Category Archives: Startups

Will Digital India Week widen the market for Digital Media?

digitalindThe Digital India Week (DIW) that kick-started this month is sure to revolutionize the way India communicates. The campaign received eminent industry leader’s support along with their committed investments. This campaign spearheaded by the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, will potentially create 1.8 million jobs apart from connecting India through a broadband highway. This drive will open many doors and is going to be a boon.

So what effect will it have on the Indian digital space?

2, 50,000 gram panchayats and 600 districts of India will be connected through this particular initiative; hence the audiences for digital media will only go up tremendously. For example, eSignatures, which is now commanding a huge market has found a place under the government initiative and, people can now easily sign a document online using Aadhaar authentication through the eSign framework. Similarly, the digital locker will help people store their important documents online without worrying about physical documents, not to mention, save paper!

But, this is not where the buck stops! These are surface-level benefits for the common people. Can you imagine the impact that a person, brand or product can create with such a wide reach and how much it can benefit? A revolution is surely waiting! By using the different digital channels especially the social media channels, brands can even double their numbers. When it comes to small and medium scale industries, and even artisans located in remote areas, the benefits of digitization will be much greater. They can enlist their businesses on the web and reach out to people not only in urban areas living in different cities but also different countries.

So how do they go about with? “We need to launch drives through which basics of digitization can be taught to people residing in small town and villages,” says Dr. Som Singh, founder and CEO of Unpsun Consulting Group and adds, “Thousands of small businesses that are grappling to survive and reach larger audience should get online first. They need to create online identities that will help their businesses reach consumers in large cities.”

One of the key initiatives of the DIW is Electronics Development Fund (EDF), which will promote innovation, research and product development to create a resource pool within the country as also a self-sustaining eco-system of venture funds. The start-ups are going to benefit immensely from this as aspiring entrepreneurs are going to get an extra push with this directive. While many big corporate’s like Tata and Infosys are coming forward to fund and encourage start-ups and there is nothing like government funding and backing, and the time is ripe enough for that.

Raising the question of IT progress in villages, Som says, “While the thought behind digital week to promote key projects around e-governance, e-hospitals, e-basta etc is great, we all are missing one key factor in all these things – the penetration and adoption of internet is only limited to metros and towns. With a low literacy rate where people still are adapting to basic aspects of mobility, such great initiatives will bear fruit when the Desh goes Digital in true sense.” Better late than never is what we can say!

Digitization of urban India took place a while back but no one was really pushing hard enough to get the rural areas digitized as well. DIW has finally arrived to complete this missing piece of the puzzle. While visiting India last year, Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg had said about connecting rural people in India to the Internet, “There are a billion people in India who need to be connected. Local language-based content will be a big focus area for us here.” The reach of local language based content will be huge once the rural areas in India get on the broadband highway. The different channels for digital marketing like: a. Email b. Search engine optimization (SEO) c. Social media marketing includes: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest d. Content marketing and e. PR on digital media marketing, will assume new heights when utilized in local content.

We have come a long way from the traditional forms of communication and are at an age when at the click of a mouse, information can be shared with the world. For example, we no longer write letters to anyone, instead we email or for shorter, faster and regular form of communication the social media is even more effective. Indian villages have arrived late to the party while the world has progressed quite a bit.

While many other countries progressed quite a bit on the digitization front, what kept us lagging behind? At an age when digital media is ruling the world, India is still trying to get its rural population connected. Though things will now change with the initiated of the tech savvy PM who seems to have understood the importance of the digital space. This initiative aims at empowering people through IT but can deliver more if utilized to its maximum potential.

Som suggests a way forward to get the rural population up-to-date with digitization. She says, “Modules for Internet and digital education for the commoners should be a must and camps should be organized to educate people on how to leverage digital assets. This should be followed by the 2500 hotspots that BSNL promises. Smart initiatives are a need for a country like India. But too much too soon can be a spoiler, let’s educate to enable Digital India in its truest sense.”


State of Ecommerce Ventures in India – The Road Ahead

India’s e-commerce Market

15a5b43India is better known for its bustling bazaars and colourful open-air markets, but in just five years the e-commerce market in India has grown over 600%, from $2.5 billion USD in 2009 to an incredible $16 billion USD in 2013. This exciting trend will continue, with research from the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) projecting the e-commerce market in India to reach a value of $56 billion over the next decade.

India’s e-commerce market is still in its infancy – online retail is now only 1% of the country’s retail market. Travel is the most popular e-commerce sector, accounting for about 70% of online purchases. Consumer goods, particularly fashion and electronics, are a close second.

Figures show that India had 213 million internet users at the end of last year – a number that is likely to grow to 243 million by this June. This increase would make India a global leader in internet usage, second only to China’s 600 million internet users.

The downside to this of course is low Internet penetration (8%) and the credit card population which is less than 5%. Both these segments are not growing at a jaw dropping pace. Add to this the high cost of customer acquisition and free shipping.

One of the biggest pain points of e-commerce websites is customer acquisition. Before they can even worry about converting a visitor to a customer, they have to think about how they can get that visitor on the site. A few larger e-commerce sites are big enough brands to receive some direct traffic. For example, plenty of online shoppers navigate directly to when they’re thinking about making a purchase. But if you’re operating in a niche category, you’re likely not getting a lot of type-in traffic from people who know your brand and come directly to you to buy from you online.

With the growing consumer acceptance of e-commerce and a difficult business environment, brands and businesses are all greedily eyeing the e-commerce opportunity.  But if the percentage of total retail is closing in on double digits in some countries, the e-commerce model is still learning its way for the majority of us. Businesses are needing to figure out if and how to integrate e-commerce into their existing business strategy. Some startups have the opportunity to begin from the start as a ‘pure player’; but, this is not necessarily an easy route.

The main analysis in setting up an electronic commerce site must focus on three key pillars areas:

  • Set up the right fit with the brand image
  • Align with the company’s culture
  • Consider the fit/mix with the existing

Here are nine different e-commerce business models

  • The Single Brand: This is when a brand decides to create its own e-commerce site, à la Hermès or Louis Vuitton.
  • Marketplace:  An e-shopping Mall with multiple brands and categories.  Examples: Amazon, eBay, snapdeal, OLX.
  • Vertical marketplace: An eShopping mall on a specific segment.  Examples: Lenskart, cardekho(cars), Zappos (shoes),, OneStopPlus (plus size fashion).
  • Community marketplace:   Built around a lifestyle, a community marketplace involves identifying and galvanizing a shared mindset. Examples: Etsy, Craigslist, ModCloth (Indie/Retro/Vintage clothing), SkullCandy (earphones & headphones).
  • Flash Sell marketplace:  The concept is creating pent up demand to be bought at specific time slots, and sometimes in limited series.  The majority of flash sell concepts seem to be concentrated on fashion.  Examples: Ideeli, VentePrivee, Gilt Group, HauteLook.
  • Crossover:  A blend of Brick & Click stores.  Examples: Lavinia (wine), FarFetch (independent fashion labels), Cyrillus (fashion) and, of course, we can say the same for all major distribution chains with their own eCommerce site (à la Walmart, Carrefour, etc.).
  • Personalization: The online nature of sites allows for a greater ease of personalization. Examples: There are a number of variations on this theme. In the tech space, you can order a custom-built computer with DELL or Apple (where you can also order your name on the back of your ipod). In design or interior decoration, you have Made or MyFab. Or again ShirtsmyWay or DesignYourOwnDishes (coming soon).
  • Immaterial going Physical:  In other words, making an electronic version into something real.  Examples abound: Other than the likes of, shutterfly and snapfish that turn your digital photos into photo albums and personal calendars, you have Blurb to print your own book, Flipstory to convert YouTube videos into real flip books, or again TasteBook to create personalized recipe books.
  • Facebook or Social Commerce: Putting up an f-Commerce site is another option, still largely uncharted and unproven. Examples of note: Asos, 1-800-Flowers, Coca-Cola, girl Cosmetics. You also have some companies doing partial offers on Facebook, such as Victoria Secrets which have used their fan page to offer gift vouchers.

 The Road Ahead

The growth seen so far is skewed towards metros driving a major chunk of internet users and penetration. However, there shall now be growth from tier II and III cities due to the urbanised pockets of the population in these cities. Other demographics such as age, education and income also play a crucial role for tier II and III cities. These are the markets that shall be the catalyst of growth and hold immense potential for e-commerce marketers. The top eight metros account for 70-75 per cent of the current total internet penetration in India.

Going forward, these markets will need as much attention as the metros in media plans because that is where majority of India’s internet savvy population shall dwell. An exciting statistics is that as many as 68 million internet users are from rural India  and the e-commerce industry is waking up to the potential of the rural Indian who often has enough money but lacks access to goods.

Today, India’s e-commerce numbers tell only part of the story. Far more important is the bigger picture: the relationship between online activities and offline sales, as well as the powerful influence that the Internet has in shaping the brand preferences and buying decisions of Indian shoppers.

Social Media Stats do the Talking in 2014

2014socmedia-statsGlobal Web Index is one of the most trusted sources of information on social media growth and trends. According to recent figures, Instagram, Reddit and Linkedin are the fastest growing social platforms. The most popular social networks are Facebook, Youtube and Google Plus. Social networks are now at a stage of maturity where they give opportunities to reach all age and gender groups. The exceptions to this are Instagram and Tumblr which are clearly popular with younger age groups. Overall, consumers now spend an average of 10.7 hours a day with all forms of media and 5.6 hours of that on digital.

Social media marketing budgets will double over the next 5 years. 52% of all marketers have found a customer via Facebook in 2013. 43% of all marketers found a customer via Linkedin. B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads than those that don’t. Videos on landing pages increase conversions by 86%. Customer testimonials have the highest effectiveness rating for content marketing at 89%.

The statistics speak for themselves. Social media marketing is one of the important ways to generate leads and get new customers. Content marketing also forms an important part of this pie. Companies that do not get on to the social media bandwagon are clearly going to lose and lag behind.

Startups would do well to adopt social media in their marketing strategies. It is inexpensive and effective. The digital landscape is constantly evolving and we need to keep an eye on trends and stats to leverage the information to develop effective online marketing strategies.

How to give an effective startup pitch in 4 easy steps

a1-1_thepitch_slideshow_1_nobuttonBeing an entrepreneur means taking risks. It also means you have to be able to energetically pitch your business to venture capitalists and angel funds.  As an aspiring entrepreneur, you need to communicate your business ideas effectively through a start-up pitch.


The What, Why, Where, and When of your Business Plan

Lay out the what, why, where and when of your business plan. Don’t worry about the “how” since that normally gets worked out after the pitch is made. Include details such as your planned business name, line of business, reach, and timeframe for getting it off the ground.

Fixing the Need Gap

Discuss how your product or service will alleviate the pain points of the customer. Focus on what your business can bring to the table or how your company can present a new angle in an existing market. It has to demonstrate a need in the market that your product or service is working to fulfil.

Include Market Research

Include details about your market research without going into too much detail for fear of boring your listeners. Review the market size, the number of direct competitors, and potential or anticipated sales. Include positive statements from product trials or prospective customers who have shown interest. That will add clout to your presentation.

Discuss the Profit Viability

Discuss the profit potential of your business and how you arrived at those numbers. Any prospective investor will be interested in this information and you need to portray it clearly to get them on board.

So in a short while, you need to convince the audience that you know what you are talking about when it comes to your business idea and be prepared to field questions, too. Confidence is key while making a start-up pitch. Knowing the ins and outs of your business plan is another pre-requisite. Substantiating what you say with data is important as is knowing how you arrived at that data.

As Dave McClure says, for the most effective pitch, focus 80% on the problem, 20% on the solution.

5 Marketing Lessons Startups Can Learn From Big Brands

marketing_lessonsStartups need to take a big-brand approach to marketing. If you are a start-up or small business owner, you’re automatically a marketer. Good marketing is about creating a positive brand experience for your customer. The principle behind creating a great brand experience remains the same regardless of the size of your business. It all boils down to seizing opportunities, going the extra mile and being creative about ways to involve and engage your customers.

Seize an opportunity – There was a power outage in the second half of the SuperBowl and Oreo quickly cashed in on the opportunity. They tweeted out an image of an oreo in the dark, saying power outage? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark. The tweet garnered a lot of press coverage and publicity.

Spread the goodwill – Chipotle the Mexican restaurant keeps track of celebrities that mention the brand on Twitter. They rewarded some of the mentions with a ‘free burritos for life’ card. Of their own volition, the celebs invariably tweeted about their free lifetime card resulting in tremendous publicity for the brand.

Go the extra mile –  Edge shave gel had a hashtag called #soirritating and monitored it to remove the irritations in the daily life of their customers. When someone tweeted about being out of cereal, they tweeted a picture of cereal bars and said if they were DMed they would give that person the goodies in the image.

Involve your audience – The Samuel Adams brewing company made a crowd craft brew based on recommendations of its consumers. The malt, clarity, yeast of the new beer was based on audience recommendations and in that way crowdsourced! This involved the customers and got them feeling that Samuel Adams really cares about their preferences.

Use Teasers – Don’t always bombard your customers with information about your products and services. Create a little mystery. Unveil bit by bit. Tease the audience until they want to know more. For example, this commercial from Under Armour: does just that.