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TiECON Mumbai 2016 – The Lessons We Have Come Back With!

Like one goes on a pilgrimage each year to renew ones spiritual batteries, entrepreneurs follow a similar exercise. We head to TieCon. 
From serial entrepreneurs to those that have just started the path to those dreaming about a startup, this conference has every kind of person and each brings a unique perspective to the table.
There was a stellar line up of speakers this time around giving what is known in our sector as “gyaan”. But, in a way it’s not gyaan. To me they were more lessons learnt the hard way by many whom I look up to crammed into a short 2 days. 
We, myself & Perzen Patel took pages of notes as we listened to the speakers and here’s some takeaways (okay not some but a lot!) that really resonated with us.
Warning: This is a very long post and you may want to read it in parts. There are some invaluable pointers from the adept themselves both for the newbies as well for those who have been there and done that.
MyStory: Fireside Chat

Atul Nishar, Hexaware 

  • Passion in your business is the most important & foremost aspect for your entrepreneurial journey
  • Conviction in what you do is the way to go ahead for a startup, you can compromise on years of experience while hiring a team but you cannot discount the factor of their belief in your idea
  • Differentiation is what helps you stand out so don’t compare yourself to market leaders or try aping them. Be yourself because you wished to start something different.
  • Anything that you do differently whether in marketing/technology/customer service is innovation. Find yours and market that. Adopt a guerilla strategy which is high impact but low cost.
  • Stick to your commitments, be it towards customers, employees or vendors; it is requisite for building successful business
  • Money is coming easily today, but when we started Hexaware we had started with $10k taken from RBI. It worries me that with such easy flowing money, entrepreneurs are more interested in making big bucks soon rather than focusing on building businesses.
  • Dealing with people is very essential as you are building a business & that’s something that came quite naturally to me
  • When you are challenged you do better; so face the storms and keep at it with innovation as the base

The vertical e-commerce battlefield:

Panel Discussion – Niren Shah, Northwest Venture Partners

Ambreesh Murthy, Pepperfry

  • As long as you have a large consumer market in your business, verticals shall always thrive
  • Find what’s your vertical about & what is it’s total value and then determine if it makes sense to go for a vertical business
  • Even if I get a 5% of $30 billion of the industry I operate in I think I have created a valuable company
  • Going to a General Practitioner for common cold vs going to an orthopedic for bone related troubles is fairly the difference b/w horizontal and vertical business
  • When you look to make money on every transaction after all costs are cut profitability will surely happen
  • You’ll make mistakes at every stage so work on being best at solving mistakes to give a great customer experience; you can’t be in an illusion that you are perfect and nothing can go wrong
  • You can’t say “I’ll make money today and grow later”; it has to be both, always.
  • The only way to get repeat customers is to not compromise on giving them an awesome experience each time
  • I found my TG in the airports and therefore I decided to do my branding there as people wait in lounges before boarding their flights; be where your customer is

FirstCry, Supam Maheshwari

  • Unit economics of vertical business works better than horizontal
  • Verticals work because you can isolate users, create moats
  • Being an entrepreneur is like chasing love so irrespective of winter, nuclear winter or summer keep at your work
  • Best decision for me today is my co founding team

Atul Tewari, Quikr

  • On our platform there is a lot of cross pollination of services that happens so we are a mix of both horizontal and vertical and therein lies our strength
  • Better days of startups are actually when you are growing with less money in hand and are struggling to reach where you want, you’ll be innovative and focused
  • The CEO in me says growth while d COO says unit economics so it means that both are needed to go hand in hand

Session – Your Journey as an Entrepreneur.

Naiyya, Baby Chakra

  • Great people will find you and want to work along; you only focus on doing your work better each day
  • Skill will matrix is what we follow when we go ahead hiring people
  • Focus on building long term relationship with the user instead of getting bogged down by competition

Sangeeta Banerjee, Apartment Adda

  • Whatever affects productivity directly don’t compromise on those things e.g., the hardware, hosting
  • More people who can tell what’s wrong the better it would be for growth, so hire those who are not afraid to speak
  • We bootstrapped for 3.5 years because that is the only way we felt we could prove our own selves. Selling the concept in Bangalore was a cake walk while doing the same in Mumbai was a big challenge. That is how you understand how each segment is different and learn.
  • If the employee is too salary driven during the hiring process it signals a red flag

Megha Bhagat, Wetech

  • Break your own FD’s, convince yourself and only then you’ll know what actual entrepreneurial journey is and then after will you be able to convince people about your idea
  • In a technology company, the early tech team matters a lot because they are the one building the core of your product

Session – Empowering Art Digitally: Fireside Chat

Dr. Nene, Madhuri Dixit


  • Simple vision when we started out in 2013 was to tell people to move & stay fit while giving them an opportunity to learn from the famous gurus
  • In 2013, when we wrapped a prototype and launched within the first day our servers crashed. We reworked on our back end and redesigned it in 2014.
  • We had 50% audience from India and 50% audience from rest of the world that included 206 countries
  • We found that people were very interested in learning along with showing what they learnt and User Generated Content then became a new thing we added when we launched the latest version of the app in May 2015
  • Logo is very important for a venture, logo defines who you are
  • Surprisingly enough, we learnt that the most loved video was dancing made for daily fitness wherein with sensors we were able to show that 17 minutes of dancing burns away 350 calories
  • Discovering great dancers doesn’t need to be restricted to the audition halls of Mumbai or Delhi or LA for that matter, so the larger vision of the organization is to become a services marketplace where people can find and hire dancers for different functions including marriage and studio performances. Once this is set, we also wish to take it to other forms like acting, sports and different forms of fitness

Session – How Kunal met Ratan: The changing face of angel investment: Fireside Chat

Ratan Tata, Tata Sons

  • Startups are an embodiment of creativity and innovation of young India and I invest in a newbie if the idea excites me
  • I also trust a lot on my intuitive judgment more than the numbers while going ahead with making investments and if I like the first impression that the founder/s gives. An entrepreneur’s value system is also something I take into consideration
  • Interacting with young people has always been a very worthwhile experience, and I’ve probably learnt a lot more from them than you believe.
  • Ambition & aggression are not to be misunderstood as wrong values if the entrepreneurs have the right interests in mind.

Kunal Bahl, Snapdeal

  • Who do you want to be with in the long journey is what you should ask when looking for a co founder and your relationship ought to be based on mutual respect which is very crucial
  • When I enter the room with my co-founder we may have two opinions, but, we come out only with one that shall be executed
  • We invest in new companies to keep our minds fresh, we can’t live in silo or believe we are always the best
  • We don’t have the best ideas every time and neither do we have monopoly over best minds, by investing we give the deserving a bigger canvas to create a greater impact
  • If at all we have to be killed by someone, it shall be by a company that doesn’t even exist today
  • I watched every video of Ratan Tata to acclimatize myself before meeting him as I was so nervous
  • At one point in time myself & Rohit had only Rs. 25,000 left in our account and it was a very crucial moment for us. Do we wind up or do we take the plunge and swim against the tides. We are thankful we opted for the latter.

Session: A Special Fireside Chat with Ronnie Screwvala

  • Entrepreneurship is not an outing that you think you would want to try for a couple of years and if it doesn’t work you’ll go back to a daily job. This kind of thinking will lead to a disaster and is not how an entrepreneur should think. You need to stay the course; longevity is very crucial in building successful businesses
  • More than the conviction in your start up idea, first be fully convinced about your own self and your abilities
  • Self doubt and constantly comparing yourself with everyone else is a complete waste of time and causes more harm than good  
  • Luck is being at the right place at the right time; so go around meeting people and keep asking yourself how many doors of opportunities are you opening everyday because one of them will definitely lead you to being where you want
  • I cannot over emphasize the need for the importance of right culture in an organization and building it solely depends on the founder/s.
  • The most foolish thing for an entrepreneur is to make a vision for his company keeping investors in mind.
  • Don’t get fazed by the media who makes you a hero one day and then pulls you down the next; do what you are set out to do.
  • Even as I start my second innings of entrepreneurship, frugal approach is what I believe in and shall stick to  
  • I’m very grateful to my theater experience and think it’s the best thing in my life because I learnt how to be a good communicator coz of it and it increased my confidence levels
  • A great communicator doesn’t necessarily mean having the gift of gab or being a good orator, it simply boils down to the fact that are you able to get across your thoughts to people on the other end, even if it means through emails as well
  • Great communication increases your level of confidence and you have to constantly improvise it to become better
  • In my first venture, it took me one year to get my first subscriber. I literally went knocking at people’s door; you need to get your feet on the ground first to actually soar high
  • Respond to failure, don’t react to it
  • 4C’s to success – culture, communication, conviction, choices

Session: Entrepreneurs ahead of their time

Kunal Shah, Freecharge

  • Shame is a trained behavior, it makes us fit in with the norm & not stand out; but as entrepreneurs you need to be shameless
  • Our country has a massive trust deficit in everyone around us. Learn to trust more people around you. Earlier, after hiring our tech team we sent a MAC book with every offer letter we sent to our new hires. When the HR questioned this behavior, my reply was simple – that if they didn’t join they weren’t the right fit and we could be sure that they would have otherwise been a cheat
  • Use your pain as your fuel to be successful & reflect on what you have done. Don’t cry or show self sympathy; that’s no remedy at all. Reflect on what went wrong instead and don’t look for short cuts.
  • When sharing your views don’t sugar coat and tell stuff; it doesn’t help anyone in the long run.

Session: Smart devices transforming India

Vishal Gondal, GOQii 

  • In the next 5 years, people will not be discussing apps or phones, they will be discussing chips and wearables
  • Things are rapidly changing as we speak and we need to keep pace with the dynamic shifts. Even as we are talking about wearables now, implantables have entered the race
  • Think ahead of your time and from long term perspective
  • With introduction of GOQii we have started a new business model which we would now take to the US and China
  • War of sensors will be taken over by war of common sense
Like a pilgrimage helps the worshipper renew their faith, TieCon helps the dreamers and the doers recharge their batteries. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey but events like TieCon help you realize that you’re not alone and that help is always given to those that ask for it. 


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  1. whoa! thanks you two for sharing the pot of gold!!

    lots of interesting takeaways you’ve been able to capture.

    the fireside chat takeaways (haven’t watched the vid yet) are neat. loved kunal’s in particular.

    next time pls take a reporter selfie at an event :)))) we’ll add it to the fb album!

  2. thanks so much for this opportunity asha.. it was really a wonderful experience. my biggest takeaway from both the days were these two words – ‘keep learning’ 

    we did click a snap together but the pic’s too dark and didn’t come clear 🙁

  3. Thanks for sharing. Interesting insights.

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