Smart Techie Startup City

15 minute read

Yesterday, I attended The Smart Techie Startup City event. It was intended as a showcase of startups as well as for learning/sharing/mentoring.

I had taken some notes during the day. As I was expanding it into a blog post, I realized I was just adding filler words which was a waste of bits, so here it is as-is:

  • Ashish Gupta, Helion VC on "Concept to Success : Milestones for startups"
    • India is a startup (positive way of looking at things)
      • High energy
      • Lots of growth
      • Small absolute number (relatively)
      • Little infrastructure or process
      • Lack of talent
      • Lots of optimism
      • Need to innovate to survive
      • ⇒ Once in a lifetime opportunity
    • Significant change in dynamics (negative way of looking at it)
      • Whatever can be made efficient will be done so.
        • We can in turn get bangalored and some other country will benefit.
      • Creative folks will thrive.
      • ⇒ We have no choice.
    • Hardest evolutionary steps
      • Those that requires behavior change
        • For example, starting to think "Become cash flow positive"
        • Next level CEO, process, tech, business model, etc.
    • Put in place metrics to measure everything - will help identify whether one has already hit an inflection point.
    • Rules of thumb
      1. Focus on customer/issue
      2. Focus on continuous improvement
      3. Intellectual honesty
      4. Results matter - only for MEASURING (measure progress on a larger scale)
      5. ⇒ Same rules for person, family, company

Smart Techie Startup City 01 Smart Techie Startup City 02 Smart Techie Startup City 03 Smart Techie Startup City 05

  • Application Marketing panel discussion
    • Dr. Y L R Moorthi - IIMB professor of marketing (the moderator)
      • 'Technology has the shelf life of a banana'
      • Wacky ideas (product) + Marketing (messaging) - the 2 challenges
    • Paul Murphy, Director of Innovation, Microsoft India
      • Taking ideas to market is key
      • Time vs Cost in marketing
      • Leverage as many platforms as possible
    • Bharath Chinamanthur,Director - Retail Systems, Amazon India Development Center
      • Great customer experience, wide merchandise, low cost - simple basics that Amazon has adhered to
      • Free shipping in lieu of marketing program
      • Affiliate program
      • 'Zara' - a Spanish retailer, No. 64 in the Inter-Brand survey → fast moving (short availability) high-fashion available in regular malls. Their innovation is the supply-chain and the marketing since the fashion is designed by others.
    • Suresh Vedula, Head - Business Mobility, Nokia India
      • Having a good product, be honest about your product's capabilities, build a customer base.
      • All these are required for startups as well. Brand will be built over time via word of mouth, etc. If you have a product that's a dud, things like marketing and brand don't matter.
      • Nokia Basics
        1. Product innovation
        2. Reach, especially in a country like India
        3. Supply chain management
      • When everything fails, common sense succeeds
    • Y L R Moorthi
      • Marketing tactic - from 9 am to 1 pm say 'cello' instead of 'hello' and if you're the one they call up, you get a gift → costs nothing but overnight they built brand recognition in Tamil Nadu
      • Its essential to think such wacky ideas, only startups can do that.
    • Paul Murphy
      • Partner ecosystem important
      • 1) Crawl 2) Walk 3) Run
      • Success is a terrible teacher. Failure is a better one.
    • Summary by Y R L Moorthi
      • Start with the market, not the product
      • "I'm expensive now because I learned so much" - a guy who has had 3 failures who was a hot hire
      • Wacky ideas
        • Anantra, no office, save lot of money
      • How to get Reach is important, various strategies being used
        • "Oh My News" Korean newspaper/blog
        • - crowdsourcing ideas
      • Basically, ideate and monetize.

Smart Techie Startup City 06

  • Startup stalls
    • The ones I was most impressed with was Mobisy - they have already done a Adobe AIR for Mobile! You can write applications in HTML/JavaScript and deploy as an app on a number of platforms like Symbian, etc. provides native facilities like SMS, phone book, location.
    • MyDuniya - just SMS for sharing Files, messaging Groups, etc.
    • There were more startups in mobile payment (ngpay, obopay, mchek), services such as payroll outsourcing and company incorporation help, big companies like Akamai and Amazon that provide technology services for startups, etc.
    • The group stalls for Bangalore OCC and were packed.
    • Satish found QuillPad very good: "It needs guts/passion to say a 'NO' when approached by google to acquire!"

Smart Techie Startup City 07 Smart Techie Startup City 08 Smart Techie Startup City 09 Smart Techie Startup City 10 Smart Techie Startup City 11 Smart Techie Startup City 12

  • There was also a 'Meet the VCs' session going on in parallel.

  • R K Misra, Change India movement

    • Talking about his story - 3 ventures, all successful, lived in USA and Japan but had the desire to retire at 40 and have a public life. Working with the government in a private-public partnership to improve things in India
    • Rural is poor because only 18% GDP comes from agriculture and has to support 600 million people compared to 60% of Indian GDP in 1950 which supported 200 million people
    • Subsidies are not the route but he was glad the loan waiver was done even though economists disagree
    • Why should everyone in rural areas become a farmer? They cannot come to urban areas because they can't afford housing and there will be more Dharavis.
      • Some initiative here. Visit his website for details.
    • Average income in village family is 2000 rupees per month!
    • The initiatives will benefit even the politician because they can hoardings of their names. Everybody wins!
      • In all this, he is the catalyst.
    • Change India movement
    • What age should I start? Sunday comes in every age.
    • Nobody voted. We think we are too sophisticated for politics.
    • 25% of the population i.e. the middle class doesn't vote. That's why the politicians don't care about them!
    • 1) Individual 2) Social 3) National responsibilities. Entrepreneurship is about the first two, what about the third?
    • Not rocket science, it is doable
    • Help politicians in their ambitions and help them do good work such as in Orissa, etc.
    • Someone blamed PMs from North India for backwardness, R K Misra said we should not make such statements unless we have proof and also he wants one India and does not want to debate such statements. "So what are you going to do?" is his question. You should engage North Indians and help them to improve.
    • You cannot take wheat/potato from Karnataka to Andhra Pradesh! Because of APMC act.
    • Food scarcity is the best thing to happen in India because nobody wants to get into agriculture and this will help improve things
    • Costco and Walmart are already doing rationing of wheat in USA!
    • Corruption
      • Electoral reforms is important such as corporate donations to political parties should be public. But everybody benefits by it not being stringent - the middlemen 'moneybags', the politicians, the corporates, except the common man.
      • This country is like Europe - local aspirations (regional parties) and national pride (national parties).
      • It is very complex, we cannot have a 2-party system even though it's nice to talk about such things.
    • Water, food, national pride - are the critical issues going forward.
    • Nobody asked about entrepreneurship, this shows that politics is more important than entrepreneurship but please first make your money in entrepreneurship!
    • Impressive speaker, especially his clarity in thought
    • Further reading

Smart Techie Startup City 14

  • CEO Conclave
    • Panel
      1. Kris Gopalakrishnan, CEO, Infosys
      2. Dr. Vivek Mansingh, Country Manager, Dell India R&D
      3. Praveen Vishakantaiah, President, Intel India
      4. Sharad Sharma, CEO, Yahoo! India
    • They should have also invited actual entrepreneurs who are recent successes, not only people from big companies, where is Sridhar Vembu from Zoho?
    • "Co-creation", "innovation", "disruption", "inflection point", too many buzzwords
    • "Know your customer" - well, call him, I'll talk to him/her right now! I'm skeptical on this piece of advice, there is no well-defined customer, just people who might benefit from your product and they can be anybody anywhere
    • 400 Tier-1 and 2 cities in India vs just 180 in China
    • Praveen says funding not as difficult, if you stand out, it will happen
    • I wish I could beam the IBM "Stop Talking. Start Doing." ads with my cellphone to the roof:
    • Why take on cliched stories like Google, why not someone like Mobissimo?
    • Sharad Sharma is doing a good job of being the moderator
    • Discussion on adoption of IT by SMB across industries
      • I personally think this is a chicken-and-egg problem, without killer applications, why would they adopt?
    • Everybody talks about mobile. Where are the killer applications? I see JiGrahak, ngpay, obopay, mchek all solving payment problems, but is that the only thing? What else? If there's nothing else, why are all the VCs proclaiming 250 million dollars each for only mobile ventures?
    • CEO is the chief change officer and should be focused on the company's differentiation
    • Payment methods like prepaid cards for mobile will fuel the SaaS strategy to penetrate SMBs that have not adopted IT yet
    • Leaders who can take the company to the next level is important
    • Imagination is what is required. Innovation is cheap, talent is scattered.
    • Radical change is tough to handle
    • Leadership takes over when logic stops.
    • Vivek spoke well, lot of common sense, trying to instill the can-do attitude in the audience
    • I think the reason that Silicon Valley is Silicon Valley is because of the culture of experimentation and the culture that "failure is okay". That's what needs to be developed in India.
    • The first half of this session was boring, but the latter half turned out to be good.

Smart Techie Startup City 16

  • My personal takeaway : Reinforcement of basics
    • Ideas
    • User experience
    • Team - matching frequency and passion
    • Execution
    • Risk-taking
    • Business models
    • Time to market
    • Distribution, partners, tie-ups, leveraging platforms
    • Networking
    • Mentorship
    • Branding
    • Willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed i.e. wear many hats
    • Emotional strength to bide over the highs and lows
    • Know your role and shut your hole ('Monster House' advice)
    • Ability to recognize good contacts and hire good people
    • Be happy with small successes but get fired up for big ones
    • Learn to read the data
    • Make customer lock-in but always respect your customer

Overall, I think it was a good event, at least it was better than my expectations. There were some things they could've done better as I've already mentioned, especially bringing in people who are out there doing it today and succeeding instead of big company people. I wished to see people with their scars, not only people who are old and seasoned!

At the end of the day, I felt a little jaded. I guess what we need are more success stories and discussion on their stories. Yes, there are startups which are doing great such as Sloka Telecom, they are the kind of people who should be highlighted, rather than regurgitating buzzwords and spiel.

With all these events like Startup City, Startup Disco, and even an entire Indian magazine dedicated to entrepreneurship happening, I wonder if entrepreneurship is overhyped in India?


Lalit says:

Thanks a lot for the kind words for Mobisy.

Rashmi Ranjan Padhy says:

Thanks dude for the elaborate summary.

Would like to talk to you. Let me know your availability.


Vijay says:

"..I wonder if entrepreneurship is overhyped in India?"

My question to myself, everyday lately :)

Lokesh says:

Wow ! You have captured just like "Smart Techie". Great job!!

It was thrilling to see several stalls.But who will sustain in the Market is a question?. I appreciate Dr.Vivek ( DELL )'s perspectives to work on the basics like Food,Health,Education - Even peter drucker had mentioned in Challenges for 21st Century the same.

To be frank in Bangalore - You can get Pizza in 30 Min but Do we get ambulance or Medical help in 30 Min ?.

One of area,I expected something in this budding cos is Medical Domain. I could not find anything. To question myself, Will we able to overtake China,Tiwan, S Korea in a big way ?

Research based innovation are taking back seat in India. Even though India is known world over for Software & MBA graduates (IIM's). India does not have IP protection for Software and for business models. I could not see any stalls quoting outside Wow ! FIRST IN THE WORLD "Patent Pending". Is these companies have anything big in mind for technology transfers & licensing to make the ideas even bigger or to attract the VC's.

In CEO's conclave - What's happening in high level innovation?. I agree that the basic approach for innovation be the ethnography ( understanding the customer by being with him and observing his lifestyle and usage. Could they help out their own employees to build up a startup like ancillary units that were helped by biggies Public Sectors like BEL in Bangalore.

My question here is : Are we happy for what we are?. In a year India produces around 27 PHD's in Computer Science in Contrast US produces 1000 ( 275 are Indians) & China produces 2000 in the same field.Is the Innovative ideas of these startups - How much time is required for rest of the world to copy ?

As you rightly said. The experience of biggies and CEO's were old stories which worked for them 25 years ago-Pre Global Computing Age (That could also be before the new CEO of Startup Company born) The young and recently successful guys should have been projected like "Sloka" & "M Chek" on the stage.That would have been helpful for aspiring youngsters to start. The good & bad side.

How the Universities & Government can support these start ups could have been a good topic to discuss. If anyone from Technical University & Government ( Like STPI / NASSCOM representatives would have been much helpful too)

R K Mishra's Noon Session was a refreshing one ! I think some the participants would have change the Mind from StartUp to ChargeUp to form a NGO. He rightly pressed the issue of Middle Class (PVR fancy People)not voting leading to no growth in the state.

It was a good attempt by the Smart Techie guys. They could have done it much better. I appreciate their amazing efforts ( they too a startup !!two years young in India) to bringing all these people under one umbralla for a day.

Thank you

Swaroop says:

@Rashmi I have emailed you.

@Lalit I hope you guys get some wide distribution ASAP. All the best!

@Vijay Glad I'm not the only one who thinks that way :)

@Lokesh Yeah, most startups fail, this won't be any different, but it was good to see people out there and doing new stuff (except for the me-too social networks).

Medical domain is a hard thing to do. Even Google has taken ages to get Google Health off the ground.

I agree with you, taking research to products is a huge thing waiting to be tapped. I will write more about this in future posts.

Regarding PhDs, enough has been said, it is a chicken-and-egg problem. But I see lot of people in University of Mysore, IITM, etc. doing really neat work. The problem is that universities tend to be or are government institutions, and all the related problems follow.

Yep, let's hope SmartTechie and others take this feedback and work on showcasing the successful startups on stage. In any case, there's always the next to look forward to :)

Soham Das says:

Hi Swaroop,

Its a pleasant surprise to find this good a minutiae of the entire event... I was there and my thoughts resonated very strongly with the marketing panel discussion and especially with Mr. Murthy's view - "Marketing is too serious a stuff to leave it to Marketing professors or professionals..."


Nice job keep it up...

In fact I would like to put up some of the event photographs on Jump Up! [of course with proper accreditation]
Looking forward to your green signal.. :)

Nice Job keep it up!

Rani Sowmya says:

Thanks a ton for this! Refreshed my memory of the event and relieved me from reconstructing my notes. :-)

Swaroop says:

@Soham Heh, yeah, Moorthi sir was very candid and insightful!

Thanks for reminding me about the photos, I've made them public and under a Creative Commons license, so feel free to repost them.

@Rani You are welcome :)

SmartTechie Startup City in Bangalore « A Mirror of My Thoughts! says:

[...] in Bangalore. I was about to collect my notes, but a little bit of googling helped me land up at Swaroop’s notes on the event which captured the essence of the event in a remarkable [...]

SmartTechie’s StartupCity: Event Coverage |Technology and Business Startups in India says:

[...] from Ashish: Swaroop has a good post on startupcity. Check it out. Related Articles:Indian Startup Ecosystem and Mobile MondayEvent Coverage: MoMo Bangalore (March [...]

K. Srikrishna says:

I was out of the country during this event, but here are two tidbits that shed some light. One of my colleagues dropped me a note about the event asking if it would be worth attending. A quick scan of the event, gave me the feeling that the "startups" the website spoke of were all several years old and I wasn't sure they could be termed startups and the speakers were all from large companies. Also I must be honest about my own bias, of suspecting that SmartTechie was trying to jump on a "hot" area of interest and pull together an event.

Just today upon my return, at least two people who's inputs I value, commented very positively on Mobisy and Injoos as interesting startups and Yodlee's (founded circa '99, and one of the original companies I wondered if they could still be termed a startup?)MoneyCenter as interesting application.

Your summary provides an excellent overview of the events and as always there are lessons worth being reminded off, even if they aren't new.

Swaroop says:


The stalls were for both sponsors and startups, and Yodlee can definitely not be called a startup :)

Also, publication-backed events are generally more conservative and un-clued-in compared to, say, unconferences.

fruhling says:

About research and phds, it is a very sad state in india. When a professor in IIT asks his student without shame to produce one more paper, even if for his selfish interests, before he would process the synopsis of the phd thesis, you get the idea. Much to further dismay of the entire sleeping nation, the government finds no better person than such an unethical professor to be the director of an IIT, one can only feel sorry for the nation.

I think events like these definitely play a role in creating awareness and possibly the need to encourage the research oriented tech startups.