I have known Anirudh Damani for a couple of years now. He is a fellow member at Mumbai Angels and we take active interest in some of the same startups. Executive Director of the K Damani group, Anirudh has had an early start to his role as an investor and lender. What I especially like about Anirudh is the fact that is able to rapidly distill down to the most important aspects of a deal, and not get mired into the nitty gritty. If you get the opportunity to meet Anirudh, one of the first things that will strike you is his energy and affability. Recently Anirudh talked to StartUp Gang and shared his experiences about the startup space. Here are his thoughts
Indian Entrepreneurs Are Weighed Down by Shackles. It is Time to Break Free.
In my honest opinion the Indian entrepreneur is like a beautiful dove that has its legs tied with a 100-meter rope to a 100 kg weight of bureaucracy, poor infrastructure and an oppressive tax regime. So while they are allowed to fly a good distance and look pretty, they aren’t allowed to touch the sky! Even after all these hardships, Indian entrepreneurs build companies that compete with the best in the world. Indians are respected worldwide for their intelligence and “jugaad” thinking. With this we have managed to build our economy with a 6-7% average growth rate over the past 10 years. That is something we should all be proud of.
I Look for Complete Commitment and Some Traction in Startups
A start-up team that has discovered a niche in the market, has innovated a USP and is willing to bet everything that they possibly have, those are the ones that I find very easy to invest into. As a long-term strategy though, we avoid investing into very early / pre-seed stage companies.
Required Reading for all Entrepreneurs
Read the book E-Myth — the lessons given in that book are vital to any entrepreneur’s success.
Success Formula = Hard Work + Planning + Opportunity
It is my belief that all start-ups give it their best effort. However there is a bit of “luck” required in success. To me “luck happens” when hard work and planning meet with opportunity”. So while there are a few companies that have done exceptionally well but have found themselves without adequate opportunity (and vice versa), there are a handful that have hit the nail on the head. Some examples:
- Oravel: A trusted social marketplace for people to discover and book affordable and delightful accommodations around the world — online or from a phone.
- Pickme eSolutions: Provides doorstep pick-up and drop services to authorized centers for gadget repair and ensures their safe return to consumers post servicing.
- Inventure: First global credit scoring company that utilizes mobile technology to unlock financial access for all.
- BookMyCab: First radio taxi service in Mumbai and possibly in India for metered Black & Yellow (non-air conditioned) taxis as well as metered Cool Cab (Air conditioned)
- CarveNiche: An education technology company that has developed an exciting range of product portfolio combining the latest learning theories with the best in technology and is focused on the K-10 segment.
Entrepreneurship Is a Cultural Movement and India Stands to Gain Tremendously From It
The momentum in the start-up space, has allowed a lot of what were otherwise “reluctant” entrepreneurs to finally take the plunge into entrepreneurship and they have made their, their employees, investors and customers’ lives a lot richer. India needs a very vibrant and growing start-up culture if we are to get close to the 9% growth rate that will lift millions of Indians out of abject poverty.
This rapid growth has created its own set of problems, which are primarily — the over exuberance on e-commerce start-ups and the rise of multiple “me-too” start-ups. Another peculiar trend that I have seen over the past few months is the emergence of excellent engineering teams that are pigeon-holing themselves into areas that cannot do justice to their talent. A lot of these tech teams have and are building great software/apps but while they are willing to innovate with their skills, they aren’t willing to innovate with their target market. This is something that drives me crazy, especially since we definitely see the large market that the team isn’t capitalizing on!
If You Have a Viable Startup in These 3 Spaces, I Am Interested in Hearing More
I have 3 pet ideas that I have wanted to invest into:
- Location Based Video Advertising sold via “Live” Auction
- Booking a cab at my destination when I check-in
- (And this was something that came to me this morning) A power search engine that can give a timeline map for a specific search keyword (like the name of a company/person/product/etc) which allows me to see and build a story
But do not contact me with any business idea that takes 40 PowerPoint slides to understand!
The India Story Is Real and We Are Already Seeing it Unfold
I am a believer and continue to believe that India was, is and will be the greatest country in the world. It is unfortunate that we are better respected outside our country than by our own countrymen. So while there are and still exist various challenges and impediments for Indian entrepreneurs, these too will crumble, what speed will we grow at then? The industry has just burst out of the protective seed and the toughest part now is to sustain this momentum to break out of the ground and the day we break through the weight and limitations of the current system — the sky is the limit!
I Am Glad to See That Several Startups in India Are Focusing on Solving a Problem
We are starting to see a lot more “problem” solving based start-ups now, some eye-popping manufacturing startups and a lot less “consumption based” start-ups – all of which are good for the ecosystem.
Anirudh Damani is very helpful to startup entrepreneurs. You can contact him online at Twitter, LinkedIn, or view his business pages at: Artha Venture Partners and Artha Energy Resources. Disclaimer: Anirudh and / or I may have an interest in one or more of the companies mentioned here.