The bootcamp begins. It started with a bang, an early morning alarm buzzed, but I was already fully awake. Instead snoozing I tapped STOP – and was ready to face the day.
We took a quick bus ride to Zone Innovations. First of all we were introduced to Rohit Manchanda who really helped to provide some of the key information about into. Rohit also introduced us to a number of key innovations, including PayTM. There are number of interesting government initiative including Digital India, Make in India, startup India, and the smart cities initiatives that are aimed at transforming India and its economy. If it succeeds, India will be truly transformed.
Adjay Ramasubramaniam is our host from Zone Startups here in Mumbai and he gave us excellent overview of the startup culture and practices that are emerging here in India. He also dived into some of the key numbers around India growth especially in mobile, commerce and the population as a whole. A lot of this information is to ensure that we take India seriously, it is a massive economy and it’s tipped to be the 3rd biggest by 2030. There are so many stories about India and Indians in those numbers, but the big take away was that the undertaking to lift people out of poverty is really underway. The fact that with Jio you can now get 1gig of data a day for less that $3 a month is transformative. Transformative because it provides access that has so often been denied to huge swathes of the population because of their location, background and caste.
Saumil Shah had a unique presentation – his slides were all newspaper clippings. Saumil really started to break the notion of India as a single entity down. It is not a single race, religion or class each of these can be broken down and fused together. To really understand India you have to be more specific. You can target 1% of the Indian population and still have a massively profitable business that serves millions of customers. At the same time if you want to work with the larger population be prepared to scale beyond your wildest imaginations.
Our final speaker was Sreeraman Thiagarajan. A young tech savvy entrepreneur Sreeraman structured his presentation around the idea of Indian vs Bharat. Indian being the stereotype of India and Bharat being the local (and more realistic) version of India. Some of the stats that Sreeraman shared were truly mind boggling – like the fact that 8.5 million people use the train system here EVERY DAY! Can you imagine the logistics of keeping that system running? What this dichotomy illustrated that there was much more to India that the stereotypes, and more often the stereotype concealed a much more nuanced and complex truth.
From this session I learnt that Tirupati, not the Taj Mahal, is most visited place in India and by a huge amount. That while technology like PayTM has transformed the way people make purchases, what they buy hasn’t. Because of the variety of languages within the county voice and vernacular are crucial elements of the culture. It’s why video is a huge area of growth in India, because it allows the people to utilise their language and to share that with the large internal diaspora. And that one of the driving forces in India is VFM – value for money. In terms of motivation to spend – it’s a completely value driven system. This is one of the reasons that so many ‘colonial’ technologies (cheap tech aimed at addressing the mass market under a perception of saving these poor people) fails in India all the time. Why have the worlds cheapest car when you can have a fully specced motorbike for the same price?
In the afternoon the group broke up into personal mentoring sessions. It was our opportunity to pitch our startups and get some local insight and opinion on what we are proposing and the potential for it in India. I haven’t had to pitch Chickon much so I haven’t developed the clear language around it that a bit of practice forces you to do, but I got some really good advice. Focussing on that Value For Money is incredibly important for the Indian market, saving time and effort isn’t one of their priorities. Why? In such a populous country labour isn’t an issue, it’s cheap and it’s plentiful so there is no drive to be more efficient or scale back the human role. So while Apple has an App for the That, India has a Man for That.