Friday, November 12, 2010

NASSCOM Product conclave - Day 2 - Points

The first keynote had Yahoo CEO , Carol Bartz. The kalinga house of lalit ashok was full. There were media vans outside and nobody was wasting their time outside.
The points
  1. India could have better Internet penetration if there is access to more bandwidth and access to more devices (need not be laptops or phones) at rates which are affordable to Indians.
  2. Yahoo is about content and how it can be relevant to its end users.
  3. Yahoo does not yet have plan for an app marketplace.
  4. Yahoo encourages women to come and contribute more in the engineering realm.
The next keynote was by Dr Frank H Levinson.
The points
  1. I will try to make the session fun but jokes across cultures can backfire at time.
  2. The hall is full and I should thank Carol for same.
  3. The biggest mistake was becoming CEO of my first start up and I got fired within 6 months. My wife said it was not my fault but I said it was mine. I took full responsibility and accepted my failure and learned from it. In the next venture I was not the CEO. Accept your mistakes. 
  4. Friends and family money is not good nor are they a good co-founders. It is hard during rough times in business cycles when you have to take difficult decisions. It is easier to work with a colleague who becomes partner. There were only two occasions when I socialized with my partner and that was that.
  5. Bootstrapping is essential in beginning but when you need the money then VC should come. Early in the venture they do not give time for the product to refine. The first versions of product are not generally marketable. It took us 3 years to our product correct for the market. VC cannot give you that time. They give 10 million and would ideally want 9 women to get together and deliver baby in one month. But they are the ones with experience and they have seen it and could forewarn and check your mistakes before they kill your business.
  6. Retaining talent is tough. Engineers like to create more than equity and cash. If you can convince them that what you are building is great product then it will be easier to keep them. Listen to your team. If they avoid you or answers are not what you would term as normal conversation then be ready to face the truth. Don't sugar-coat nor ignore it. Its very unasian to be straight. Its common in valley to have straight talk and not feel lousy about it.
  7. When you provide Service to your client it is assumed that everything that you do is for them. It is not so. While you may give them what they have asked for you can spend your own money to build a module/component that will become yours and you can either package it in the same deal or sell it separately. We created our first module on same line and now it has lead us to become number 1 supplier of optic fibre cables in world. We always wanted to become a product company. Services was good to bootstrap but services was never our goal even though our first few projects were purely engineering. Dont be afraid to share ideas with your customers and help them improve your product. But find out what will be your core and try to protect it.
  8. You will hurt your customer in your interaction with them but go back and listen and continue to serve them and try to make them more happy than unhappy. We still have our first customers onboard and the running has not always been smooth. But they still are there. 
  9. Dont throw money behind your back in name of philanthropy. Take active interest in the project and provide your insights into its execution. Make the same result oriented and focused. 
There was a workshop in which we had different panelists. Their names and points are listed below
Pallav Nadhani - Fusion Charts
  1. I started at 16 in 11th standard to make some pocket money. I ran alone for 3 years. 
  2. I was alone for support so my product had to be good on quality as well as well documented so that users would come to us less often.
  3. I had to hide the fact that we were a Indian company. At expos later in time clients came to us and said if I knew you were Indian we would have not bought from you. We designed the site perfectly and made it look world class. Only when there was email interaction would the client come to know that I was an indian company. Now it has changed and we are proud to declare ourselves as Indian company. Now there are companies across India who cater to global clientele and from cities like Jallandhar.
  4. We have gained trust by making our code commercial open source. By making older versions of code open source and free. The clients said if they could do this then they can certainly do better than this. 
  5. We also integrated free for our clients. We know that charts are integral part of their application and once they built liking for it they will continue to be our customers for long.
  6. We have 80000 customers and only 4 in support staff.
Hanuman Tripathy - Infrasoft
  1. We have built a market leader in banking and financial sector across geographies for tier 2 banks.
  2. Focus on the finished product. Even at beta stage the product should be well packaged.
  3. We had a point of death in 2002 where we miscalculate the market spend by the banks. We were ready for 50crores but the market bloated to 500 crores as projects got redefined and focus shifted to large SI and larger players. We had a choice to die or do something else. We decided to focus on the smaller banks who we knew would grow. Along with them was attached our growth.
  4. Our ticket size is from quarter million to 2 million and thus our sales cycles could even last a year.
Ajay S Sharma - Srishti software
  1. The jugad जुगाड़ mentality is integral to our culture. We cannot do away with it. The western culture needs periodic and updated information on progress. It will be shocker for them to know that Project Manager here is not sure whether he will be able to deliver the project in the evening. But during the day the team somehow manages to deliver it in the evening. If we ask them the progress the response is "It will be done" सर हो जाएगा, चिंता मत करो सर सब हो जाएगा, क्यों टेंशन लेते हो हो जाएगा न.  
  2. He illustrated the above point with a anecdote. His father friend in Russia who was at senior post in Russian refinery said "He started to believe in GOD after coming to India.". Why? "When I come in morning to refinery I get scared that how will this get done today, I am worried the whole day but in the evening before I return I see the work and its ALL DONE. How is it possible if GOD did not exist?"
  3. Recruit a smart technical resource early on in your startup. When you go public and if you hit success then your product will die young if its not architected well. 
  4. Same as above but have a domain expert onboard soon either as advisor or stakeholder. Your clients will not take you seriously if you dont claim to know their business and the effort you have put in building the product.
  5. Get your first customer right. If the first customer is weak on domain it will reflect on your product initial feedback post launch and your subsequent features will go against future prospects.
Manav Garg - Eka software
  1. If you sales manager owns a ferrari and lives in a 5 million house then you cannot ask him to travel economy. Your sales and marketing budget should be driven by your markets and the quality of people that you want onboard.
    There was a workshop by Dr. Sridhar Vembu, CEO, Zoho
    The points
    1. Eyeballs are needed for social networking sites. Facebook gets 5 million users but revenue could be around a billion dollors. Salesforce has 2 million users and revenue soon to reach 2 billion dollars.
    2. Find out whether your business needs eyeballs or revenue. 
    3. We launched Zoho writer a good 5-6 months before Google docs. We did not know why we had launced it but we did. But after Google entry into office space either we had to fight Google or die young. We choose to go beyond office like products. Then we were nobody but now people talk about us and recognize us as more than office like company and talk along side Google.
    4. If Google is queen then we were mistress.
    5. Advertise in the markets where you have most conversions. If I put billboard in Chennai it will feel nice and probably drive eyeballs but less conversions, whereas the same billboard in california would mean more recognition for the brand and better conversion. Find out where your users convert and pay you revenue and spend your marketing budgets there. 
    6. The techcrunch effect. They will cover you if you deserve it. You will get eyeballs from techcrunch but that of tech savvy audience. They will like your product if its good and only then they will tell their friends. People forget you on techcrunch after a few days and then only your product will carry the next wave of conversion. But initially focus on tech savvy blogs to cover you.  I did not want my father to waste our bandwidth by using our product because he did not go to techcrunch. He started reading techcrunch and now he is qualified to use our product.
    7. If you can get 20000 users who pay you then you have arrived on the SAAS world. You will have revenues and you will have to continue to grow with your customers.
    Side notes
    1. What were you doing for last 1.5 years? Lava mobiles was started then and now has 4% of marketshare, double the sales+service centers of nokia (1000) and is focused on the rural market. 
    2. Duron energy is created by US citizen and based out of Bangalore. They have learnt to sell energy solutions to rural India by effective sales and distribution channel which is customized for every state.
    3. A journalist goes to each of these events searching for stories like "Sally doubles its revenue from x to 2x from a sales agent of sally".
    4. A lady with BCOM background trading chemicals in earlier avatar creates a ERP product for Indian SMB. The indian customer just wants what he needs - where is his inventory, what is happening with PO/invoices, he is not bothered about reports/BI or quarterly projections, he is bothered about the end of day not month/quarter or year.
    5. A senior person returns from US after 36 years to head technology in engineering services. He claims that when he was Independent Consultant he commanded rates of 125 to 150 dollars, says if you deserve it you will get it.
    6. An individual launches himself as "Innovation-as-a-service" expert. 
    7. An angel investor tells you to go to NEN to get mentored and after you have developed a product map, meet him. 
    8. Indian startup story is not centered in big cities, it is happening everywhere and in every field. Go reach out and you will see.
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