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Mix-Up! Users Uninstalled Snapdeal Instead of Snapchat.


 

 

Indians were outraged at the ‘alleged’ comment of Snap Inc. CEO, Evan Spiegel that Snapchat is not mean for poor countries like India and Spain. well, no one is sure that whether he said it or not. But just this allegation was enough for the every charged Indians to start berating the company and its CEO. Thousands of users uninstalled snapchat app and gave it a one-star rating on Google Playstore. The outrage was so high that the Snapchat was reduced to a one-star rating on the store. Bad.

The worse was that many un-initiated souls who did not even know what Snapchat is and what it does, started uninstalling what they had on their phone- the Snapdeal app.

Now, that act borders on stupidity. This is the second time when Snapdeal have had to bear the users’ wrath on the playstore. The first was when its brand ambassador Amir Khan’s wife made a statement which did not go well with the Indians. The outrage that time started with boycotting Amir but then led to the brands that he endorsed.

While I reserve my opinion for a later blog-post, but this is a sad case where one company suffered because of someone else’s ‘alleged-not-proven’ fault.

 

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Shocking! After Raising $34m in Funding, this CEO Got Arrested Yesterday!


 

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Travel startup Stayzilla, which announced halt of its operations last month, ran into fresh trouble with its founder and chief executive Yogendra Vasupal taken into custody by commissioner of police in Chennai and locked up in Puzhal prison, a source ET spoke to confirmed.

According to an email sent by cofounder Sanchit Singhi, Sanghi asked investors of the company to help Vasupal who went ‘missing’ or out of contact after Vasupal last confirmed his location.

Started in 2005, Stayzilla recently shut down operations in February to rethink its business strategy.

The company that had raised about $34 million across four rounds of funding, counts Matrix Partners India and Nexus Ventures Partners among investors.

F*ck The Unicorns and Cockroaches, become a Business First!

December 2, 2016 Leave a comment

 

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Two years ago, everyone wanted to become a ‘Unicorn’ (the term that is used to refer to a rare mythical creature in general and to a billion dollar company in the startup world). Every morning there was news of one more startup raising a few or a few hundred million dollars in funding at a valuation, which you would have never heard of earlier. Fast-forward to 2016, the funding freeze has set in and there are people advising on how to become a cockroach startup. Scores of articles have been written on how to survive the funding winter till the sun rises again and investors start showering you with millions- not sure if that is going to happen anytime soon.

As a founder of two ventures earlier where I did not have any funding and then having led a venture of where I had a few million dollars at my disposal from Rocket Internet and now again when I am building a seed-funded startup, I have been through the grind. These few years spent in building startups have given me a perspective of how important it is to create a business out of an idea.

There would be millions of businesses across the globe. The range of size of these businesses in terms of revenues and employees would be astonishing. There are businesses run by the single-man show of a roadside street-food vendor and then there are the likes of Coca Cola and Boeing. How many of them have raised funds? The answer is – A negligible minority. One thing they all have in common is that they focused on creating sustainable businesses. I consider an idea to transform into a business when there are people willing to pay for your service or product and this number, at a certain size, can help run the business profitably.

As I mentioned earlier, I am currently running a venture that is seed funded since January 2016. At the outset, with my previous experience, I was clear to create a business and not a unicorn or a cockroach. Since last six months we have customers who pay form the service we provide and although we are small, we will turn operationally profitable I next two to three months. This does not mean that we do not want to become a hundred million or a billion dollar company- we do want to, but in a planned manner. Now that we have converted out idea into a business, there is confidence in the team, the seed investor and also the prospective investors on the growth path of the venture.

My advice to fellow startup enthusiasts and entrepreneurs is to have a plan to convert the idea in to business, focus on execution and then utilize funding to scale the operations. Do not startup just with the sole aim of raising funds. In the past many have done so, have even succeeded in raising millions but failed to survive- just because they could not turn into a business even after raising millions.

Forget the unicorns and cockroaches, let’s build businesses and enjoy the exciting journey as we do it!

[The writer is the co-founder and CEO of Feelance Co. and has been involved with the Indian StartUp ecosystem since 2009. He can be reached at harshdeep.rapal@feelance.co or harshdeep.singh.rapal@gmail.com ]

Casey Neistat’s Beme app in CNN basket, brings the YouTuber in-house

November 29, 2016 Leave a comment

CNN has acquired Beme, the social app co-founded by YouTuber Casey Neistat. As part of the deal, Neistat will lead the Beme team as a new standalone media sub-brand operating under CNN’s umbrella as executive producer, and all 11 members of the Beme team will join CNN.

Beme’s had an interesting history, with a founding vision of providing a means for users to share quick, short clips of video without edits, as a means of bridging the gap between live streaming and more polished YouTube-style creator production.

The social app actually launched in summer of 2015, but despite early success claims including half a million downloads and one million videos uploaded within its first few days of availability, things went quiet about the app following its debut – so much so that Neistat even posted an explainer video on YouTube a year after launch explaining “what the hell happened” to the app. This preceded a May relaunch as the app exited beta with many bug fixes and functional adjustments in tow.

Beme still never really found its footing, at least not with anywhere near the success of comparable social video apps like Snapchat or Musical.ly. Still, CNN is acquiring it with the intent of investing in the team and the product in order to create a new brand focused on a millennial audience, according to Variety.

Neistat had previously announced he would be ending his long-running daily vlog to focus on other projects, and now it’s clear he was talking about this tie-up with CNN.

Why Snapdeal merging with Flipkart or Amazon will not make sense? Or might.


 

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Last couple of days have been ripe with rumors of Snapdeal reaching out to Flipkart and Amazon for a merger/buyout. YEstreday Kunal Bahl poked fun at these rumors with a tweet on the name that the merged venture will have. Fun aside, lets see is this kind of acquisition/merger would actually make sense or not.

On the face of it, acquiring Snapdeal will not make any sense for Flipkart or Amazon. Take the case of Amazon’s attempt of acquiring Jabong in late 2014. Rocket Internet (at that time I was leading one of Rocket Internet’s ventures in South East Asia) was looking at a valuation of $1.2b whereas Amazon was in no mood to pay more than $700m. Within weeks of the talks falling through, Amazon launched Amazon Fashion to counter Jabong. Later Jabong bled to its on death and was acquired by Myntra (a Flipkart group company) for $70m. That’s peanuts.

Jabong acquisition actually made some sense as Amazon was not very strong in the Fashion category. Snapdeal on the otherhand is a smaller Amazon. Learning from the Jabong experience, I don’t think amazon would even consider bidding for Snapdeal.

Now for the same reason, it does not make sense to acquire Snapdeal. Why would either of them not wait for Snapdeal to bleed weak till it dies or can be bought at a much lower valuation (just for the brand) as in the case of Jabong-Myntra deal.

Now, can it make sense as well? Remember when Ola acquired Taxi for Sure a couple of years ago for $200m? That deal not only helped Ola become the undisputed champion of ride-hailing space in India, but also removed an irritating competitor who was forcing to burn much more cash than what Ola would have liked to. Is Snapdeal that kind of rival for Amazon and Flipkart? The answer is- Yes. Do they want to remove Snapdeal from the competition? The answer is- definitely Yes. But do they want to right now? The answer is- No. Paying $200m for Taxi for Sure was peanuts as compared to the benefits it brought. Snapdeal is a unicorn. I don’t think either Amazon or Flikpart’s investors would ever agree to shell that kind of money ever. Even buying a small stake in Snapdeal would be equal to a billion dollar funding round for the two larger rivals.

So, let the rumors be rumors. I am not sure if anything is going to happen on this beyond being just rumors.

Learnings From AskMeBazaar Shut Down


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Today morning I woke up to the news of AskMe shutting down its services leaving thousands of its employees and lakhs of its vendors and partners in quandary. It is not unusual for startups to stumble and fail. Globally more than 95% of the startups shut down.

AskMe was a different care altogether. The startup had raised $119m from Astro Holdings and other investors and were in talks to raise another $200m at a valuation of $1b. But then Astro decided not to participate in the next round. Things came to a dead end when Astro skipped the last Board meeting and AskMe wrote a letter to Registrar of Companies not to let Astro wind up their operations before clearing their dues (Approx Rs300 Cr).

I was surprised why it came to such a situation that the company had to shut overnight and lay off all its employees. The reason I found out was that Astro Holdings owned a whooping 98.5 % stake in the company. Let that sink in.

I am not sure what the founder were thinking while raising funds, but this is an insane amount of stake to be offered to a single investor. It does not leave room for other investors to have their say. In this case Astro did not want to participate in the next round of funding and I am sure the legal formalities would have got messed up for bringing in new investors of raising funds from other minority investors (if any).

The biggest learnings that the other entrepreneurs should learn from this incident are:

  1. Never have one single investor own an insanely large chunk of your company. 98.5%….never!
  2. When you get money in the bank, try working out the unit economics rather than burning the money at an insane rate. AskMe spend a large chunk of money hiring Bollywood brand ambassadors for TVCs. The same would have given much better ROI had the amount been spent on online marketing.
  3. In case such a situation arises, take care of your people. They trusted the startup ecosystem and toiled for your venture day in and day out. Never leave them high and dray by wrapping up operations overnight. I am sure the founders would have known the situations months ago. They should have told the truth to the employees and held them in faith to turn around things. Now the employees will not only lose the faith in the founders, but also the Indian startup ecosystem.

I failed in a Food-Tech Startup- Here are my five key takes from that failure.

February 27, 2016 2 comments

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I incubated and ran a food tech business (EazyMeals) for about 8 months and reached a volume of 100+ orders a day. I was in talks with a few investors as well to raise the angel round but then took a decision to shut the business down and write off the investment (why we did not pursue investors even after a commitment of $250K from the CTO of a billion dollar e-commerce company is a different story for a different day). But, before I shut down the business, it taught me quite a few interesting lessons about food tech sector. Here are some key takes:

  1. Getting Volume on Orders is Easy, Delivering the same is Tough: It is very easy to reach a number of 100+ orders a day. You may even reach 200+ in a short span of time but managing the preparation and delivery of these numbers is tough. We started the business in Indirapuram, one of the most densely populated areas in the NCR region. Food was great and prices nominal so getting initial traction was easy. We found out that bringing in new orders is not that tough. You need additional orders- Get on to FoodPanda. You need even more- Get on to Swiggy, Tiny Owl, Zomato etc. You still want more, invest in Google and FB Ads. Start Push notifications from your app or test SMSs. There is a lot you can do to increase orders, the problem comes in managing those orders. Reason being- whether it is 50 orders or 500, they have to be prepared, packed and delivered in a span of two to two-and-a-half hours. Where as a normal e-commerce company has a day or a couple of days to pack and ship a product, the food startups have just 30-40 minutes to arrive at the doorstep of the customer from the time he places an order. Believe me, its not easy. Customers do not care if you are a startup. Their expectations have been set at “30 minutes, else free” level.
  1. Focus more on Food than Tech: From the time the Food-Tech sector gained investor interest, there is a lot of focus “Tech” part in a food startup. My experience shows the focus should be more on “food” than “tech”. You can build a wonderful App or a website. You will have weeks and months to build and then improve it. But you hardly have any control on the quality of food when you are a small startup. The quality and taste is in the hands of the chef and what he does in those 10 minutes that he spends on the order. Those 10 minutes need much more attention than the website or the app. If the food tastes great, the customer does not care even if you do-not have an app or a website. He will come back.
  1. Focus on Retention than Expansion: Food is a business where one can achieve a very high repeat rate with customers if the quality of food is good, prices are nominal and service is within acceptable limits. The more your retention rate is, he lesser will be spend on marketing. Food is something which the person eats every day. Three times a day. Keeping your existing customers happy helps lowering the customer acquisition costs and in turn managing the unit-economics.
  1. Work on Unit Economics: Achieving unit-economics in food business in India is tricky. Customers want good food at a nominal cost. My venture was into low-cost-daily-meals. The average order value was around Rs100. The food quality was great, the repeat rate was high, we had achieved a volume of about 100 orders a day, but unit economics sank us in. While providing a meal at an average cost of Rs100, the COGS itself came around Rs40, the delivery per order around Rs18, if the order came via any of the food ordering platforms, the commission itself came out to be Rs15-18. We made a margin of around Rs30 per order (on COGS and Delivery) or about Rs1.2 lakh to 1.8 Lakh per month. This was not sufficient to cover for the salaries of one chef, two assistant chefs, a site manager, a cleaner and four delivery boys plus the rent for the kitchen and maintenance of the equipment.
  1. Use FOPs Intelligently to Your Advantage: Food Ordering Platforms are good for increasing the volume of orders. But, use them with caution. We were on four platforms- FoodPanda, Tiny Owl, Zomato and Hungry Buddies. These platforms do help you achieve volume of orders, but eat into your margins. On an average the FPOs charge around 16-18% commission and taxes. That’s a big chunk of your margin. I would suggest to use them for a period of time to build loyal customer base and then serve those customers from your own website or app. You will at least save Rs16 on every Rs100 that comes in.

Reflecting back, I feel I could have done many things in a much better fashion than I did. But will I go back and start-over again. No. But I thought these points would be of some help who has just started of is planning to venture into food space. These five are not the only points to keep in mind while running a food business, I am sure there are many others. But, they can be used to set some ground to build upon.