Soil MARKezine magazine for September


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Experiencing and exploring the journey of entrepreneurs - the challenges, opportunities, tools and strategies - in this edition, we have for you interview based articles covering the entrepreneurial journey of start ups such as Mobile Gullak, The Headstart Network, and Flip Bistro, along with other articles.

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Soil MARKezine magazine for September

  1. 1. Featured Articles Editor’s Note Start Ahead – The Headstart Network Energy Access: The Challenges faced by Small Enterprises Digitize Your Startup – Tips & Tools for Online Marketing “Mobile Gullak” – Innovation for Success Interview with Sahil Sachdev - CEO, Flip Bistro Page No 1 2 4 6 8 10 CONTENTS September 2013
  2. 2. Dear Readers, It’s a pleasure to introduce ourselves – MARkezine Team, Batch of 2014 – to you! It’s been a wonderful beginning to what will undoubtedly be a dynamic year ahead and we’re excited to share that we have some truly off-beat editions in the pipeline for you. Take this letter also as a promise from our end to attempt to keep the content of the magazine as interesting, inno- vative, insightful and relevant as possible to provide you with a fantastic reading experience. This issue will try to walk you through the marketing journey for entrepreneurs, centered largely around the experiences of startups and the learnings one can get from them. This is crucial because, in startup marketing, there are no hard and fast rules to be followed; just in- spiration to be imbibed, innovation to be encouraged and implementation to be followed. We are also proud to have one article contributed by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) on “The Challenges faced by Small Enterprises” which we would be recommending as our must-read for the month! On that note, we must take your leave and look forward to seeing you again next month – hope you enjoy the articles ahead! Happy Reading! Team MARkezine Editing and Design: Ekta Srivastava | Priyanka Gupta | Raj Balaji | Shreya Singh SCHOOL of INSPIRED LEADERSHIPCMARKezine1 Editor’s Note September 2013
  3. 3. SCHOOL of INSPIRED LEADERSHIPC MARKezine 2 It was a busy Saturday for Mr. Girdha- ree Saran, who was part of the Startup Sat- urday event held at the School of Inspired Leadership, Gurgaon. Mr. Saran is one of the volunteers working for The Headstart net- work which is a not for profit organization. The Headstart network is headquartered in Bangalore, but it’s spread is indeed much fur- ther than just that – the activities are carried out in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune, Delhi, Gurgaon, Ahmedabad, Chennai, and Kolkata. This organization is led by a team of sev- eral volunteers who are from varied back- grounds and include entrepreneurs, academics, and industry professionals. While the young en- trepreneurs were showcasing their am- bitious projects to a sizeable crowd gathered at SOIL, Mr. Saran was overlooking the presentations with en- thusiasm. He was kind enough to spare some valuable time of his to share his insights on the startup scenario in India. Mr. Saran began by saying, “there is always a lack of resources for startup entrepreneurs.” “You should handle your resources in such a way that you can distribute your budget in marketing. Initially, look out for options which are free and cost efficient and at the same time effectively manage your communication with the end user. Today, unlike earlier times, to establish a successful business, it is 90%‘idea’ and 10% ‘investment’ that is required”. Mr. Saran seemed to be in high spirits when he spoke about the differ- ent aspects that one needs to consider when starting a new venture. “You should try and get people to try your products. This helps you determine who likes your product and who doesn’t. The ones who like your product will speak about it and tell ten oth- ers about your product, result- ing in spreading awareness by word of mouth. At the same time, your critics will give you your areas of improvement. Make these critics your best friends as they will keep reminding you of what to work on.” “Finding the right evangelist can create a huge impact,” he ascertains. He explained Start Ahead -The HEADSTART Network September 2013
  4. 4. this by quoting an example of a portal called Hello- is a web portal that enables us to connect with our national leaders, be it a corrupt officer that you want to complain about, be it the bad condition of roads, or the water logging open drains present in the country – all these issues can be communicated to politicians using this web platform. “The owner of this portal tweeted about his online venture to many politicians and a few of those politi- cians replied back. For example, Shashi Tharoor, the senior congress minister, retweeted that particular tweet to his 1.8 million followers. Even if 10% of his followers see the tweet, it creates a huge impact.” He thus says that you have to search for these evan- gelists, as they help you reach out to the right au- dience and help your product get initial attraction. “You have to be a smart thinker. Create the content which the users will like to see, use and share. In this way you can get both evangelists and critics for your product.” In this day and age, Digital Marketing is a mantra that one needs to master. With the growing popular- ity of social media portals such as Facebook; Twitter; Youtube, it becomes really important to develop the know-how of these tools and use these platforms to market your product. Talking about innovative mar- keting strategies, he gave the example of a video advertising the Blendtec Blender – where a person crushed his new Iphone into the blender, to show how effective the blender was. This video for the pro- motion of that blender went viral and has almost 12 million hits on Youtube. “There is no science behind it. These are just ideas, which sometimes work and sometimes don’t.” When asked if he feels there are enough support systems in place like The Headstart Network to help young entrepreneurs, he said there is a huge demand for support systems like The Headstart Network. “It is only because of the existing demand that The Head Network started. If there is a demand for MBA Schools, more MBA schools will come up. If there is a demand for Engineers, more engineering colleges will come up. Similarly if there would be a demand for Entrepreneurship education, funding or incuba- tion for entrepreneurs, there would be more supply. If there is demand, there would be supply.” “If you want to be an entrepreneur, come out of your safety net. You have to be prepared for this gamble.” He says that it is not madness, there is a method to it and you have to understand that anything that is done is done for a purpose. “As an entrepreneur, you have to know your purpose. You have to know if you are passionate about earning money or you are passionate about creating something new and great. You have to be clear about your objectives, only then can you align your methods with your ob- jectives and your passion.” - Priyanka Gupta, Business Leadership Program School Of Inspired Leadership SCHOOL of INSPIRED LEADERSHIPCMARKezine3 September 2013
  5. 5. SCHOOL of INSPIRED LEADERSHIPC MARKezine 4 Entrepreneurs and their small enterprises are respon- sible for almost all the economic growth in the United States. -Ronald Reagan Small enterprises are the last mile access channels for delivery of products and services in an economy, especially in rural areas. They, however, provide the bulk of the employment opportunities in the country and are going to be invaluable in bring- ing about the transformation that India needs both for social progress and environmental protection. Product information, documentation and marketing related capacity gaps and lack of capital are known to often stunt business growth of small enterprises, in addition to external factors such as good governance and infrastructure. For example, in spite of multiple government supported credit sup- port schemes for operation, diversification and mod- ernization of small enterprises, small entrepreneurs across India often depend on informal and/or expen- sive channels to raise money. Further, due to lack of information about similar products/ pricing, they cannot negotiate a better deal with existing suppli- ers or stock similar products (thereby giving ‘choice’ to consumers). The other key challenge faced by this sector is the ability to identify R&D needs and opportunities as well as to get such R&D done. Under a major clean energy access programme launched by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), the authors have engaged with both small scale manufacturers/ suppliers and small scale en- ergy enterprises (EEs), that are physical retail outlets in rural areas that sell and service clean energy tech- nologies. The challenges faced by them, with a spe- cial focus on marketing constraints, are discussed below. First, it has been observed that retail energy enterprises (EEs) lack an otherwise easily available information platform that could provide access to market information on products/prices of solar based lighting devices, batteries and cook stoves. Their market awareness is limited to any informa- tion which the manufacturer has been able to sup- ply/push to him/her and about the products of the manufacturer’s interest. As a result, their business portfolio would not cover similar but better valued and/or better quality products (that could be sup- plied in the very adjacent districts as well). Second, most enterprises have poor or non-existing financial and product data management systems. For exam- ple, sales invoices for transactions/proper taxation related documentation is often lacking in many ru- ral enterprises. As a result, most often customer/ warranty/tax filing details are not recorded properly setting the stage for disputes at a later stage. Third, due to a limited availability and access to capital September 2013 Energy Access: The Challenges Faced by Small Enterprises
  6. 6. (and a limited risk taking capacity), rural EEs are not willing to “block capital” to purchase and put new products ‘on the shelf’- a critical determinant of pur- chase decisions in rural areas. This risk averseness of rural entrepreneurs is often matched by suppliers who do not want to open a new credit line in a rural area with a new partner. In such a scenario, it is a ‘lose-lose-lose’ proposition for customers, retailers and suppliers. On specific marketing issues, in an environ- ment where unbranded ‘made in china’ products run the show [slogans like “fashion ke daur mein guarantee ki ummid na rakhen” are telling and have been observed outside shops in some areas] in an extremely price conscious market, marketing the “quality” of a high priced product is a challenging proposition. If manufacturers were to match the dealer/distributor margin of poor quality products, it would render the good quality product out of reach in terms of final price for the overwhelming majority of customers. On the other hand, if margins are fixed at a lower level, retailers’ incentive to push these prod- ucts declines significantly. Third, if manufacturers succeeded in identifying and reaching those quality conscious consumers who are willing to pay more for reliability and performance, they would need to set up a reliable and efficient service infrastructure (both personnel and spare parts) to ensure trust and growth. At the same time, efficiently catering to a dispersed customer base is often economically unvi- able, resulting invariably in a service that is either non-existent (like its non-branded counterparts) or delayed, thereby creating irate customers. Fourth, small enterprises with a limited marketing budget find it challenging to reach out to the target audi- ence. For example, a family run business in clean cook stoves can only fulfill less than 10% of market- ing proposals from dealers due to paucity of funds, thereby limiting its ability to expand business. To increase the success of their investments, small entrepreneurs would need to ensure that the kinds of challenges identified above are addressed. At the same time, both government and not-for- profit agencies must make concerted and jointly planned efforts to build the capacity of these small enterprises to ensure that the engine of economic growth does not get throttled by lack of capital or information. - I H Rehman and Abhishek Kar, The Energy & Research Institute(TERI) SCHOOL of INSPIRED LEADERSHIPCMARKezine5 September 2013
  7. 7. With the current trend of growth in entrepre- neurship, the industry has lost track of the number of startups that are entering both the product and service markets. With minimal resources and capital as a requirement, there is not much of a hurdle that prevails in new startup ventures getting established. But there are a couple of questions that need to be answered here. How well are these startups actually doing? Do they all sustain in the industry? Though these questions are of high priority, and need to be addressed, they are very debatable. Basically, we could say it depends on the vertical or sector in which the startup has been started, as also on the in- vestments that were put in. Whereas startups like Tzinga in the energy drink sector are growing every day, there are other startups in the same sector that get shut down within the same phase they started in. So to baseline these, what can a startup do to in- crease its visibility? Perhaps, we could say increasing the visibility of startups could probably help them to penetrate the market or at least survive rough tides. This leads to the boom in the online marketing in- dustry. With the internet users increasing leaps and bounds every day, it becomes a must for startups to leverage on this mass outreach. It is much simpler and targeted than conventional marketing methods. So how can these startups leverage the internet to maximize their outreach through online marketing? Since the trend of online marketing has been in- creasing, we see many companies starting to focus on online marketing. As a first step, most organiza- tions have started a page on Facebook and Twitter which they consider the only forms of online market- ing. Though there is no doubt that these two are very strong platforms for online marketing, how active are these Facebook pages and Twitter handles? Just having a page or a handle makes no difference to the organization – what matters is the activities that are on the page. Companies also need to start realizing the advantage of target advertisements that social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube offer. So, here are some quick tips on what all a startup, under financial constraints, can do to improve their online visibility: 1.Understand your market It’s most important to know who your audi- ence is. There is a big need to know and understand your own product and understand who the audience for that would be. So, there is a need to ensure that your advertisements are telecasted to the right audience. SCHOOL of INSPIRED LEADERSHIPC MARKezine 6 Digitize Your Start-Up: Tips & Tools for Online Marketing September 2013
  8. 8. SCHOOL of INSPIRED LEADERSHIPCMARKezine7 2.Design Design is a vital parameter of any online mar- keting material. The look and feel of the content that goes online is critical. Maybe it’s the organization’s Facebook Page or the Tweets from its twitter handle, the moves need to be extremely calculated. 3.Blog There was a time when Indian blogs were minimal, but the current trend is that most of us have a blog where we express ourselves and write what we wish to. Thus, as an organization, one needs to realize that there are several bloggers in the country and it needs to capitalize on this from an online mar- keting perspective. It is also advised that a startup organization should also maintain a blog. But it’s important to understand that a blog is very different from a website and one needs to effectively use the two platforms differently. 4.Go Mobile There is debate on the fact that the number of smart phone users in the country have doubled in the last decade. And it is more interesting to note that there is a huge chunk of audience that views the internet though their smart devices. With the num- ber of smart phone users increasing, there is a tre- mendous number of new mobile applications that re rolling out in different application stores. As a startup organization, these mobile applications are a platform to advertise and make a presence. Tools that could help startups to go viral online apart from the conventions Ad tools: 1)Followerwonk: This website helps you find the right set of people on twitter and to analyze your fol- lowers. The “Search Twitter bios” field can give you a good start in finding potential clients or influential people in your industry. 2)HARO – Help a Reporter Out: Though this concept has still not gone viral in our country, the concept of this tool is to get your organization in touch with journalists who are in need of your expertise. This could help you to gain exposure to newspapers and blogs thereby increasing the word of mouth about the existence of your organization. 3)Google Reader: A common RSS reader but it can also be a powerful tool to find popular blogs related to your startup. You can also start contributing to the community via comments which may lead to a guest blogging opportunity, where you can share your startup with the community. 4)Pingdom: The site helps you, firstly, to check the loading speed of your website. It is very important to have a website that is light. Secondly it helps you to keep a track of the downtime of your website. It basi- cally alerts you when your site is down. 5)Ask your Target Market: As a startup, it is es- sential to understand the feedback from your target audience. Again a concept that’s still not so popular in India, but what AYTM helps you do is create mul- tiple surveys in the group based on a wide array of filters. The survey is offered to an audience group of your choice. The site has the option of using a barter system. 6)Pay with a tweet: This is a tool that helps or- ganizations that have a freebie to offer to the cus- tomers of their website. It’s sim- ple. Rather than giving the down- load for free, you ask them to tweet about your startup to get the download link. This could increase your twitter visibility. 7)Topsy: It is a real time, social web search. It’s a great tool to see what people are talking about and sharing. Be it tweets, photos or videos, it helps you understand your market’s voice. - Team “THAARU MAARU”, SOIL Aadarsh Ayyappan, Abimanyu Kumta, Marketing Leadership Program School Of Inspired Leadership September 2013
  9. 9. SCHOOL of INSPIRED LEADERSHIPC MARKezine 8 It’s always a proud moment when you get to interview a person who has begun his career as a successful entrepreneur. And it doesn’t stop there – Mr. Akshay Singh is also an ex student of the School of Inspired Leadership, Gurgaon, and has made a mark for himself as far as innovation is concerned. He dons multiple hats in his entrepreneurial ven- ture, Mobile Gullak, by being the Co-founder and Director-Marketing and Operations, and his organi- zation is making steady progress in retail industry. Most of the ATMs in this country give cash in the form of Rs.100 and Rs.500. Have you ever been in a situation where you give Rs.100 to buy a prod- uct which costs around Rs.7 or Rs.8? The shop owner somehow manages to give change for 90 rupees and then struggles to give change for Rs.2 or Rs.3. He then gives a Chocolate or a Chewing gum instead of the 2 rupees change. Or, you just let it go thinking it’s no big deal. Whereas, it is indeed – statistically, consumers tend to lose about Rs 400/- per month due to this lack of loose change. Companies, which may face this issue in their cafeteria, could have their employees losing approximately 10 lacs per month. Moreover, this act of the shopkeeper might irritate customers most times and he/she may not return back to the store again. It is for these reasons that Mobile Gullak came into existence. Mobile Gullak is an innovative solution for September 2013 “Mobile Gullak” – Innovation for Success
  10. 10. retailers which can add value to their customers. It helps customers accumulate the change money, us- ing scratch cards, via mobile phone or internet. The change money that is to be given by the retailers gets accumulated in the customer’s Mobile Gullak account which can be used later to pay their mobile phone bills, DTH bills, etc. All at no cost – it’s a zero cost solution for the employer, employee and vendor! We caught up with Mr. Akshay Singh for a couple of quick questions to understand, from his experience, what it takes to make a startup tick – and how. In less than one year, you’ve managed to make your business profitable - what factors do you feel contrib- uted most to this success? We started and remained lean. Before launch- ing our services, we did a detailed study and ran pro- totypes to understand the overall value delivery and realization. We keep a constant focus on low hanging fruits and it helps in healthy cash flow. Our mantra is not ‘customer first’, rather it’s ‘value first’. If you can create and deliver value, customers will appreciate it, your time to market and scale-up will be less and even your employees will remain motivated. What factors should be considered while coming up with a marketing strategy (B2B or B2C) for a startup? Balance scorecard helps to make your strategy ac- tionable, remain checked and focused. Making a market map is very important as well. When you are a startup, bootstrapped and have an innovative prod- uct/service, creating a market map becomes very es- sential. The benefits of doing so are: 1.It helps to understand if you are creating a market or are going to be part of an existing market. 2.It helps to know whom you should collabo- rate with and whom you will compete with. 3.It will let you invent or understand various monetization options. Collaboration is important, especially when you are a startup. But building alliances with vendors and partners is a tough nut to crack in the Indian market. Hence, do consider applying game theory. Have a lean and smart marketing budget. Trust me, many times you don’t even need to spend for mar- keting. Learn from mistakes; it doesn’t matter who makes them. Customer acquisition is a myth; rather focus on helping customers realize the value of your product or service. If a customer understands the tangible gain, he/she will stick. Innovate at every step – though at the core, your solution has to be SIMPLE; doesn’t matter if it’s marketing innovation or operations innovation or product innovation. It is really amazing to know that Mobile Gul- lak has reached a breakeven point very early in its journey and has even been able to transform that into profitability now. Akshay Singh and the rest of the team are planning to expand the company to oth- er parts of the country as well. We really are proud to know that an alumnus of SOIL has reached great heights, redefin- ing entrepreneurial success, and we wish him all the success for the path ahead. To reach Akshay Singh, write to him at akshay@mobilegul- Akshay Singh Director - Marketing Mobile Gullak Interviewed by Ekta Srivastava Raj Balaji Marketing Leadership Program School Of Inspired Leadership Compiled by Priyanka Gupta - Business Leadership Program School Of Inspired Leadership SCHOOL of INSPIRED LEADERSHIPCMARKezine9 September 2013
  11. 11. A Bistro and Pizzeria which began three years ago and has skyrocketed since then – Flip Bistro is in it- self a story of entrepreneurial success from which learnings can be juiced out. The Markezine Team got the opportunity to interview Mr. Sahil Sachdev, Founder and CEO of Flip Bistro, on how its journey began and progressed, and what factors can enable individuals to guide their passion into start-up suc- cess. What was the journey of inspiration which led you to start up? Flip was started about three years back. It came into my mind originally when I was studying in Paris, about 10 years ago, and I fell in love with the whole retail environment. By going to different stores, different formats, I wanted to learn everything there was about retail. Looking at India in 2001-02 – there wasn’t much going on in retail and I thought that the best country to learn from was the US, so I decided to go and pursue my MBA degree there. After that, luckily, I found a good job in retail, work- ing with a company called Limited Brands which owns the Victoria’s Secret chain of stores and Bath & Body Works. At this time, I got to experience learn- ing from international companies and what their best practices are, how they work, how they formu- late strategy and what they do. This experience gave me the confidence to come back and do something and, while I was there, I really fell in love with the food industry – because food is the fastest growing retail segment and it’s something that everyone talks about. I was personally very passionate about creat- ing a good, fun brand in the Indian market. If you analyse the Quick Service Restaurant segment in In- dia, there wasn’t a naturally healthy chain of stores serving good food options, and the Indian customer was feeling cheated. That’s how the whole idea be- hind Flip started. What differentiation and positioning strategy did you follow and how was the response? The idea was to start a casual dining segment and serve a naturally healthy meal to the corporate cus- tomer, so we opened our first store in Cyber City. We started out as an organic store where we had live counters to which people could come and customize all their food options. We have a wood-fired oven that we imported from Italy, and the idea was to do everything the old fash- ioned way - really create something authentic and different. On the menu, we had these wood-fired piz- zas, flat bread sandwiches (in which the bread was again baked in the wood-fired oven – that’s some- thing that’s very unique to us and we still continue), live pastas, gourmet meals, fresh juices and salads. We have over 200 items on our menu and everything is fresh, right from the tomato sauce that we use, to the approximately 70 vegetables we source every day. We were pretty happy with the response, which gave us confidence, and so, SCHOOL of INSPIRED LEADERSHIPC MARKezine 10 September 2013 Understanding the Entrepreneurial Journey: Flip Bistro -Interview of Mr. Sahil Sachdev
  12. 12. SCHOOL of INSPIRED LEADERSHIPCMARKezine11 we opened our 2nd store and today after 3 years, we have 6 stores. It was essentially a segment that we re- ally wanted to cater to. Obviously I also thought that, based on my US experiences with chains like Cozy and Panera Bread, people were really trading up to eat. So if you do a positioning for Flip, it’s again a trading up place. It’s somewhere where people would like to go to have quality food and the perception in people’s mind is, that if they want to pay 10-15% extra and have good food, they would come to Flip. We’ve kept our pricing pretty affordable – not at QSR or Coffee Shop pricing, somewhere in between that and fine dining. We started out as Bistro and Takeout, but then somewhere down the line we changed it to Piz- zeria because the wood-fired oven is our main USP and we really wanted to bank on that. How did you go about creating your brand image? When you’re marketing a food brand, the most im- portant thing is food – so your food has to be tasty and good. We got some international chefs to come and train our people, and they were there for the first six months. We focused and continue to focus on two main things – good portions and good taste. Talk- ing about the branding perspective, we engaged in building a very strong brand identity right in the be- ginning – to create a good strong logo, with vibrant colours, that could stand its ground against a Costa or a McDonalds. That was investment we did upfront which I think, looking back, was one of the best in- vestments that happened. As far as brand marketing goes, at that point of time it seemed like a lot of mon- ey, but I think over the years it’s been justified. Sec- ondly, we chose a very good location and that in it- self in a retail format is very important – you can sell anything, as long as your format is reasonably good. Thirdly, we tried to send out a lot of collateral and in whatever we sent out, right from the packaging, the message that we gave to everyone was that we’re a very upmarket company and we benchmarked our- selves, not against Indian, but international compa- nies on packaging standards. For example, the carry bags we use have eco-friendly packaging. So, we were sending out those subtle messages to the communi- ty at every level – so that when a customer walks into Flip, it’s not only the food, but also all these different messages that impact him. It’s also the employees, how they’re interacting, because it is a service busi- ness. It leads to this whole ‘wow’ factor which is September 2013
  13. 13. SCHOOL of INSPIRED LEADERSHIPC MARKezine 12 September 2013 created in that small ecosystem, and then suddenly, as you open more stores, people start relating to your ecosystem. That’s how great brands are created. What are three things that you feel any entrepre- neur should keep in mind while starting, irrespec- tive of industry? For an entrepreneur, a selfless ‘seva’ attitude is very important. The first few years are going to be tough, no matter what you do. So, I would advise that you should talk to your family, talk to the people around you that matter and then take the leap. Don’t just take the leap – you need a parachute in case things don’t work out. It will, financially, physically and emotionally, exhaust you – but the light at the end of the tunnel would be there, as long as you look at it in the right manner. As an entrepreneur, the second thing you need is a lot of passion; the passionate energy behind you – there would be a lot of people who’d always tell you that things cannot go in this way. If you don’t have passion then you will fall flat because, as an entre- preneur, you’ll have to do a hundred different things to begin with – marketing, finance, accounts, technology – everything has to be taken care of by you. So you’ll wear different hats which you should know of; it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you. You get to learn a lot but you should be prepared and, if things don’t work out, you should know when to pull the plug. Lastly, I would say that build something that really creates a lot of value for people in the community and around you – don’t just build something because you think it’s going to get money; you have to build something for the long term. Also, when you’re build- ing value, try and involve as many people around you as possible. - Interviewed by Ekta Srivastava, Marketing Leadership Program School Of Inspired Leadership Compiled by Priyanka Gupta Business Leadership Program School Of Inspired Leadership
  14. 14. SCHOOL of INSPIRED LEADERSHIPC We want to hear from you! September 2013