Problems faced by Pune startups, and suggested solutions
The Pune OpenCoffee Club (POCC) had a meeting a few weeks ago to discuss the various pain points faced by Pune Startups, and to see what solutions or workarounds people had come up with. POCC member Mandar Vaze has captured the main points of the discussion for the benefit of those who were unable to attend. In places where my notes had additional info that’s missing from Mandar’s notes, I have taken the liberty of interspersing my points – those are in italics.
I joined the meeting slighly late. When I arrived there were about 50+ people seating in a circle, and few more people occupying seats on the sofa behind. Topic planned for the meeting was “Startups – pain points”.
Initial round of introductions
Internet connectivity :
- BSNL seems to be the best in terms of stability
- BSNL’s Business plans for internet not cost effective
- Several startups use multiple Home connection plans – Is it legal to do this?
- Someone mentioned that for the team of 15, 40GB/month plan is sufficient
- (Another suggestion was to take a limited bandwidth BSNL connection in the office, and then do heavy downloads at home using your personal unlimited bandwidth connection.
- If you are using multiple connections (possibly from different ISPs) to ensure stability, then free, open source software is available that can seamlessly allow you to multiplex between these two connections. -navin)
Dealing with Power cuts :
- Laptops work best to avoid worrying about power cuts.
- If you need to use Desktop, LCD better than CRT (low power usage -less load on UPS/inverter)
- With laptops, team can work from home, in case extended power cuts
- Assuming team mates stay in different area than office
- When team grows, this may not scale – possible security issues
- Suggest using 9-cell battery
- Have common pool of spare charged batteries around to extend the battery life even further
- Spare batteries cost around Rs. 3000 as against UPS for Rs. 5000
- UPS/Inverter :
- Anjali (I think) mentioned that 4.8 KVA inverter costs about Rs 48000
- She also suggested that multiple smaller UPS better than single bigger one of higher capacity – avoid single point of failure.
- Someone asked to post reliable vendor for UPS/Inverter
Incubation Space :
- IT Park / Incubation centers were suggested as a solution where you don’t need to deal with any of these hassles. They take care of power, internet, and other facilities issues that you don’t want to worry about. Pune IT Park and Connaught Place were the two possibilities suggested. This entire section written by Navin with inputs from Amit since after actually visiting Pune IT Park and Connaught Place and clarifying many of the misconceptions people at the POCC meeting had about these places
- At Pune IT Park the cost in the region of approximately 5500 per month, per person – and this includes the internet connection. (Someone at the meeting had indicated a cost of 8000 – which is incorrect.)
- Facilities include shared reception, printer and fax machines, gym, swimming pool, 24×7 security, shared parking, internet connection for smaller (e.g. 4-person setup), free coffee/tea, (paid) cafeteria.
- Someone mentioned that you can stay there for only 2 years after which you have to leave. This is not true.
- Capacity of up to 20 seats is available currently (Someone mentioned that there is a long waiting list – that appears to be no longer true.)
- Connaught place near Bund Garden has offices for rent – but their rates suggest that they are not targeting startups, but are probably geared towards senior executives of MNCs. Our rough calculations indicated that the cost would be in excess of 30,000 per month for two people.
- Another possibility suggested by a few people was to convince some friend of yours who owns a company to give you a couple of seats to work on your startup. We’ve heard of a number of people going this route.
How to share experiences?
- Several people seem to get stuck at same issues – How can we address this?
- Wiki doesn’t work
- (For many startup issues, especially those related to partnership / proprietorship / private limited, registrations, and other legal issues, Vikas Kumar, CTO of BrainVisa pointed out that he knows many of the answers, based on his own experiences, but doesn’t have the time to put the information on a wiki, or even to respond to questions on a mailing list. However, if someone were to call him up on the phone, he would be happy to help them out. -navin)
- “Ask Pune Tech” was started as one possible solution for this problem.
- People wanted to know whether it is possible to successfully use students from local colleges to do useful work for the startup, either as part of a paid internship or as part of their final year project.
- Many people have had bad experiences. Some had good experiences too. People had good experiences with the following colleges: COEP, PICT, MIT, SICSR.
- Sahil, who is a student at SICSR, suggested that we should use the SICSR R&D cell, which has enthusiastic students who would be happy to work on such stuff. Just drop into SICSR and visit the R&D cell.
Other topics discussed
- Anthony talked about Startup Hive – How resources can be shared. (Basic idea is for a bunch of startups to take space near each other, possibly in the same complex, and this would lead to a lot of synergies, energies and other goodness. -navin.)
- There was a discussion about SEO/SEM – several people were of the opinion, that it is better to learn yourself than out source. (With this in mind, we are trying to organize a lecture on SEO from an expert for this month’s POCC meeting. An announcement will be made in a few days. -navin)
- Shushrut mentioned about IBM SMB website. Similarly there is ICICI SME website. (These sites have lots of resources for startups. Check them out for answers to common questions. Another suggestion was ammas.com -navin)
Bandhan.com – Search engine for searching bride/groom
- Main problem they are trying to address is how to market their product
- They (bandhan.com) wish to “play nice” with established players like Bharat Matrimony and shaadi.com by not offering syndicated search to other sites
The Tossed Salad – Lifestyle magazine
- Problem they are trying to solve – How to market
- Several suggestions about finding niche, rather than being generic
- Amit suggested looking at seekingalpha.com and punekar.in
After these presentations, there was Startup Cinema – “The office space”
About the Author – Mandar Vaze
Mandar Vaze is Linux Enthusiast since 1997, using linux at home on and off. He was associated with Twin Cities LUG in US, and PLUG after returning back to India. After working in corporate environment for 13 years, he has recently quit his job at Avaya. He plans to have his own business some day, but currently looking to be associated with some Pune based start-up as a consultant. He thinks Pune Tech is cool