The Indian investment ecosystem is primarily driven by an old-school-boys' club, who like to invest in traditionally safer bets
Entrepreneurship is like a roller-coaster ride that is full of highs and lows. It's hard to explain but once you take the entrepreneurial plunge, you get that feeling of achieving your dreams and goals. You know what you want and can almost taste success. So you continue working with persistence during the hard times. You face resistance, criticism and failures with courage, take the hard hits, and keep going till the time you get it right.
One of the key challenges that startups always face is hiring and retaining a good team. The founding team can literally make or break a startup. It's hard to find quality talent with dedication and passion for creating something new. Even when you find such a team, it's really hard to retain them for long, as they are always looking for new challenges and learning opportunities. However, we have been lucky enough to have a great founding team and some of the members have stuck around with us through the highs and lows of our journey.
Startup culture in India
The Indian startup ecosystem has grown exponentially over the last few years. It has evolved a lot and has witnessed the emergence of a number of mentor networks, accelerators and incubators. While this has resulted in a lot of new startups popping up across the country, we are still missing out on the quality aspect. I feel that similar to Silicon Valley, we need to inculcate the culture of 'paying back'. Successful entrepreneurs should find time to give back to the ecosystem by mentoring and guiding aspiring entrepreneurs.
The investment ecosystem in India is still very nascent and it is primarily driven by an old-school-boys' club, who would like to invest in traditionally safer bets like the private equity. However, of late a number of early-stage VCs and angel networks are actively investing in startups, giving the much needed relief to them to prove their business model and get ready for Series A funding.
We (TableGrabber) are a Delhi-based company that offers online restaurant reservation and status updates in real time via our website TableGrabber.com. We recently entered the South American market by opening an office in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. I feel that Latin America has a huge potential and with a right local partner, some startups can go and explore this market.
I also think India is still a developing market. One of the biggest hurdles is that we are very risk-averse and don't like to change the status-quo. As a result, some great product companies have to go out of the country to get customers, since enterprises in the country don't like to experiment with new products and technologies.
VC funding vs bootstrapping
I believe that an entrepreneur should bootstrap till the time he gets some good traction. I think taking money too early can make the founders complacent and it might result in a lot of distraction from the core business. And once you decide to raise a round, it's very important to take the smart money, and not the easy money. Your investors should be able to add intellectual value to your business and push you in the right direction. A right investor should be strategically aligned with your vision and should be able and willing to get his/her foot in the door with your clients/customers.
Robotics and mobile healthcare have great future
Although Big Data has been getting a lot of attention of late, I personally think that robotics and healthcare startups present a huge opportunity over the next few years. These verticals are already creating a paradigm shift by bringing medical care at users' fingertips for a fraction of the cost. Today your iPhone can convert into an ECG or ultrasound machine with the help of a $25 hardware attachment so that you can monitor your health round the clock. Most importantly, healthcare becomes accessible to billions of people living in remote areas who don't have access to doctors or expensive medical appliances. Similarly, robotics industry has advanced a lot, and the prices of robots have dropped exponentially. I won't be surprised if we have robots doing most of our routine work, in the recent future.
(A Cornell University (US) graduate, Marwaha is co-founder and 'chief grabber' at TableGrabber, a Microsoft Ventures startup. As told to our Bangalore correspondent Sainul K Abudheen)