Saturday, November 21, 2009

Start-up....where to start from??

Diverting from my previous topic, this one deals with the problems that crop up when you are all gung-ho about taking a dip in start-up pool.......Har Har Gangey!!!...also, this is an effort to organize my thoughts and search for those missing pieces. But mainly, this is an effort to call out all those like-minded folks who are interested in getting together to seek a challenge and turn it into a successful venture........

For a techno-entrepreneur, start-up process can be split into these steps:
  1. job is NOT challenging/NOT fun/NOT paying me enough/NOT paying me at all...aka..NO job/do NOT want to work for a creep or all of these. So what do I do? I start-up my own company. ha!!! simple!!! (rate 5 on 5 for how easy it is..5 being really easy).
  2. Now I have to think of some problem that I would love to solve....ah..technologist just love to solve..... But then, this process is itself split into ------ > WHAT - energy, automotive, software, financial, environmental, health, retail...and for India loving guy like me -----> WHERE - India, US ...Antarctica(nay)..Hawai.....hmmm.......(rate 4 on 5 )
  3. Problems ...ah..opportunities listed....(not an easy nut to crack)....look for around on internet if it has been solved....if the solution is better than ours ..better in term of design, quality, cost, name....if it missed out something that we can explore.........(rate 2 on 5 -- takes a lot of thinking, scribbling, rejecting and researching to narrow down something feasible)
  4. Phew!!! Opportunities shortlisted.... search for best possible solutions...this is more like building a concept to approach your objective issue in the best possible way..... (rate 2 on 5...not easy..but still, doable)
  5. Objective listed, approach to solution go and do it tiger!!!!....and tiger does not know how to program in Java, or about windmill, or about solar cells, or about Indian market ....huh....and then you gasp for fresh air.... (rate 1 on 5 - need executioners in the team)
  6. But you still make it through by hook or crook to step is the time to sell your idea....hmmm.....VCs are Angels...but how to meet is at this step when you have to draw that minimally used card....Connections, connections and on this holy earth do I get connected to a gotta have flair baby...!!!! (2 on 5)
  7. Establishing connections is one thing...but impressing that angle by making a sales pitch......hmmmmm (1 on 5)
  8. Once you convince that angel about you being the best thing that's gonna happen to him, you have nailed the first part of making it to the big league ..... ...or atleast hoping that you will make it to the big league quickly...(1 on 5)
I think that almost every technological brain is at first step...kidding...but most of us would like to get out of that daily rigmarole......and try to find that challenge which makes our existence in this world worthwhile and appreciated...even though it can be a small group of people....

Thinking of a start-up does not come easily....One very commonly used punchline is " Where everyone sees a problem, an entrepreneur sees an opportunity ".......Everyday, zillion of people encounter problems in day-to-day life. These problems can be easily classified into two categories:
  1. Trivial issues, which, if not solved will not impact user's day-to-day life. A user normally accepts his fate and whatever is thrown at him e.g. if you have any laptop other than Mac and if you trip the battery charging cable, you can break or twist the charging cable. So what do you do? You circumvent around your laptop to avoid tripping the cable. But, in Macbooks, power ports are connected to a charging socket which attaches itself to the frame using a simple magnet. Flaw in design rectified by a brilliantly simple idea. (they need to come up for something like this for my iPhone - i have already got enough scratches near charging port while trying to plug it to power in dark and in car).
  2. Non-trivial issues, which, if not solved, will break peoples' hearts.... nay..but not resolving these issues will make the user cultivate a dislike towards the product or process........and you can hear people making some strong-statements against such a product/services/process....e.g Windows Vista did break my wife's heart...slow OS, rebooting issues and the list goes on and on....

Similarly, corresponding to the issue classification, approaches to the solving these issues can also be majorly classified in same way. But it is one thing to think of a solution and another thing to implement it.
  1. Simple Solution for trivial issue : Like what apple did with power.
  2. Simple Solution for non-trivial issue: Public transportation and a little change in public habits in US can result in saving fuel and hence, will enable protection of natural resources. (This is a simple solution to think, but a hard-one to impose, formulate and implement).
  3. Non-simple solution for a trivial issue: e.g Russian astronauts using pencil in rockets where US spent a large chunk of money to investigate the best solution to replace fountain pen (i think that they still came up with ball-pen).
  4. Non-simple solution for a non-trivial issue: e.g. health insurance plan in US or Social Security plan in India.

Once you have thought of an issue and an approach to resolve it in a way that it makes a perfect business case i.e. it is a cost-effective (for profit-making) and sustainable (for long-term vision), you are ready to implement it.....voilla...cook the broth!!!!

Now this is a hard-one for people thinking out of the scope of their expertise....but this should not act as a dampner...remember that Steve Jobs was never a Computer geek....but he had a penchant to understand how user would like a product to be.......Connections are very helpful and essential and can point you to the right direction or if you are lucky, then they may be willing to join your team.

Since, I have an experience till implementation stage before my team found out that some other team has an immense head-start in idea we were exploring, I am not at right stage to comment on further steps.....but yeah..that day will come.....

Lessons learned from my team's attempt to jump-start our start-up caravan:
- Include a s/w guy in the team (any other than automotive s.w) anyone interested...let me know...experience with Mobile technology/ web technology will be handy.....
- Get connected...seriously...will attend meet-ups and join Engineers Without Border, barcamp....
- Organize problem-search step in a better way.

My blog labeled 'start-up process' will run in parallel with my investigations and reports on various avenues and sectors with scope for development in India/US........

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Seeking an idea for change and partners to join

Very true....
Seeking such an idea that will impact and change the lives of those impoverished millions in my country. I am trying to organize my ideas along with acquiring feedback from vast pool of like-minded socially driven, techno-entrepreneurs with keen interest in market exploration.

It is said that information empowers and can bring in change.
In India, empowerment revolution started out in 1992 during Congress rule with Dr.Manmohan Singh at helm of Finance Ministry. Although, opening up industrial-sector to private players was a desperate act to save India's coffers from going zilch, it acted as a blessing in disguise. Entry of new players in the market guaranteed that government-run bureaucratic organizations are sidelined (slacky baaboos ..they deserved it). But the best thing that these new players brought in was freshness - freshness of thoughts, freshness of perspective and fresh was like a whiff of fresh-brewed coffee that lingers in your senses for long time (becoming poetic here...btw, I hate coffee, but love its smell).....
These ideas were targeted towards specific needs of Indian customers and these needs were being fulfilled in the most unorthodox manner. With limited financial resources at his hand, Indian customer has never made it to the list of top-10 favorite customers of multinational companies. India's major woe, its ever-increasing population, became main reason for these multi-cos to set-up their shops in India. In burgeoning population of India, they saw immense potential for quick expansion. One of the major sectors that benefited from open-market phenomena was Information Technology sector. With rapid strides made in the expansion of infrastructure for IT and Telecom, India has now become a major market for technological products and services. Urban customer has been lured now the spotlight is on that guy from farm and rural areas, which still remains untapped but has an immense potential.

What enabled this change? Customer enlightenment through tools for information. Information was always there, but its access was a prerogative of a limited few. Coming from a middle class family and from a small town in Himachal, one of the many changes that I have observed are listed below:
- I graduated from engineering college in 2002. Till then I did not have any cell-phone. Had to wait in line at STD booths on chilly nights in winter....haaaa that seems like an eternity now....
- My younger sister wrapped-up her undergrad degree in 2005. She owned a cell-phone since 2003, her first year of undergrad.
- My first younger cousin wrapped-up his undergrad degree in 2007. He owned a cell-phone since he was in his Senior Secondary school.
- My second cousin is in Senior Secondary school and he owns a cell-phone since high school.
- My niece will be in 7th Standard, and I am sure that she will have a cell-phone before she finishes her high school and will move to iphone soon.

In case of my cousins and my sister, they were all staying away from their family. Although, I stayed away from my home-town during my undergrad, I could not afford a cell-phone because it was not financially viable for me at that time. It is the cost of technology that drives the penetration of technology in India and other cost-sensitive markets and this trend will continue in time to come.

Idea time!!!
I am analyzing market gaps in Indian market primarily and in US (secondary). Both the markets are diametrically opposite to each other, but I believe that low-cost and acceptable quality will sell anywhere in the world.

For India, I am striving to drive for some ideas in following areas:
- Cell-phone driven infrastructure/health/education/agricultural services.
- Web-based services to ease the life of urbanites with access to web-technology.

For US:
- Web-based/ Mobile-based/ Location based

Hence, I am looking for some like-minded folks to jump-in and join the entrepreneurial band-wagon....

For my next blog, I will try to crunch in some numbers related to cell-phone penetration in India. Also, I will try to search and list some of the innovative services and techno-products targeted towards Indian customer.

Monday, January 19, 2009

back on blogs

long time...finally, its about time when I pick up that pen and paper, or i should say, punch those keys and start writing...the last time I blogged, it was circa 2005...was in a new job, new city and single....a lot has changed on personal and professional front in past three years.... 
1. marriage being the first of those things after an exciting year of inter-continental courtship and all...
2. have travelled a lot in US and in Europe...
3. have tried to start a venture of my own but got bogged down pretty soon.... 
4. got over with my Mustang and bought a new Subaru Forester... no turbo though
5. moved on from vehicle testing to feature design and software stuff...

interests have moved to new areas: business ventures, product designs, bottom-of-pyramid product innovations, business for indian markets.

As with any other blog, this blog starts out as an outlet for expressing my thoughts on my areas of present interest as I have listed above. Amongst other things, I will be updating regularly what goes on personal front as well....