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!

Startup Hiring Hack: Engagement first, hiring later

Let’s admit it – startup hiring is tricky, time consuming and not exactly fun. Many of us find it as a huge distraction from the other “more exciting” activities we do at startups. So we tend to keep delaying hiring until it becomes a crying need. And when that happens, we force ourselves to repeat the age-old hiring drill:

Put together a Job Description > Post on job portals and social media > Shortlist & Interview > (Hopefully) Hire

Sadly, this process doesn’t work well for start-ups

We all know it but often forget – startup hiring is not about getting the most skilled guy for the least cost.

It’s just about finding some smart people who “get” what you’re doing and want to grow along with your startup.

Determining this fit takes time, which is exactly what you don’t have when you’re desperate to hire.

Startup hiring hack: Engagement first, hiring later

At SocialHelpouts, we have had a vantage point of seeing how different startups hire. The ones that have got “hiring” right are the ones who are always eager to meet smart people, without any expectation of hiring them in the short term. They source these people from their network, meetups or platforms such as SocialHelpouts and LinkedIn.

The important point is – they are simply looking to converse, bouncing ideas off them and finding ways in which they can help each other. Hiring is more like a happy coincidence, not the end goal.

As a startup, we have been trying this philosophy at SocialHelpouts and are decently happy with the results. We have not hired anyone with this approach yet, but we have definitely got a growing number of people who give us feedback, test our products, spread word of mouth and will likely be considering us as their preferred workplace in future.

Have you tried this #startuphiringhack? What do you think of it?

Have a #hiring hack of your own? Quickly submit it here – we will convert that to a blog post and credit you for sharing it.

Top skills startups are hiring for in 2015

You are cruising along, and then technology changes. You have to adapt.

-Marc Andreessen

This is true for everyone, but more so for “techies” like us. For us, failing to upgrade our skills can significantly impact our career growth.

So what skills you should be working on? To help our users decide, we dug into data on our platform to see what skills startups are hiring for. And we got this infographic:

[infogram id=”tech_hiring_in_startups_2015″ prefix=”M2o”]

So what skills are you going to work on?

Join the rocketship: The premium startup hiring event in Pune

If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on!

-Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook

Sheryl Sandberg said this while explaining why did she join a new startup in 2001. Wise choice since that startup went on the rule the world and became a verb in itself – Google!

The challenge is how to know if a startup is a “rocket ship”? Nobody can be sure, but we can try.

#JoinTheRocketship

 

“Join the Rocketship” – an online event to meet the premium startups in Pune

To help you identify your “rocket ship”, we are bringing top 25 tech startups in Pune that are growing fast and looking for the right talent. If you are fascinated with startups and want to know which ones can be a great fit, don’t miss this online event on 16th September 2015.

Why participate?

  1. Discover and get found by 25 hand-picked “rocketship” product startups
  2. Get upfront salary (with equity %) and profile details from interested startups
  3. Get the final offer within a week
  4. Get hired and earn INR 10,000 bonus from SocialHelpouts + a free T-shirt!

Since this is a premium event, we only have limited seats. Save your spot now!

Questions? Let us know at hello@socialhelpouts.com.

 

Startup Upclose: RainingClouds Technologies

About “Startup Upclose” series: With every other startup claiming to have “passionate founders/awesome culture/great traction/$$$ market size”, it is incredibly difficult to decide which should one join. Our attempt is to bring out the unique personality of each startup so that people can easily visualize what it will be like working in them. Suggestions welcome!

We are kicking off this series with one of the better known Android startups in India.

Company: RainingClouds Technologies. (Earlier: AppSurfer)

Established: 2011.  Funding Stage: Seed   Team Size: 1-10

Area: Mobile Apps, Gaming, Hardware, Home media, Streaming

Technology Stack: Golang, Java, Xcode, Swift, Android, iOS

unpluggd_appsurfer

History: Their first product was AppSurfer, an app discovery and evaluation platform. This innovative idea landed them a global recognition (Techcrunched , YourStory, NextBigWhatAgain Techcrunched  ).

What they’re working on now: Their upcoming next product is Twist,  a high-end portable USB device (think Chromecast on steroids) that lets you enjoy highly engaging mobile games on your TV using your Android phone. You can even stream you local media files to your TV (something that Chromecast can’t do easily). See the guys having fun with it here:

Culture: So now on to the really subjective part. The team is closely knit, obviously smart (how else you can think and build an innovative product like AppSurfer) and is really really down-to-earth. They work from a great cozy duplex house in Baner, Pune where a TT table greets you as soon as you enter. To summarize in one line – it’s fun to be in their company – we have always spent more time in their office than we originally planned for. 🙂 Check the team out on Twitter to see what keeps them ticking: @aniketawati @akshay_deo @itamit.

Trivia: A good first hand account of their whole journey: http://rtdptech.com/2012/05/rainingclouds-a-year-down-the-lane/

Found RainingClouds interesting? If you want to join the team, Get introduced to them via your friends using SocialHelpouts: http://socialhelpouts.com/view/j/54d8ab3644ba7cee641cefd0 .