Wednesday, 20 January 2016

What I gained from Startup India

I was lucky to be invited to attend this event. Being in Pune, we are often away from any possible buzz and I would have known about this event only when I opened the papers on Sunday. I was lucky that did not happen. It was definitely the Oscars for Indian startups with the who's who showing up. And it was pleasantly surprising that it was orchestrated by the Govt. of India. Here are the top 5 things I took away from the event:
1. The Government means business when it says it will support startups
I got a chance to meet a few officials and talk about some of the areas in which we are facing some hurdles. All those hurdles have been removed within a week. I no longer fear that I may not be able to move as fast as I would like because of regulation. That is huge! I have been an entrepreneur in India for nine years now and this is the first time I felt this. It was empowering.
2. Being an entrepreneur is sexy
The kind of welcome that successful entrepreneurs and influential investors got was nothing less than that of a rockstar or a Bollywood celebrity. People loved them, for reasons unclear to me; just like a rockstar or a Bollywood celebrity. The time had come and the men and women had risen to the occasion. People are taking risks like never before and the net result of all of those can only be positive.
3. The path ahead is unclear
It seems like midway through a football match, the referee blew the whistle and said we are dropping certain rules. There are no sidelines, you can use your hands. Most entrepreneurs such as myself, for whom circumventing regulations occupied half our mindspace, now suddenly have so much more time. How are we going to use this new found backing from a very unlikely ally? How are we going to pick up pace like never before. It is unclear and so damn exciting!
4. There will be blood
At the end of respected PM's speech, everyone in the auditorium wanted to head back straight to their offices or workspaces and get cranking. Everyone wanted to be the next something. Everyone wanted to solve a billion dollar question. But not everyone will succeed. At least not right away. We will all learn and get better and make a difference. But not all of us will be famous and rich. People will have to come to terms with being happy through the journey and not with the outcome. This is more relevant now than it ever was. Sustaining the life of an entrepreneur is something people need to learn. Because that is what we all will be for a long long time. 
5. Show me the money
We had a lot of speakers come up and talk about how it is not about the money. It is about passion, sparkling eyes, tenacity, greater good and a lot more. It is not about the money. Yet, each and every person invited to speak or be a part of any panel had lots of money to his or her credit. Each one of us in the audience would like to get on the stage one day. But it only seems like that will happen when we make a lot of money. So I guess it is about the money. I hope that all current and future entrepreneurs do not feel this way. Respected PM said that you will make a difference even if you employ 5 people. I think that is a great parameter to have. Make a small difference and learn. We still have loads to learn in our journey as entrepreneurs and as a country. Let it not be about the money. But at the same time, make enough money sustain the journey and not have to give up.

Case Study: Haldirams Foods International Ltd. (


Haldiram’s is India’s largest food brand with annual revenue that is more than that of McDonald’s in India! Haldirams’ primarily manufactures ethnic Indian snacks and sweets and the products are distributed across the world. They use state of the art manufacturing processes to ensure high quality of taste and hygiene. The products range from Rs. 10 per pack to as high as Rs. 400 per pack.

Reason to go digital:

The brand has a very loyal following in the older generation of consumers ranged 40 and higher. Haldiram’s realized that a whole new generation was growing up around quick serve restaurants and food delivery and did not want to miss out on reaching out them. As the younger generation went digital, they decided to make their presence there as well.

The role of Shoptimize:

Shoptimize has been their single partner in this journey. We started with the designing of the web store. We identified partners for them right from logistics to packaging and ensured that they built the best of experiences to compete with the most popular marketplaces in India. During peak festival season, Shoptimize even helped Haldiram’s with optimizing its packing and order dispatch process to keep pace with the growth they were experiencing.

Major achievements:

From the beginning, there was a clear mandate from the brand that the online store would not be a loss making endeavour. Following were the major achievements in the past 1 year:
  •  Building the back end operations at Haldirams to ensure smooth functioning
  • Handling peak period traffic and business to register 1000 orders per day
  • Ensuring online marketing cost is less than 20% of average order value
  • Achieving profitability within 6 months of launching the store
Future Plans:

Haldiram’s is now focusing on being an omni-channel brand where they can blend the experience for a consumer online as well as offline. They have launched their mobile app on the Shoptimize platform soon which carries loyalty benefits for their offline customers. They are now enabling same day delivery of their products within certain geographies.

Case Study: The digital transformation of a traditional furniture manufacturer

Case Study: Ekbote’s Logs and Lumbers Pvt. Ltd. (


Ekbote Furniture is one of the oldest furniture manufacturing brands in Maharashtra and has showcased impeccable quality, outstanding growth and advanced furniture styles since 1960s. They have retail outlets in Pune, Mumbai, Kolhapur, Bangalore and Chennai.

Reasons for going online:

Ekbote Furniture has been a very well established and reputed player in the Maharashtra market. With uncompromised quality, product prices also command a premium. They fiddled around with e-commerce for six months, but not in a serious way. There were two primary motivators for them to launch their online business to take on competition –
  • The advent, preliminary success and VC funding of online only players like Urban Ladder, Pepperfry and Fab Furnish proved the fact that there is potential for home furnishing as a category to do well. Plus, Ekbote Furniture, being a manufacturer, was higher up the value chain and had the potential to do better monetarily, and this made great economic sense.
  • The foot fall that Ekbote Furniture’s retail outlets used to attract was on a steady decline. Moreover, the reduced foot fall also did not result in conversions due to premium prices.

Revamped online strategy:

Ekbote Furniture decided to work with Shoptimize to create a state of the art e-commerce website in terms of design and functionality to take the online only start-ups head on.

Shoptimize helped them introduce differentiated features like 360 degree rotation of products to give the end consumer an ‘in-store like’ shopping experience. Other differentiators included the introduction of a B2B sales channel where existing dealers of Ekbote Furniture would be able to act as online resellers through the same website.

Long term plans of Ekbote Furniture include a lesser focus on the offline channel and exclusive products for the online channel with reduced prices. The objective is to increase value for the customer by offering superior quality solid wood products straight from the factory for a much lower price than competition. They currently spend well on online and offline marketing and plan to continue that in the future. Initial results have confirmed the fact that the revamped online strategy was right on target.