November 20, 2008

How can startups survive the economic storm ?

My blogging rate has gone down drastically due to the lack of internet connection in my residence cry [Blame it on my my recent relocation but I am sure that ThoughtsPrevail would bounce back !!!].Today, we have a guest article by Kelly Kilpatrick who shares some mantras on "How to keep your startup afloat during the economic crisis".Kelly writes on the subject of best business schools and can be contacted via her email

No one likes a downturn, least of all when it has to do with the economy, not just of a company or even a country, but of the entire world. It’s a domino effect that we’re witnessing now, as the mighty fall of a few big names are bringing down others associated with them and causing a global crisis the likes of which have not been seen for a long time now. When even the huge conglomerates are known to be shaking in their boots, is it any wonder that the little startups and fledgling businesses in doubt about their future? However, all is not lost, not yet. To use a cliched expression, where there’s a will, there’s a way; so hold your head high and let your positive attitude take you forward in these difficult times:

Believe in your abilities
A bird on a shaky branch is not afraid, because it is confident in its ability to fly even if the branch does give way. An apt analogy for our present situation – even if the economy of the world is unstable, as long as you believe in your abilities to make it through this bad patch, you’re going to be ok.

Adopt conservative measures
It’s not the time for risks, not when people are struggling to stay afloat. It’s best to be as conservative as you can, both in terms of current business principles and future plans.

Go back to the basics
It’s now more than ever that you need your customers to stand by you; so pick up the phone and let them know that you’re counting on their support and that you’re committed to providing them with the same kind of service they’ve been receiving all this time. True, you already have a relationship with them, but in these tough times, you must focus on re-affirming the relationships that you already have rather than looking to forge new ones.

Cut unnecessary expenses
Money is definitely going to be tight for a while, so it’s best to cut back on your overhead costs and any expenses that could be considered as frivolous. Focus on reducing the recurring expenses – these, even if not a large amount, could add up each month to a significantly huge sum.

Ditch unprofitable ventures
If there’s a department that’s not doing too well, it’s best not to persist with it at this time, not when money is hard to come by and you’re struggling to cut your losses.

Cut production costs
If you can do so without compromising on the quality of your products. If you can’t, and if you know your market is secure, raise the price of your products. Of course, you will have to deal with unhappy customers, but if you put it across to them in a positive way, they’re likely to understand.

Boost your employee morale
Unhappy employees cost you a lot in terms of time, money and productivity. So make sure your employees are mentally secure; even if you have to lay off a few of them, make the rest realize that their jobs are safe. Or if you could get them all to take a pay cut rather than force them out of a job altogether, that would work fine too.

Getting a new business to grow is hard work even in the best of times; and now that we’re going through the worst, you must work even harder to make sure you stay afloat.If you have to lay-off people, this article by Guy Kawasaki , would definitely help you in laying off people while making others feel safe wink.

Labels: , , ,

November 11, 2008

Business Model Innovation

Came across an excellent presentation by Alexander Osterwalder, a Business Model Innovation advisor.No matter what is your idea or business, this presentation touches every corner of it [from Ideation to Execution].

He has quite an insightful blog on the same topic & I am sure you would also enjoy reading every bit of it biggrin.

Labels: , , ,

November 3, 2008

Hurry up & start early - Vineesh Kumar, Pictualize

Last week, we had an interesting interview with Vineesh Kumar of Pictualize where he shared his thoughts about Pictualize & Entrepreneurship.In the final episode of this interview, we question Vineesh Kumar about Pictualize's future plans with usual glimpse on Entrepreneurship !!!

Do you have any fixed marketing strategy for Pictualize?
At the moment, we are actually marketing our work and we are finding takers for the same. The BarCamp Delhi [BCD] presentation helped us reach out to some clients and our recent work on the credit crisis has reached out to a much larger number of people due to solid efforts that we put in to get the word out.The plan to market Pictualize to the world is through carrying out innovative communication that enraptures the hearts of people and bring this power to other businesses and help them succeed too.There isn't a very hard plan as such and we are going with the flow. Just paddling, when we start losing direction.

As per your opinion, which are the three most striking things that makes IITs different from others?
In IIT Delhi [IITD], it's tough to tell how striking it actually is wink, because the daily grind actually makes one abhor the entire IIT system. But now being an outsider, I realize that the rigor of IIT has fundamentally affected my being and the same happens with everyone.
  1. In my opinion, IITs are a little different from other institutions mainly because of the amount of raw talent that one can see and feel each day.
  2. Apart from that IITD particularly provides quite a lot of exposure, so I had opportunities to see entrepreneurship closely before taking to it.
  3. The third point would be that being through the IITs instills a certain degree of confidence, that helps tremendously in facing the opposition to entrepreneurship.
How do you filter valid/invalid user feedback [especially after BCD presentation]?
The BCD presentation majorly brought us positive feedback, so we didn't actually filter anything and just enjoyed the moment smile. We actually don't aim to filter feedback, but take all of it seriously and see how can we improve with it.

Has the risk appetite increased or what are some of the reasons that more youngsters are willing to startup/join a startup?
I wouldn't call it an increase in the risk appetite. The numbers seems to be growing proportionately to the opportunities available.
In my opinion, all entrepreneurs are rebels of sorts, looking to create the future. As we advance, there are more and more of such exciting opportunities and it is just the issue of mind over matter for a person to shift to the entrepreneurial world.

What are three most important things that you see when you guys formed the team?
We actually didn't think that we were forming a team. We are just a bunch of friends. Each has a different view of life and each has big dreams, but each of us have a vision to grow, improve, enjoy and succeed. As they say in love that two people needn't look at each other but in the same direction, the same I feel is true for a team.

Can you share some key learnings before/after co-founding Pictualize?
I would like to share learnings that I obtained in the last 5-6 months but prior to Pictualize.
  1. Team building is not as easy as it seems and team members are though not tough to find, but they aren't easy to find either.
  2. When you work and meet, make notes. Keep things in written. Helps in disputes later and is extremely important for facing clients, since their needs change by the minute.
  3. [For students & wannabe entrepreneurs] If you are starting up after you are passing out you are already late. Hurry up and start earlier. You really need to earn money by the time you pass out.
In a place like India where families are close-knit, how important is "Family support" for any startup's success?
IMHO, family support would contribute to over 90% in the success of a startup running without external funding. As long as family can tolerate a productive person doing seemingly non-productive things [like starting up], the person is in the best of his situations to actually build a successful business. Without family support, it becomes a multi-dimensional problem and multiplies the risk of failure.

Enjoy another presentation by Pictualize which shows the Current Economic problems in a hilarious as well as meaningful way smile

Labels: , , , ,

November 1, 2008

Not knowing about business is sometimes useful - Vineesh Kumar, Pictualize

Entrepreneurship right after college seems risky as well as cool.In this article, we have a Q&A with Vineesh Kumar [co-founder of an interesting & cool startup Pictualize], who jumped into this idea after completing his graduation from IIT-Delhi.

Everyone knows that "Pictures speak louder than words" and this is where Vineesh and his co-founders felt there lies an opportunity !!!

Q&A is done in two parts where Part-I would focus on Pictualize and Part-II would focus on Entrepreneurship [and many aspects related to Straight-Out-Of-College-Entrepreneurship].

If you have any questions for Pictualize,please leave them in the comments section & it would be included in the Part-II of this interview smile

Let's start off with the interview ...

Everything starts with a problem, how did the concept of Pictualize arise ?
Pictualize, was born out of the realization that we need to change the current system of communication. It is just too ineffective, incomplete, lacking simplicity and possessing many other issues. The logical solution seemed pictures - the universal language, simple or complex, it is about expressing the core matter and with that came Pictualize.

Pictualize is a catchy name, which are the other names that you came up with while brainstorming & why did you choose Pictualize ?
Anirudh Maitra, our Idea Catalyst had put down numerous names for us to choose from. Pixlr8, Pictualate, and a variety of other names. Am not sure who exactly thought of Pictualize, but the moment it came onto the table we all fell in love with it instantly. Seemed to be love at first sight with the name and then the tag-line "Visualize. Actualize. Realize" followed almost effortlessly.

Who are the current team members and their roles?
Current team members are Aakanksha Gaur, who is currently our Visual Architect and she is the one who churns out all our imagination on paper.Anirudh is the idea catalyst and his wacky ideas are mostly out of this world. He leads in churning out ideas that rock, not just with us, but with others too.I am among the lesser mortals in awe of both of them, who gets to connect them to the rest of the world, i.e. bring us business and think about all the other things.Despite our roles being segregated, we all have an immense amount of fun, brain-jamming together and imagining and dreaming wink.You can know more about us here

Pictures speak louder than words, how do you guys ensure to bring the same creative feeling with each picture ?
It is precisely this effort that differentiates us from all the others who can doodle. We doodle, with a purpose and apply a lot of our mind to it. Three creative beings doing stuff they enjoy, certainly spew out tons of ideas and then it's more or less a war to select the best.We don't strive to maintain the creative feeling. The aim is to constantly improve.

What are some of the services that you are planning to offer like Marketing, Branding etc ?
More than marketing or branding, we are aiming to deal with "Communications". As individuals we all have been brought up with a certain sanctity of the written word and an unusual fear of drawing. We intend to bridge this gap and bring visual communications and understanding within individuals as well as corporations as well as help everyone express themselves visually.

Our current services deal with creating visual presentations for corporations to reach out to their clients/customers in a more understandable and personalized way. Additionally, we are aiding in marketing efforts of our clients.

In the near term, we are targeting to move to clients like UNDP, Micro-finance organizations and NGOs that deal with a large number of people from different backgrounds and it is obviously tough to manage the diversity. We believe that we can offer some order in this chaos of communication through pictures.

You guys started fresh out from college[some like Aakanksha are still studying], what are the pros & cons of doing the same ?
1. We have sufficient time to experiment, fail, learn and start over again.
2. [The beaten down one] Risk is a lot lower since liabilities are lesser [though this isn't true in general].
3. Not knowing anything about business is sometimes extremely useful, since the person doesn't know what the real roadblocks are and when you aren't worried about certain things, those happen most easily.

1. Most people don't take out-of-college entrepreneurship too seriously. It sounds like a frivolous idea of fools who are just trying to run away from the "real world".
2. Support for out-of-college entrepreneurs is just too less or usually absent, since they don't have any experience.
3. Out-of-college entrepreneurship is perhaps still a bit late and it is certainly way better to start while studying, since the risk of failure is totally absent

Does your startup have mentors and how important is mentorship for a startup ?
Mentors are perhaps the life line of any entrepreneur or a startup. Personally, I wasn't able to discover/find a mentor for quite a while until we met Mr. Kris Nair. He met us for some other venture and it was his initiative that we actually met him [since he has his own venture capital firm, we were a little skeptical about meeting him wink]. But I guess, Kris is the next best thing that has happened to me on my entrepreneurial journey after I, Aakanksha and Anirudh started working on Pictualize.

For any startup dreamers, would-be entrepreneurs or just anyone willing to take the route less trodden, always seek a mentor. There always comes one who changes the course of your thoughts and also your life.

You guys come from different backgrounds[and colleges], how did you guys get along ?
All the three of us are friends and each met the other only by chance and through random connections. The difference in familial background is not very significant and colleges don't seem to make any difference at all. It is just the matching that we have mentally that makes us go along. Creativity, passion and the fun we have in each other's company solves the issues that come our way.

How was the response to your BarCamp Delhi presentation ?
The BarCamp Delhi presentation had a cracker response. We were expecting it to be well-received but the amount of appreciation we got was well beyond expectations and was a major confidence booster.

Enjoy the creativity of Pictualize in the presentation below:

Hope you liked this interview, stay tuned for the Part-II of this interview !!!

Labels: , , , ,