Off The Chain

Key contributors to the Indian startup sector joined What’s Up, Germany? for a one-of-a-kind interaction. We asked the first question, and then the interviewees took over, passing the “question baton” to their contact persons. The result: an organic chain interview. Enjoy!

Alok Mittal, co-founder & CEO, Indifi Technologies Pvt Ltd

How would you describe the startup ecosystem in India?

Alok Mittal, co-founder & CEO, Indifi Technologies Pvt LtdThe Indian startup ecosystem has evolved to a healthy state, with an increasingly digital consumer base, diverse sources of seed and venture financing, high-quality talent and experienced mentors. Given these enablers, it has been demonstrated that startups can now scale at a much faster pace than was possible ten years back. One of the things that is still evolving though is a partnership mindset, which can allow startups to scale up faster while making efficient use of their scarce resources. As more repeat entrepreneurs enter the mix, the ecosystem will be strengthened further in terms of its maturity level.

Alok Mittal passed the baton to entrepreneur and writer Kashyap Deorah:

What are the key changes you have observed as younger founders have entered the startup arena?

Entrepreneur and Writer Kashyap DeorahThe younger founders are born in the era of mobile and cloud. They do not know the world before the internet-connected smartphone or before software development in the cloud. This gives them freedom from past constraints. In addition, they have entered the world of entrepreneurship where risk capital is more accessible and startups are far more socially accepted. I find the younger founders more fearless, with a higher risk-taking appetite and greater ambition. However, I also find them more short-term minded and vanity-oriented.

Kashyap Deorah passed the baton to Arjun Malhotra, co-founder of Investopad:

What is the biggest difference in the startup applications you received last year and now?

Arjun Malhotra, Co-founder, InvestopadUpcoming founders have more experience under their belt. They are less swayed by naive suggestions and are much more confident of drawing on their own experiences. One is less likely to get applications from founders who are straight out of college, as opposed to those with experience of working in teams. They have learnt from failure and understand what they need to do differently. Founders are also starting to address problems that they have personally faced. I think what has happened is that slightly older individuals (around 28 years of age), for whom it was too risky to launch a startup after graduating from college, have seen a huge change in that it is easier to get venture capitalists to invest in a startup. Plus, good talent is now willing to work at startups, and many recent startups have scaled very quickly. Essentially, a lot of risk has been mitigated, and these more experienced individuals are becoming capable founders.

Arjun Malhotra passed the baton to Somnath Meher, co-founder and CEO of Witworks:

How has the startup ecosystem been helpful to you in creating a community around your product?

 Somnath Meher, Co-founder and CEO, WitworksThe members of the startup ecosystem have two essential virtues: they are great early adopters and networkers. On the one hand, we have leveraged them to dogfood our beta samples and receive extensive feedback on the product. Given their understanding of the technologies/services involved, the inputs received are extremely objective, specific and add value to the development process. On the other hand, since the startup crowd has deep, extended networks with considerable influence over social media (and otherwise), they form an excellent group of product evangelists. The relationships within the ecosystem have not only helped us pat each other’s backs, but also form mutual communities of beta testers and product mascots.

Somnath Meher passed the baton to industrial and graphic designer Garrett Kinsman:

How has your interaction with end customers helped in gathering meaningful feedback to refine product design?

Industrial and Graphic Designer Garrett KinsmanInteractions with end customers help define solutions that we’re trying to create. As a designer, the problem I have dealt with is that end consumers don’t usually know what they want. What has arisen is a new type of design thinking that enables designers and engineers to define what end consumers want and drive global culture as a whole. Part of being a designer is saying, “I think the status quo is wrong, and here’s how we can work together to change it.”