India Diary: The Last Leg

The Final Leg: Bangalore

The final leg of our bootcamp was Bangalore or it’s official name – Bengaluru. To kick it off we had another early start, a long bus ride and then flight to Bangalore. We touched down in a city with much cleaner air – blue skies! – and plenty of green. Known for its gardens, Bangalore is quite an oasis compared to Mumbai. It’s definitely cleaner and greener, and it might have something to do with the army of workers deployed around the cities gardens and streets, sweeping, pruning, mowing and keeping the city spic and span.

We had quite a lazy day in comparison to the last week, the flight being the only thing on the itinerary for the day! So in the after we joined a tour of the some of the cities sites. We had a stroll through the botanic gardens which was a nice treat after a week in the concrete jungle of Mumbai. It was so nice to breath considerably fresher air and see so much greenery alongside a blue sky.

After the gardens we went to Dodda Basavana Gudi, the Big Bull Temple. Inside the temple is a great a large granite monolith that has been carved into the likeness of the bull. It was nice to have a guide talk about the significance of the place and it was here I got my obligatory ‘dot’ from India.

After the tour I was completely wrecked. I’m not a morning person and the frequency of early starts and long days led to me crashing out in the hotel that night. I woke up after a solid 9 hour sleep of pure delightful blackness. I woke up early too so decided to roll over and have another snooze and managed to get another whole sleep cycle in and still woke up before my alarm. Rested I was ready for the day!


And what a day it turned out to be. We headed to the stunning Leela Palace. I think a number of us were slightly disappointed that it wasn’t a real palace, but it was amazing luxury hotel. It was a beautiful setting to receive one of the highlights of the trip – a talk from Krishnan Ganesh. Krishnan had a really engaging talk and he went into depth about a lot of his experiences. As a successful entrepreneur the group as a whole really engaged with his story and I imagined everyone took something away from his talk. Krishnan went through and unpacked why his previous company TutorVista was acquired by US and UK listed education leader Pearson for $213million. He also went into depth about one of his latest ventures Bluestone, an online Jewellery store that uses procedural AI to generate designs. It was a really fascinating talk and one of my personal highlights. I loved how Krishnan was able to go beyond problems and value and to really focus in what what you’re selling, it was like peeling back the curtain and being shown how it all works.

After the talk we had an amazing lunch in the outdoor area overlooking the pool and the gardens inside the palace. It was perfect weather to be out and the whole group really enjoyed the food and the location.

We then packed onto the bus and headed to the Nasscom Warehouse, home of the 10,000 Startups Movement. This was the startup hub for what Bangalore is famous for – tech! We jumped almost straight into learning from a number of the startups housed within the Warehouse including:
– city lighting solutions to improve safety
– healthcare screenings for rural populations
– AI powered personal shopper
– video interaction platform
– device powered cricket coach
– and a smart project management tool.
It was great to see so many great ideas in one place!

It was great to end our bootcamp on such a high and surrounded by so many great ideas and thinkers. Bangalore was such a welcoming place and a lot of connections were formed really quickly. The same goes for the group as a whole. It’s challenging spending so much time together but I really enjoyed my time with the other 33 entrepreneurs. They were such a diverse and supportive group that it was fantastic to all be together and I think we learned just as much from each other as we did on the trip – the travel really helped facilitate that connection.

I want to thank the efforts of Sheryl from Zone Startups – she did a hell of a job herding 33 Australians through the whole schedule. Sydney School of Entrepreneurship put together a great itinerary and provided great structure and logistic support. And Matt, Rohit and Lisa from NSW Department of Industry did a fantastic support opening up 33 peoples eyes to the opportunities in India. It was an amazing trip!

Thanks for letting me be a part of it.

Follow ups

So that’s the day-to-day diary stuff done. Better late than never! What I want to write next are a couple of posts – one outlining my take home learnings and another on some of the casual observations I had of India. In the mean time you can explore some of the photos I took on the trip over on Flickr and feel free to @ me on Twitter.

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India Diary: A Trip to Pune

Another early start on the busses as we made our way to Pune. It was interesting watching the sun rise and the city stir as we drove south east. We drove past some of the industrial parts of the city but as we left Mumbai behind the city thinned out.

In Pune our first stop was the Bhau Institute of Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Leadership. The institute is linked to one of the oldest engineering schools in India but its mission extends into the community – with 2/3 of the startups being external to the school. We were introduced to the institute by its CEOVijay Talele who demonstrated a real passion for the institute and the work being done. The building has a unique design, being circular and with centre focused on a tree, the mix of organic shapes and the brutalist concrete was a really nice contrast. We were introduced to a number of startups currently working within the institute. It was really great to hear what the teams were working on. I was impressed with a number of the technical projects, some really innovative technology emerging, I thought Flytbase and ShunyaOS looked particularly interesting.

We then headed to the Venture Centre where we were introduced to the program there by Manisha Premnath. I don’t have much experience or knowledge of health startups so it was great to listen to a couple of them share their experiences with the group. The Q&A style format worked really well and it was great to hear directly from the startups themselves. Sachin from Module Innovations was a really great speaker and I personally got a lot out of his discussions.

After a quick tour we were back on the bus and on our way back to Mumbai for our last night there. I had a great time in Mumbai and after the weekend had just started to get a feel for the city (or part of it we were in!). Rather early tomorrow however we were packing up and heading to Bangalore for the last leg of the trip.

India Diary – The Weekend

The weekend finally dawned and I think most of the group were pretty appreciative of the break. Some were recovering from ailments, picked up and self inflicted, but we were all looking forward to some free time. I was really keen to walk – after so many hours spent on busses and planes my legs needed to move.

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So in the morning I dressed and headed out – not with any real mission, just to get out and see the local area. I went down to the Colaba market and had a bit of a wander. I didn’t go too deep into the market – I was happy to keep moving and enjoy the noise and colour from the edges. I then walked down to the area near to Zone Startups because the night before I’d been told that the Black Horse (Kala Ghoda) Arts Festival was on this weekend.

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On the way down I got hustled by vendors and had a few encounters with people begging. As the 6’1 red head guy you tend to stand out in the crowd in India. I’m always confused by these encounters – trying politely to decline the engagement – but it’s a fairly constant thing being the nearest westerner. I find it difficult to say no to people in need, and I struggle with this kind of interaction. I did give money away during the trip, but usually at night on the way home to people setting up camp on the streets, those with kids really broke my heart.

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But I also got approached by a few people for selfies – the 6’1 red head guy is a bit of a novelty here. I also had a nice chat to a guy who randomly came up and asked where I was from. His take on Mumbai and the experience of the city was quite interesting. He referred to it as “not the real India” which is something a few people had mentioned. It was interesting to hear, because I felt that way a little too. Mumbai was certainly easier to navigate and adjust to than I expected. It wasn’t anything I’d done, my preparation for this trip was more along the lines of “bring it on and I’ll cope with it”, it was the city itself. While it is chaotic and loud and polluted it wasn’t beyond a point I couldn’t cope with. The hotel room was a great oasis of calm and quiet and comfort that I was always able to retreat and recuperate.

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The festival was still setting up when I got there – I like the timeline for India – sluggish starts and later nights, it’s a match to my body clock. I had a quick wander around and then met up with Todd. We ducked into the side streets and found somewhere for coffee before deciding to go and check out the museum. I’m so glad we checked it out (the Modern Art Gallery was where we really wanted to go but it was closed) as it was full of amazing art and craftsmanship. The intricacies of the sculptures and carvings were amazing, so beautiful and ornate. I loved seeing the many armed and many headed statues up close too. I’m not sure how they do it but the seem so natural and fluid, there’s a motion captured in these works despite their strange concoction of limbs. We bumped into Matthew at the museum and experienced that strange feeling of running into someone you know in a city of 20 million people.

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In the evening we headed out to the Wine Rack, a place Todd had seen and made famous by a documentary that followed its establishment. The bar was in the Phoenix High Street – a very Western style mall. Surrounded by brands that I was completely familiar with was quite strange. It’s easy to forget just how global retail has become and that the world is populated by these big global entities now, bringing their cookie-cutter approach to retail. It was such a contrast from the Colaba markets in the morning, but at the same time I noticed that so much of what’s sold in the markets aren’t hand crafted or artisan produced, their all mass produced objects – plastic injection moulded products made in China. That too is now a global phenomenon.

We had a couple of glasses of wine – which was a nice change from the Kingfisher beer we’d been consuming – and after a while we headed to a hotly recommended restaurant – Bombay Canteen. The food here was amazing, a fusion of Indian and Western cuisine, trends and flavours. While the traditional food we’d been eating was fantastic (I can’t eat enough curry!) this meal took it to another level. What I noticed most was the depth and complexity of flavours. While I ordered a gin and tonic I inherited a turmeric cocktail (which someone who was over curry didn’t want), which was also amazing.

The next day I headed back to the Black Horse festival with the express desire to get some gifts to take home. The stalls they’d been setting up the day before were in full swing, and myself, James, Jake and Peter wandered through. I managed to find some really nice shawls and fabric – and the beautiful thing about the stalls were that they were all run by non-profits from the different states in India. So I knew I was buying authentic gifts and feel positive about my purchase.

After that we went for a wander to explore other areas of the festival. On the walk we came across the biggest cricket venue any of us have, and probably will, ever see. I cannot really describe the scene adequately but there were roughly 100 cricket games going on simultaneously in this space in the middle of Mumbai. It was a sight to behold!

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The four of us then decided that we should go and check out one of the temples before the slum tour we had booked in the afternoon. We piled into a taxi and headed off. Now Indian taxis are quite small – so our little group was quite a tight fit into these – and unfortunately I think Peter got the worst of it.

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We arrived at the temple and managed to navigate our way through the stairs and stalls to the main area. We were in time to see a ceremony in action and got to experience the sights and sounds of it all. We were completely oblivious to the nature and purpose of the ceremony, we simply stood to the side and took it all in.

In the afternoon we had booked in for a tour of the slums. I was a little bit hesitant about this and I was really worried about it being ‘poverty porn’ for westerners. While we’d seen some of the slums around Mumbai, there was one literally around the corner from our hotel, none of us had really gone in and seen it up close. We knew that poverty existed but hadn’t had to really come face to face with it except the brief interactions on the street.

We met our guides at across the train tracks from Dharavi, one of the largest slums in Asia. If you’ve seen Slumdog Millionaire then you would have seen Dharavi as it was the backdrop for the movie. They gave us a briefing about some of the courtesies required for visiting the slums, no photos in certain areas, to ensure we kept up with the group and to take their directions seriously. We broke up into two seperate groups to keep the numbers down and headed over the tracks on the pedestrian bridge. The slum didn’t take long to reach us, as our guide was giving us a briefing a heavily intoxicated guy decided that right in front of us was the best place to curl up and have a nap. From the bridge itself you got a view of the buildings that look like they’ve been stitched together from discarded debris, but you also how vibrant the place was. This isn’t an abandoned, hollow – this is a place with one of the highest density populations in the world. It’s thronging with people and sound and colour. As we went down into the slum itself it loomed over head. The buildings are far more permanent and substantial than I expected, most made out of bricks and concrete, but because this is a populated space, no room has been surrendered to cars or transport. The streets are narrow and thread through the slum like a maze. After seeing some of the industries, recycling in particular, we made a dash through one of the residential areas. The street was as wide as my shoulders and live wires hung overhead. I ducked and stooped the whole way, glimpsing into peoples houses and living spaces. Shoes left out side, televisions blaring, cooking pots being washed – all around us life was being lived.

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We broke back into daylight and were greeted by a throng of children. We were as much an attraction to them as they were to us. They played and messed around with the group – posing for photos, running around, inviting us to join in their games. It was a lot of fun hanging out with those kids – it put a lot of things into perspective. That this wasn’t a place devoid of joy or happiness, it was simply a place that people inhabited and went along doing things similar to us. Yes the conditions were completely foreign, but at the same time you got a sense of the community that inhabits these places. That it was a microcosm of life.

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We trekked on through the streets and the markets. We visited a school and another throng of kids surrounded us and begged for our attention. We kept moving through this space, bouncing between smiles and laughter and the reality of life in a city like this. There is no proper infrastructure – the power, water and sanitation is all ad-hoc. The houses are so close together and cramped that I wonder how this place survives something like the annual monsoon. This place must get flooded and be incredibly hard to navigate.

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I loved my time in the slums. It wasn’t the poverty porn I was expecting, it was something quite different for me. It was deeply engaging on an emotional level, and place don’t usually have that affect on me. Sure a building might be beautiful or awe inspiring, but it’s rare that a space will actively engage your emotions in the same way as the slums. In the couple of hours we were there I went through the complete spectrum of emotions and I thought a lot about home and the lives we lead. I thought a lot about our privilege and how we often experience life based purely on where our parents chose to have sex! It’s hard to say that the slum tour was ‘good’, or that it was the ‘best’ thing to do – but it was, just not in terms of how we usually use those words. It was good because it made feel bad, feel wasteful and unappreciative. It was the best because it showed me how much I have waiting at home for me, that my struggles are trivial compared to this, that I need to be more grateful for what I have. It’s hard to say something that made you feel bad, that made you doubt yourself and made you question why you feel you have a right to complain as being ‘good’ but it was.

If you’re in Mumbai so the slum tour – it will change you.

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PS – I want to mention our awesome tour was led by the team at Slum Gods. They were incredibly knowledgeable and respectful and really added to the experience.

Venture Debt and the Mobile Future

Today we headed to the financial district of Mumbai. It was quite different to the Mumbai that we’d seen so far, full of new crisp glass and concrete buildings, high-rises and green spaces. It looked like… every other western cities financial district. It did have a few uniquely Indian qualities – the circling and soaring birds of prey being one that I’ve been trying to get used to on this trip. No mater where we have been in India the quantity of bird life has been truly amazing.

We headed to Innoven, a venture debt company based out of Mumbai and serving India and the broader Asia Pacific region. Our group of 33 startups was split into two and the group I was in headed out to the large balcony. It had a fantastic view over the district and it was nice to get a bit of time outside. While Mumbai’s smog seems omnipresent, it doesn’t seem as bad on some days. We started off with the Innoven team discussing venture debt, something I had honestly never heard of. Venture debt is essentially a loan with a fixed interest rate, but they target startups who banks won’t usually touch. There are a few caveats about needing co-funding and other investment, but this form of capital raising is actually more founder friendly as you don’t need to further dilute equity in company.

After we were introduced to the Innoven team our group introduced ourselves and our startups. We haven’t had much of a chance to pitch or discuss our own ventures here, so it was a good opportunity to practice. I’ve been picking up a few phrases in my bus, plane and airport discussions with the other participants so I thought it was a good opportunity to test them out. I really liked the phrase “Farm to Fork” because essentially what Chickon is trying to do is provide data to feed into the supply chain and better manage that journey. It was also a good chance to hear the other ventures again and some of the follow up questions they received.

It was a great meeting and I think we could have spent much more time there given the opportunity, but we had another engagement that afternoon, so it was back on the bus to head to the Jio campus.

If you live outside of India you’ll probably have never heard of Jio, but if you’re in India you won’t be able to get away from them! We’d been hearing about this mythical and legendary company since we landed in India, why? Because they single handedly revolutionised telecommunications in India. The Jio story starts with bring a reliable 4G network to India, not just the technology to do that, more importantly, the price. On Jio you can get 1.5gig/day for less than $3 a month. What Jio has done is connect India, and in a way that has bypassed a lot of legacy infrastructure and hardware. Their mobile first approach means not only are people connected, but they’re connected on devices that are powerful and that they can afford. With that great connection comes a raft of other benefits – families connect, mobile payments are possible, mass distribution of content is possible, opportunities are open regardless of location or status. People around India can consume (and are with a with a voracious appetite) video and rich media, they aren’t limited to a second rate experience.

We arrived at the Jio campus and led through the impressive visitors centre and given a tour of some of their main products and developments. It was great to see some of the devices and features of the Jio network in one place. One of their key products is the Jio Phone. A smart-phone wrapped in a feature-phone body it’s a $30 powerhouse. Yes it is just $30AUD! I love mobile devices, especially the quirky ones, and this definitely falls into that box. It might look outdated it’s actually a balanced bit of tech, walking the fine line between features and price that many companies have forgotten about (yes you Apple). It’s got everything a savvy mobile user would need but at a price point that works for everyone, especially those on a low income. For India this devices is a real breakthrough – it marries an affordable handset with an affordable data plan to make computing and connectivity viable and affordable for the masses here in India.

And it’s led to adoption and growth numbers that are hardly believable:

Yes 100 MILLION customers in just 170 days!

The team at Jio stayed back a long time to present to us – which was really appreciated. If it was in Australia there may have been a riot if staff were asked to stay back on a Friday afternoon, but our hosts really pulled out all the stops. We were introduced to a number of the programs Jio supports and runs in addition to their telecommunications arm, and they really are creating an entire ecosystem for their users. Google, Apple, Amazon are really going to struggle in this environment. From an outsiders perspective there were a few questions raised about data governance and privacy, and it doesn’t seem that India’s legal system has caught up with this technological change. After the lessons from Facebook and the other aggregators of data, there are already a few warning signs about what may come in the future. But what Jio has achieved in such a short time is impressive and shouldn’t be down played.

After a bus ride back to our hotel a few of us headed to a local restaurant, Koyla. Set in a massive rooftop garden that seems to span the whole block, it was a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city below. The food was amazing and so was the conversation – it was a great way to finish the day.

Social Enterprises and Business in India

Back in Mumbai and Zone Startups today. We got to spend the morning with some really interesting social enterprise startups.

The first sessions of the day was Naveen Krishna from SMV Wheels. SMV Wheels provides a deferred payment model for rickshaws in India which means that drivers can move from a leasing to an ownership model. While they pioneered the finance model they’ve also helped move the technology available from people power to electric rickshaws. This is a huge reduction on the physical strain on the driver and opens up the opportunity for non-traditional drivers to enter the market – in this case women. The stories of the women being able to enter the workforce in order to earn money and support their families was really powerful.

Naveen’s session really showed how the startup methodology could be applied to social programs, allowing them to test out new ways of working and if successful being able to scale them up and out to other locations.

In the next session Mary Ellen Matsui introduced ATMA, a completely different accelerator aimed at providing strategic solutions to help education NGOs scale. This was a really interesting session and again a novel approach using the startup methodology. The program isn’t a pitch ready accelerator, rather than aim to develop long term relationships, providing ongoing consulting, goal setting and a project based program aimed at delivering key outcomes to the NGO itself. Mary Ellen’s passion for her work was abundant, and it showed through the enthusiasm she spoke about those that had been through the program. One of the newest components of the program was to open up some of the resources to create the ATMA Network. The platform provides a range of resources to NGOs but also provides a way for providers to network, collaborate and work together.

After another amazing lunch provided by The Pantry, seriously if you’re after good food and coffee in Mumbai check them out, we had a couple of brief sessions with Matt from Business NSW and Susie from SSE. These were really helpful sessions about how the government can assist startups at home and in India and how we can leverage social media to help grow our startups.

We then had sessions with Aashish Gangrade from Tata Industries and Amit Mishra from Eight. Both speakers provided interesting perspectives on the Indian marketplace and provided real insight into how India works differently and how we need to change our perceptions of India itself. It’s such a diverse country that there isn’t just one India, India itself is a microcosm of different societies, traditions, languages and incomes. It’s a complex world and as an outsider one of the best options is to partner up, to take on local talent and partners to help guide you through the complexities. I also took out of the talks that Indian’s often focus only on their market – fair play its a massive one – but it limits a lot of the innovations so they rarely go global. Perhaps that’s something that Australians can bring to the table, we’re somewhat renowned for our ability to punch well above our weight on a global stage regardless of the industry or domain.

In the evening we headed to Thackers for a Gujarati thali feast. I really enjoyed this way of eating – small servings of a range of dishes and bountiful supplies of rice and a variety of breads. It means you never miss out or get menu jealousy! It was a great way to end the day and catchup with some of the other Aussie startups. We have such an amazing and diverse group of people on this trip!

Mumbai Incubators

Today we toured a couple of locations in Mumbai. Our bus took us first to RIIDL a technology business incubator. Located on the Somaiya Vidyavihar University campus, the centre was started as an offshoot of the engineering school. We were introduced to the centre by founder Gaurang Shetty who discussed how the centre evolved out of a desire by students to do more impactful and meaningful projects.

I could really appreciate Gaurang’s effort to create this kind of change, and I think it’s one of the most impressive things about RIIDL. Creating an environment where more real world and authentic tasks are the focus changes the engagement that students feel with their studies. We were introduced to a couple of projects including Square Off, a robotic chess board which definitely has a bit of a wow factor when you see the pieces float across the board.

Visiting from MIT was Suryateja Sharma and he discussed his work on bringing biotech equipment to the masses. One of his recent successes was working to reduce a $3000 diagnostic tool to make it available for $10. It was incredible to hear his passion and ethos to bring this technology to the masses.

After the speakers and demonstrations were done we explored a few of the student projects underway. As we exited the the building there was a bit of a throng in the courtyard below. One of the benefits of a university campus are those impromptu social happenings, and a tug-of-war competition had begun. We watched a couple of rounds and then somehow the Bootcamp Team ended up having a couple of rounds. It was a bit of fun and the crowd were good sports.

After having lunch in the student cafeteria we hopped on the bus and headed to SINE – the Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at IIT Bombay. We were introduced to the program there and also a number of the startups in residence. The spread was quite interesting from waste management through to an electric wheelchair built for India’s rural road system. One of the programs that had been started at SINE that I thought had real importance was an advice service. Quite often I’m startup world there’s a lack of actionable advice. Plenty of people will give you there opinion but there’s rarely anything you can do with that. What you need is some clarity over what to do in order to address problems or shortcomings. Something worthwhile adopting in the Australian context.

I was really impressed by what we’d seen at both locations but also to hear about the efforts by governments and institutions to engage with innovation and entrepreneurship. With such a young population India seems to be keen on developing new opportunities rather than relying on their existing industries.

Bootcamp Begins

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.

Transit Day

Transit day, so a lot of time in airports and on planes. It was a great opportunity for the social side of things though, and great to have a sit down with a few of the other startups. We had a great group chat over free beers in Singapore (FYI if you’re connecting in Singapore with Singapore airlines you can get a free $20 voucher. Just enough for a pint at the bar).

When we finally arrived in Mumbai we had an hour or so bus drive into town. I pulled back the curtains and watched the world go by in awe. It’s like a visual symphony, so much to take in and on so many differences. The textures, the colours, the grime and the beauty. Everything in India happens together. All the contradictions co-exist, but in such close proximity that they blend and merge into each other. There’s shocking poverty but also vibrant joy, and they share the same street and the same sidewalk.

As a visual person the bus ride was so stimulating. Theres was something new to explore, something to distract you, something to amaze and shock you within all of your vision. Gone is the clean hard differentiation of the western aesthetic, replaced by a decadent layering of grime and colour and a patina that makes the city look like it grew out of the ground rather than being built.

India-Australia Day

Day one of boot camp. Not sure if it was planned or just a coincidence but January the 26th is Australia and India Day – so it seemed a fitting day to start our journey. The Wagga Three (myself, Mackenzie and Jake) flew to Sydney and made our way to the Sydney School of Entrepreneurship (SSE). The focus of the day was a workshop led by Anuraj Gambhi. Raj has had a really interesting career so far and he shared a lot of his knowledge covering more than just India but the tech landscape, the culture and what we could expect from our journey. My head was pretty full after the session.

But what we were really there to do was meet the rest of the group. We kicked off with some interesting ice breakers and 20 second intros. There’s a huge variety of startups here. If I was to hazard a couple of loose groupings I’d suggest that most fit into education, health, sports, food, agriculture and sustainable technology. There’s a few that don’t quite fit those groups but the diversity is really great. It’s a testament to the talent in the state and the ability to engage across disciplines and industries.

After doing the pre-reading I was a little bit daunted by what lay ahead but the workshop put my mind at ease. A few of the teams have experience with India, having been there before. It’s nice to know that within the group that on-the-ground knowledge exists.

One of the great things from the group is the fact that there are a number of teams from across the state. A number of them were booked into accommodation close to the airport. After we were all finished it was great to have a few beers together and then grab a meal that was a real carnivores delight of Argentinian BBQ and red wine. It was great to see how quickly the group started to gel and get along. It was Australia and India Day today, which bodes well for our trip.

Into India

So I’m off to India. I meant to post this yesterday when the media embargo was lifted but I went through a mad rush to pack and prepare.

Last year there was a call to join a Young Entrepreneur Boot Camp supported by the New South Wales Government. I applied and was lucky to get be accepted into the program. For myself and another 40 startups it’s an opportunity to head over to India and learn about one of the most interesting countries on the planet.

This is a huge opportunity to get experience on the ground with some of the most innovative and dynamic startups, companies and investors on the planet. I’m really looking to immersing myself in the culture and absorbing as much as I can during the 10 days we’ll be there. It’s a short trip, but it’s an incredibly rich itinerary that we’re booked into, and we’ll get to visit some of the key centres of innovation in India – Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad and Bengaluru.

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I’m taking our Chickon idea over to India as we can see a huge role for our technology in helping to feed world. Chickon itself is a vision based weighing system, using video and AI we can provide producers with real time measurements across a much larger sample size than current technologies. The aim is to use this data to drive improvements in animal health and to make dramatic improvements to efficiency right along the supply chain.

In plain English – we can help ensure that the chickens you buy in the store are the healthiest and freshest that you can possibly buy.

I’m going into the trip with a pretty open mind. I want to learn as much as I can from the time in the country and hopefully make some meaningful connections. It would be great to find out more about some of the investment opportunities in India, but also opportunities to collaborate on projects. I think there’s a huge opportunity to develop ties with regional Australia and to leverage the unique resources, skills and talents that are available.

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Me, Mackenzie & Jake

There are actually 3 startups heading over from Wagga Wagga – all alumni of the AgriTech Incubator program. Jake from Rugby Matcher and Mackenzie from Outback Wings. They’re doing a great job stimulating and supporting the local startups and this is a good testament of that work.

This is my first trip overseas to somewhere really foreign to me – language, culture and customs. I’m quite nervous about it shows how naive I am about so much of the world. I’m currently up to my ears reading about India and trying to get familiar with some of the cultural practices and customs so that I don’t make a complete fool of myself.

The plan it to write up the trip as we go along. I’ll try and document as much as I can and share it with you here – a return to actual blogging :-). It’ll be a good opportunity to capture as much as I can from the experience.

So at the moment I’m in Sydney to meet with the rest of the cohort and Sunday we fly out. It’s going to be a mind blowing experience!