Silicon India Start-up City Feb 25th 2012 one day Conference – Report

I found out about this conference because I follow OMR Resident blog and on spur registered to attend despite crazy work week. I have habit of taking notes when hear I interesting things  –  I remember stuff when I Listen and write! and thought it will be cool to do a full day report (mostly to benefit a few friends who could not make it) !

Here is the Agenda for the day as published by Silicon India  and some of the sessions that I attended and summary from my notes

  • Inaugural Keynote  by Sridhar Vembu, CEO, Zoho Corp
  • Panel1 – New Paths to Online Revenue: Journey of Internet Entrepreneurs
  • Panel2 – Concept to Success:Milestones for startups
  • Panel3 – Mistakes Entrepreneurs make when approaching VCs and Opportunities for entrepreneurs in 2012  (I skipped this one to have early Lunch!)
  • Presentations by startup companies
  • Closing Keynote – Best Practices of building technology companies in India  by Murugavel Janakiraman,Founder & CEO, Consim

Here my comments / observations

  • Kudos to Silicon India for pretty well organized “free event” (as they kept emphasizing)
  • The Inaugural keynote was refreshing and from the heart
  • The two panels sessions I attend where well run and provided useful information
  • Start-up presentation – had no criteria and was open to all those who set-up stall. I get the commercial part of this but then call it something different
  • Closing keynote gave practical points on starting and running a consumer India focused internet start-up
  • The crowd was predominantly students in the morning part, about 300-350 would be myguess and then got down to 100-125 post lunch
  • Without name tags , it was difficult to observe how many were already entrepreneur or would-be entrepreneur, when I softly complained about this one of the Organizer said well this is free event – really cannot afford Rs.15-Rs.25  name tags (that folks pin on shirt) ?
  • There was good junk of money bags (who may not be Tech angel investor)

Overall it was a day well spent, the bonus was I got to catch-up with one my friends from college days after 18 years (whom I have been thinking of meeting for past 4 years)!


Start-up City Conference Feb 25th 2012 – Closing Keynote

Closing Keynote: Best Practices of building technology (internet) companies in India 
Speaker : Murugavel Janakiraman,Founder & CEO, Consim / Bharat Matrimony

Murugavel wanted to share his experience and mentioned he will use 10 key points highlight what internet companies should focus on

  1. IDEA – must have a feel for it, he was running tamil community website and say matrimony page was gaining traction and that is why he started Bharat Matrimony. Do not start another me too!
  2. When to Launch – Get the basics right and have a functioning website to launch, do not wait for perfect product. Learn from customer feedback and improve. If you wait someone will launch before you
  3. Team – Get the team right. You as founder needs to show the future vision and have passion
  4. Usability – can your find what they want easily. Navigation should be clean and there should be consistency in website
  5. Stickiness – cost of acquiring customer is skyrocketing, so create reason for customer to come back, when a new profile that may match customer is available we send SMS with short URL
  6. User Engagement – in Bharat Matrimony website  they have feature like in LinkedIn –> folks who looked at this prospect also looked the following one, these profiles are similar to profile you are looking at. They also built a feature to show highlight profiles that someone has already considered from ones that are new (some folks use the website for months!)  This whole segment drew lots of chuckle from young guns sitting around.
  7. Online / offline strategy- In India transaction may take place online but commerce happens offline. Bharat Matrimony was pioneer is collecting from door stop, we also have physical location with 150 offices …
  8. Innovation – Incremental innovation can be value or process. we have Free members who browse and express interest but cannot contact profiles, only paid members can contact. Then we have premium service and target upper income segment that is 90K for 3 months and a relationship manager handles are matching and ground work.
  9. Technology – changing rapidly. its mind boggling how much we have changed and evolved. Technology changes keeps us on our toes, if we miss a beat competition might triumph us. Invest in Data-warehousing, this helped us when we had challenging time.
  10. Cash is oxygen of business. Being from a computer science not good in finance. We had a tough time in 2008 and made me learn a lot about cash flow and cash. We had opportunity to raise money in 2003-2004 but passed thinking we may not need it. We raised 8 million in 2006, timing was correct because most of my competition had raised ton of money, without this funding we could not have scaled this much.
  11. Marketing – Murugavel missed talking about this and when someone in audience asked him about this, he said early days marketing was usually through banner ads in other website and mentions in friendly websites. Focus on SEO Search Engine Optimization  and SEM Search Engine Marketing. Look for top ten or even 3-4 keywords and figure out how within top ten for those keywords

To a Question “what happens after your customers find a match ? ” – Murugavel answered “Successful Marriage”.  And added “we are one company who are happy to never see the customer back again i.e loose him/her” Then he said his “Nation needs good citizen, future citizen are result of good parenting, good parenting starts with successful and stable marriages, we do not care if matches are made thru our website, we want to contribute to successful marriages”.

To another question he said when we started we charged Rs.300 per year and now basic plan starts at 2900 for 3 months and there are more premium services.

Start-up City Conference Feb 25th 2012 – start-up pitch

Presentations by start-up companies – Over all 7 companies presented, here is the list


  • They have product called Gourangi which operates in BI space
  • the presenter got his target audience wrong SME and 300-500 crores turnover did not make sense
  • cost 2-3 Lakhs plus implementation charges looked ok
  • Presenter had not practiced elevator pitch was very aparent
  • audience was skeptical that  this was any different from market solutions


  • was kind of wondering why these guys presented in Start-up city because they were founded in Silicon valley (looks like they have development centre in Hyderabad but still …)
  •  Basic value proposition –> WorldDesk leverages a unique patent-pending abstraction layer that frees all aspects of a user’s Microsoft Windows workspace from the underlying OS and device.  This technology allows the free movement of apps, files and profile between devices, truly letting you take your world with you.
  • VMWARE / Citrix not for consumer
  • if they are successful VDI market might undergo radical change
  • they are in early Beta


  • they are product division of Sedin Technologies Private Limited which is in service business
  • kind of Folklore equivalent but on the cloud
  • target at start-up who do not have HR manager
  • value prop free-up entrepreneur from mundane tasks and give the employees in start-up   HR portal
  • claimed they can customize quickly but what they offer out of box is impressive
  • Rs. 2500 for upto 50 users (employees) and Rs. 50, target to get 100000 users in one year!
  • I can see these guys being sucessful in few years, this is subscription model and they can build a solid company

Vivid InfoTech

  • Another head scratching presentation but India has so many start-ups which are service based so why not another one
  • Have grown from 2-65 person organization and seem to be  doing consulting in web, mobile apps space
  • these guys have no clue about how to present, maybe they learned by watching pitch

Dsipher design Solution

  • Pretty impressive and I liked their virtual lab
  • They seemed to be onto something, they have demonstrated Virtual lab in IIT-Mumbai
  • but the presentation was pretty dis-orgainzed –>what stage they are in, are they making money etc


  • Started two years back targeting SME with Super receptionist
  • Phone all is interesting and used by Noon meal schemes in HP and UP to call out Headmasters and get accurate count of students served on a given day
  • the presenter kept insisting they have user locked-in with Super Receptionist because they provided a unique number, I kept wondering why would I lock-in myself with these guys …

Learn & Publish

  • This was another presenter who has not done elevator pitches before
  • kept talking about his Bio in a convoluted manner instead of talking about learn & Publish
  • basically the seem to offer free online education modules for individuals and charge $2 per month per employee for corporate
  • They share revenue with content generator on 70-30 basis
The Jury present picked –> Knowlarity  and Dsipher design Solution  as No. 1 and No. 2.
I had major problems with this whole concept and hopefully silicon India thinks about it for future
  •  What is the objective – seemed like Silicon India has invited companies to pay and set-up booths and wanted to give exposure, reasonable idea but then call it that
  • there were companies in various stages of evolution how can you judge them ?
  • anyhow since they kept the presentations to 5 minutes, I had very little to complain
  • hopefully companies that presented there got to learn how to do it better next time

Start-up City Conference Feb 25th 2012 – PANEL 2

Concept to Success:Milestones for startups – Panel 2
Kannan, Founder & CTO, Vortex

Jayabalan Subramanian,CTO and Co-founder, Netmagic Solutions

Kailash Katkar, Founder, MD and CEO , Quick Heal Technologies

Amit Patni, Co-Founder & Chairman, Nirvana Venture Advisors

Sam Mehta, CEO, Everonn Medical Education, Director – Atlas Venturez(Moderator)

First Kannan,  Vortex spoke

  • He mentioned that while working with IIT on some investigation / research they noticed a need for Rural ATM
  • Designed one and since they needed large capital to Manufacture these, they got funded early
  • These ATMs are bringing banking to large segments which did not have access to banking

Jayabalan SubramanianNetmagic Solutions spoke next

  • Got angel investment and mentoring by BV Jagadeesh exodus founder in 2000
  • Cloud infrastructure is capital intensive about $25K per SQ FT excluding  building
  • It took 6-8 years to establish and then in suddenly they grew from one location to eight
  • They had successful exit as NTT japan acquired them for good valuation

Kailash Katkar, Quick Heal Technologies

About Kailash Katkar, found this narrative that should summarize some of what I had written down and this one summarize Quick milestones, anyhow some of the things that stuck a cord in me

  • Gave anti-virus solutions to clients as value add based on what his brother wrote
  • came-out with a product but other Hardware sellers were refusing to sell, as they could not charge for Software service
  • though anti-virus solutions did not make lot of money persisted and it took 2-3 years to establish in Pune
  • Stopped doing computer repair and eventually grew by hiring good marketing folks and setting office in other cities in Maharastra
  • Many competitors approached him to buy and kill his product he refused to sell
  • Runs a transparent, clean organization

Amit PatniNirvana Venture Advisors

  • Completed higher education and joined family business in 1982
  • Worked on lots of greenfield projects in 1989
  • in 1980s really money in hardware 40% gross margin
  • in 1990 GE became anchor client (70%) and software services became king
  • GE wanted sweat equity and they had to negotiate to get decent evaluation in 2000
  • This was followed by PE investment by general Atlantic
  • Sold in iGate as they wanted to get value for family business and pursue other interests!

Sam Mehta, the moderator was one of the best moderators in panel discussion I have watched so far

  • Kannan and Jayabalan spoke for 5 minutes, so he let Kailash talk for 15 minutes as his talk was inspiring
  • He did a wonderful summation and listed these as milestones based on panel input
  • When to Start, Get a team, get mentor/adviser early, prototype and get first customer, customer pays or get funding, professionalize/branch out/build team, get funded, exit for good valuations or transcend and become a path breaker

It was 12:15 by the time this panel completed, I was starting to have hunger pangs and the fact Silicon India guys made us go eat lunch outside meant I skipped panel 3  and headed out for Lunch!

Start-up City Conference Feb 25th 2012 – PANEL 1

Panel1 – New Paths to Online Revenue: Journey of Internet Entrepreneurs 
C.R. Chandrasekar, CEO, FundsIndia

Adhil Shetty, Founder & CEO,

Prashant Jain, Director, CtrlS Datacenters

Ravichandran L, Founder & CEO, (Moderator)

Adhil from BankBazaar spoke first

  • 100 million internet users in India (really ? Does my mom who occasionally participates in  video chat with my niece qualify as one?)
  • What do you monetize ? Is is based on value proposition –> save time and/or save Money. In India save money seems to triumph anything else
  • Started BankBazaar.comin 2008 takes care of Credit products online
  • Invest in platform + integrate with supply chain –> key strength of
  • Lead generation for financial institution is a me too product, so choose to own the entire value chain and complete the entire transaction end to end –> so monetize what you save for Institutions!
  • Need to control supply chain, because you cannot hand over the transaction and walk-off. Financial instutions routinely screw-up paper work, so need to  control this and hence they are owning transaction end to end
  • Reconcile and collect from financial institutions is effort intensive
  • Key metric –> How many transaction per month

Next C.R. Chandrasekar of  FundsIndia spoke

  • He has prior experience of cutting fat out of 401K plans admin process, so has relevant industry experience to do this
  • Started this with Srikanth in 2008, situated in Guindy and has 25 employees.
  • handles 20000 unique customers Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai and then Chennai are top 4 customer
  • there is a huge untapped market for online financial transaction –> only 8%  online user do financial transaction in India compared with 24% for East Asian countries
  • Models to choose from –> Charge Customer, Freemium and totally Free
  • We choose Free model, how do we make money ? Mutual funds pay us as we are highly cost efficient channel for them!
  • Trust is important and we  strive to be seen as Neutral middle man in the investment transaction ?
  • 36 Investment houses want to advertise to our customers, so we let them advertise on our newsletter
  • there was no eco-system in Chennai when we started but there is quite a bit of start-ups now
  • One thought can other online guys who are in non competing sectors cross sell

Prashant Jain,  CtrlS Datacenters Spoke next

  • Started Chennaibazar, Hyderabadbazar and other online portal
  • by 2000 there was almost 200 competitors. when they tried to innovate with a photograph of the receiving person (they had to invest in digital camera as it was expensive then), competition offered video!
  • Were finding it hard to retain customer, had a loyal customer so was able to monetize some by doing a newsletter
  • Chennaibazar is still around and it was sold again for 2.5 crores
  • now he runs a web hosting company which is largest out of India
  • If you want to invest in customer acquisition thing of the following –> Avg Revenue per customer, you make money only when they return and do second or third transaction
  • Repeat customers provide value every day
  • Freemium  hod do you tip-off customer from to paid
  • Free guys want to monetize with newsletter and email blast but it works only with engaged customer!
  • Subcriber Model is not mature in India – we have account team which is larger than sales team (as its effort intensive to reconcile and collect money!)

Overall moderate kept talking about his views which was not wrong but nothing he said struck a cord with me!

Overall I was energized by this session, the founders are working to reduce the friction and inefficiency in existing real world transactions, these will improve productivity of those related activity and make Indian economic engine grow faster. I will switch to FundsIndia soon and will use Bankbazar for my next loan application

Start-up City Conference Feb 25th 2012 – Inaugural Keynote

Conference started on time and it was nice to see the Inaugural Keynote speaker Sridhar Vembuarrive before 9am and was set and ready for 9:30 talk!

Highlights from Sridhar Vembu’s Keynote –  Formal education and Phd.  did not contribute much when it came to him starting this venture, his friends and brothers helped him!  Bootstrapped to the core and wants to stay that way!  Few nuggets about how Zoho is run and culture they strive to build and nuture

  •  informal dress code, no corner office – “anyone in my organization needs to reach me”
  • Open flat organization where information is shared – “we are graph rather than tree”
  • Developing a culture of disagreeing politely
  • internally acknowledge where we stand in the market place – “it is acceptable to say we suck in this area”
  • It took more than a decade because we had no ecosystem in India -Chennai. He went on to say Yahoo hired folks from SUN/IBM etc, Google from Yahioo, Facebook/Twitter from google, so when you grow a start-up to get folks with relevant experience!!
  • Every team in Zoho is small 5-10 members, >10 means complexity increases
  • 10% of workforce is students who have completed High school, committed to keeping this going – “interestingly 20% of recent year high school hires had no economic reason but still choose Zoho over college”
  • We do not try to retain employees, we create environment –> fun and challenging work place, good teams and team work and this makes employees stay – not sure if they actually do this but rhetorically or philosophy appealed to me “if someone quits we are ready to let them go within a day!!”

Sridhar mentioned that India needs to have product companies that can challenge the googles and microsofts of the world and the Revenue / Employee in product companies are  5x more than software service company. There was a lively Q&A  session, I did not take notes (as I was listening and trying to ask my question!) but here is my recollection

  • There were a whole bunch of VIT students from Africa (looks like they are doing MBA ) and one of them asked  “one reason to employee non-college graduates is because you want to pay low salary”.  Sridhar responded we pay them salary from day one and training takes two year!  And another one (from VIT) stood-up and narrated his experience about how folks with no formal education could provide electrical solutions and his contention was education corrupts your mind if you are not careful!
  • There were some in audience who did not like Sridhar emphasis on college education is not useful. Sridhar’s retort was I can only talk about my life experiences! There was one parent who said he was glad his son was not around because father-son constantly argue about this and his son is doing comp. Sc. in PSG Tech. Sridhar also clarified Education is necessary in life but college education is optional!
  • A student from SSN asked him for advice, Sridhar talked about ROI on time spent on exams and he mentioned earlier in his speech he went to tamil medium schools and does not remember doing any homework! So his message was if it was important for the students parent spend minimum amount of time on acing the exams, spend rest of time reading and doing fun things like maybe programming or playing with electronic stuff etc.

Looks like on a lighter note – there seems to be thousands of us who had our “wangdu moment!” in our student life …

The hall had aproximately 200 seats and the organizer told me before the start of event they were expecting north of 400 and they had to scramble to add more chair and I would reckon 300+ turned-up. It took me an hour to write this up, hoping I will do four parts within next two days (otherwise its not going to happen!)