What makes startups work, or not work, in India? 5 founders share their secrets (highlights)

Lexity Labs started in Bangalore mid-2011, and we’ve been growing leaps and bounds since. It’s a core technology center for us – no outsourcing balderdash here – and we recruit top researchers and technologist from all over India.

To coincide with my visit to this office, Lexity organized two talks on entrepreneurship, in Delhi and Bangalore. The startup ecosystem in India is really taking off, and we are doing our part in helping it grow!

@ IIT Delhi – Rajul and Amit on Startups across the time/space continuum

Rajul Garg and I were roommates at IIT Delhi, and took different routes in our entrepreneurial journey. He’s now with Sunstone Business School, having started what’s now GlobalLogic right after school, in India; while I completed a masters program, and worked at a few different companies, before starting Lexity in the US.

We had a healthy audience, and covered a lot of topics. A few tidbits:

  • We discussed how there was a lot of investor interest in ecommerce startups in India last year, but there’s been more scrutiny of these businesses in the recent months.
  • What’s ‘hot’ in the startup zeitgeist really depends on, unfortunately, what the current hype cycle is. When outsourcing companies were growing leaps and bounds, a lot of startups popped up in that space. These days, the same story is being repeated in eCommerce.
  • Pivots are natural, and sometimes dramatic – one of Rajul’s companies went from a product company to a services company, while the other started as a services operation, and ended up building a product.
  • Mobile startups in India face the prospect of working with telco operators, know to be tough negotiators. You can control your destiny better with an app-oriented mobile startup, but distribution is still a tough problem.
  • Starting a company right out of school has the big advantage of a low burn rate – you can sustain yourself for much longer as you figure things out. Once you have a family, this becomes much harder to do (but not impossible).
  • Traditionally, India businesses have been averse to paying much for B2B products. As a result, B2B enterprise companies haven’t really taken off in India

@ Claytopia, Bangalore – Amiya, Anshuman and Amit on Building Startups

Founders of 3 hot startups – Zipdial (Amiya Pathak), MyGola (Anshuman Bapna) and Lexity (Amit) came together to chat in an intimate setting about what it really takes to do a startup, especially in India.

We had a very lively discussion with the audience – here are a few highlights.

  • When starting out, err on the side of sharing more, rather than less. Talking to people helps make ideas stronger, as each successive critique forces you to refine the idea further and solidify the pitch, feature, or product.
  • Valley-returned founders definitely miss the sense of urgency and excitement of Silicon Valley – simple things like overhearing other founders on Caltrain discussing their progress, and getting motivated by it.
  • Indian ‘jugaad’ is the name of the game – when faced with constant power cuts, MyGola packed up their bags and went to work out of Sri Lanka for a few weeks. Now, it’s an annual tradition!
  • All the founders acknowledged, to some surprise, that they always have a Plan B/Plan C tucked away in their back pockets. While you might be unflinchingly focussed on executing on Plan A, it’s also your responsibility to know what the various strategic options are, and keep them warm.
  • It’s natural, expected, and kinda important to take your time finding the right co-founders. You’re looking for someone with complementary skills, and make sure to ‘date’ for a reasonable period of time before committing.
  • Food – it’s important! Breaking bread together brings teams closer, and has all sorts of positive side-effects.
  • Startups often misdirect casual observers about what their most profitable products are, or downplay features that caused them to take off. In fact, often, the first products or features totally bomb.
  • Successful entrepreneurs in India don’t habitually share their stories, and every wave of startups has to learn from the same mistakes again and again. We agreed that talks like these are invaluable in spreading the knowledge and helping budding startups.

We really enjoyed sharing our experiences with entrepreneurs and students of the startup ecosystem. Stay tuned for more such talks in the future!

Amit – @akumar

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