Thursday, December 31, 2009


The year in review.

One of the greatest highs is when you crack your first client. Where you declare, though to nobody in particular, We are in business. At 6 AM in the morning.

Because when you choose this line, you told yourself, whatever it takes. Never mind, if this proved your undoing. When you beat somebody known and established in the line of business, there is a smile on your face. This year brought that smile.

When you kept giving your partner more time because he had to settle his family issues. You kept telling yourself, this will just pass and you will be on a roll. This year brought the disappointment, as it was not to be.

When you want to charge a premium to the market on the promise of better quality. And never once did you realise, what if not. This year brought that wisdom, first close sales, book revenues and then bother about charging a premium. When you are new you have to undercut.

When you realized as early as April, maybe just maybe this won't work out. But by then you had already chosen the path. And once you choose the path, you have to let the path choose everything else for you.

There was an opportunity, because the competition lacked people management skills. Client services suffered, employee morale suffered, client's expectations suffered. This created an opportunity, that we sought to take. But trifles like a nagging wife, a nagging mother-in-law, a nagging father, and financial irresponsibility turned out to be bigger demons that could not be handled.

The first employee was hired. The smile on his face when I gave him the offer letter. The dejection on his face when I told he is out of job, because we are winding down. My own failures at handling him. At times I went pretty far, like a nagging schoolteacher. At others when I should have used technology to rely on , I chose faith and was left disappointed.

My disappointments with having to handle the employee all by myself.

When I finally gathered the courage to face my partner and tell him, it ain't working out. We met perhaps after 3 months. And my partner informed me that he was looking out for jobs. I had guessed that.

Two probable opportunities which did not work out.

But like any other hindi movie, even this has to end on a happy note. Things are moving, I don't know, but they are. And I am happy about it.

Cheers and happy new year.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Start up saturday Mumbai dec 13, 2009

This was my second start up saturday. The last one being in Bangalore more than 6 months back. They have evolved since, making it a paid event.

When I entered Vizisense was making a presentation. I had never heard about them before, but they seem to be doing interesting things. And were pretty open in terms of what they do, how do they do etc.

The question and answer session was pretty mediocre with some one interested in the great Indian exalted ambition of "Value", being sought. I was surprised that compete wasn't mentioned even once, though somebody did mention comcast. A lot of questions were boring, though the presenter was super courteous and deflected the difficult ones with ease.

All start up events do not run on schedule, by design, anywhere in India. So we have this perennial race on covering something really important by the speaker, moderator egging audience for asking that "last question", audience dying to ask a question.

The audience crowd perhaps was pulled from SP, with dudes reading newspapers on the last bench. A very common phenomena in top B schools.

Overall the crowd was a lot more than I had expected, given that the organisers were charging Rs 100/50 per attendee. On top of that people had a funny sticker on their T shirts which announced their names. I did not pick one.

I understand that economics of such a event at this level do not work out, so its ok when people are trying to tweak things to see what works and what doesn't.

The next session was a talk by Deap Ubhi, about his start up Burp. A few takeaways.

Mr. Mani will spend a lot of time in US as he will try to concentrate on the US business of Just dial.

In 10 years justdial this year may make a to of 25 millions and profit of 1 million. I guess INR and not USD.

The VC exit ecosystem in India is not very well developed. In the silicon valley at least the bigger companies are buying smaller companies either for the idea, the system or the product that has been created, the star team or just to help a friend. The same may be absent in India.

The idea of burp was simply an arbitrage opportunity to create a local listing in the India Market. Exactly like printo.

Burp will do revenues of 6.5 cr this year, break even in april 2010, though infomedia is loosing money. Info media 18 is a listed company but I could not find its annual report on the web.

The accuracy of data in infomedia is about 50%.

Burp was unsuccessful in many VC pitches and finally the person they got was a strategic investor who could leverage burp along with his/her other investments.

At the time of the sale, burp had offers from Google and another company. Since Deap was brought up in US, there were times when I could not pick up a few words because of his accent. This was one of those times.

Burp will have a tie up with nivalink.

My over all judgement was that he did a good job in stating the facts as they stood, without sounding way too enthusiastic and going overboard. And since our problem is that we worship success and burp looks like a success, we want as much sound bytes from those, who have been there and done that.

The problem with the Indian market is the GDP and the IT, ITeS success stories. Everybody seems to be trying to replicate the same in other areas, start ups, green technology, VC scene etc.

My judgement is that the picture is not as rosy as it looks. Sure Deap made a lot of money and did have an opportunity to exit, which very few get in India. He might have a taken a few positions which did not turn out just right.

If I was in his shoes, after a year of operations, if I had seen a lot of PR in restaurants in Mumbai, I might have dumped the local business listing model and would have gone straight into restaurants in mumbai dropping every thing else. Set up a payment gateway, take bookings, do food festivals, whatever. But that's just me.

In future start up saturday's the questions need to be moderated and people need to stop asking three questions and expecting people to remenber all three before answering.

Minutes after Deap expressed his disapointment with sms mobile business not turning out very well, there was a talk/sales pitch by a company on mobile campaigns. Had it been an informative talk, I might have stayed, but it was a simple sales pitch. I got bored and left.

I am no journalist or a professional blogger or an event reporter. Had I been one , I would have definitely made an attempt to make this piece more structured and spent time on putting a flow in place. It is a notes for myself type of piece.

p.s. I have got burp wrong throughout this piece, the url is, though there is some IP level conflict, my browser is either taking me to the Bangalore landing page or the Delhi landing page, though i am in Mumbai.

Conversation with A

Why are you hell bent on an online business?

Do a better market research, meet the builders, brokers etc.

There is a risk in any business, I just need to be aware of the risks before I am putting the money in something.

why will a buyer of a property buy from you over the other brokers? can you provide the best deal in this segment, given that you are a novice. My guess was that this market the buyer wouldn't bother about getting a better deal. I need to either validate or negate my assumption by speaking with a prospective buyer.

what is the differentiation that you would be bringing on the table.

Why don't you start a simple educational reselling business where deal size is 10k to 30 k. So that the commissions are higher.
Me: The problem with software reselling is that the effort spent per sale is very high. Though the commission is higher, but revenue per sale is very less.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Then Steffi, Now Strauss

I am not a huge tennis or cricket fan. I still do not understand the nomenclature of a cricketing field. And I don't know when was the last time I watched a tennis match in its entirety.

Flashback 1999. I had bombed the JEE, was looking at taking anything in Eamcet at a grand 5k rank, when steffi graf came back from an injury, i guess it was Wimbledon. And won.

It lifted me, her courage, when every critic had written her off and no one believed she could, i suppose neither did she.

And I decided I will give JEE another shot.

Flashback over.

I have been a little hung up of little on what if this works and what if it does not. And then I read a piece on Strauss in cricinfo. How a couple of years back, he had almost given up playing for england and then went out and just enjoyed himself as there was nothing more to loose.

Only after the nadir is hit, can you enjoy the moment.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

One Step

One step at a time Phaedrus.

Uncertainty is a challenge and so is my love for back up plans. I need to shed the later for now.
Just try this, see how it works. And if it fails then it fails, and move on easily.

I have always gotten away with my usual, I don't know what to do with my life. For a long time

The cup is overflowing now. I have responsibilities which I need to own up to. Give people
clarity as to where my life is heading and not just a complicated if else version of what my life
might turn into.

Parents have paid some money for the construction of house, which now might be put on hold because
because of my unsteadiness. Some money has already gone down the drain.

Bangalore is like foreign for us.
All a parent wants is to live their life with their kids.
Finally even we will need some support.
What will we do after building a house if it has to be left vacant
We have no love to own a house.
If need be we can buy a house later, here.
You have seen a lot of late, including a lot of struggle, just decide what you want to do now
and stick with it.
Don't worry about running out of money.
You can take another year, we will wait.

Strangely, no talk about marriage.