India’s Internet Entrepreneurs

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Bharat Sethi/techinasia.com

There has been a boom in India as thousands of startups have created apps, thus reinventing the way Indians shop, eat and carry out business.

By Murali Krishnan

 


Shankar Narayan, a 28-year-old engineer, is busy meeting potential funders to popularize his new media platform, ClickMyDay. It has taken him and his four-member team three months to build this mobile app and now they are all set to go.

“What we are trying to deliver to our customers is a tool where they can plan their entire day. Let’s say it is a movie, going out to a restaurant or ordering food…or they want to do something at home like yoga or watching a television show,” said Narayan. “If a nice planning tool is available, they can plan such activity and have more time.”

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Shankar had spent years in advertising and other jobs but was unhappy. He now feels that this is his real calling. He is not the only internet entrepreneur to feel this way. In recent years, many Indian startups have taken off and come into its own—driven by factors such as funding, consolidation activities, evolving technology and a growing domestic market.

The booming startup culture is reflective of the efforts being taken by the government to check brain-drain and encourage young entrepreneurs to “Start in India and Stay in India”. Besides, favorable policies have helped promote technological innovation. There are many startups that are quirky, wacky and are solving unusual problems.

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For example, artists usually find it hard to sell their work. Often, it is a result of inadequate sales and marketing skills. Spotting a business opportunity in the unorganized art market, Bharat Sethi, 26, a Delhi University economics graduate, founded ecommerce startup, PosterGully, three years back.

“We have created an automated platform where many people can come in and start selling their creative work within 15 minutes in various categories such as fabrics, apparels, tech accessories, skins and decals. We have about 30 categories now,” said Sethi.

Shradha Sharma/ yourstory.com
Shradha Sharma/ yourstory.com

The curated marketplace allows artists to just focus on being creative, while Bharat and his team take care of the business. “We have been very organic with our growth over the last three years. Last year for example, we saw over six million visitors on the website. We are looking at a million-dollar-run rate right now. Our team size has grown and we have raised two rounds of funding,” he added.

And like Shankar, Bharat too felt that the internet boom in the country gave him an opportunity to prosper. A conventional 9-to-5 job was not his cup of tea. India’s growth opportunities have allowed new start-ups to flourish and start new apps.

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Figures indicate that India is one of the five largest startup communities in the world, with the number crossing 4,200, a growth of nearly 40 percent at the end of last year.

There are also some individuals who have broken the status quo and embraced radical innovation. Shradha Sharma, for instance, embarked on an unusual journey, giving up a job as a journalist to champion and promote the entrepreneurial ecosystem in India. “I created a platform called Yourstory.com in 2008 where we tell the stories of entrepreneurs. Today, we have told the stories of 23,000 entrepreneurs, which reach 10 to 12 million people every month. And we have also started telling stories in 12 Indian languages,” said Sharma.

But is there money to be made in telling stories? “We make money through advertising, research and events. We do a lot of B to B (business to business) for MNCs and Fortune 500 companies. This is because today we have data about new companies across the country.”

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According to IT industry body, Nasscom, last year alone, nearly 1,00,000 jobs were created by start-ups. Global giants like Google, Facebook and Amazon are investing heavily to capture this new consumer segment.

Kashyap Deorah, an entrepreneur, is the author of a recently released book, The Golden Tap, which is the inside story of hyper-funded Indian startups. In his mid 30s, Kashyap, set up his fourth company, Hypertrack, which positions itself as a track and trace service for local deliveries. “We have just begun this journey of technology entrepreneurship. I am optimistic that the problems of India can be solved through technology.”

Many like Kashyap feel that entrepreneurship will create marketplaces for rural artisans to sell their crafts, farmers to sell their produce, sweet shop and restaurant owners to showcase their products and merchants to get readymade customers.

Clearly then, the startup culture is thriving and could boom in the years to come.