Banning Amazon and Uber won’t work; let’s help each other ?

In 2016, while the world seemed to look inward (e.g. Brexit, Trump), it’s great that we Indians managed to largely remain a liberal lot. We Indians retained our firm belief in free markets and unanimously voted against anything that threatened the level playing field. We shot down clever monopolistic ideas such as Airtel Zero and Facebook FreeBasics and became unabashed fans of global companies such as Amazon & Starbucks.

So it wasn’t surprising when most of Indian startup community joined hands in criticizing two of our most successful entrepreneurs – Sachin Bansal from Flipkart and Bhavish Aggrawal from Ola when they urged the government to support them  like China does.

The problem with China model

Sachin and Bhavish have their reasons, but are perhaps forgetting what they seemed to know so well until recently. While protectionism may help in short term, it only makes companies incompetent in the longer run. Driving out global companies from Indian market will also deprive us of the world class products that our consumers love and inspire our entrepreneurs.

This “fair competition” in India has been instrumental in preventing monopolies by local companies, which is what has happened in China where a handful of companies such as Tencent, Alibaba, Baidu completely dominate many markets. Without this competition, we simply won’t have created strong companies such as Paytm, Flipkart, Ola, Oyo Rooms, Zoho, etc in the first place.

But are Indian startups ready to fight this competition?

That said, Sachin and Bhavish (and a few others) do have a valid point. While we invite global companies to India, are we creating local companies that can compete with them?

Because if not, then the whole purpose of “fair competition” will be lost. Instead of monopolies by local companies it will create monopolies by foreign companies. In fact, this has already happened in India where many products from global giants such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Amazon completely dominate the various markets.  And this domination is only accelerating – companies such as Slack, Dropbox, Snapchat and Airbnb have gained significant market share. And tons of others are preparing for the onslaught in near future – such as Netflix, Spotify, Stripe, Trello, Intercom, Medium, AngelList & ProductHunt.

So why do foreign startups win and how can compete with them?

Unlike a lot other people who blame the weak visions of our entrepreneurs for this, the truth is that we simply don’t have the supporting ecosystem to create world class startups. We still don’t have the 3 basic ingredients  — easy access to capital, availability of experienced talent and a mature ecosystem that offers mentors, initial adopters, supportive social fabric, better infrastructure and a strong legal system.

Yes, things have improved in last 5 years as far as funding and talent is concerned. But the big problem is – our startup ecosystem hasn’t improved much. Yes, startups are now more mainstream but we are still relative immature – we don’t understand failures and over glamorize startups.

The biggest opportunity missed here seems to be getting contributions from startups themselves. They often see themselves as only the “beneficiaries” of this ecosystem — not as “givers” who could help others too. Unlike the bigger startups in China which actively invest or partner with other startups in many different sectors (such as Tencent going out of the way to help Didi Chuxing) those in India seem to be more internally focused. Take a look at Alibaba’s investments in different sectors recently:

china startups

In contrast, contributions from Indian startups mostly come in the form of small angel sums or pep talks at startup events by their founders in their personal capacity.

Building ecosystem is a shared responsibility

However, let’s get it straight – supporting other startups is not a responsibility of only the bigger startups. There are thousands of startups who could pool their resources to build a strong ecosystem. They are often too internally focussed and are uninterested to do simple things that could help the ecosystem. They could be early adopters of other startups, mentor young entrepreneurs, promote them in their marketing channels or provide office space to others.

To give a small example, at our startup, when we research products or services to buy, we make it a point to check the Indian alternatives available. If they offer desired quality of service at similar price, we try them out first. Today we use Sendx (instead of customer.io), Pepipost (instead of Amazon) and SendOTP (instead of Twitter Digits).

We also offer free promotion space to some high quality startups in our online events that attract thousands of high value professionals:

promote your startup

Depending on your startup, you way to help others might be different. You could perhaps partner with your favorite Indian startups, give them honest feedback to improve or simply have a Friday post to feature them on your Facebook page.

Let me know if your startup would like to play a more active role in building the startup ecosystem in India. We can explore some ideas and take it to the 1600+ startups that use our platform.

Let’s do this in 2017!

Helping core teams at startups that are closing down

It first happened a few weeks ago. We talked to two cofounders who had recently shut down their Mumbai based startup turning to CutShort to find full time jobs. They had started their venture in 2015 but decided to take a break due to lack of scale/funding.

In the world of startups, where 50% startup fail in the first year, this is not unusual.

But then it started happening very frequently over the next few weeks. Every week, our team would routinely discover cofounders/tech leads/marketing heads/operation heads on CutShort to connect with new employers.

It’s then we saw the trend – many ventures started in 2014-15 were closing down at a rapid pace this year. In Sep, 2016, Inc 42 reported shut down of more than 500 startups in previous 20 months. Accounting for lesser known startups in the media circles and the increased pace of failures since September, it won’t be far fetched to estimate the total shutdowns to cross 2500 by the time year 2016 winds up.

All this smart talent – left direction-less

These are smart people – cofounders, marketers, growth hackers, developers who had the & passion & courage to start or join an early stage startups.

But after talking to them we realized it’s not easy for them to find their next opportunities. Not many companies have the right roles that fit and excite them. And there are companies who are not sure about hiring people with significant experience for cultural or organization fit reasons.

Announcing The KickStarters – connecting experienced startuppers with their next opportunities on 22nd Decemberkickstarters

To help these cofounders and core team members at such startups, we are organizing an online event on 22nd December. The idea is to seamlessly connect them with the companies that value the talent, energy and motivation these teams can add to their teams.

Register fo The KickStarters 

FAQs:

  • When and where is this event?

This event will happen online on 22nd December on CutShort.  No need to travel anywhere. Just connect with the right employers discretely.

  • Is there a pricing?

No. This is completely free for CutShort users.

  • What kind of people I can hire at this event?

As the name “The Kickstarters” suggests, these will be cofounders/tech leads/marketing heads/operation heads cofounders at a startup that has laid off people or closed down.

  • What kind of companies will be attending this event?

Right from early staged to funded to profitable product companies. All the employers will be verified. We will not give access to third party recruitment agencies.

How we facilitated 150+ meetings in 1 day at PuneConnect 2015

Connect with the people you want.

Sounds simple, isn’t it? But it can be deceptively difficult.

Take for example big events such as TieConPune and PuneConnect . One of the biggest reasons we go to these events is to meet other interesting people. There are tons of people around, some of which are the ones you most want to meet such as investors, mentors, early adopters or geeks. Randomly bumping into people and kickstarting conversations is often wasteful, sometimes awkward and hardly foolproof.

Our attempt to solve this problem
We had experienced this pain in our earlier experience of attending events. Since we are on a mission to let people connect with the right people (check out how we connect startups with talent) , we just couldn’t stop ourselves from taking a stab at it. So a few months ago we built a simple prototype – a mobile optimized web-app that let people discover other event participants and show interest in meeting them.

We had also validated an early prototype at TieConPune15 and Unpluggd summer edition. Following Paul Graham’s advice of doing things that don’t scale – the product emailed every meeting request to Anubhav who would then manually text it from his personal phone.

The PuneConnect2015 story
When we showed this prototype to Navin Kabra and Amit Paranjape from the PuneConnect tech team, it immediately resonated with them. Having attended and organized tons of events over the years, they liked the practicality and simplicity of the idea (Needs no app download!) and recommended it to the PuneConnect 2015 organizing team for an official go-ahead.

Once we got the approval, our team got busy completing the actual product, with in-app and SMS based notifications. This was the final design:

SocialHelpouts easyConnects

The D-day: 28th Nov, 2015
We reached the venue early and secured a desk near the registration area (thanks Vrushali and Navin!) and started generating awareness about this application. People loved the idea and instantly started pulling out their phones to sign up.

4 hours later: 150+ meetings and several smiling faces

When the event ended, these were the final numbers:

pune-connect-stats

Numbers aside, what fires us up here at SocialHelpous is the happy faces of our users. And they seemed aplenty at the event. Here are some who happily agreed to even come on video!

Feedback? How can we improve?
Did you use easyConnects at the PuneConnect event? If yes, please give us feedback. Know organizers at an event that could benefit from a platform like this? We would love to offer this to them for free – please drop us an email at hello@socialhelpouts.com.

We would love to interact with you – please sign up for our monthly newsletter on the right.

Cheers,
The SocialHelpouts Team