How and when to think global

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Small Desi Startups Go Big

startup1Startup ecosystem is thriving and there is proof enough. Just observe some trending words in the IoTs – mobile ecommerce, edu-tech, clean-tech, Fin-tech, Data Analytics, Artificial intelligence, Drones, Wearable technologies, Cloud computing etc. There is little scope left to wonder that it is advancement of technology that has fuelled the startup ecosystem and with government efforts’ of easing the business milieu, things should only become better for startup entrepreneurs and enriching for users to experience.

There are Indian startups and there are billion dollar Indian startups. Names like Flipkart, Snapdeal, Zomato, Make My Trip, Ola, Practo, Pepperfry, Urbanladder have been heard many a times over, largely owing to their relatively early entry and perhaps also to do with reasons namely high valuations, marketing spends, mergers,acquisitions or variable share prices. Most of them already hold omni-channel presence and few have turned international or global within the first few years of operations. Technology and its advanced application has clearly been a winner for these startups whether they started with an ecommerce, marketplace, aggregator or listings model. The readiness and willingness of the founders or core management team went beyond the thought of limiting the use of their products or services in India’s particular geography or city of origin, their relevance was felt even in countries abroad. Even if it was a decade ago, logistics ceased to act as a barrier and these companies had bolt and run to the global shores.

India is a home to young coders who were turning into entrepreneurs. In a way, what happened in the valley has replicated well in India too. Global ventures that were largely replacing the physical formats of selling with innovative desktop sales and marketing were growing fast. Emerging technologies like CRM and Software-as-a service (SaaS) were leading to countless numbers of product startups that could service global markets. These softwares which were initially designed keeping in mind the offline demands of the consumers were now met via online interface.

Kayako, a software development organization that was originally formed in 2001 in India and currently headquartered in London develops both a cloudbased customer service platform and on-premises help desk and customer support software as per client requirements. Another Saas firm, Zoho, that started in 1996 as AdventNet Inc. made its international presence known in 2001 by expanding official operations in Japan where it had a booming market that led to its expansion. These two were privately owned companies, largely bootstrapped and seem to be working with over 35000 customers across the world. For SaaS developed in India, to remain cost effective was nurtured and market feedback helped the products to mature. One can imagine the costs of developing a technology in a Bangalore or Chennai verses in California. Both these companies seem to have first established a strong foothold before finding its buyers elsewhere. Global markets have become more porous than ever before for all web based platforms especially where no physical movement (of products or services) is required.

Another interesting technology is the ‘Cloud’. Framebench, a cloud based online collaboration, communication & feedback platform offers some interesting online workplace for professionals in animation, video production and design industry where a user gets to store & share their creative assets. Then remote teams and clients can review, mark changes and even host discussions on the web in real time. All of this is automatically documented for viewing later. Such a visual communication workflow allows for crisp & quick feedback, presumably a better and extended version of Google docs or Dropbox. The company has clients including more than 50,000 individuals and about 1,000 companies, including Unilever France, HBO and Isentia. It has even found business with the US President Barack Obama’s Republican Party to create campaign posters, advertisements and slogans, becoming the second Indian start-up after Fusion Charts to hurtle into the US election campaigning process.

NASSCOM’s 10K startups, InnoTrek, IITs R&D centers for startup incubation are examples of how industry bodies are supporting and mentoring Indian startups to bring them at par with global benchmarks. InnoTrek which brings a select group of Indian technology entrepreneurs & founders to Silicon Valley’s accelerators or investors for a week long immersive experience has already assume its second edition.

Such interesting companies and initiatives are adding hues to India’s startup skyline. While India still may be considered slower in catching up with technology advancements vis-à-vis US, UK or Israel etc, some remarkable startup stories that have stood the times with no or minimal outside support underlines the fact that startups if pivot in the right direction can not only succeed but can turn global if the need to think global is considered vital to realize the true potential right from the start.

Funding is another nurturing aspect. Global investors are hesitant to put their money in a developing market like India not because of slow adoption or development of similar technology which perhaps is rather easier and cost effective (labour, infrastructure, deployment) to build in India, other business barriers remain as apparent reasons. Although, India in terms of population and demographics appear to be an excellent market offering both biggest customer and seller base, multiple regulatory issues and licensing pose as unfavorable, rather serious threats for tech start-ups. For them to operate globally, rules and 0regulations grow complex while catering tospecific markets. If the startups figure out a way and right talent to manage and address international market dynamics, scaling up in India i.e. leveragingvolumes and then offerings as per global benchmarks become pre-requisites of entering into foreign lands.

Subsequent to 2010, the Indian technology startup scene has seen a sharp ascent in the making of new businesses. India is home to more than 4,000 dynamic new businesses, third biggest startup base in the world and youngest start-up nation with 72% founders less than 35 years.

As compared to the US where tech IPOs slowed down, valuation of Snapchat and other investments fell, the startups in India remained comparatively immune. Most prominently, Indian startups were able to pull off a $7 billion investment in 2015 as compared to $4.7 billion in 2014. Accompanied with the reduced infrastructure costs towards Clouds, the number of startups increased to a whopping 3500 in 2015. It has been juts few months into the year and almost $300 million invested into startups in India, seems yet another promising start for more global unicorns from Indian startup world.

Summarizing the above, it is observed that along with technology – timing and leadership plays an important role in a startup’s success and not necessarily the funding alone. Startups in India are flourishing and in various domains like Edu –tech, Fin- Tech, Drones etc. Indigenous startups are making lives of people easier through their affordable and convenient services not just in domestic markets but world over; this is acting as a major booster for the development and the progress of the Indian economy.

Stay Tuned!

Last part in the series:

– The Startup Race: chase of a startup dream – Overcoming Challenges & Roadblocks

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