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Problems faced by Pune startups, and suggested solutions

Together, we can solve our problems faster than alone

Together, we can solve our problems faster than alone

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.

Student internships

  • 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)

Presentations :

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 :)

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Comments

10 responses to Problems faced by Pune startups, and suggested solutions

  1. Saurabh Jain says:

    Actually Navin, we were given a quote from Regus – the Connaught place people which was coming to about Rs. 1.2L for 3 people / month. i.e. around Rs. 40,000 per seat.

    This was sometime ago in March – April 2008.

    The other place I’d suggest was Vatika Business Center at Tech Park One – the same place where ThoughtWorks has its office.

    More information here:
    http://www.vatikagroup.com/BusinessCentres/TechParkOne/home.html

    At the same time we inquired, this place was going at about Rs. 15,000 per seat – again not for startups as such.

    Also, the Connaught place is run by Regus.
    More information can be found here:
    http://www.regus.com/locations/IN/Pune/PuneConnaughtPlace.htm?product=offices

    – Saurabh

  2. navin says:

    Saurabh, thanks for the info.

    I’m guessing that the Connaught place rates have gone down since you talked to them, because they quoted much lower rates to us – but inspite of that, it remains too high for startups.

  3. Mohan says:

    Yes, I agree with the problems that startups are facing to get small working spaces, business centers.

    I do have some solutions for you for all those people who are looking for small incubation centers, business centers or plug and play workstations modules.

    If you are interested then kindly get in touch with me at mohankantak@yahoo.com

  4. Rajkumar says:

    Hi Mohan,
    Why don’t you publish the information/solution you have, It would surely help people in taking an informed decision.

    I am looking for an incubation space in Pimpri Chinchwad area.
    Do let me know if anyone is ready to share his Office space or if there is any Commercial Incubation center

  5. Hi,
    I have been working from Pune IT Park, Aundh since March. I believe it is the best place to setup your startup.
    The charges are between 4000 to 6000 per seat. They have cabin spaces for 2, 4, 5, 7, 10, 17, 19, 24 seats. So you can fit in any no. of people. We had two cabins with total 9 seats and we paid total 50K including taxes, excluding internet and phone.
    They manage everything, cleaning, electricity, full power backup, tea/coffee, office keys.

    One phone line per cabin with speaker enabled handset.

    Nice, clean and calm working environment, presentable to and you can present it to your clients. We had the CEO of our parent company visit us and he liked the space very much.

    The bad part is Internet. You must buy atleast 1 128kbps line in each cabin. They have two ISPs: VSNL and Reliance. And both are not stable and does not give you the bandwidth what you are paying for.
    But you have the option to opt for any other ISP. My experience with Airtel has been good, having 256 kbps connection at home for last 7 months watching live news channels.

    Unfortunately, I can not afford it anymore and am now looking for a much much cheaper option, ofcourse I will have to compromise all the goodies we had.

    I am looking for office space for 6-7 people in Aundh/Baner area. I am ok with shared space also.
    Let me know if anyone has any option. We have to move before 31st July.

  6. Santosh Harakamani says:

    Some input on the business centres discussed based on my experience.

    As name suggest business centres here operate same as the ones in Airport lounges, Hotel Lobby with Internet, copier, fax, secretarial services. Here it is extended for short to long term leasing of work places with added services (charged extra). So there is a big catch in for what all you end up paying. No doubt the facilities would be world class and it sounds great to hear the services offered. But basically you pay license fees ( as it is called) for the workstation you use and pay additional charges for everything else. (Like internet, fax, secretary service, Phone set, phone calls made with premium / meeting rooms, parking space, coffee/tea/snacks. Some even charges for the security card need to swipe to use your new office you rented! the space is purely how you request the configuration starting from 1 seater.

    So most of the cases these are used by multinational companies that only have some representatives operating, country heads, regional heads residing in different parts of the country and multinational companies having fairly small presence.

    Also the prices very purely based on your negotiations. Since Oct-Nov 2008 the prices are cut down quite a bit to fill the space.

    Advantages:
    1) With very short notice you can add/delete number of seats unlike the warm shell where you need to commit 11months or some realtors ask 5 yrs also.
    2) It is surely a great ambience 3star+ category.
    3) As a start up one does not need to think on admin part (security, ISP, electricity, new connections, house keeping, etc). One can spend their energy only where it is required as a start-up.
    4) You can start off within a day’s time if space is available and you are ready to pay.

    Drawbacks –
    1) huge cost. It can even go more than the salaries.
    2) Lots of hidden costs unless taken care and negotiated upfront in the initial contract.
    3) Lack of privacy. Although there is enough promises by the centres to maintain confidentiality, practically it does not work since you are sharing the space with others. This can be an issue especially if companies are in IP /core technology/product areas.
    4) the level of attention from Centre changes depending upon if they are expecting some bigger customer for more seats.
    5) You tend to feel you are always a guest there.

    Even the Aundh IT park incubation is of same model but much less cost due to some obvious differences in ambience/space of cubicles. I don’t mean to comment on which is better but one decides what is right choice based on the need at that moment.

    There are quite some new small/medium office spaces around last leg of baner rd and I guess some are even offering more like a business centre concept (like dedicated house keeping, internet, etc) but here the space leased in Sq feet. So may be few start-ups can join to explore.

  7. Just to add to Santosh’s reply, Business Centers like Connaught Place near Pune Railway Station or the one on Hingewadi are best suited for very small teams of sales or MNC executives. The prices are like 13000 to 8000 per seat. I have been to Panchsheel Business Center in hingewadi, It is like a 4 star business hotel so definitely not a good option for startups.

    There are several small IT parks around baner rd but none of them is really giving space for 5,10 or 15 seats. All are available as 3000 sqft or higher. The per sqft cost starts with 50 and can go upto 110.

    If you search you should be able to find small offices in small commercial buildings with cubicles ready but may not have chairs or Internet and surely no powerbackup. I have got two such options in Baner/Aundh area and I have to choose one based on the rent,power cut frequency and the noise level.

  8. Mohan says:

    Hi,

    Full Furnished space with 100% DG Backup is available at Nashik Phata, Old Pune-Mumbai Highway at reasonable rates. The space was previously occupied by renowned IT Company. 10/15-20 seater space is available.

  9. randhir says:

    Hi

    I have a place at connaught place which is much better then Regus in terms of signage.

    I would be willing to discuss this and do my best to provide a place ideal for incubating start ups at attractive terms

    I have some other places too which can be considered

    Pls write to me at randhir.sinha@gmail.com or call me at +91 9922407432

    Rgds

    Randhir

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