Monday, 6 July 2020

COVID and Beyond – A View From SEAP

Greetings from SEAP!

It’s a pleasure to connect with all the members via this note.
At SEAP, we have reached out to you via various channels over the last few unusual months. We have all been hit by the pandemic and recognize that this is a long term challenge, and it will take some time for things to settle down in Pune. That said, we are positive that we will fight on. I take this opportunity to share with you an update from SEAP and some personal thoughts.
We all know that due to COVID-19, social distancing requirements, and a nationwide lockdown, most businesses are adversely impacted. Many are having to re-look at how they manage and operate their business, including reimagining their business models and plans.

Let me start by saying that encouraging signs have started appearing. There have been reports that IT companies have started signing the deals that had stalled when the lockdowns hit key markets. We hear members speak of pipelines slowly reopening. Specific technology areas including eCommerce, OTT video, Online Gaming, eLearning, Cloud, Security, Collaboration solutions, Automation, and others see encouraging traction. My message would be to focus on improving operational efficiency to make the most of the cash at hand and smart marketing to stay visible to your target customers.

SEAP, in the last few months, continued to support its members. In the early days of the lockdown when the information was at a premium, we provided all our members with the latest validated information from the authorities. We further continued a regular series of notifications, updates, and webinars. One of the critical areas where we have been able to help is in passes for travel across the city. The SEAP office has put tremendous efforts to resolve each query related to passes in the past few months. We are glad that this benefited our members.

SEAP continues to work on different initiatives. We have formed a CXO group, where we discuss challenges faced by various organizations to identify solutions. We are also starting with our new GURUKUL Program 2.0 soon. The announcement related to the same will be available on our social media handles.

Earlier, SEAP has scheduled webinars, panel discussions, and roundtable meets. We plan to continue this in the future as well. SEAP has started seeking memberships for the year 2020-2021, and we are getting a fabulous response.

We are thankful to our members and the Executive Council for energizing the ecosystem!

To effectively deliver our cherished objective of creating an enriching, holistic experience at SEAP, we continue to focus on a three-pronged approach, namely - Knowledge network, Business Network and Industry-Academia connect.
We urge our members to come forth and share their views, feedback, webinar queries, or to post your blog on our social media, we encourage you to write to the SEAP OFFICE. (Please specify your interest in the subject line “KEEN to share/conduct/write - feedback/webinar/blog)
Lastly, we request everyone to follow the rules outlined by the Government to help Pune city, Maharashtra, and the nation at large to overcome this battle. Let’s all stay safe and cautious.

Ashwin Megha

SEAP President

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

What does the Future of Work look like?

Technological advancements have altered the way we live our lives. Everything in today’s modern times is driven technology. From buying groceries to paying your bills, from maintaining data to advertising, from manufacturing to the distribution of products, from hiring to the delegation of work et al. Perhaps sleep is the only thing where technology cannot help but then we do have gadgets and apps that help us track our sleep routines. Where life is, business went even earlier. We are already witnessing a paradigm shift in the way industries operate today.
Every startup or business event across the globe today has one thing in common – the discussion about the future of work in these technologically driven times.

What to look forward to in future?
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about the future of human life with regards to technology? The answer probably is simply – automation. Well, automation for sure, but this is just one tiny part of what the future of work could look like. Here’s what you can look forward to:

Moving over to Li-Fi from Wi-Fi
The internet has drastically changed our worlds. The transmission of data happens with just a few clicks and the introduction of 5G is going to transform how offices operate. Bigger bandwidths and faster data transmission will increase productivity bringing about greater efficiency in the workplace.
The internet may well shift from wireless frequency to light frequency (Li-Fi) which will use light emitting diodes for data transfer. The beta stage modules of Li-Fi are capable of transmitting data at 150 Mbps already. The scientists have said that with the use of more evolved technology backed by stronger LEDs, they can achieve 10 Gbps of speed, making it 1000 times faster than the Wi-Fi!
Transmitting data through a Li-Fi network may also be much safer than the Wi-Fi making it a more secure network to use in public places.

Physical or Virtual Workplace
Owing to digitization, a lot has changed in how companies and employees work. Many startups, for instance, have virtual workplaces. This allows them to save on office rent and commuting time, thus getting more effective work hours as compared to the regular offices.
The workplace environment is seeing a shift of policies towards helping grow employee productivity rather than the number of office hours spent. Communication technology has evolved to keep pace with the increasingly multi-locational workforce. Video calls have changed the way client meetings and conferences are held. Today, you don’t need to be physically present for that team meeting or to crack that big deal.

Humans or Artificial Intelligence (AI)
According to a PwC report, 30% of UK jobs by the year 2035 would be consumed by automation. The future of work is likely to be driven by automation and artificial intelligence. The automation would ease out many of the labour-intensive jobs across the world. Mundane, repetitive jobs are the most likely to be taken over in this manner.
However, it would be wrong to consider automation or AI as something that would rob people of their right to work and earn. Automation and AI offers an avenue to free up human resources from low value-added tasks so that they can focus on tasks that call for more skill, judgement, and emotional quotient. This will mean learning new skills and a degree of retraining -but the rewards could be many.
Automation will also help in eliminating human error thereby decreasing the number of accident and mishaps that happen due to human negligence.

Wrapping Up
Historically, the biggest fear pertaining to the implementation of technology has been that it will take away human jobs and impact many a life. But, that is not inevitable. The advent of technology has always brought about a rise in the standard of living and an improvement in economic opportunities. Humans become free to innovate and bring in a fresh perspective to their work and tasks. The purpose of technology is to help humans reduce the time spent in accomplishing any given task. With more time on our hands, we will be freer, mentally, to think about bigger and better things.
And to run and maintain these technology-driven machines and techniques, we would need humans. It is humans who are making technology and not vice versa. The future of work is likely to be very different from today with the introduction and implementation of new techniques riding high on technological advancements. And, it should be an exciting time!

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

The Ecosystem Startups and Midsize Technology Companies Need To Thrive

Well first, what is an ecosystem? An Ecosystem is defined as a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment. Similarly, for startups and midsize technology companies, the ecosystem brings together the companies themselves and everything around them that impacts their operations. That also suggests that a nurturing ecosystem is essential for their long-term survival and prosperity. There are a number of things to keep in mind while outlining the ecosystem needs of startups and midsize technology company.
Our view is thatfor our industry, an inter-connectedmulti-layered ecosystem is needed to work the magic. Here’s more about those components.
Firstly, it is the people and their expertise who make up a large part of this enabling. Entrepreneurs with their new ideas take a risk by starting their own company but they can’t go it alone. their company would also need talent. The right kind of employees is required to ideate and execute all those bright ideas to have a successful run in the market. Another, just as essential, talent that such companies find themselves relying on is mentors. It is these mentors who would point them in the right direction.Their advice is based on their own expertise and knowledge of the industry and this makes them an extremely valuable people-resource.
A company needs funds. In case of a bootstrapped startup, this capital is usually pumped in by the founder. The best funding is always from real customers – startups and technology companies that make an impact in the market have the opportunity to generate revenue through sales.Then there are theinvestors. A thriving ecosystem has a fair mix of Angel, Seed, and Venture Capital investors who are willing to bet on the future success of a company. In specific sectors, working with the Government could prove to be of great help too, either directly or through funds allocated to various ministries or government departments. There is also debt-funding in the form of loans available from banks for small and large needs for the short, medium, and long-term funding needs.
Data, research, and the ability to draw actionable insights also play an important role in driving this delicate ecosystem. Ideas need validation and actions must be based on a sound understanding of probable results. Academia plays a key role in this regard of course. This where the market studies are done, new business models are examined for impact, and up or re-skilling training provided to those about the hit the market. Academia is also a hotbed of innovation itself and a place for new and potentially disruptive new ideas to emerge from incubators and shake up the world.
Networking is key too. In the world of business, what you know if only as important as who you know. Networking platforms create opportunitiesfor an exchange of ideas and establishing common ground that can be harvested for business and partnership opportunities. Such events lay a huge role in providing information and education too – be it about the latest government tax or notification, or about the newest wave to hit the world of business.
It’s clear that ongoing education is now critically important. This suggests that a thriving ecosystem must have professional and personal development workshops. Technology is changing fast, business models are being disrupted, customers are becoming more demanding, and competitors are becoming more aggressive every day. In this situation, everyone from the top leadership to the frontline employee faces new challenges all the time. The opportunity to learn how to address these challenges effectively can drive personal and professional success.
Lastly, a thriving ecosystem demands that the startups and technology companies have access to a variety of vendor partners who can help them address specific business requirements effectively, efficiently, and in a cost-effective manner. No company is an island -while they focus on their core skills they can benefit from working with partners for tasks as varied as recruitment, facilities management, accounting and finance, and marketing.
Description: great example of how different elements of the ecosystem can come together for the benefit of the community is SEAP’s survey of the Innovation Readiness of Pune’s technology sector. We got together with our knowledge partners to capture facts and opinions, evaluate them, and derive insights. The intended outcome was to establish what has been achieved so far, as well as to recommend the way forward.Responses indicated that most companies in Pune were involved in innovation activity. However,the intensity levels of innovation and its management varied. An interesting finding was that apart from technical skills, the need to innovate was likely to put pressure on demands for higher level thinking skills, deeper understanding of the business, social and sustainability needs. This suggested that tech companies may recruit non-engineering candidates to bring in the needed diversity. Leaders need to become adept at making the right strategic decisions to prepare their organizations. Existing employees need to take care of their personal development. The survey is available here for those who want to know more, but it’s fair to say that some key directions emerged for those companies looking to adopt innovation.
It is impossible for any human endeavor to survive without proper framework or structure. Just like life needs a balanced ecosystem to survive, startups and mid sized technology companies need a supportive ecosystem as well.  The role of industry organizations like SEAP is to foster a vibrant ecosystem that enables technology companies of all sizes to thrive!

Monday, 9 April 2018

Useful Info About the GST E-Way Bill Roll-Out

The all-new E-Way Bill under GST has been rolled out on Sunday – 1st of April, the beginning of the new financial year. Ever since the announcement of its impending roll-out, there has been some confusion amongst traders and business across the country. The response was no different from when GST was rolled out, as a matter of fact. Every new reform evokes such mixed reactions. But knowledge dispels all confusion -as it must. 

What is E-Way Bill
The E-Way Bill is an electronic bill generated to track the movement of interstate goods. Every consignment over Rs. 50,000 falls under its ambit. The transporter, at the point of dispatch, has to raise the bill via E-Way bill system under its GSTN. The validity of the bill depends upon the distance. Typically, a bill is valid for one day for every 100kms.
Though it is applicable on every kind of product that is traded, there are certain exemptions. Perishable products like fruits & vegetables, dairy products, and meat are exempted from e-way billing. Besides these handlooms, raw silk, gold and silver jewellery and cooking gas cylinders too are exempted.

Purpose of E-Way Bill
The government believes that this will help in keeping a check on tax evasions along with illegal activities like smuggling. Generating an E-Way Bill will help in registering every eligible trading activity that is carried out in the country.

Some questions businesses have about the E-Way Bill
  1. Technology
A significant portion of the transport industry’s comprises businesses that are not technology-lead. They are more traditional and they worry if they have the skills to deal with the new technology. The task for them is to adopt and comply with the new technological advancements in the industry.
  1. Extra Staff
The industry is very traditional, in many cases run by families that have been in the game for years. These are folks who are rich in experience, but perhaps not in educational degrees. In order to comply with the E-way billing system, they worry if they will have to hire dedicated staff for it. This could, in turn, add to their monthly expenses.
  1. Hassle for Contractors
Many of the folks impacted by the new system are transport contractors. They are not the ones paying the E-Way bill. That’s between the consigner and consignee. But, they will still need to register for a GST number and file a monthly return, even if there is nothing to report. For this, they have to pay a monthly fee to their CA. In a sense, they are going to incur unnecessary expenses without even having to pay for the E-way bill.
  1. Infrastructure
The earlier implementation in February saw the E-way Bill system’s inability to handle the volume of trade carried every day. The system saw glitches which had put the trade on standstill forcing the government to roll it back until April.

What is the Government Doing?
The government had rolled back the E-Way Bill in February on the grounds of the technological weakness of the system. The current system, which has been implemented from the 1st of April, is capable of handling around 76 lakh E-Way bills in a day compared to just 25 lakh in February.
One of the main concerns of traders was rent-seeking by the tax authorities. The taxmen have the authority to stop trucks for checking at various points. The government has put an end to this woe by passing a rule under E-Way Bill that the truck will be checked just once at the time of dispatch until and unless there are reports of suspicious activity being carried out on the way. If a truck is detained for more than half an hour, the trader can report it directly on the portal.
The other concerns of small businesses regarding the need for building a technology capability are valid to some extent, but the Government is seeking to allay concerns by saying that the system is easy to adopt. The growing sense is that adopting technology will also ultimately benefit these businesses -this could be the spark that helps then grow and scale beyond their earlier limitations.


So far, there have been no major issues reported since the rollout on 1st of April. The government claims it to be a success without any major glitches. The centralization of all trade activities will eradicate the malpractices and tax evasion instances. The traders, after initial inhibitions, seem to be accepting the E-Way Bill system. The new way is here -it’s time for a big change!

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

How Pune’s Startups Can Exploit The Digital Transformation Opportunity

“Forty-seven percent of CEOs are being challenged by the board of directors to make progress in digital business, and 56 percent said that their digital improvements have already improved profits.” – Gartner

Markets and Markets estimates that the Digital Transformation market will be worth $ 493 Billion by 2022.

From being spoken of as a futuristic initiative only a few years ago, it is now clear that businesses of all sizes are embracing digital transformation. This is no longer a case of improving operational efficiencies or of creating competitive differentiation. In several industries, this is now a question of survival. As businesses around the world, and especially in the more developed markets like North America, seek to transform, the solutions and services they look to consume from their vendor partners are also undergoing a rapid transformation. This presents an obvious threat to those that cannot adapt to the new digital age, but it also presents a massive opportunity for those who can get ahead of the curve. Pune’s startups that can ride the Digital Transformation wave stand to benefit tremendously.  But what must they do to exploit this opportunity?
  •      Learn new skills:New solutions call for new skills. Where earlier the knowledge of a particular technology may have been adequate, today’s customer may call for the considered application of that technology to solve a business problem. Big Data technology experts becoming Analytics players is a possible example of this kind of shift. Startups that were earlier relying on their software development and testing skills to serve international clients may have to consider adding more strings to their bow. They may have to embrace an “Automation first” mindset –even in the delivery of their services. Areas like AI and IoT, which rely on the application of technology may offer more opportunity over the next few years as traditional IT services become more commoditized.
  •     Hitch your wagon to new stars: Change is the only constant, could well be the motto of the technology business. Mainframes give way to the Cloud, On-premise Enterprise software gets replaced by “pay as you go” SaaS products. The products and solutions that were the stars yesterday could become the also-rans within a few months. The startups that keep their finger on the pulse of this dynamic universe and proactively equip themselves with the knowledge and the skill of the “next big thing” will command a golden payday when the inevitable occasion arrives. For eg. solutions like ServiceNow that enable automation in the Enterprise are much sought after today and startups that offer solutions around such solutions stand to prosper.
  •   Innovatively extend current offerings: It’s rare for a technology to come about that is completely divorced from all that came before it. Technology evolves and what’s new today often carries traces of the old too. Startups could look to identify such synergies and innovatively extend their current capabilities to address the new opportunities. A possible example is how companies that are skilled in creating test automation could leverage similar skills and tools to enable automation in the enterprise through Robotic Process Automation.
  •     Specialize: Startups, by virtue of their scale, may not be able to offer comprehensive, all-encompassing solutions that resonate across the board. But that doesn’t have to mean that they miss the Digital Transformation bus. Solving specific small, but important problems, may present them a great opportunity to deliver real value. As long as the solution they offer can be woven into the wider tapestry of the Digital Transformation of the enterprise it stands a reasonable chance of succeeding. Another option available to startups is to seek out a specific niche domain and provide rich solutions within that arena –essentially try to become a big player in a small field.
  •       Go digital: When all the customers you are looking to target are embracing the Digital way, isn’t it incumbent upon you to follow suit? In fact, this may well become essential. As clients automate their business processes, the digitization of their interfaces with their vendor partners is likely to follow suit in short order. There are several low-hanging fruits available for startups to pick at the start of their own Digital Transformation. Embracing digital marketing, digitizing their invoicing and collection process, and automating the logging and reporting of efforts and activities carried out on behalf of clients are all options startups could consider as they start down this path.

Progress, in their, Are Businesses Really Digitally Transforming or Living in Digital Denial Report, said that of the business decision-makers they spoke to, 85% felt that they had only two years to significantly achieve Digital Transformation. Any later and they feared their competitors would surge ahead and that they would suffer financially. The message for Pune’s startups is that this is a clear and present opportunity –provided they are ready to exploit it!

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

How Industry And Academia Must Work Together For Mutual Benefit

The collaboration between industry and academia has been a hot topic of debate ever since the industrial age dawned with the invention of the steam engine. So much so that one may be forgiven for believing that there exists a conflict of interest between the two. You might think that industry and universities seek different objectives.

The narrow view is that industry focuses only on its survival in the brutal market whereas universities are more focused on imparting knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Industry is driven by material success, unlike universities that engender a culture of research and development to their students. This so-called conflict of interest is what makes the relationship between industry and academia a somewhat tenuous one at times. But this is the wrong way to look at this linkage. Rather this is a truly mutually-beneficial arrangement that is essential to the long-term success of both parties.

This is a symbiotic relationship in the truest sense. The practical view is that the world of academia serves as a proving ground to create the talent pool that industry needs in order to progress. They provide well-trained, enthusiastic, energetic, and inquisitive students who are eager to make their mark in the industry. In turn, before the students are industry ready, the universities expect industry to provide them with practical exposure and an opportunity to apply their theoretical knowledge to practice.

There are also ample opportunities for learning from each other. Corporate veterans have the benefit of experience and practical knowledge and the universities and students have exposure to new methodologies and a flood of innovative ideas. Students can learn from the guidance that industry can provide. This helps them expand the scope of their knowledge and temper it with a bit of real-world realism. Industry, in turn, can incorporate these fresh ideas and methodologies into their own ways of working. Every now and then, industry needs that breath of fresh air to sweep out age-old ideas and obsolete methodologies.

Creating a mutual relationship is vital for both industry and academia. Such collaborations provide:

  1. Amalgamation of Different Cultures

Many companies look forward to tie-up with different universities for their academic and internship programmes which brings different cultures together. Students from different universities get to share space and ideas with each other. This amalgamation of students from different educational backgrounds and culture proves beneficial for the industry. As for students, they get exposure to the working culture in different industries and learn from the leaders out there.

  1. Industry-Ready Workforce

Among the biggest challenges for a growing economy like India is the availability of talent to take up key industry roles. The key issue is volume – with growth comes the need for hundreds of thousands of keen minds and active hands. As academia strives to educate these students industry must strive to train them. The end objective is a steady pipeline of people with both the theoretical knowledge and the practical skills that industry needs.

  1. Research and Development

Academia is well placed to help solve the pressing problems of industry with inventions and innovative approaches. This calls for a collaborative effort to identify the key issues that must demand attention. An ongoing partnership is needed as academia seeks opportunities to apply scientific rigour to isolating the problems, addressing the root causes, and providing workable solutions. This may also call for funding from industry as some of these issues may take time and effort to address.

If a true partnership is forged, the benefits are many.
  1. For Industry:
·         Creating an enduring talent pool
·         Having access to student research at university level
·         Long-term relationship with students
·         Optimizing the work methodologies in line with the latest trends
·         Saving resources on employee training
·         Creating a brand value in the market

  1. For Students:
·         Exposure to the actual working of an industry
·         Securing their future with assured employment
·         Enhancing work and management skills
·         Funding and real-world testing opportunities for their research

The industry can collaborate with universities in many different ways such as:

  • Internships: Allowing students to work for a short period of time to gain insights into how the real world functions and to get experience on the job.
  • Job-integrated study programs: Providing learning and personal development opportunities for their existing staff for specific courses as required or demanded by the job.

In our rapidly changing times, such collaboration is going to get increasingly more important. It’s a coming together of complementary forces that have so much to offer to the betterment of the other party that any other way would just be illogical. And say what you will, neither Industry nor Academia can be accused of following a path that is illogical!

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

What are Pune’s startups expecting from 2018?

2017 is now behind us and 2018 brings us fresh expectations and new hopes. For the startups in Pune, the year 2017 was a tumultuous one with some being able to find their feet in the market while some still struggling to do so.

1.To scale globally

Though some startups in Pune have made it big, there are only a few startups that have truly made it on the international scene. It’s true that some local startups fail to scale globally because they aren’t ready for it. For a startup to smoothly transition into the international market is needs an international-quality pool of talent. Startups in Pune are hoping to choose from some fresh and talented pool of candidates to scale into the foreign markets. Internationally-skilled labour could really help Pune startups enter into foreign markets and add a fresh perspective to the way of doing business in 2018.

2.To encourage and support female entrepreneurs

While it’s necessary to take risks in business, but taking too many could really hurt a startup. According to Dutch neurobiologist Ruud van den Bos’s research, men took increasingly higher risks when they were under pressure leading to a spike in the cortisol levels. Women on the other hand, actually handled a slight increase in cortisol much better, leading to better decision-making. Is that a strong enough case for more women entrepreneurs?With a lot of upcoming and talented female entrepreneurs in the city, it’s important to encourage and support them. This will lead to a very healthy startup ecosystem in Pune. Woman-power could be the secret ingredient that takes Pune to the top startup totem in India, in the coming years.

3.Work-life balance

The entrepreneurs of many leading startups are hoping to spend some more time on themselves. Taking care of themselves will allow them to be healthy which in turn would enable them to give their hundred percent to the startup. A good work-life balance reduces the levels of stress and also brings out the creativity in a person. Also, healthy work-life balance gives entrepreneurs time to introspect, offering them with a fresh perspective to handle various challenges related to their startup. Pune’s entrepreneurs want 2018 to be their healthiest year yet!

4.The role of the government

Pune’s startups are hoping that the government will offer more support. Many startups are yet to benefit from the government’s Startup India programme. Recently startups have also become concerned by the IT notices related to the funding they have received. In a sign of the lower-than-expected impact of Startup India, the programme launched in early 2016, has so far seen only 5,350startups officially recognized under it, of which only 74 have availed tax benefits so far. Startups are hoping to get more support from the government in the form of incentives and subsidies, as it would lead to a healthy economy driven by innovation and enterprise. They hope the government will look at having dedicated support for start-ups that would provide incubators at zero or low cost, training facilities for potential employees or consultants, concessions in sales tax and other local taxes, and so on

5.Skill development programmes

Startups hope that a new way is established in our city (as well as others!) where training is provided across levels to young people who aspire to open startups. This means opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs to gain valuable insight into the world of startups. With this knowledge, not only will more and more young people venture into startups but also will understand the steps they need to take to become successful. Creative solutions are needed – for eg. universities could insist that their students do an internships at a startup. This would mean a win-win for both the students, who will learn and grow a lot from this experience, and the startup ecosystem.

6.Backing the growth of startups for India’s digital transformation

The Indian government truly understands the impact that digitization will have on India and the people of the country. The government knows that digitization will drive the economy and also fuel innovation. With nearly 200 million smartphones users, 331 million Internet users, and 219.3 million bank accounts, India is very much on its way to a digital economy. Beyond e-commerce, a whole range of startups is working in almost every sector and contributing to the process of digital transformation.

The problem that startups face is delivering in scale across the country. This is where the government can step in. They can offer point solutions like setting up intelligent data centers and intelligent cloud system, all across the country with the security system to protect them. With such support, India’s startups will undoubtedly help the government achieve the objective of digitally connecting the entire population. They will accelerate the process of digitization and create the backbone for future smart cities. It is these tech startups with their machine learning and analytics capabilities will be able to provide real-time value and information that will make the cities Smart. They will create the ecosystem for IoT enabled devices to interact with Bots and deliver a completely digital experience.

India’s startups in general and Pune’s startups, in particular, have the passion, the energy, and the vision to make 2018 truly transformational. The ride will be an exciting one – strap yourself in & enjoy!

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Why Startups and Corporates Should Engage More – For Mutual Benefit

“23% corporates see working with startups as mission-critical and 67% corporates would like to work with even early-stage startups.” (MassChallenge and Imaginatik Report in 2016)

Do you know a perfect win-win situation? It’s a collaboration between established corporates and startups with immense potential! Corporate icons like Microsoft and even Coca-Cola have programs to harness opportunities with ambitious startups.One of the best examples of such a mutually beneficial relationship was that of NBC Universal tying up with BuzzFeed for social media coverage of Olympics. NBC leveraged Buzzfeed’s online audience advertising capabilities and Buzzfeed garnered the financial heft of NBC and created a new network for more business opportunities!

We are writing this in the wake of our recent Corporate - Startup Engagement Workshop to look at just how such a partnership can work well for both parties.

Not just for Big Corporations!

Microsoft and Coca-Cola are biggies, but a collaboration between corporates and startups doesn't have to be limited by size. Startup engagement can benefit even mid-sized enterprises. Even if you are a medium-sized company, you can build relationships with startups those that create immense financial and marketing opportunities for both parties.

What is the mutual benefit?

Corporate and startups might as well be two ends of a spectrum. One has been there and done that and the other thrusting and bursting with innovation. But there are experiences that can be shared across this spectrum too. The corporates have experience, processes, knowledge, and skills that startups can observe, learn from, adopt, and leverage. More formal engagements may allow the startups to access the customer-base of the corporates with the solutions they have to offer. A more formal association with an established corporate could also help the startup attract senior-level talent when the need arises.

The flow is not all one-way. For the corporates, there is also the opportunity to draw from out-of-the-box thinking and find creative solutions to corporate challenges. They get access to a pool of fresh ideas and different perspectives. The solutions that startups have to offer could complement their own offerings and help them solidify their position in their own customer base. Corporate synergies may emerge that could lead to an expansion of business opportunity for both the startup as well as the corporate. Often corporates can leverage their association with startups with cutting-edge solutions to create a market perception for their company as an innovative, forward-thinking company. This is also a relatively painless way to dip their toes into a new area – and to then decide the nature of their future commitments to the space. In some cases, this can be a valid defensive move, for eg. when there is a potentially disruptive technology or business model that the startup is innovating. The association can help the corporate as it defines its own strategies to deal with the upcoming disruption.

Types of Association
There can be various types of association ranging from the informal to the more formal. Some options are Investment, M&A, Acquihire, Business Partnership, or Incubation. The first two are purely financial agreements, designed to let the corporate take over all or part of the startup’s business. The Business Partnership model is typically more opportunistic, driven by market dynamics, and purely by the potential for collaborative fitment between the offerings of the startup and the corporate.

Incubation is also emerging as an interesting option today. Corporates offer to incubate startups until they are ready to fly on their own. It’s not just the space, working environment or even infrastructure that they provide. They also act as mentors and give valuable education.Once startups enter the incubator, the scheme has a period during which corporations can share, guide and mentor startups, while the startup feeds it’s energy and offerings into the business plans of the corporate.
This is the win-win situation we talked about earlier as it's all about the shared success. Remember, innovation and disruption are coming from the energetic startups but to make something of that, they need the structure and execution capability of the larger corporates. Surely, their coming together is an inevitability!

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Key Challenges for Pune’s Start-ups- And How SEAP can Help?

Pune has been steadily growing as a startup destination as shown by the numerous startups that have sprung up in our vibrant city. A city that was known for its history and cultural heritage is now providing a solid ecosystem for industrial and technology growth too. We at SEAP aim to play a key role in fostering and nurturing the start-up ecosystem in Pune through our various programs. Let’s look at the needs of Pune’s startups and how some of our initiatives can help address them.

More on the start-up culture in Pune
The start-up ecosystem has received a lot of attention recently and according to the reports by NASSCOM, the YOY growth is said to grow at about 10-12%. Government initiatives provide better support and incentives for startups rise of technologies such as Cloud, IOT, Big Data, and Machine learning are also opening up opportunities for startups.There is now a steady progression towards Fintech, Healthtech and Edutech startups, after the eCommerce boom of a few years ago.
Pune has emerged as a hotbed of start-ups owing to its solid manufacturing base, high-quality educational institutions,and strong IT sector.Pune is home to many notable educational institutions, engineering colleges with readily available tech talent which has led to the growth of interesting start-ups in this city. The presence of a strong manufacturing industry who are core consumers of technology has created a favorable ecosystem for the rise of start-ups. Besides, its proximity to the Mumbai, entrepreneur culture and well-settled diaspora in centres like the US have played a key role in attracting founders to the city.
According to AngelList, there are about 322 startups in the city with many start-ups successful in receiving multiple funding roundslikeDruva, Sapience, Helpshift, FirstCry, and SwipeTelecom. 2017 has been a promising year for start-ups based in Pune in the technology and consumer Internet segments with Q1FY18 bringing in funding rounds estimated to be worth $96 million according to analysis provided by Inc42.

What are the top challenges faced by Pune’s Startups today?
-Lack of proper guidance and mentorship
One of the biggest challenges faced by startups today is the absence of guidance and mentorship for the young and budding entrepreneurs who are brimming with fresh ideas. They have the required talent and ability to take the start-ups to new heights but lack access to mentors. This could slow down the growth of such companies. Although they may have sound knowledge about their products, they lack the necessary industry and market experience to get their products to the market.
-Experience in creating a sound branding strategy
Branding demands a lot of attention, especially for startups. Many startups are founded by technical founders and they often lack the knowledge for creating a solid branding strategy for their business. For long-term commercial success of any venture, clear and consistent branding and messaging right from the time of the inception are critical.
-Less funding and venture capital access
Most startups operate with constrained resources and it’s essential for them to access funds to scale to meet the growing demands of the market and the competition. The Pune funding ecosystem in only evolving and access to top-drawer VCs and funding is still less than it should be. Pune’s startups crave the opportunity to become visible to VCs so their ideas can get the funding they deserve.

How SEAP is giving a significant boost to start-ups in Pune?

-The Pune Connect Story
Pune’s startups are a key focus area for SEAP. Our Pune Connect event annually brings together promising startups and gives them a platform to showcase themselves. They become visible to VC firms, investors, and partners or find potential clients willing to become early-adoptersof their offerings. This popular event gives a valuable opportunity for startups to connect with top industry leaders and influencers and showcase their innovation and give demos.
Over the past five years, Pune Connect has been successful in building its association with dozens of startups who have benefited from the experience.

-Boosting knowledge and skills
SEAP also provides education and training to companies. We organize lectures on emerging technologies via subject matter experts. This has obvious value for founders and to-be entrepreneurs. They can understand the upcoming trends and equip themselves with the new age skill requirements essential to drive their development and growth strategies.

-Promote business and social growth through networks
SEAP also works closely with the government and apart from the access this provides to our members, a key value is the participation in government-led initiatives such as Digital India, Startup India, and the Pune Smart City project.
SEAP assists startups and entrepreneurs in having quality interactions with experienced and qualified industry professionals across multiple channels. A recently launched initiative is SEAP Gurucool aimed at addressing the mentorship gap that most professionals in particular, and entrepreneurs in particular feel. This program is a structured attempt to provide one-on-one access to some of Pune’s top professionals.

We recognize that startups have to struggle to make it – they need all the support they can get. SEAP, through its various programs aims to provide just that support. For starters – keep your eyes peeled for news of Pune Connect 2017 – it’s just around the corner! 

Monday, 18 September 2017

SEAP Gurukul – LearnTo Be Better Professionals From Those Who Know!

“The only source of knowledge is experience.”: Albert Einstein

Not that we would be presumptuous enough to argue with Einstein, but what’s one to do until one gains that experience? Today we live in a hyper-competitive world – there are few second chances, and the space for experimenting and “learning on the job” is shrinking. If that’s true, and if you’re honest with yourself we’re sure you believe it is, then is there a way to accelerate your ascent up the learning curve? Everyone wants to become a more well-rounded and effective professional, so is there a way to access a goldmine of experience that is somehow still specific to you, your circumstances, and your own development needs? 
Well, now there is – presenting SEAP Gurukul.

Does “To foster a vibrant ecosystem in Pune that enables business and social growth through high-tech products and services” ring a bell? It should, considering it’s the vision of SEAP. If you’ve been in touch with us over the last few months you would be heard of SEAP Gurukul – an important part of our commitment to help businesses, and the people responsible for key functions in them, achieve that business growth. We recognise that most professionals want to get better but they may not always have access to the advice that will help them do that. When faced with typical, and unusual, situations in their career what they would really value is hearing from others who have “been there and done that.” SEAP Gurukul is a mentoring program that aims to do just that.

This unique program provides a structured approached to the mentor/mentee process. Mentees will be paired up with individual Mentors in this program. The Mentors, all of them veterans of the industry, will share career advice, insights on achieving professional growth, suggestions, and stories related to team building, and especially, their view of how to address leadership challenges more effectively. The program for each incoming member who becomes a mentee will be specific and address the unique needs of that member. A mentee may want to build up networking skills, public speaking confidence, or how to lead from the front. The guidance the Mentor provides would be tailored to address those questions. The objective is to help the mentee learn from the mentor’s experience and leverage that to develop the skills to become a better professional and a more effective leader in his or her own right.This unique platform will also help mentees build their own networks.

It’s not all a one-way street of-course. The beauty of the program is that the mentee is not the only one who benefits from the mentoring – the mentor does too. Mentors get the opportunity to influence and inspire another professional. They get to make their own little contribution to improving the professional lot of someone else who could go on to become a star. The whole experience provides mental stimulation of the best kind – the opportunity to challenge the mentee to see a situation in new and different ways also helps mentors broaden their own horizons. The knowledge and experience the mentors have gathered over the years get refreshed and updated – a great benefit.

John C Crosby said, “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” The SEAP Gurukul program gives all that – if you’ve not already signed up then perhaps you should!