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The Mountain man: What Manjhi can teach entrepreneurs

The Mountain man: What Manjhi can teach entrepreneurs

Although a tad belated, I recently watched the movie Manjhi (bollywood pick), based on the life of late Dashrath Manjhi (also known as Mountain Man) and his extraordinary feat of carving a path through a mountain using only a hammer and chisel. As the movie ended, I realized that it has invaluable lessons for entrepreneurs. Indefatigable and unruffled in the face of astonishing hardship, Manjhi is a picture of grit and determination. I think there are some great teaching for budding entrepreneurs from the film.

Stay focused Starting up and being an entrepreneur can be daunting. There are no off days and expect your days to be long and tiring. In the end it is easy to lose focus of what you are trying to achieve and fatigue to set in – both mentally and physically. As an entrepreneur there will be plenty on your plate, but the trick is to focus on completing the task at hand. Make each minute count and set yourself small achievable targets that can be achieved every hour, day, week and months. Every entrepreneur or an aspiring to be one, must appreciate the unwavering focus of Dashrath Manjhi in getting his job done despite years rolling by.

Start small – In the movie Manjhi starts chipping at the mountain by tackling the smaller stones. It is only much later that he starts breaking down the bigger boulders. Smart entrepreneurs know where to smart. To be successful you have to tackle the small things first. As the old adage says – you have to learn to walk before you run, you have to tackle the smaller aspects your business first.

Self belief – An entrepreneur will always have a fair share of naysayers. Your ideas will be put down, people will criticize you plans and keep discouraging you. History has shown that successful entrepreneurs have a strong self-confidence that their idea would work and they can make things happen. They trust their abilities and their skills to tackle any problem that the business may throw at them. What is endearing in the movie is that Manjhi grows in confidence and his ability to get the job done. For entrepreneurs it would be handy to note that self-confidence can be reinforced if you do not give up. However, as a footnote, it is important to note that there is a difference between delusion and confidence.

Find the spark – For Manjhi it was the loss of his wife and the person he loved that moved him to building a road through a mountain. For anyone aspiring to be an entrepreneur, it is very important to have a strong trigger. A cause that can inspire you and excite you is most likely to hold you in good stead when navigating the choppy waters of entrepreneurship. Starting up is tough and if an entrepreneur does not have the inspiration to keep going, it make be very difficult to make a success of it.

Step out of your comfort zone – While you may have domain knowledge and some skills needed to get your startup going, you will never have everything that is required when starting a business. You may have no knowledge of marketing, or finance or coding. In each case an entrepreneur has to step out of his comfort zone and even do things that may seem scary and confusing. Success or a failure, entrepreneurs are always prized because they have been able to conquer the fear of venturing into the unknown. This has a great effect on personal growth and prepares you to handle tricky situations, failures and rejections.

Create value – Manjhi in the movie has only greater good of the people in mind. He had resolved that he would not let anyone else die because a mountain stood between his village and proper access to medical care. It took him 22 years, but Manjhi got the job done. Today, he is well known for his selfless act and the value he has created for people around him. While it is important to make money when in business, an entrepreneur should look to create value first. Create value and compelling reason for your customers and people will love your product or service. Solve a real problem and create value, the money will follow.

It is often said faith can move mountains. Manjhi has shown us that a mountain can be conquered through sheer determination and  therein lies the essence of creating a successful business.

Ashish Mittal is Startup Mentor and Angel Investor at TurningIdeas , an accelerator and Incubator based in Noida. You can follow Ashish at @ashishmitt


10 reasons why most startups don’t scale (fail)

10 reasons why most startups don’t scale (fail)

IBM to drive Startup Incubation with TurningIdeas

16th December, New Delhi – India’s most prolific  Incubation and acceleration platform TurningIdeas today announced it has inked a partnership with technology major IBM to collaborate in identifying and connecting with compelling technology startups across educational institutes in the country. With this partnership TurningIdeas will be launching the nationwide IBM TurningIdeas IDEASPARK challenge as a part of the IBM Global Entrepreneur program from today. The challenge looks to find a product or service that answers a real-world need in business or the society.

India today has numerous people with entrepreneurial ambitions and many who nurture an idea. The country’s educational institutes are the breeding grounds of prolific ideas but most never come to fore because of inherent structural problems in the system. TurningIdeas and IBM envisage an ecosystem where the brightest and the best in our educational establishments get a platform to showcase their idea and realize their dreams.  Beyond that, the programme will also be an experiential learning exercise that encourages student to innovate and find answers to basic problems. The prime focus of the challenge is to ensure students become job creators and not mere job seekers.

The challenge will be held across 400 institutes (universities and colleges) spread across the country, where the first stage will be the presentation of the idea. After three levels of screening the final winners will receive mentoring and incubation from TurningIdeas while the winners will get full technology support from IBM. This one of a kind mentoring from leaders and veterans in the space, coupled with technology support from IBM will ensure the winners become the next big thing in the entrepreneurial landscape of the country.

Speaking at the event , Ashish Mittal ,Founder TurningIdeas said “TurningIdeas along with IBM will give the universities/college students a platform to think BIG and out of box and innovate faster”

TurningIdeas provides young talent a platform to three point course of action – Ideate, Incubate and Innovate. As an incubator, TurningIdeas mandate is to speed up the growth trajectory of early stage startups and accelerate its success. Not only does it provide dynamic startups common services and co-working spaces, it provides a unique blend of coaching, mentorship, networking connections and helps develop business and marketing plans that give structure and direction to a startup.

While TurningIdeas will provide mentoring and support, IBM will offer its top of the line cloud platform – Bluemix. Bluemix is an open-standard, cloud-based platform for building, managing, and running apps of all types, such as web, mobile, big data, and smart devices. Capabilities include Java, mobile back-end development, and application monitoring, as well as features from ecosystem partners and open source—all provided as-a-service in the cloud. These services would be beneficial for startups to adapt and implement their ideas at the shortest time possible.

To participate in the contest, the startups have to first enroll into the IDEASPARK Program, which can be done by logging into ideaspark.turningideas.com To enroll, a startup should be less than 2 years old, should be a private organization, and should have an existing product or platform.

About TurningIdeas

TurningIdeas was founded by Ashish Mittal (an ex-Googler, Microsoft, Oracle, IBM) with a vision of replicating Harvard and Stanford in India. The platform provides mentoring, incubation and accelerator support to startup ideas emerging from Universities/Colleges.

Emerging Startup Domains in 2015

Emerging Startup Domains in 2015

With the year, almost drawing to a close, it is perhaps a good time to reflect on how the startup ecosystem has performed in the country. It has been a fascinating year and some of the early presumptions about starting up have begun to unravel. Beginning early this year, we saw a great rush of venture money and a significant uptick in valuations. As a seed round of a million dollars became the new norm, startups started mushrooming throughout the country. The sectors that saw significant interest include:

IoT and Wearables – The entire Internet of Things (IoT) has been literally forced down our throat by big tech companies, which has meant over a billion dollars have been invested in startups in the IoT space globally over the past few months. Technology companies and their investment arms like Intel, Cisco, Microsoft, Qualcomm and big VC firms like Sequoia Capital, NEA, Andreessen Horowitz and others have made a sizeable investment in the space. While I am a great believer of IoT and its potential, there seems to have been more hype than substance till now. However, that has not stopped a number of startups trying to do some interesting stuff around IoT. Probably it will take us some more time before we can start seeing the full benefits of IoT.

On the other hand the entire Wearables segment has seen a number of significant products taking over our life. This segment is largely propelled by fitness products that look to help us maintain a healthy lifestyle. Fitness bands are the most popular Wearables today, followed by Smartwatches. While top tech companies like Samsung and Apple have thrown everything behind their Smartwatches, even Google has tried its hand in it. It is not surprising that many startups now consider Wearables he next big thing.

Food Tech – This is perhaps that segment that has taken everyone by surprise. While the segment has been simmering for some time now with the likes of Zomato doing a good job, the amount of startup interest in the segment has been a revelation. This has been mainly because the food and restaurant industry till now has been largely fragmented with little or no tech adoption. Startups have figured out a lot can be done in the aggregation business and in delivery. The sub segments that have done well in the space include both eat at home ordering and delivery, restaurant discovery and booking (table reservation), in restaurant payments, office food delivery and recipe aggregators. Some of the emerging players like TinyOwl, DineOut and Zeppery should be on watch out.

Hyperlocal – At any point of the day, my local market today has more delivery boys compared to actual shoppers. With the likes of Grofers, BigBasket and Pickingo vying for your attention as your on demand delivery partner, there is an explosion of hyperlocal services. From delivering fruits, vegetable, pulses, to transportation services, hyperlocal startups have managed to grab their fair share of eyeballs and investor money. However, this sector has become very competitive and it is will be interesting to see how these startups scale and evolve in the future.

Operations & Logistics Management – According to global startup analyst firm Tracxn about 90 startups and 50 plus startups have been founded in 2014 and 2015 respectively.  Top funded startups include the likes of Delhivery, Ecom Express and Gofers. The sector has seen a lot of interest primarily because of the growth of ecommerce in India. The startups in the segment have now started finding niches and diving deeper. This has led to the emergence of local delivery startups, food delivery startups, intra-city, inter city, overseas, courier aggregators, ecommerce shippers and local transport and freight aggregators. Of the many sub segments, local delivery, intercity transport and local transport and fright aggregators have seen considerable attention. Some of the interesting startups in managing Operations efficiency in Merchant operations such as FocusDigit should be on watchout list.

Alternative Lending – A rage in the UK and US, alternative lending startups in the peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding space have become increasingly popular in the country. According to Tracxn about $ 27 million has been invested across alternative lending companies in just the last 18 months and there are about 30 companies across P2P Lending & SME Lending verticals, with more than half founded in just the last 18 months. The promise of cheaper, faster and hassle free finance has made these startups hugely popular among people and startups like Faircent, Capital Float, Ledingkart, RangDe and Milaap have done a good job in the segment. However, absence of any regulations and policies to govern the segment has left an air of uncertainty and the Reserve Bank of India and the Government must come up with policies to regulate this highly promising segment.

8 reasons why Startups should Adopt Cloud

8 reasons why Startups should Adopt Cloud

To be able to appreciate what cloud computing is all about, it is very important to understand what it stands for. Cloud computing is essentially used to describe a process where a number of off-site servers are pooled together on the internet to share resources rather than having servers and processors locally doing your IT work. What characterizes cloud computing is that it is often available for a price only on demand – when you need it and how much you need and is outsourced and managed by a service provider.

For many cloud has been a difficult concept to understand, but there is no doubt that it is disruptive and positive for an enterprise. It provides speed and agility to an enterprise’s IT needs. Cloud has seen popularity because of its many advantages:

Fast – Cloud is a lot faster than any traditional software and hardware. It does not suffer from any of the limitations of physical hardware and software, which means the output is much faster. For example 3D and graphic rendering for many products are now done on the cloud. This has vastly improved the speed of generating output and has meant work that generally took days to complete is now done within hours. Cloud enables a firm to be nimble and ensure it has faster processing speeds at reasonable costs.

SaaS model – Cloud has opened doors to Software as a Service Industry (SaaS). This means an enterprise does not have to pick up the entire suite of software, he can pick and choose the parts that suit them the best and only pay for that. Cloud has meant different subscription models can be offered to an enterprise, which has made IT software adoption much more economical. Good quality IT software is now accessible to everyone and anyone.

Demands on IT – As an enterprise grows in size, its demands on IT increases. As the world moves rapidly in adopting technology, IT is expected to look at every aspect of business. From office intranet, to planning, marketing, sales, customer experience and big data analytics amongst others, the demands for IT is ever increasing. This has meant there is tremendous pressure on enterprises to meet all the IT needs and keep up with emerging requirements.

Skilled manpower – As demands increase and IT within an organization grows, an enterprise needs the manpower to address various needs. However, good and skilled manpower in the field of hardware and software is hard to come by. IT staff also needs to stay updated on new technologies and this may prove to be a problem. Some try to get over the paucity by outsourcing their IT requirements, but this is not cheap. Cloud does away with all such needs as physical IT infrastructure for an enterprise is limited and an enterprise needs very little of no manpower to take care of it.

Expenditure – One of the biggest advantages of cloud is that it does away with capital expenditure needed to set up an enterprise IT framework. Beyond a good internet connection, an enterprise does not need to incur any cost in buying costly hardware like servers and processors.  This also means significant space is freed up that can be used for other purposes. Technology evolves at a rapid pace and even before an enterprise realizes, most of its IT can be outdated. Being on the cloud ensures an enterprise will save on the cost of upgrading the IT infrastructure.

Effective Disaster Recovery – The problem with physical infrastructure is that it is prone to developing problems. In systems parlance, what is known as “crash” often leads to vital information being lost. It can be particularly problematic if information or data was vital in nature and the recovery process is often futile. To manage such risk, various levels of backup needs to be created and this adds to another layer of costs. Cloud removes all such risks as there is no physical infrastructure. Information is held on the remote servers that have effective data recovery systems and every bit of information can be retrieved on demand at any time.  Completely secure, data management and its record keeping on the cloud is simple and efficient.

Easy Scalability – For a company that is growing an evolving, getting a fix on the amount of IT infrastructure can be a tricky proposition. SMEs often face uncertainty and by having your IT needs on the cloud, an SME can tune its services according to its needs. This also means when the good times come, an SME is not impaired by the lack of adequate and required IT systems. With cloud scaling up and at the same time scaling down the IT services is almost instantaneous. This means when business peaks an SME can demand for extra resources to keep pace with demand in a much more economical way.

Mobility – A company nowadays is in a constant state of flux with many of its employees in motion. Having a system that is accessible from anywhere at any time is a necessity and not a luxury. By adopting the cloud technology an organization is able to create a mobile environment for itself and employees can gain information, collaborate and share from any place at any time as long as they have access to the internet. This greatly increases productivity and a company’s ability to have seamless flow of information within its employees.

(Ashish Mittal is founder and Chief mentor, Turning Ideas, focused on helping multiple startups in mobile, social and cloud domain. He was instrumental in starting Google Enterprise business in India and worked for Microsoft, Oracle and IBM. He is part of advisory board for multiple higher education Institutes and Government and also guides students in becoming Industry ready. He also drives charity for underprivileged known as Turning Life Foundation.)

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