owner, she ony cooks as much as she can, with her resources. The guy can have food from different kitchens every day, to keep the variety on. He can set the menu in advance, of what he wants, and the system will deliver him the same, wherever it’s cooked!

Can institute a  quality check before a kitchen/cook is taken onboard. They can show interest by sending an SMS or something.

Evolving further, you can have the choice of cooks online, based on reviews/rating by other eaters.

If restaurant rating can help you decide, so can kitchen rating. Lots more can be played with, on the web and phone interface.

What say?

Next, in my line of thought, is Gifting 2.0. Wish you could send just a rose to that friend of yours in the next one hour coz she’s pissed with you? No service provider can set up such a network. Junta can. Shall be writing further soon.

Wisdom Tooth Hurts…

It’s weird, I’d initiated this post last year and I dont’ remember the context! The title sure seems interesting enough for me to rethink and start a journey through my years of having gained wisdom and how I don’t like it so much!

These might sound like rants of the angst, but well, first hand learning!

People are weird – they don’t always say the truth, they dont’ always mean what they say, and they dont’ always say what’s on their mind.

Personally and professionally, this has been the most appalling thing I’ve come across. To believe in people, only to be let down and be disappointed.

Then I wonder if it’s too naive to continue to trust people, or should I become wise – once bitten, twice shy!

The quotes that are treated as lessons, aren’t just ‘quotes’, my favorite one, in this regard now, is ” Trust only those who stand to lose as much as you do, when things go wrong

I’ve wanted to stay the Anne Frank way, to continue to believe people are really good at heart and not judge them

The other thing, is the realization of the impossible – the rise of practicality, with a dash of cynicism.

Whenever I’ve been told about something can’t be done, I’ve been obsessed with walking around the whole thing, to find a logical, reasonable solution to show HOW it can be done.

To reach dead ends, hits you hard. To realize that the obstacles standing in front of you are too big to really cross over, move around and/or penetrate through.

The first time you accept something as impossible, or not worth the effort, the first time you let go of something is when the maturation process starts!

And then when you see expensive mistakes, that you can’t undo. Just like a hand of poker, where you see in the final round, after raising the stakes rather high, that you can’t possibly win. The moment you realize that, the wise thing to do, is to fold. It’s not easy. It takes wisdom! And to get this wisdom, you need to lose a few hands.

I wasn’t born a pro!

Tagore, surely didn’t mean this when he said, “Perpetual giving up is the only truth of life”

So what are the times YOU’ve turned wiser, with a bad experience?

Internet Marketing in India?

Have been breaking my head all day to understand the suite of services that a complete internet division in an ad agency must have, to be able to deliver genuine value to the clients. Got to ensure that the clients are not put off with their early experiments, but instead,  get increasingly excited by what internet can do for them.

Slow moving ad agencies – don’t know what to do what the internet can really do for their clients!

Fragmented small internet Agencies – Digital Marketing and now Social Media Optimization/Marketing. Smart entrepreneurs but limited client access and limited resources.

The Hypothesis, the Ad agency enjoys a long relationship and credibility with the client and would find it easy to get him to experiment. But it doesn’t have the in house competence to create and execute solutions. If we could find a smart way of bridging these Agencies, and build the bridge between the innovative startups and the clients, it could be a rather interesting thing.

To get involved as this interface point, would give me an opportunity to play a role I like the most – the integrator – to bring the different stakeholders to a table.. and get the action going.

Though managing the diverse interests of the stakeholders could be a challenge in itself, it would be interesting. To begin with, try reaching the resources from where they are, and then over a period, build the competence in house, as you go about learning your lessons in understanding the whole thing yourself.

Over a period, however, the big agency would want to develop its own team, rather than outsource the work further to smaller agencies. And the fun part is, the smart guys running the smaller agencies won’t be keen to join the big agencies as employees!

So the quest is, to create a semi independent entity within the agency’s current structure, which enables the freedom to the internet smart guys to work their way, and yet have the resources and client access enabled by the agency. It can’t be a pure employment model.

Ok. A bunch of hypotheses. Only way to do a reality check is to go through the exploration myself.

After writing all this down, and looking at the myriad bunch of activities happening on the web, in a fragmented way, think it’s not SO complicated or overwhelming as it seemed, in the beginning. Lets see if something’s really gotten into my head or not!

Time to make a powerpoint, to visually present my understanding of the whole thing.

Students turning entrepreneurs.. are they?

A journalist friend called up yesterday, she was researching on the trends of students turning entrepreneurs straight from campus, in the wake of the economic crisis, and wanted my opinion to form her own perspective!

Funny, I don’t have too many facts to side with either thought – whether or not there are more entrepreneurs coming out –

Is it more difficult to be an entrepreneur now, so people would be less adventurous and stick to their jobs! Funds are said to be drying up and so are the corporate spends on a variety of things. Hiring might be put on hold for a while, even as layoffs aren’t exactly beyond the horizon!

But then, if you can be capital efficient, have a clear revenue model – Talent would be somewhat cheap now, with limited options, there’ll be fewer players and hence limited competition – Not exactly a bad idea either!

In so many words, as the proverb goes, these are the best of times and these are the worst of times!

My guess is, people would be more willing to join existing startups for a while, for the sake of the experience, rather than starting themselves from scratch!