It was a cold winter day in Munich in Feb 2008 where I was attending the DLD Conference and bumped into the founder and Editor of TechCrunch Michael Arrington. Michael and I had some interesting discussions and finally spoke about the startup scene in India. I told Michael to seriously consider starting Techcrunch in India and also start an event like Techcrunch50 for Indian startups. Michael was curious and enquired a lot about the market but thought it may be too early for him to enter the Indian market. However I kept pushing (even now) and encouraging him to give India a shot…
Fast forward to Proto.in 6th edition in Pune. Proto.in tickets were sold out almost a week before the event and the demand for those tickets would never seem to end. I remember overhearing a conversation between one of the organizers and someone who told him that he has landed in Pune from London just to attend Proto.in and doesn’t have a ticket and wanted to anyhow attend the event another organizer from Pune told me how his phone has not stopped ringing from 7 AM everyone finding a way to get into the event. There was lines and 100s of people at the gates well before the start time many of them trying every trick in the book to get a ticket which was not all that cheap from an individuals point of view. And mind you these were not tickets to a Rock Concert or an event being attended by Bill Gates or Steve Jobs … so who were the starts attracting all the attention? Yes you got it right Proto.in has been able to finally make Startups COOL and gave them the rock-star treatment.
Proto.in was very well attended I was told over 500 people were present and I could see every seat in the auditorium and all the corner stairs fully occupied there was hardly any space left. The place was bustling with people present were top entrepreneurs, Angel Investors, VCs, Incubators, Government Officials, TV Channels, Investment Bankers, Bloggers, Twitters, Facebookers, Journalists, Software Companies,Small companies, Biggies like Qualcomm, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Sun, Incubators, Wannabe Entrepreneurs, Enthusiasts, Self Proclaimed Experts, HNI’s absolutely the who’s who of ecosystem. However the best part of Proto was maximum time of the event was dedicated to the startup showcase and they had only a few other panel discussions.
The startup showcase was amazingly next gen..with great music, strobe and disco lights it had all the sex appeal and glam any major entertainment event could have. However it was plagued by sound and projector issues… which was a bummer which the organizers should surely fix next time. Now talking about the startups itself they were presented almost like rock-stars each one of them had a unique entry and exit sound track and all the flashy lighting effects. My take on the Startups:
Vardenchi Motorcycles: AKA. Sexy Looking Custom BikesÂ
They Rock bcos: Their cool looking bikes, Price range from 2.5 to 15 Lakhs, Fully Customizable
They Suck bcos: Difficult to Scale, Competition from Imported Bikes
Bankbazaar: AKA. Get Loans like Airline Tickets
They Rock bcos: Airline ticket like platform for Loans, Integration with Back-end Systems of Banks, identified customer pain point while getting loans
They Suck bcos: Thousands of Direct Sales Agents trying to sell Loans, Actual Loan process too long, They are just a fancier lead generating tool
GoVasool: AKA. Paisa Vasool Group Buying
They Rock bcos: Group buying cool concept never really exploited, good idea to collaborate with local stores and not try to shut them down like other e-commerce portals
They Suck bcos: Too many sites and stores trying to sell cheap, Getting people in groups to actually commit.
Vigyaapan Technologies: AKA. New Twist to Viral Marketing
They Rock bcos: Their idea of Queen Bee sounds great, Mobile Operators can find a new way to send marketing spam
They Suck bcos: Difficult to establish link between queen bee and drone purchase, Privacy issues, Simple to replicate by anyone who knows maths.
Automotive Robotics: AKA. Viagra for your Small Car
They Rock bcos: They can make your Maruti run like a Honda, Bolt on Kits so scalable
They Suck bcos: Indian Roads, Consumer education now how many people know the difference between 120BHP and 190BHP, Value for Money ?
ConWizta: AKA. Ebay for Tests
They Rock bcos: Enables almost any one to start giving tests, unique concept
They Suck bcos: Cluttered Space, Without credibility of teacher difficult to attract students
Vrixx Education Solutions: AKA. ERP your College
They Rock bcos: ERP for colleges looks like a need of the hour, Focus on education segment
They Suck bcos: Long sales cycle, Do colleges really want this and have they money?
English Seekho: AKA. Number Ghomoo English Seekho
They Rock bcos: Rural Focus on VAS, Aspirational English learning segment
They Suck bcos: What happens when Novelty wares out?, Easy to replicate by big well established players, Can someone really learn on the phone?
TestMerit: AKA. Another Online Test
They Rock bcos: Different twist on the Online Test space
They Suck bcos: Cluttered space, Very little differentiation between competitors
PebbleTalk: AKA. Company Discussion board taken to next level
They Rock bcos: Interesting communication and social engagement software, SMS and Outlook Integration
They Suck bcos: Focus onÂ Enterprise segment makes growth restrictive, can be hit by the Google Wave
Aerosoft Systems: AKA. Credit Card Revenue Reconciliation
They Rock bcos: Saves companies money, Credit Card reconciliation real problem!
They Suck bcos: Services model, Easy to replicate
HyCa Technologies: AKA. Science Fiction made to solve real problems
They Rock bcos: Real IP at work, Cheaper, better, faster
They Suck bcos: I don’t fully understand what they actually do!
Intsolvers Technologies: AKA. Pipe Cleaning System
They Rock bcos: Real IP at work, Cheaper, better, faster
They Suck bcos: Dont know how big the market is, Need good mfg. support as product still in prototype
TouchMagix Media:AKA. Interactive Out of Home Media
They Rock bcos: Allows high level of interaction in retail spaces, Brands looking for new ideas to engage with customers
They Suck bcos: Advertising model not scalable, Expensive, More a novelty will the brands try it again?
The day ended by a Facebook developer event followed by Drinks and Dinner with the startup companies at a cool party hangout near Osho Ashram (for the sex appeal ?).
Net net very impressed with all the companies which presented at Proto this time. Won’t be surprised if about 10 of them get some kind of funding within next 6 months.
Now back to my discussion with Michael Arrington. All I have to say to you Michael is the Indian Startup Ecosystem has finally arrived, the above startups, hundreds of audiences, investors and sponsors like Microsoft, Facebook are indicative that these events can be run in a professional and hopefully profitable way. For now Proto.in is the king of startup events in India and we would need events like Techcrunch50 and Demo to come to India to raise the bar for Proto.in and the startups which attend it and benefit the entire ecosystem.
So should I say Welcome to India Mr. Arrington?
photo curtsy- BIG Pictuers