The Rise of the Innovatopreneur

Ashwin Raguraman
Ashwin Raguraman
Vice President, 
India Innovation Fund

Wherein then lies opportunity for innovation for Indian start-ups? While the canvas for innovation is limitless, a space where there seems to be a dichotomy in the size of the opportunity and its address through innovative solutions is in two consumer centric markets – the consumer internet space and the mobile space. Given phenomenal mobile penetration rates in India and the unique character of the market, the factors in which innovation thrives are present. However, we haven’t seen an offering which we can say has been disruptive – an offering which would kindle the imagination of many and lead to its adoption and replication by firms in other geographies. The same applies to the consumer internet space – we are still in search of that elusive start-up which will take the global consumer by storm and carry brand India along with the success of its offerings.

Therefore, while the start-up community is throwing up innovative technologies, the focus needs to be on converting a greater percentage of these into commercial successes. A few points to keep in mind which can go a long way in helping the entrepreneur enable this are:

1. Focus – the world has a lot of problems. Try solving them one at a time and not all at once. Entrepreneurial acumen demands the ability to be able to stay on the right side of the thin line that divides diversifying to mitigate risks and focussing to ensure that resources are used with maximum impact.

2. Differentiate – find your niche. "Me too" offerings are fine for lifestyle businesses. Not as true value creators. Investors therefore like entrepreneurs who have experience in the area in which their start-up operates. They know the problems more intimately.

3. Participate and allow others to participate – You need all the help you can get to make a Start-up successful. Participate in the ecosystem to enhance your abilities and allow others to participate in your start-up to draw on diverse experiences and thoughts.

4. When choosing an investor, choose Strategic value over Valuation – If you in the enviable position of having term sheets from multiple investors, it is often tempting to choose the investor who has given your company the highest valuation. Resist the temptation and choose the investor who can provide you the maximum help in making your company successful. What your company ends up being valued at is what counts, not what its value is at the early stages of its journey!

Quote: A lack of a practical and efficient business model is what has led to the demise of many technology start-ups which had advanced new technologies.

Quote: When having term sheets from multiple investors resist the temptation of going to the one giving highest valuation and choose the investor who can provide you the maximum help in making your company successful.

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