INSIGHTS Podcast Series — #7: Anjana Reddy — What’s Right About WROGN?

Anjana Reddy and Anand Daniel after the podcast.

“You can’t get bigger than Messi,” Anjana Reddy says. Less than two weeks ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Reddy, founder of Indian fashion company Universal Sportsbiz Private Limited (USPL), reflects on her entrepreneurial journey from a sports e-commerce brand to a national fashion industrialist.

A sports fanatic and forward-looking business mogul, Reddy left her town in Hyderabad to attend university in the US, where she discovered something she had never seen before in the Indian market: Dogs wearing team jerseys at sporting events. Well, everyone wearing team jerseys – and drinking from team-branded beer mugs. At pep rallies, football games, and after-parties, every single attendee had a way to let you know exactly which team they were supporting. That’s when she struck gold and decided to combine her two favourite things.

With India’s craze for the game – whether that’s cricket, football, or entertainment – Reddy decided to bring the business model to India in early 2012 through, a celebrity-based e-commerce merchandise and memorabilia brand. For this brand, she signed legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, and Rajnikanth. In 2014, she even managed to sign Lionel Messi right before he played the World Cup (despite a run-in with the Spanish Embassy; you’ll have to hear her story to believe it).

After her initial success, she developed her business even further, scaling it to include women’s fashion and youth-oriented clothing in both online and offline markets with WROGN and Imara. Though she was unfamiliar with the clothing industry, one of the oldest trades in the country, she spent nights studying the entire process from yarn to final product at factories, and analysed the market for years in order to position her brand effectively.

USPL is a lesson in market disruption, customer valuation, and how a little entrepreneurial drive can make a world of difference. Join us as Reddy, now on the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list, discusses the importance of market analysis, distribution, and funding.

Accel shares such interesting entrepreneurial stories, with informative nuggets to run and scale your startup. Follow the links below and subscribe to our #AccelInsights Podcast Series using the following links: iTunes, Twitter @Accel_India, Google Music: (US & Canada Only)and the RSS feed


INSIGHTS Podcast Series — #6: Market Opportunities — The TaxiForSure Case Study

Every entrepreneur has gone through the dilemma of quitting a well paying, full-time job and starting up. It is not as easy as it sounds and requires much thought before taking the plunge. In this episode we chat with Raghu, co-founder of TaxiForSure on his journey with TaxiForSure and particularly the early days and how they went about evaluating the market opportunity

Is The Opportunity Real?

Raghunandan G (Raghu), founder and former CEO of TaxiForSure (TFS) was struck with the idea of starting a local car rental service. It was all about solving the issue of booking cabs for the masses in India.

Recalling these early days, Raghu says, “When me and Aprameya (his co-founder) came together, we were both working in our respective companies. We were getting paid well, and I used to be a consultant and Aprameya used to handle business development. We got the idea in 2010, but we didn’t quit our jobs and were still having second thoughts about why no one else had implemented this idea.”

The problem was quite evident in front of the founders: the difficulty of booking a cab. However, they wanted to be entirely sure about addressing the right issue.

“Before we moved ahead with the plan, we decided to do a survey. We went around asking people on how they were finding cabs, was it easy for them, were they happy with it. We asked people who were frequent flyers, people near shopping malls, and other people who were regularly commuting. We garnered around 2000+ responses and from the feedback, we got to know that 92% of the people were not happy with the existing cab solutions and that is when we realised that it was a good problem to solve,” adds Raghu.

However, it was still a long road before they could implement the solution. They got in touch with people who had given them feedback and presented them the solution – only as a PowerPoint presentation – and they loved it. They did this to build their conviction, and once they had that, they quit their jobs and started giving life to the plan.

When Opportunity Knocks…

Being an entrepreneur means being open to opportunities, but one also has to be sure that the opportunity exists in the market. For Raghu, it was about being convinced enough to jump into the market because the opportunity cost was significantly high. “This is why we did that survey and later presented people with the solution. Then we looked at Justdial for the number of cab aggregators and made calls to figure out how many people would respond. In a city like Bangalore, there were 1,200 taxi operators, on an average each one of them had 10 cabs, and they used to do maximum 2 or 3 rides a day. The cab guys were unhappy because they were not getting enough pay, the customers were unhappy because they were not getting cabs. The market structure was in such a shape that none of the parties were happy.”

However, that was not the only problem. The cabs were never present where the customers needed them, and no customers when the cabs were free. The customers’ dependency on the operators to get in touch with the cabs was posing a problem. As a result, the operators would mostly be busy, and the customers would have to wait for a long time till they would be able to get through to talk to the operators. Raghu observed this scenario in the market and realised the opportunity.

When they started in 2010, many other services like Uber, Hailo, MyTaxi etc., were also starting up around the same time, across the world. However, the concept was relatively new in India. Raghu saw this as an opportunity, and he thought that being a cab aggregator would be a unique edge for their business model.

Is it a Large Opportunity?

Raghu and team looked at both supply and demand side and understood the size of the opportunity. They were able to size the number of cabs available (supply) by looking at data such as number of taxi operators and commercially licensed cabs in Bangalore and then across the country.

On the Demand side, based on their surveys and also looking at data such as number of travellers to/from airports (since cabs to airports is a key market segment), they were able to estimate the size of the demand.

“We picked up the taxi operator services in Justdial and figured out what is the average number of cabs that they have, how many were shared, how many were registered with RTO? Then we looked at the supply and the money they were making and estimated how much they could make. We also looked at the flight frequency and the demand of cabs towards the airport. After all that was done, we decided to measure and figure out if we could solve this mismatch and realised that we could.” adds Raghu.

Based on their estimates, it was a large enough market opportunity across the country and all they had to do was to build the technology enabled marketplace to connect the demand and supply purely through aggregation without having to own any cabs.

Relevance of the Business Model

Picking the right business model that can scale is very key. TFS once they concluded they wanted to be an aggregator of cabs could have gone with either working directly with the cab drivers or with taxi fleet operators. They picked working with operators as their model for a few reasons:

  • Taxi fleet operators had majority of market share not only in Tier I but also Tier II cities compared to individual taxi driver/owners.
  • These Taxi operators had anywhere from a few cars to tens of cars and there were about 1200+ operators in Bangalore alone
  • And as operators make more money (with better matching of supply and demand by TaxiForSure) they were able to buy more cabs to deploy into the system
  • And TFS did not have to worry about security and maintenance of the cab or professionalism of the drivers since the operators were able to handle this

The operator led business model led TFS to focus on its core technology and building the marketplace and more on the demand side since the operator model was able to bring enough supply of cabs into their system.

Market is the Best Teacher

Raghu is also a firm believer that the market is the best teacher for startups. The sooner you learn, the sooner you will scale. “The market teaches everybody, if you are a great team then you will learn a bit sooner, if you are a good team you will learn it and if you are a bad team then you will be the one who learned last.”

He believes that their openness towards the teachings of the market helped TaxiForSure in disrupting it. Once you have an insight, it is essential to experiment with the solutions. The rest can be learned from the market.

“Entrepreneurs, if you are agile, you are smart, and you really don’t have to figure out the solution. You have to figure out the problem, start with a solution and the market will teach you the rest,” adds Raghu about how to take a lesson or two from the market.

Competition: There is no fun in flying solo

While it is the best thing for any entrepreneur to have a competitive advantage in the market, it’s no fun being the one and only company in a space. Entrepreneurs should realise that competition is always healthy and it helps you grow, learn and innovate.

Raghu describes competition as the “best thing to ever happen.” He credited competition for the growth of TaxiForSure and felt that the competition in the market led to the increased usage in taxis. “Competition is the biggest thing that has really happened, if not for that we would not have grown the way we did. We were extremely agile because of the competition,” he adds.

Some Advice For Entrepreneurs

As a entrepreneur, who exited his business successfully and now an active angel investor, Raghu has a few tips for first time founders:

  • Be Close to the Market: Talk to as many people as possible in the market (actual supply, demand, etc.) to really understand the market
  • Don’t hire from the industry: Especially if you are trying to disrupt an industry using technology, avoid hiring from the industry (since they might be stuck to the ideas of the incumbent)
  • Focus is key: Focus on one core problem at the seed stage. During Series A stage, focus on scaling to multiple markets. Only post Series B, when you have established yourself as a brand in the core space, do you look for adjacencies.
  • Let it Go: As entrepreneurs, one of the most important things is the hard and tough call of letting go of certain people. However, these are the calls they have to take, primarily if it is affecting the business. Another aspect of letting go, is letting go of certain responsibilities to more capable people who you can hire in — the specialists. He added, “You have to become the jockey, not the horse.”
  • Ability to say no: Learning to say no as an entrepreneur is very key — to employees, to investors, to the Board — are all critical and figuring out what things to say “No” to is essential for the success of a startup

In conclusion, Raghu had one last advice for entrepreneurs and founders, especially first-timers — focusing on the core. “Focus on your core and hit it out of the park, be very nimble, be very agile.”

Accel shares such interesting entrepreneurial stories, with informative nuggets to run and scale your startup. Follow the links below and subscribe to our #AccelInsights Podcast Series using the following links: iTunes, Twitter @Accel_India, Google Music: (US & Canada Only)and the RSS feed

INSIGHTS Podcast Series — #5: Markets Opportunities — Evaluate Wise & Execute Nice

“Ideas are cheap, execution is everything.’’ – Chris Sacca

Ideas don’t build a company but converting them to something tangible does. The first step towards this is understanding the market potential of your idea. Every startup knows the importance of market research towards making the product/service successful. But the way you evaluate the market is crucial. If an entrepreneur doesn’t know his market in terms of size, demographics, and the customer’s needs, then it will be difficult for his/her venture to sustain long-term. Also, market evaluation is one of the key factors for any venture capitalist to consider the potential of a startup. Not all markets are created equal, and what works in one geography doesn’t necessarily mean it would work in another. Especially when it comes to Indian markets, the dynamics are different in comparison to global markets.

Anand Daniel and Prashanth Prakash during the podcast

Prashanth Prakash is one of the founding partners at Accel India, who has been investing in ventures like BookMyShow, Qwikcilver, RentoMojo, CleverTap, and many others since 2004. In this podcast series, he talks about evaluating markets from an investor as well an entrepreneur’s perspective, especially for the tech sector.

Take Ownership for Heavy Lifting

The first thing an entrepreneur should assess is the role his product or service can play. What is that one thing missing in the market and how well can you solve that problem to thrive in that market?

In the early days of India’s internet boom, Prashanth attributes technology’s role to providing ‘predictable access’. The first phase of India’s tech-led entrepreneurship journey really kicked off post Flipkart, and ever since, tech has provided ‘predictable access’ to services ranging from retail shopping and food to cabs and movie tickets. And while access was the major issue, the predictability aspect is where most entrepreneurs took ownership. Even when the ecosystem wasn’t mature, many entrepreneurs in India took ownership and ensured brilliant execution with great customer experience.

“So, the obsession with great customer experience meant an obsession with solving something that requires heavy lifting,” says Prashanth.

Meet the Unmet Need

When considering markets with no predictable access, it is also crucial to check for the needs that are unmet besides doing the heavy lifting.

Qwikcilver, a technology startup for gift card delivery, did the same. Before the advent of technology in the gift card space, the business operations were cumbersome from both the customer and the retailer’s perspective. Buying a gift card meant one had to get paper vouchers that had limitations in terms of access, usability, pilferage, etc. Qwikcilver helped in the transition of this sector from existing paper vouchers to digital cards.

“What Qwikcilver did was to understand the unmet need in a niche market and convert into a meaningful opportunity. It is important to understand changes in customer behaviour over time. A new generation of customers will have a different role in using that access, or the changing customer experience will drive a whole lot of behavioural changes, and that’s exactly what we have seen in the gift card space,” adds Prashanth.

Today Qwikcilver owns almost 90% of market share in this sector.

Tame the TAM, Regionally

Every entrepreneur realises the value of TAM (Total Addressable Market) and why is it important to figure it out for business revenues. While understanding the TAM, an entrepreneur also needs to understand the nitty-gritty about the regional demographics. Not every market is the same, especially when it comes down to the Indian market, things work differently in comparison to the global market.

“India is not homogenous or singular when compared to other countries. While the Internet consumer base has grown drastically, the demographic is not homogenous from a disposable income and per capita spent on the disposable income,” says Prashanth.

“While addressing the TAM as early entrepreneurs, you have to make those leaps of faith regarding tapping latent demand and not always addressing a fully visible demand. When you are doing that, be clear about the underlying monetary behaviour of your audience, and don’t expect too much shift in that behaviour.”

Here are few points he suggests:

● Offer nuanced services

● Understand the buying power of the millennials

● Make early adopters your brand ambassadors by offering great product or service

● Have a broader view of the market to make the TAM meaningful

● Be tactical while choosing areas that are slightly low hanging and monetizable

● Have a vision for the space and the adjacencies to take advantage of

BookMyShow, an entertainment ticketing website, is a fitting example of a team that identified the adjacencies and expanded their TAM accordingly. BookMyShow, while predominantly in the movie ticketing business, realised that the entertainment quotient in India goes beyond movies, and so they immediately started looking at the adjacencies as well. India has a huge cricket fan base, and as soon as franchises like IPL opened up, they grabbed the opportunity and immediately rode on that. Similarly, they started providing services for events & plays.

“There’s no way we could have thought that a company, which is in the movie ticketing space, will become a dominant service for entertainment across a broad spectrum of categories. I think that’s where your belief in the ability of the entrepreneur to actually have the vision for the space and those adjacencies that could be leveraged starts becoming important. In this case, Ashish Hemrajani, founder of BookMyShow, was able to find a reasonably sized market (of movie tickets) and build traction,” adds Prashanth.

Also, sometimes it can be really hard to measure the market at the early stages accurately. For companies like Qwikcilver or Swiggy, TAM turned out to be much larger than what they had expected. According to Prashanth, it is always a good thing to have a pulse to understand the triggers of the market. Even if the business model isn’t clear at the start, one needs to identify the underlying revenue stream. If you take Facebook’s example, even in early days, people in the US were aware what ad monetisation could do over time. Google, as well as other proxies, were already there and the size of the ad market itself, irrespective of whether it was online or offline, was very large.

Understanding the B2B Space

While the B2C segment features effective use case scenarios about how technology plays a role in getting access predictability, when it comes to B2B, things are different. Selling B2B tech solutions is a bit of a task.

So, what’s the difference while approaching B2C vs. B2B?

The approach of taking ownership and solving problems remains consistent across both. The predictability in B2C is more about taking ownership of the problem and finding a solution. In B2B, however, one needs to provide a platform as a whole that brings a change not just within the organisation but extends beyond it, to the relevant stakeholders involved.

Take the example of the education sector, in which technology platforms like Vedantu help in bringing educators, students, and parents together in a more meaningful fashion. They take ownership of providing good grades for the students, which matters the most to the parents.

What the Future Beholds?

Entrepreneurship in India has come a long way. The early starters faced hurdles regarding the ecosystem elements such as technology tools and size of audience who were ready to accept the services. Today, things have changed with many opportunities.

“The interesting and exciting thing about the consumer space is that everything is a white space when it comes to a new generation (the millennials). Everything gets reinvented, the products and services, and brands. In the next 10 years, you will have a whole new generation, where products, services, and brands are up for the challenge, up for reinvention and disruption,” says Prashanth.

He further adds that the consumption behaviour is moving at a rapid pace and the large CPG companies (Consumer Goods) are going out of sync with new generational trends and consumer behaviour patterns. This is creating huge opportunities for entrepreneurs in India. In 5–10 years, entrepreneurs will take the homegrown brands to a global marketplace.

“I am really excited for India going from a brand deficit country (as I would like to call it) to a high momentum brand creation country and that over the course of time, a lot of brands will emerge not only for India but the global market,” he concludes.

Accel shares such interesting entrepreneurial stories, with informative nuggets to run and scale your startup. Follow the links below and subscribe to our #AccelInsights Podcast Series using the following links: iTunes, Twitter @Accel_India, Google Music: (US & Canada Only)and the RSS feed

INSIGHTS Podcast Series — #4: Turning Failures into Success: The Making of Swiggy (Part 2 of 2)

For Swiggy’s Sriharsha Majety (Harsha), the entrepreneurial journey has been quite bumpy. The initial run with Bundl as a 2-person company wasn’t as successful as they had expected but things got better as their vision became clearer. In fact, it is Harsha and Nandan’s ‘never-let-go’ attitude led to the making of Swiggy.

The Makings of Co-founders

Building the idea of their second venture into a possibility required expansion. While Harsha found one of his co-founders in a friend from BITS-Pilani days, Nandan, the difficult part was to find the right technical co-founder. This was also one of the reasons why they had to shut down their first venture, Bundl.

The past experiences made them hunt for a technical co-founder before starting Swiggy. Even though Harsha came from an engineering background, he felt that it was better to have someone with hands-on experience in technology.

“Finding the right technology partner is a challenge that all founders and co-founders face these days. With Bundl we decided to hire a contractor. But, that didn’t work out well,” says Harsha.

Both, Harsha and Nandan were clear that they wouldn’t repeat the history of starting without a co-founder. They did not want to hire part-time employees and nobody was willing to devote their complete time and effort to a new venture. They needed full-fledged individuals willing to go the extra mile.They waited patiently to find the right person until a friend suggested Rahul Jaimin, a developer.

Getting Rahul excited about their idea took numerous meetings and chats. But even then there were roadblocks. He still had to serve his notice period. Following this, a personal crisis almost swept Rahul away. But soon Rahul was back in the game and became the third co-founder of Swiggy.

Skill v/s Friendship

One of the main concerns of the entrepreneur is the division of roles between the founders. In Swiggy’s case, Harsha was clear about his tech co-founder since the beginning. But, there were no set rules when it came to dividing the roles between him and Nandan.

According to Harsha, it is relatively easy for founders who have known each other to work with each other.

“We had known each other for a while and that helped us coordinate and organize work. We knew each other’s weaknesses and strengths, so we decided amongst us what we are going to gravitate to. At first, we split the operations amongst us, but after some time, he (Nandan) took over sales full-time and I, operations.”

So, what’s more important: skill or friendship? In Harsha’s case, he had faced both the situations. He started with a friend then went on to find a technical co-founder. According to him the most important thing is the understanding between the co-founders in each other’s vision and finding joy in doing so.

Speaking of his relationships with both, Nandan and Rahul, he says, “There is no right answer to whether or not starting with a friend is a good idea. I guess, knowing Nandan helped me because it helped us work with each other. Of course, we have our differences, but that is okay. Even with Rahul, I think we had a common tendency of being grounded, and going after what we wanted in life.”

He also thinks that contradictions are bound to happen — one must find a way to work it out in order to help the company. The key here is attaining the balance of calmness and ferocity in the team.

Also, the understanding between co-founders plays a crucial role while dividing the equity.

Entrepreneurship: Not a One Man Show

Harsha believes building a company single-handedly is a herculean task and might lead to many misses. He suggests 2 to 4 is a good number for co-founders in a company.

When it comes to deciding on choosing the CEO, Harsha says, “I am a strong believer in being equitable and not equal.” Recognizing individual contribution to the company is and what helps the company grow are significant factors in establishing the equity divisions. And most importantly, all the co-founders must be clear and agreeable to it.

An important skill that Harsha thinks every CEO must possess is that of storytelling. Whether it is inspiring people while building the team, convincing investors in believing the dream or, energizing the team every Friday, storytelling definitely comes to aid. Not just weaving stories but being resourceful is another basic characteristic for CEOs. Resourcefulness is a necessity not just while networking but also while building relationships. And curiosity definitely helps in being resourceful. Harsha believes it’s all about learning as you go about building a company.

“You should be humble enough to actually accept that you don’t know everything and you must have that curiosity to learn. For me converting that drive helped me in entrepreneurship,” he concludes.

Eventually, having the right mix of traits with a great team is what makes a successful entrepreneur.

You can listen to the first part here

Accel shares such interesting entrepreneurial stories, with informative tips and tricks to run a business. Follow the links below and subscribe to our #InsightsPodcast Series using the following links: iTunes, Twitter @Accel_India, Google Music: (US & Canada Only)and the RSS feed

INSIGHTS Podcast Series — #3: Learning from a Failure: The Making of Swiggy (Part 1 of 2)

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference…”

– Robert Frost

Every entrepreneur’s journey is different with his/her own share of highs and lows, but what binds each one of them is the passion to commit and the ‘never-say-no’ attitude. At Accel, we are proud to have associated with such go-getters, whose journeys are motivating life lessons for many new and upcoming entrepreneurs. Here, we are sharing one such inspirational founder’s origin story.

Started in August 2014, the food ordering and delivery startup today has more than 5,000,000 mobile application installations and has become the household name for anyone and everyone who wants to order-in food. Tying up with more than 25,000 restaurant owners, Swiggy today has its own fleet of local delivery boys with operations in 13 cities of India, including Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad and more. While their story today looks impressive, but the founder’s success wasn’t achieved overnight and there were a few roadblocks on the way.

Formative Years

Coming from a background of entrepreneurs, Sriharsha (Harsha) Majety, founder and CEO of Swiggy says, “Entrepreneurship was always in my blood. My father runs a restaurant in Vijayawada and plans to invest in the hospitality sector and my mother is a doctor by profession and has her own clinic. She is also planning to start her own chain of beauty parlors. Seeing my family members being in charge and taking control of what they do was an inspiration from early years.” says Harsha

He also credits his journey to his stint pursuing an Engineering degree at BITS Pilani, where he got an opportunity to meet people from different background and cultures. “I think those were my formative years. Unlike other colleges, Pilani never forced students with attendance, which gave us a lot of time to pursue our passions. I met a lot of people and dabbled in a lot of passions like quizzing, photography and travel.”

Being a travel buff, Harsha went on a lot of backpacking trips across South-East Asia and Europe. His traveling pursuits taught him a lesson or two about the world, which has also helped in his entrepreneurial journey. He understood that how people didn’t get stuck in the rat race and were curious to try new things. In one of his backpacking trips, Harsha realized how to tackle failures and unpreparedness with calmness and patience. “I went on a bicycle trip across Portugal and was not at all prepared for the weather conditions. I was exhausted, stranded and on the verge of giving up on the trip. I was helped by my holiday host, who took me in and helped instill the confidence back to continue the journey. I was under a lot of pressure and he just told me that if I can’t cycle uphill then I should hitch a ride uphill and cycle only downhill. Which made a lot of sense then. He also made me understand that it was okay to pause and take a break and think about the long-term goal and not the short-term failures.”

All these formative incidents have shaped Harsha and even today he thinks that the issues of short-term can be resolved by not trying to put too much pressure and thinking about the long-term goals. “I think I have tried to apply the Zen approach in life to the extent possible and this has been immensely helpful in gaining some composure. That whole trip was about 3 months of cycling which was about 4,000 kms by myself from Portugal to Turkey.”

Being an Entrepreneur

According Harsha, one personality trait that has shaped him as an entrepreneur is stubbornness. “I was really stubborn about doing things that excited me and was ready to commit myself to it,” he says.

This is one of the reasons why he choose to give up campus placements and take one-year gap before joining IIM-Calcutta.

The travellerin him got excited when he got an opportunity to work as trader at an investment bank in London. “London was exciting, but the job wasn’t and halfway through the year I figured out that I needed to find more exciting things to do with my life so I took the hard decision of leaving London and choosing to come back to India with no plan in mind. But I was sure of one thing that whatever I was going to do in India was a long and hard commitment,” says Harsha.

“In this journey of entrepreneurship, I was only very stubborn about loving what I was doing, when I left UK I was sure that this is the only route. I was happy to work with early startups if they would hire me. But, as luck would have it none of my circle was closely involved in starting up at that time. Hence, I had no other option but to dive in myself,” he adds.

On Taking the Plunge

For Harsha the inspiration came from Phanindra Sama, Founder of RedBus. In 2006, when Sama discussed his venture plans of going public, Harsha thought it was a crazy idea. But after returning to India he saw the growth of RedBus, which instilled the idea of taking the plunge.

He started meeting and discussing ideas with Nandan Reddy (Co-founder, Swiggy) and both saw a huge opportunity in the E-commerce industry with successful platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, e-Bay and more. One thing both were sure off, was doing a business that is a mix of technology jobs as well as offline jobs.

“We thought that we will find that competitive advantage by being not just a pure software company or not just a pure offline company,” adds Harsha

They realized the potential in the unorganized logistics and shipping sector within the E-commerce industry and here was born their first venture, Bundl in August 2013.

“We realized that a lot of small and medium E-commerce companies either had their own websites and were trying get more traffic or were selling on places like eBay, Flipkart, Amazon, etc. We considered it and figured out that all of them wanted to manage shipping, but they didn’t even know how to get in touch with Blue Dart or FedEx. This is when we came with a vision to democratize shipping, of course, it was not limited to that, but it was a start. We wanted to ensure that not just a vendor but also a consumer could find the fastest way to ship something from Salem to Darjeeling. For that if we had to involve small services like DTDC, or regional services along with Blue Dart and FedEx, we were okay with it. We just wanted to build that network and make that transaction possible. That is how we started. That is when I decided to come to Bangalore because all the action was happening here,” says Harsha.

Things didn’t run as smoothly with Bundl as Harsha and Nandan has expected. They needed a technology co-founder for bringing our vision to reality. According to Harsha, finding the right technology co-founder is crucial for every startup and that is where everyone struggles. “It wasn’t easy (to find a technology partner) as none of my friends were ready to take the risk and finally I had to resign to reality and got a contractor to build the product.”

By the time they came out with their product, the market dynamics had drastically changed. Platforms like Flipkart and E-bay decided to ship the product by themselves, which made the market smaller.

“That’s when we knew that we had to change our focus and it wasn’t worth the opportunity cost. Thankfully, we didn’t have any employees, investors and liabilities at that time,” says Harsha.

They shut down the operations of Bundl within a year.

Failures are Experiences in Disguise

After shutting down their first venture, Harsha was still not convinced that this was the end of their entrepreneurial journey. Instead he started looking out for other opportunities and how he can convert his lessons into something fruitful.

He says, “Our experience in Bundl made us realize that the logistics companies were pathetic at utilizing technology to help their business. We took that as a cue and wanted to start another venture with intersection of technology and logistics. We didn’t want any aggregators and build a logistics company that utilized technology to create customer delight.”

They also saw that by this time technology was making things work with a push of a button. Ola and Uber gaining success through their on-app booking, made them realize the potential of hyperlocal delivery and that was the genesis of Swiggy.

“There was no large company with ideas similar to ours and hence we saw a competitive advantage of building a hyper local delivery platform that moved things fast in the city,” adds Harsha.

A result of the founders’ dedication and persuasion, within four years of its inception, Swiggy has turned out to be a successful hyperlocal delivery platform and a household name for online food delivery.

— — -

In Part II of the Swiggy Story next week, we will dive deeper into the fascinating story of how Harsha recruited the third co-founder and an early startup team and started scaling Swiggy. And some of his key learnings from the early days that can be very helpful to first time founders.

You can listen to the Part 2 here

If you would like us to cover any specific topics or dive deeper into particular questions, please do share them with us via twitter @Accel_India

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INSIGHTS Podcast Series — #2: Rajesh Yabaji on Building Blackbuck

Intercity Logistics is a $70B industry which has very little technology penetration and humongous opportunities for disruption. Despite this, it has not been an easy sector for startups — for example, six startups in the space had to pull down the shutters last year. In this backdrop, logistics aggregator BlackBuck has a different story to tell — it has become the largest marketplace in intercity trucking across India within a span of 3 years from founding. The startup has been continuously climbing the growth ladder, and navigating newer landscapes in Indian online logistics market.

BlackBuck has simplified the complexities of Full Truck Load (FTL) freight transportation, making the experience seamless for shippers and fleet operators. So, what led to the initial idea of driving into the fragmented logistics market? How its co-founders met? How gruelling were the initial challenges and are they any easier today? How the team grew from mere 3 founders to over 1200? Joining us today is one of its co-founders and first-time entrepreneur who will trace this journey to the initial days of conceiving BlackBuck.

Our Guest For This Week — Rajesh Yabaji, Co-Founder, BlackBuck

Born in Siliguri, Yabaji spent his childhood across the length and breadth of northern India. It was at the age of 17 that Rajesh made the most crucial decision of his life — whether to choose engineering or join the army like his father. He chose former and cracked the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) for engineering and was soon armed with a degree from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur.

After graduation and interning with Schindler, it was a stint with ITC Ltd. that he attributes the idea of starting BlackBuck (Zinka Logistics Solution Pvt. Ltd), a marketplace for online transport logistics. Founded in 2014, the list of investors include Tiger Global Management, Flipkart Ltd, Accel Partners, Sands Capital and International Finance Corporation (IFC).

An avid athlete, Rajesh doesn’t belong to a family of entrepreneurs, but always aspired to do something big. As a first-time entrepreneur, his entrepreneurial journey has been phenomenal. Yabaji is also among the Forbes India’s young achievers list of 30 under 30.

Now, without further ado, let’s quickly dive right in — kicking off with a discussion on building BlackBuck.

Figuring the right market opportunity while solving real life problem

Yabaji shares some market insights into how logistics is among the largest unorganised sectors and trucking is one of its major components. He presses upon its impact on supply chain, which leaves a spacious room for improvements.

He further touches upon how the unstructured sector can be helped through technology. And, eventually solve real life transportation problems faced by both fleet owners and shippers, using real-time information flow.

Choosing skills over relationship to form the founding team

Yabaji talks about Chanakya Hridaya and Rama Subramaniam, his two co-founders who have helped build BlackBuck. Reminiscing the early days when BlackBuck was conceived, he points out how all three come from diverse backgrounds and work experiences. And, reveals the one special aspect that binds the trio together, and why they form such a phenomenal team.

A collaborative startup culture is about leveraging differences, skill sets, and people who are passionate towards finding the best solution for a specific problem, is something he firmly belives.

What role passion played at building BlackBuck

For some passion is one of those intangibles that drives an entrepreneur, while for many others it is overhyped. Yabaji talks about how it is intertwined with motivation, and the role it played while building BlackBuck. He justifies how a trio of co-founders with different frequencies will keep moving in circles until their passions are aligned.

Splitting responsibilities organically

Despite diverse backgrounds, Yabaji said that equality formed the essence of their partnership right from the beginning. This also ensured that the roles were split organically, depending upon the competencies each one brought to the table. He touches upon topics like deciding the CEO to adapting to changes every six months.

Hiring people better than you and growing as a CEO

Yabaji shares some insights into growing as a team as well as an individual. The fast paced changing ecosystem means one has to continuously adapt and learn. He points out that there will be many first-time scenarios and explains how one can tackle them. He touches upon what roles mentors can play and why it is important to reach out to right mentors. He also talks about how he learnt from the people that report to him.

Learnings while hiring the founding team

Yabaji didn’t mince words and stated what worked and what didn’t while hiring during the early days. From the approach the startup used for hiring to difficulties he faced while letting employees go, Yabaji touches upon the hiring aspects and how they affected him personally.

What are some of the common mistakes founders make

Finally, a glimpse into some mistakes that founders make, according to him, and can be avoided.

As our “INSIGHTS” series continues, we will dive deeper into the fascinating and complex world of entrepreneurship. Each episode will be packed chock-full of insider wisdom from experts. So, stay tuned!

Got questions?

If you would like us to cover any specific topics or dive deeper into particular questions, please do share them with us via twitter @Accel_India

Call for Topics — INSIGHTS Podcast Series

I am personally a big fan of podcasts. They are very convenient to get my daily dose of inspiration — especially when I’m working out or commuting. Over the years, I have been listening to a bunch of different podcasts but a few of them have been extremely helpful.

This got me thinking why not a podcast aimed at first time entrepreneurs in India — INSIGHTS Podcast Series is aimed at this target audience. The goal is to bring them up to speed on common issues that first time founders face and to help them avoid known mistakes on their entrepreneurial journey.

There are some amazing podcasts already available that I highly recommend founders to listen. Some that I listen to regularly are:

Reid Hoffman’s — Masters of Scale

Y-Combinator’s — Startup School Radio

NPR’s — How I Built This

But, none of these are focused on Indian entrepreneurs. Many lessons from the podcasts above are very much applicable to entrepreneurs globally, but there are some nuances of each geography. The aim of our Insights Podcast Series is to address some of those issues that are more specific to India more sharply and to bring out stories from Indian founders and investors so that its more relatable for Indian founders.

We have kicked of the series with a chat with my partner Shekhar Kirani that you can listen to here or click below:

We have covered the topic of “A good founding team” in this episode and over the next couple of episodes, we will hear on the same topic from Rajesh Yabaji (co-founder and CEO of Blackbuck) and Sriharsha Majety (co-founder and CEO of Swiggy).

Over the next few months, we plan to cover common topics that are top of mind for most first time founders. For each of these topics, we will hear from an experienced investor on their perspective and then from one or two founders on the same topic. Some of the topics we plan to cover are: product-market fit, various aspects of the market opportunity, growth phase of the startup, building successful teams, fundraising and exiting startups — just to name a few.

We would love to hear from you on what topics, as an Indian founder, is top of mind for you, that you would like us to cover through the INSIGHTS Podcast Series. Please share those topics as a comment below or tweet us at @Accel_India

INSIGHTS Podcast Series — #1: Key Ingredients for Startup Success

Shekhar Kirani(left) and Anand Daniel(right) interacting during the INSIGHTS Podcast…

Starting a new business can be incredibly exciting and rewarding. But, sooner rather than later, startup founders are bound to run into a gamut of challenges. Eventually, they realize that it will take much more than just passion and a great idea to power ahead and navigate the complex and intimidating entrepreneurial world.

Just what does it take to build a startup into a viable, thriving enterprise? What are those key ingredients for startup success that should be baked in right from the inception stage?

These are questions that all startup founders grapple with. Over the coming months, we would like to dig into these questions with experts in the VC industry and startups through a series of Podcasts. These podcasts are aimed at aspiring entrepreneurs who are looking to build on the shoulders of founders who have walked ahead of them in this journey.

This week, to kick-off the series, I’m chatting with my partner Shekhar Kirani who always has great insights on starting up.

A little bit of background on Shekhar

With over two decades of experience in business and tech leadership roles across several startups and large companies, Shekhar focuses on investing in early-stage software and mobile startups that help enterprises. He led investments in FreshWorks, ChargeBee, JiffleNow, Zenoti, ANSR, and many other seed-stage companies. With his extensive experience dealing with startups as a venture capitalist, and having been part of two successful startups, Shekhar has amassed a wealth of insights that can help founders which he is always eager to share.

Without further ado, let’s dive right in — kicking off with a discussion on what is perhaps the most crucial foundational decision that will steer the course of a startup’s future. Here is a quick summary below of the podcast with time-markers. We strongly encourage the aspiring founder to spend 30 minutes listening to the full podcast to catch all the nuances.

The qualities that define a stellar founding team.

Shekhar highlights essential traits that set successful startups apart from those that drop out of the race — the choice of founders and co-founders.

Often, startups are founded by friends driven by a common passion and vision. But, beyond the personal dynamic between the members of the core team, there are other, equally crucial traits necessary to drive the venture forward. In the early stages, when the goal is not yet well-defined, and the understanding of markets is still nascent, the formation of the team tends to be more organic, and rarely well planned out.

However, when building for the long-term, skills and experience emerge as top priorities. To drive home this point, Shekhar cites examples from startups he has engaged with, that have now grown into solid, viable businesses.

Dividing responsibilities amongst the core team.

Founders must be aware of their strengths and respective areas of expertise — product, technology, sales, marketing, operations, or any other. The corollary to that is that they must also be aware of their limitations, so they can ensure that all necessary skills are represented in the core team. Instead, Shekhar observes, startups are often founded by individuals with shared, rather than complementary, skills.

The CEO’s role is the most critical. He or she must have not only vision, but also the ability to understand people in order to build the right team and take crucial decisions, both for the short-term and long-term. Who should be CEO? Such decisions require a design thinking approach. Importantly, Shekhar stresses, these conversations must be had early on in the game.

Ideal composition of a founding team

Startups, at the end of the day, are all about problem-solving. But how does one define the problem that needs to be solved? In this regard, Shekhar details the importance of achieving a rich and contextual understanding of the market.

Next comes the ability to experiment rapidly, build working prototypes, measure customer reactions, and iterate, to develop a quality product. But it’s not enough for the founders alone to believe in their product. Convincing investors and consumers calls for great storytelling.

The core team must also be passionate and committed enough to sustain conviction on their journey, with all its ups and downs. Each new day will bring new challenges. Prioritizing these challenges, Shekhar believes, is a critical strategy.

Common Pitfalls To Watch Out For.

In closing, Shekhar does a quick, eye-opening roundup of what he sees as the most common reasons why startups fail.

As our “Insights” series continues, we will dive deeper into the fascinating and complex world of entrepreneurship. In the next couple of episodes, we will try and get a founder perspective on this same topic of starting-up and picking co-founders and early team members. Stay tuned!

Got questions?
If you would like us to cover any specific topics or dive deeper into particular questions, please do share them with us via twitter @Accel_India

Indian Urban Mass — The Next Frontier?

In my previous blog, I wrote about what products/services are online in India. In it, I referred to the Indian Urban Mass as coined by Goldman Sachs in their detailed report on India. It is a very insightful report and I’m including a couple of images from that report in this blog.

At this moment in time, India has north of 300M smartphone users as per various publications (here’s one report by the Economic Times). With the launch of Reliance Jio, and subsequent mobile data price wars, the average price of data in India is one of the lowest in the world. What this means is there are 300M+ people in India capable of transacting online.

But, when you actually look at the transaction data across the various businesses described in the blog above, there are only about 60M+ people transacting online. One of the major reasons for this is the income levels across India. Majority of people transacting online belong to the top 4 categories of people in the Income Pyramid — Movers&Shakers, Govt/SOE Employees, Urban white collar/SME owners and the Educated Urban mass — which add up to about 60M.

Don’t get me wrong, these 60M people are transacting quite actively on the internet. If we look across startups in India, some of the best in class startups which started around 2015 are able to get to a scale (in terms of # of transactions/day or GMV) in half the time than a startup that started around 2011–12. This is mainly because of the increasing comfort of the higher end of the Indian consumer to transact online — thanks to the first generation of Indian startups such as Flipkart, Myntra, BookMyShow, Ola, etc. to name a few.

Having said that, the 60M transacting users is still a small fraction — 1/5th of the smartphone users. And that bring me to the reason for this blog — the importance of the Urban Mass in India. The Urban Mass, comprising of the Educated Urban Mass and the Urban blue collar/migrant workers account for about 130M people in 2015 and projected to grow to 165M by 2020. Their average income is projected to grow from $3200 (2015) to about $4800 (2020). This is projected to add about $400B in aggregate earning pool.

If you look at most of the online services in India, only a few of them currently cater to this Urban Mass population. As an example, very few services in India, like Flipkart, PayTM or Ola serve north of 50 cities in India. But if you look at many of the other online services in India that are listed in my previous blog, they are focused on probably 20 cities or lesser in India. In comparison, many of the online services in China serve 300 cities.

Over the next 5–10 years, the Urban Mass with their increasing income and widely prevalent internet connectivity are going to consume/demand more of these online services. There will be a class of products/services that will cater and scale to this Urban Mass. But, there are probably going to be a new set of companies created who are more focused on this Urban Mass.

Any predictions on which products/services will be unique to the Urban Mass — in the top 20 cities or the broader population in the next 100+ cities? This could be across categories such as communication, commerce, entertainment, health, education or any other sector.

Note: Blog also posted here

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