April 2, 2010

Startup Saturday 10 March

Posted in Starup Saturday at 9:46 am by chait83

This blog is a followup of the previous blog in the startup Saturday series.

The theme for today’s meet was adventure sports. The speakers for the meet were
1. Commodore V. G. Praveen from Inland windsurfing and sailing academy.
2. Anita from Templepilots
3. Rohan More from Japalouppe (A horse riding academy)

One common thing evident about all the speakers was the air of euphoria and the passion with which all the speakers spoke.

The session started V. G. Praveen’s presentation. His “Inland windsurfing and sailing academy” is located at Varasgon near Panshet dam in Pune. There they conduct sailing, kayaking and windsurfing activities. They are associated with the Yachting Association of India

Praveen has been into sailing and windsurfing for past seven years and started teaching five years back.

How did he start his academy?
Well started Sailing from a club in Pune, which organised a camp once in a year. Later on he moved to Goa to get a formal course in sailing, windsurfing. When he decided to start his academy he looked out for second-hand equipment and he found out quite a few sellers for that. There was a very peculiar associated with the purchase, all the equipment required repairs and the spare parts were not available in India. To add to the trouble the spare parts were not interchangeable and hence he had to go to Thailand to buy new equipments.
Currently the equipment is exempted of customs.

When he was asked as to why there aren’t many adventure sports enthusiasts in India, his answer was:
1. The general prejudices in the minds of people, that adventure sports are dangerous.
2. All the equipment required for their water sports activity has to be imported; hence the overall cost for the course is expensive as well.

Where can you organise water sports:
For kayaking: A place where the water is calm and there is not much wind, like lakes.
For windsurfing: The water body should be more than three kilometres in diameter otherwise it is not enjoyable. Also as the name implies there should be sufficient wind for windsurfing.

How do they promote their academy?
Through their website http://www.windsportsPune.com and word of mouth. They have taken no effort in doing the promotion for their company since there is a very niche segment of people who have interest in water sports and according to him it’s not possible to attract these people through advertisement campaigns.

Since this sport is very niche there aren’t many people involved in this business.
Adventure sports enthusiast should be looking forward to this as a wonderful opportunity, since in coming five years there would be a new generation who would want to get involved in adventure sports and they would be earning enough to pay handsomely for adventure sports.

Personal safety:
If a person follows basic instructions of the course, there is no risk involved in water sports. Till date there has been no mishap in his academy.

Their achievements:

Anita spoke about Templepilots and was very vocal about two things, passion for flying and safety measure they practice at Templepilots

About Templepilot:
Templepilot is the only registered school for paragliding in India. They started 14 years back.
Anita quit her corporate job to help her husband formalise his hobby of paragliding into a well structured course with a good business vision.

Keep the Aspidistra Flying:

This is an interesting excerpt about Avi (founder of Templepilots) from their website:

“..,.his (Avi) being in the top three in the NDA entrance, winning the prestigious Presidents Gold Medal and being chosen for the IAF as a Fighter Pilot came so naturally that it seemed as if he were destined.

He is a simply a flier, not an aviator, a flier…at heart. He is at home in the sky…and his love for flying comes through to all his students whom he shares it with. His one burning passion is to get more and more people flying with him and tasting the magic of perfection and oneness that he lives by.”
About Anita
“Anita has a background in advertising and pure marketing. Having done her MBA she abandoned her Corporate career as a Senior Brand Manager for TATA Home Finance.”

Well Anita testified that she is enjoying every bit of Templepilots and never once did she regret quitting her job.

Looking at their success story and along with their decision to quit their jobs (most people reading would die to get that kind of jobs) for the sheer joy of flying, it is in the true spirit of “Keep the Aspidistra Flying”.

Templepilots is experiencing competition created by them. Yet since the space is really wide more competition can still sustain without much adverse effect on the business.

Obstacles in scaling up:
There are not lot many instructors willing to take up the job. It takes around two years for them to train a person for the job of instructor.
All equipment required for the flying has to imported, also there are no tax exemptions for the imported goods.

Level of physical fitness required for flying:
If you are physically fit to drive a cycle, you can fly. You should not have any back aliments.

How did they promote their flying school?
Anita is the one who does all the promotional activity for their venture. So when they start Templepilots. Anita randomly caught hold of groups in a cafe or any other public tweeting places and told them about flying and Templepilots. The good thing that happened for them wa s that their initial students were influential people of the society and hence the word of mouth publicity was very effective from the very early days.

Their track record has been so far very clean with no mishaps.

Fun trivia:
Is there any scope you running into a tree?
Well if you aim for it, for sure you can!

This was a witty reply to the above query by Anita.
Moral of the story, paragliding is a very safe sport and the glider is in total control at any point of time, provided the glider adheres to the regulations and does not push things beyond the safety threshold.

Japalouppe is a Horse riding club located in Talegaon Dabhade, an hour’s drive from Pune.
It’s a mother and son venture. Started by his mother Lorraine Morey and later on assisted by her sons Rohan and Nikhil.
Japaloppe is into training for horses riding, consultation, breeding and allied services for horses. Right now they are the biggest players in Pune and recently they have started another training school at Ranchi.

Rohan was born and brought surrounded by horses. His father and grandfather are involved in the business of breeding horse. He is a third generation horseman.

How did he start his business?
So Rohan started his business by borrowing money from his father. At some point of time he did want to quit the business since at an early age (about 25 years) he was not able to manage the business. The only motivation at that point of time was his passion for his horse riding school. Slowly he managed to turned the tide and right now they are doing great business and profitable as well. Currently they are catering big corporates and schools in and around Pune.

Their business:
Japalouppe not only conducts training for beginners, but also grooms up students for competition. They have resorts and

Market segmentation:
So Rohan talked about the different Market segments in his line of business.

1. Single horse owners: Not much of the competition since they own a single horse and their business operations are ad hoc in nature.
2. Riding schools to train riders for competition: So there are a lot of riding schools which exclusively train students for competitions, which is a very niche market segment.
3. Generic riding school: This is the segment Japalouppe operates in. This accounts for the largest pie of the horse riding schools, which has a formal structure to its training. Major portion of their business comes from the camps which they conduct for the students in the summers.

Japalouppe not only conducts training for beginners, but also grooms up students for competition. They have resorts wherein they offer a complete joy ride for the trainees or weekend euphoria for enthusiasts.


March 29, 2010

Startup saturday 13th feb

Posted in Starup Saturday tagged , , , , , , , at 2:29 pm by chait83

Well this blog was written well a month back for startup Saturday. It never got published on the site it was intended for, apparently because they did not have any policies in place (Probably they still haven’t given a thought). I didn’t want the hard work to go in vain. This blog series I am writing down to contribute my 2 cents to the spirit of entrepreneurship and the startup community.

Startup Saturday Pune 4, focused on Grass Root Ventures and Pune Angel Network. We invited companies from micro finance, vada pav, laundry, courier, low-end staffing, sanitation, taxis, rural BPO, rural hospitals, mobile service centers and low-cost hotels. We choose to focus on these ventures because, there are diamonds at the bottom of the pyramid. The market is gigantic, customer problems are many and the demand unmet.

We had Brigadier Jayant Mankikar from Checkmate Security Services who talked about how the founder Mr. Vikram Mahurkar used to take guards on his scooter to client locations every day and has built a company of 300 Cr, employing close to 50,000.

Brigadier Jayant Mankikar is a currently working at the position of GM at Checkmate Security Services. His company provides security services to mainly corporate sector. You can find more details about their services here.

1. How does the company operate?
The company has a team which travels to the rural areas of the country. There they conduct their routine physical fitness test and a few other basic tests to shortlist candidates. The candidates are brought to a training center in Pune for a fortnightly training. The training center is equipped with all facilities for training a security guard like metal detectors, CCTV, etc. The candidates are provided with lodging and boarding facilities. Once the candidates are done with their training there are sent to the site for their regular duty and their payroll start from that day.

2. Some of the challenges they face:
The major challenge faced by their organization is communication gap between the organization and gaurds.
a. Labour unions: Mr. Jayant spoke about the most menacing problem faced by their organization is their employee referring to labour union for petty issues instead of approaching to their seniors. He spoke of a how he was woken in the middle of the night by a labour union leader demanding reimbursement of Rs. 24 which was miscalculated by their payroll department. Although the problem of labour unions is age-old, startups should be very effective in their communication with their employees. Although communication cannot curb the menacing problem, certainly it’s the most import part of the business.
b. Homesickness: Since most of the employees hail from rural areas and never been away from home for a long period, they most certainly get homesick. In this case they just pack their bags and return home without intimating anyone; in this case the clients notice that one fine day four of their guards are missing. In this situation the company has to arrange for alternate guards on the fly.
c. Routine security procedures challenged by annoying individuals: Sometime individuals are annoyed by the security guards on duty who are doing their routine security checks and try to evade the procedures. If these individuals happen to be important or influential people, the guards are in a twist. In this case if a guard not withstanding the pressure performs his duty, is demanded an apology for “Nagging” the person which actually is the duty of the security personnel.
3. Any business opportunities for techno startups in security business?
Mr. Jayant’s reply was no to this question. He felt that most of the tech stuff required for the security purpose is available. Yet we feel that any tech startup who wants to explore opportunities in this segment should visit companies like checkmate, for they have pan India presence and their clients are mostly big corporate. After all a good product / service can only be designed when an entrepreneur knows the business thoroughly and with his business acumen is able to define correctly the pain areas and build a good team which can address the pain area correctly.

Next was Rajiv Kumar from Laundry Consultants Group:

He has been a technical consultant, reseller, and service provider for large laundries in Pune. His clients have been large five star hotels like “The Taj Hotels”.
How he started his business:
Rajeev started his business with as low investment as the brochures in his bag. He didn’t have an office when he started his business.
1. Benchmarks for laundry business:
2. His future plans:
Rajeev had made a presentation for his upcoming venture and his presentation was cut short since we were running short of time. Yet with whatever presented we got a fair idea of his plans. Here are the issues he is aiming to address.
a. Overnight service: Today people are spending more time in their offices and more than often they would want a service wherein they handover the clothes for laundry in the evening and collect in the morning. With his service model Rajeev aims to solve this pain for the people who don’t find much time for laundry.
b. Fabric dynamics: As each one of us is aware that our “once in a life time” Fabrics need special care. This can be provided only by a professional laundry service.

Suketu Talekar from Doolally:

They run a micro brewery. For those who don’t know what a microbrewery is, it is a small brewery which produces handcrafted beer and served directly to the consumers.

Although his presentation was the funniest one, it was filled with lot of passion and a sense of achievement.

Suketu talked about his experience in drinking beer at a microbrewery in Singapore to setting up the first microbrewery of Pune and the challenges thereof.
If anything, his presentation was an amazingly simple and inspiring story of a person working in Singapore, with no experience or knowledge of food and beverages industry, making a commitment to friends after few pints of beer, to quit his
job and make good beer in India. They started in 2006 and finally got it up and running in 2009.

Drinking beer ofcourse! Suketu was inspired by this idea of starting a microbrewery India when he was completely drunk, both in terms of literally senses and his love for handcrafted microbrewery beer experience all the while frustrated with the job he had at a FMCG company in Singapore. He came back to India to pursue his dream and the hurdles were endless.

Challenges faced:
1. Prior to Doolally there was no concept of microbrewery in India, hence getting the license was really tricky. They had to take the officers to Singapore to explain them what a microbrewery actually is. It took eighteen months for them to secure the first license for microbrewery in India.
2. Machinery: Again since this was a first of its kind venture in India, setting up the machinery for the brewery was a tough job. Their first design had failed the first time and they had to do it again.

Business operations:
Doolally currently is not involved in the allied business of serving food, as they want to play on their strengths which is brewing the beer. So they have contracted with the Corinthian club, where the club takes care of serving the food and the beer is provided by Doolally.

Doolally have plans to expand by leasing out Franchises, but time being they plan to focus only on the quality of the beer and the whole experience of drinking a handcrafted beer rather than investing in the marketing or PR of the product. Suketu simply puts this as “We would want to put whatever we have in our product rather than marketing”.

His take on failures:
Suketu said that during this four years of putting Doolally in place, they had failed in every conceivable manner. His said that an entrepreneur has to be very shameless, every time you fall flat on your face you stand up, learn from your mistakes and start walking. Now that Doolally is Pune’s first microbrewery, in that sense it makes their team the pioneers of microbrewery in India.

The word Doolally:
Deolali is small town near Nashik (Suketu hails from the same town) which was a pre-independence transit camp for the British army. The word Doolally originates from the slang term “Doolaly (Deolali) Tap (Fever in marathi)” and referring to menace created by soldiers in transit who were kept at the town without any commanding officer.

As an icing on the cake, was the kickoff of Pune Angel Network. Anil
Paranjape and Rajeev Karajgikar briefly spoke about the idea, pain
points of entrepreneurs and investors and how this network is going to
be a bridge between the two. The most important point raised by Anil Paranjape was that any serious wannabe entrepreneurs who have crude idea for their venture should meet the Angel network so their ideas are refined over subsequent meetings. Most of the times the entrepreneurs think that they should first create some prototype and then come to Angel network. In this case lot of time is wasted if the prototype happens to be non-promising and only a different approach in conceptualization of the prototype could have built a successful product or a service.

Networking over tea was entrepreneurs and wannabe entrepreneurs crowding around Pune Angels.