“When you are at an ideation stage you don’t attract investor attention. At that stage, you go for FFF- friends, family and fools. Either your friends and family believe in you or you can get them to believe in you.”
Kunal Nandwani, CEO of uTrade Solutions, was at his candid best at BIGShift Chandigarh, which was an evening to remember for this emerging startup hub. Addressing over 50+ startup founders present at BIGShift, the founding member of the Chandigarh Angels Network enthralled the gathering with his witty take on the startup life. Inc42 and DigitalOcean hosted the first leg of the 6-city BIGShift series at Chandigarh’s SpaceJam on July 19, inviting the early age startups, budding entrepreneurs as well as incubators and investors of the Chandigarh startup ecosystem.
As is clear from its growth in the past few years, Chandigarh is home to some of the most innovative startups in India and BIGShift celebrates such Tier 2 cities which often don’t get the limelight in comparison to metros and the Tier 1 cities. Chandigarh is just the first host city for the new BIGShift series, with next leg set to be in Nagpur on August 3. Supporting Inc42’s initiative, local founders, investors, incubator bodies and entrepreneurs took time out to engage with each other and solve the problems that are specific to the Chandigarh startup ecosystem. As can be expected, BIGShift witnessed startups come forth to talk about their work, challenges and participated in curated sessions with experts.
Sales101: Driving Your Sales Strategy
The first BIGShift session was with Khalid Qazi, the head of alliances, partnerships and growth at foodtech startup, Dineout. Qazi engaged the audience with insightful pointers on driving sales and increasing profitability, by building a strong marketing and product teams.
According to him, each business needs to think about these seven statements:
- Where you’ve been and where you want to go
- A clear ideal customer profile
- Your product’s SWOT analysis
- Blend of your sales and marketing plans
- Create clear revenue goals
- Develop and communicate a clear positioning
- Unambiguous action plan
“What has changed that affects your traditional sales strategy and pushes you to adjust with the modern ones?” he asked the audience. His answer was, “Customer centricity.”
He explained how companies and startups not only want to drive profits and sales but also want to focus on customer success, “They choose their target audience and then focus on how to attract them and gain their trust.”
With his engaging style, Qazi also touched on pressing questions such as the discount culture and subscriptions in the context of online shopping and the food business, comparing the traditional and modern-day sales strategies and more.
Seed Funding Playbook For Startups
A thriving investor community is what every startup hub needs. Kunal Nandwani, the CEO of uTrade Solutions and a founding member of Chandigarh Angels Network, is one such example in the context of Chandigarh. Nandwani also runs Startup Pundits, a non-profit initiative to mentor startups, funded by uTrade Solutions.
From ‘how much’ to ‘when’ from ‘whom’ to ‘how to go about valuation’ and finally the different sources available, Nandwani answered every question thrown at him by the gathering. He started his session talking about the importance of motivation, “You need to really know what your motivation is because most likely it is going to take you 5-7 years to survive, 8-10 years to set up a business in India. And there is a 99% probability of you failing.”
He urged the startups to focus on the execution, commenting, “Innovators do not make as much money as imitators do.”
Nandwani also gave the audience a look at the world of professional or angel investors. According to him the four things that investors typically look at before investing are—market size, team, business model and market landscape.
“Market not just today but what it would be in the next five years. So, it has to be a big and growing market or a small and rapidly growing market.”
“Good teams can make bad business plans work. It is about adapting, it is about perseverance. Hence, investors will back the team.”
“You may not make money today but at some point, your business has got to make money.”
“This is a bundle of a couple of things, such as who is your competition, what is your cost of distribution, what is your cost of production, how will you bring in people and many more.”
Learnings On Scaling For Early Stage Startups
Hosting the next session was Karan MV, the senior India outreach manager of DigitalOcean. From insights on building and improving the content on your website in order to drive more traffic to building products for product builders, he shared the key insights that have helped DigitalOcean in their growth journey.
Understanding the need for a startup to scale, Karan spoke about growth loops, how they differ from funnels, as well as the importance of content. Content is what drives more and more traction onto your website, according to Karan. “We have more than 2200 technical development-related and other tutorials published by both our in-house team and our contributor community. These tutorials get 3.5 Mn unique visits monthly to DigitalOcean site as the key thing that we concentrate on is the quality of the tutorials. Nearly 40% of our customers read a tutorial before they sign up”, he said.
Empowering The Founders Of Tomorrow
With the aim of satiating the curiosity of budding entrepreneurs about what successful entrepreneurs think about the ecosystem and the lessons they have learned through their journey, the next discussion was one of the highlights of the evening.
Vineet Khurana, VP of Chandigarh Angels Network, with more than 10 years of industry experience moderated the discussion. Sumeer Walia, the director of the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Education Development (CEED); Nandwani and Ritika Singh, founder, Kontent Factory joined the discussion as panellists.
Khurana dove deep into issues such as the gaps in the Chandigarh startup ecosystem, the positive and negative changes over the years and much more.
CEED’s Walia told the audience that he believes the Chandigarh startup ecosystem lacked the environment that creates the drive for entrepreneurship, unlike in Tier 1 cities. Tier 2 cities such as Chandigarh need the infrastructure and the conditions that motivate entrepreneurs to start their own venture and work on ideas.
During the session, while answering one of Khurana’s questions, Nandwani said that those who can’t take failures should never enter the startup ecosystem. “It’s a ride, adventurous and interesting but it requires courage. You should be able to accept your failures.”
Ritika Singh tackled Khurana’s question on the ‘importance of incubators and accelerators in the ecosystem’ with a crisp response. “Just having incubators and accelerators around is very reassuring for the ecosystem. For the early stage startups to grow and strengthen, the mere presence of these enablers is very comforting.”
Highlight Of The Evening: The BIGShift Pitch
Out of over 100 applications, only four startups had made the cut and were chosen to present their business ideas in front of the jury at the BIGShift Pitch. The jury constituted of Ashish Grover, cofounder of uTrade Solutions who has worked for nearly a decade in software development in India, and Ashok Mehta, MD from Emmbros Automotives, an entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience across various sectors.
The four startups that made it to the BIGShift Pitch were:
Founded in 2018 by Abhay Singhal, the mobile application connects people suffering from mental illnesses to therapists and mental health practitioners.
Singhal’s belief is that access to mental health is a basic human right and owing to that, TickTalkTo counters problems such as the stigma around mental health, and the inadequate ratio of mental healthcare professionals in India.
Using a therapy-focussed model, it claims to offer absolute anonymity and confidentiality to users. It only brings verified and experienced professionals on board and has over 3.5K downloads till date.
Founded by Aniket Bharadwaj and Shubham Goyal in 2017, Zadd Bikes makes smart and eco-friendly two-wheelers that provide real-time tracking, crash detection, connected riding experience and other smart features.
With a focus on urban mobility, Zadd Bikes are designed to meet the commuting needs of people in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities. The startup offers solutions such as infotainment modules, anti-theft systems, onboard diagnosis, navigation among others.
Having Samar Singla, CEO, Jugnoo, as an investor and advisor, Zadd is providing solutions to the problems of the cost of travelling, congestion, pollution and time spent on the daily commute in the metros and more.
A connected vehicle and automated data analytics and telematics company, Waypals was founded by Sukhvinder Lamba, in 2015. It monitors, analyses and predicts driving behaviours for OEMs such as automobile makers and insurance companies.
The startup offers solutions for advanced fleet management, connected personal vehicles and the insurance industry. Its solutions range from fuel monitoring and saving to real-time track and trace to crash alerts and vehicle immobilisation as well as vehicle diagnostics, incidence reporting, telematics insurance solutions, microinsurance enablement and more.
With total revenue of more than 2 Cr till date, Waypals also offers a visual dashboard and other advanced features for drivers to manage their vehicles, while insurance admins get access to real-time data in an interactive dashboard.
Subhe is a skill-learning platform founded by Vivek Rathore and Jagrit Gupta in 2018. The startup offers a library of video training courses and tutorials in Indian regional languages for those looking to upskill themselves for jobs.
On a mission to help the Indian youth dominate the existing learning space, they offer in-demand skills in technical and business subjects in the language that they are comfortable in. It has curriculum-based video training courses and tutorials created by industry experts.
To counter the problem of students who are not fluent in English, the platform is offering monthly courses with a minimal fee in their native languages and aims to offer annual courses soon. Students can learn the latest digital & technical skills on their time & device, in their own language.
At the end of the day, after the selected startups had made their pitches, the jury chose Zadd Bikes as the winner of BIGShift Pitch.
The startups that made the cut to the BIGShift Pitch got a direct entry into DigitalOcean’s Hatch Program which offers infrastructure credits, priority support, training and access to the startup community.
“Chandigarh has a vibrant ecosystem of startups solving various problems, supported by a community of approachable investors & enablers. Events like BIGShift offer a platform for the community to learn, network and also understand how their business can grow,” Karan MV, senior India outreach manager, DigitalOcean.
The response from Chandigarh’s startup ecosystem, the founders, investors and angels was exhilarating and vindicated Inc42’s confidence in startups from Tier 2 startup hubs.
After Chandigarh, the focus turns to the heart of India with Nagpur as the BIGShift tour continues. Inc42 and DigitalOcean will arrive in the city on August 3, and you can register for it right here.
The BIGShift editions for Chandigarh were supported by Dineout as Associate Partner and, TiE Chandigarh, Chandigarh Angels Network, Startup Punjab and eChai Ventures as ecosystem partners.