Monthly Archives: June 2011

Event Report: TechSparks Pune 2011

(This is a live-blog of the TechSparks 2011 event in Pune. Since it is being written as the event happens, please excuse the typos, and the general low quality of the writing. Hopefully the quality of the speakers and the content will make up for that.)

Some interesting statistics. The event is at Dewang Mehta Auditorium, and it’s mostly full – which means that there are about 250 people attending. And apparently 2/3rd of them are entrepreneurs. And most of them are first-time entrepreneurs. Less than 1/3rd appear to be developers/techies.

The rest of this article is broken up into sections according to the different talks at this event.

Story of VSS Mani, JustDial

  • “I am a TamBram, so probably there has not been a entrepreneur in my family for 100 generations.”
  • He first started “AskMe” in 1989. Ran out of money in the first two years – too many meetings in 5-star hotels, and too many high-quality, high-salary employees. And since he was the sole breadwinner of his family, he had to go do something else to earn money. So, JustDial really started in 1996.
  • This incarnation of JustDial did not repeat the mistakes of AskMe – so the first office was tiny – 300 sq. ft., and did not move to a bigger place unless absolutely necessary. Rented everything possible, including chairs, tables, computers, and even LAN network cables.
  • Focused on many small customers (instead of a few large customers). And took money in advance. Helped with cash-flow (because there was little VC money in India at that time, and none at all for a new business model.)
  • When the dotcom bust of 2000 happened, most internet based companies collapsed, but JustDial was only minimally affected, because they had been conservative about betting on the internet.
  • Decided to bet big on voice enable local search and marketing around 2002.
  • Met a VC, who told them that he wasn’t interested in their existing business, but would fund them if they converted to a BPO. This convinced them to not pursue VCs any more. This remained true until 2006, at which point a VC approached them, heard their story and signed a term sheet the next day.
  • They finally launched the web-based version in 2007. Lost of internal conflicts about whether to do this – because of the fear that the internet business would cannibalize the voice based business. Interestingly, their internet business grew like a hockey stick, and at the same time the voice-based business continued to grow at the same rate as before.
  • Rode the telecom penetration and internet penetration wave on the way to fantastic growth.
  • It appears that further growth in metros is not possible because the market is already saturated. But, India is not just a metro-based market. JustDial will go to all the small cities.
  • The JustDial WAP site is growing at a tremendous pace.
  • Apps (Android/iPhone/Blackberry) are being launched next month
  • Throughout the journey, there have been naysayers. The second time he re-started JustDial, everyone told him that it was a bad idea to re-start a failed business. When they launched the web-based version, people told them that they were not a tech company, and would fail in this segment. Now the same story is repeating with their app-based business that they’re launching in the US market. (What they’re seeing that “human assisted search” is finding a lot of takers in that market – where talking to actual humans is rare.)
  • has the largest number of reviews and ratings in the world – 2.5 million. The secret sauce? Most people don’t actually go online and give reviews. Most online review sites have paid staff generating “reviews”. JustDial calls their voice customers back for ratings/reviews and then uploads them to their site.
  • It’s difficult to give one-line advice to entrepreneurs. But here’s an attempt: Remember, entrepreneurship is different. It’s not like a regular job. It’s a calling. So don’t do it unless you have it in you. It has to come from inside. Not because someone told you. Or copying someone else. And remember, there will be lots of failures. And learn from them. Don’t do minor, incremental things that copy someone else’s idea. Do something disruptive. Don’t do coupons.

Sanjay and Kailash Katkar, QuickHeal Technologies

  • “We are not seasoned entrepreneurs. We don’t yet feel that we have learnt everything. We are making mistakes everyday. We’ll try our best to tell you what we’ve learnt until now.”
  • Kailash Katkar’s entrepreneurial journey started in 5th standard. Over time did various minor things like screen printing, radio repairing, TV repairing. Was earning Rs. 2000 per month doing this, when he was offered a job for Rs. 400 per month – to repair calculators. He took that job because he wanted to learn the new technology. He was the only person in Pune who could repair calculators. Moved on to repairing other machines, including ledger posting machines. When his boss decided to close that business, he decided to take over that business.
  • In early 1990s he realized that computers were going to replace calculators and ledger posting machines. Decided that he needed to refocus his business on computers. Based on this, convinced his brother, Sanjay, to go for a degree in computers (BCS).
  • While doing computer repairing, he got lots of requests for fixing computers infected by viruses. Got Sanjay to write utilities for this. For example, a utility to kill the Michaleangelo virus. Started selling collection of such utilities to his customers.
  • Clubbing together all these utilities into a single product resulted in the birth of QuickHeal anti-virus software.
  • Convinced Sanjay to not take a regular job, not go to US, but instead, to join him so that they could do something different together.
  • Everybody told them that it was a bad idea to do an anti-virus product business, to go against the MNCs who had products in this space. However, the Katkars never really had that much of focus on the big picture – they only had a passion for helping their existing customers.
  • While studying for his MCS, Sanjay Katkar, in his free time, built the first version of QuickHeal, all by himself. He did not start with the intention of building an anti-virus product. He started playing with viruses and anti-virus utilities just out of interest.
  • They were late entrants in this business. In addition to the big MNCs who were selling anti-viruses in India, there were 7 or 8 Indian companies doing anti-virus products.
  • They earned money from the computer maintenance business and used it to develop the anti-virus product. And the main focus was customer satisfaction. For example, lots of organizations were using Norton Antivirus or McAfee. The software would detect files with virus, and then suggest that the infected files should be deleted. This worked in the US, because there were backups to restore the files from. In India, this never worked, because nobody bothered with backups. Hence, QuickHeal were able to actually win customers by offering versions of anti-virus which would clean existing files.
  • When the software was ready for the market, they found it very difficult to sell it. Because “buying” software was a new concept for Indians. Also, their sales partners were very comfortable selling hardware, but not with selling software. Lots and lots of effort went into educating not just customers, but also sales partners that buying anti-virus software was worth the money.
  • The Katkars were techies, not sales or business people. But their sales partners gave up on selling software, saying it couldn’t be done. So they had to do it themselves. Learn the hard way.
  • Other examples of how QuickHeal’s superior understanding of local customers helped them beat the MNCs: most Indian companies had much lower internet speeds compared to the assumptions that software from US companies made. Hence, QuickHeal, which was customized to the speeds here, was able to give a better customer experience.
  • Find good people who are committed to giving a good customer experience. Then give them a good package. And then educate them about the business. Give good after sales support (that’s how you beat the MNCs).
  • When expanding beyond Pune, they decided not to go to big cities. It is very expensive to develop the market, and you’ll probably not be in a position to make a splash. Better go to small towns where you’ll be noticed more easily. So they went to Baroda first, and then Surat, and other such places before finally going to Ahmedabad – where it was easier for them to get channel partners because they had already been noticed in the other, smaller cities in Gujarat. Today Ahmedabad is of course a bigger market than the other cities, but they couldn’t have tackled Ahmedabad without having taken the smaller cities.
  • If you are going to start a tech startup, you must have two strong pillars in your company – a very strong technology/engineering team, and a very strong marketing/business team. The other departments (finance, HR, etc) are support. But don’t start a company without having these two departments. If you’re a typical Pune entrepreneur, you’re probably a techie. Go find co-founders from the marketing/business side so that side is also strong.

There was an introductory talk about Cloud Computing at this point. Skipping it because it was too basic. Please check back around 5:30pm for the next update from the panel discussion.)

Panel Discussion – Go to Market for Startups

The panelists are:

  • Probir Roy, founder of Paymate
  • Sachin Kelkar, Head of Intel Software Partner Program
  • Shailesh Lakhani, from Sequoia Capital
  • Kris Nair, Partner, Opdrage Venture Partners
  • VSS Mani, Founder of JustDial

There where various questions and answers – I’ve tried to capture some of the more interesting quotes:

  • (Shailesh) It should not be easy to raise money. Lots of people who ask for money don’t deserve it. At early stages, people invest based on the people and not on the idea, because the idea isn’t really worth anything. And that’s the job of angel investors. Angels are slowly increasing in India.
  • (Mani) Focus on doing the best with you already have. Focus on existing customers and keep them happy. Don’t focus on what you could do if you had money. Forget the fancy stuff. Align the interests of your early employees with the interests of the company. So they should see that if the company does well, they do well.
  • (Mani) Don’t wait for a miracle to happen. Don’t wait for an angel to appear. Just focus on ensuring that your tomorrow is better than today. Focus on a small, core set of customers, and keep them happy. They will become your evangelists, they’ll get you more customers, and they’ll help you get investors.
  • (Shailesh) In deciding whether to invest in a company, we look at the size of the potential market, and a good (strong, intelligent, thoughtful) team.
  • (Probir) Entrepreneurs look for new business models. MBAs help administrate existing business models. Know the difference!
  • (Probir) Chances of you getting VC funding in India are low. So keep looking for alternative funding models.
  • (Mani) Timing is very important. We had a brilliant idea (JustDial) in 1989, and even had money. But it failed because it was way before its time. Analyze carefully whether your idea is before its time.
  • Brilliant question from audience. An entrepreneur (from SpotMyGadget) just got up and asked this question (without waiting for permission of the moderator): “How shameless should an entrepreneur be when approaching clients/etc?” Answer, from Mani was – as shameless as possible. But remember to deliver a good/relevant product in the end.

Rails Hackfest: Build a Citizen Empowerment webapp in a weekend – 11 June

Gautam Rege writes:

Pune Rails Meetup announces Hackfest: Citizen Empowerment web app for better governance.

After the post-adrenalin Rush of RubyConfIndia, we are proposing a HackFest which will get us all together to build a web-app. We cannot accommodate more than 25 people for this – so be quick to decide!

Come and go as you please at your convenience — The Hackfest is on for 48 hours!

The Brief

This is a web app to empower citizen’s to create ‘projects’ for better governance in your locality or city. For example, ‘Anna Hazare’s Anti-corruption’ campaign or the ‘Proposed Metro in Pune’ or the ‘Failure of BRTS’ or the ‘Tree Plantation Drive in Baner’, “How to Save Ramnadi” etc.

Projects can be Issues in your locality that you want the Government to look into or new Ideas to improve the locality or city that the Government should undertake. Using Viral Social Media, we can involve various representatives (RTI activist, social workers and government representatives) to take this up to the next level.


In true Aussie spirit, this Hackfest is being sponsored entirely by Peter Spiers. This project is his idea and he is keen to see how much the Pune Ruby community can deliver!

He will be providing for Beer, pizzas and soft-drinks throughout the duration of the Hackfest.

The Hackfest

The hackfest scope, stories have already been outlined and updated on Pivotal Tracker! Those interested can RSVP for this meetup. If you are interested in the pre-planning process (design, architecture, stories etc.) please send an email to Peter and he will add you to the project on Pivotal Tracker.

Tentatively, this is what we are looking at:

  • Rails 3.0.x and Ruby 1.9.2
  • MongoDB as the data store
  • Devise + Omniauth for authentication
  • Cancan for authorization
  • Mongoid-geo for geo-location.
  • HAML & Sass for templating.

If you are interested in learning or contributing, don’t miss this event.

When, where, how

This event will start at 10am, on Saturday June 11 (tomorrow), and will continue for 48 hours. It will be in the offices of Webonise Software, Mantri Lavendula, Survey No. 52/4/B/2 of Village Bavdhan Khurd Pune.

You can join at any time, and leave at any time. The event is free. It is also officially “closed”, but that shouldn’t really stop a passionate Rails hacker from being able to attend. Just contact the organizers Gautam Rege, Anthony Hsiao or venue sponsor Shardul Mohite and plead until they allow you in.

See the Pune Rails Meetup page for details.

Two tech events for Mobile Developers this Saturday in Pune

Mobile apps are the next big thing. There is no question about that. So now is the time to learn Android or iPhone development, or if you already are an Android developer, then to meet other developers and exchange ideas.

First for Android developers – The folks behind the Pune Android Developers List have started a series of meetups of developers in Pune interested in Android, and this Saturday, 11th June, is the first meetup of this group. For now the agenda is to mainly figure out the interests of the members, and other such things. The meeting will be from 4pm onwards, at the Barista coffee shop on Law College Road. The people organizing this meeting are Aditya Laghate, and Shrenik Vikam.

The second event is organized by Tech Next, a group started by @Rohit Ghatol, with the idea of having tech talks on a monthly basis. The first in event in this series will have three speakers giving introductory talks on iPhone and Android development. This event is also on Saturday, 11th June, at 4pm. It will be at Synerzip office, 3rd Floor, Revolution Mall, next to CityPride Kothrud. For more details see the meetup page for this event.

Both these events are free for anybody to attend. You must register. For the Android Developers meet, register here and for the Tech Next intro to iPhone/Android meet, register here.

Event Report: CEO Mohit Dubey

(This is a live-blog of the TiE Pune talk by Mohit Dubey, Founder and CEO of This is essentially an unorganized collection of interesting/insightful statements made by Mohit during his talk.)

  • “, the story so far: Started in 2005, seed funding in 2006, hit break-even point in 2007, series A funding in 2008, got acquired in 2010. So far, the website has served 3,12,68,180 people.”
  • “Nobody gave me a job. So I had to start my own company”
  • “I was never really good at coding. But I was good at jugaad, and co-ordination. I did an ecommerce course, but at the end I wasn’t good enough to create an ecommerce website. I convinced my teacher that she should do the website, and she would get a certificate of having worked on an industry project, which will help you in your career.”
  • “I am not a genius. I took a two-year drop but did not get into IIT. None of my colleagues in are geniuses. We’re all ordinary people. Who stayed together for a long time. Ordinary people + Years of effort together = Success.”
  • “If you have a purpose, it’s easier to find soulmates.”
  • “For two years, we kept trying to do tele-medicine. But that never really took off. In the meantime, we kept doing software work for anybody we could. Everything we did failed. Co-founders never complained, because we had a relationship.”
  • “Commitment is more important than competence. Sticking together is more important.”
  • “‘We’ll pay you whatever we can pay, whenever you can pay’ was the salary offered to Gaurav.”
  • “In 2005, I went to Bombay to figure out what to do. I told my team to give me 2 months to figure something out. Otherwise we’ll close down the company. I got a Rs. 10000 contract to build a website for a used car dealership. I spent 3 months understanding the business. My team wondered why I was spending 3 months for a Rs. 10000 contract. But the software that we built for the used-car dealership, we started selling to other used-car dealerships. At this point, I was given the advice that I was trying too many things, and wanted to do everything. I should focus. So I decided that I would focus only on automobiles. And thus was born. My team (8 people) disagreed with me, but I decided that they were wrong.”
  • “I sold the software to 30 dealerships. And after a while realized that none of them were using the software to sell cars. We decided that something was wrong. And changed the model within 10 days. We decided to take it to the customers directly ourselves.”
  • “Done is better than perfect. If you launch a product and it is bug-free, you waited too long to release it.”
  • “The purpose is fundamental. The purpose helps you get the right time. Cash? Go to spouse, parents, relatives, friends. If you can’t get money from them, how will you get it from strangers? Also HNIs and Angels. Everybody who was rich in Bhopal, I approached them for money. You need to be able to do that.”
  • “For funding purposes, we made a 60-page business plan. But with the strategy changing every 2 weeks, it was difficult to keep the 60 pager updated. So we went down to 5 pages, and even that was a problem. So we brought it down to 2 pages. What worked? 5 line email which resulted in a reference; and the reference really did it.”
  • “Everything takes longer. 2x or 3x. So stay optimistic about building a valuable company, not about the launch, or hiring, or a big client, or funding, or anything specific.”
  • “Things can change quickly. When that happens, we don’t wait for a weekly meeting, or a monthly meeting, or a big company meeting to decide. We have a quick huddle, and take a decision”
  • “These are the four core values of our company: 1. Treat Others Well. 2. Be Responsible. 3. Be Agile. 4. Company Before Self. These should be qualities you already have before we hire you. These are more important than ‘standard’ things like customer satisfaction.”
  • “By 2020, one of the world’s top 3 online auto companies is going to be from India.”
  • “We had no cash in the bank. I remember going to a dealership one day with no money, and I was thinking that I must make a sale today, and ask them to pay some money in cash upfront. That sort of a situation really helps focus your efforts.”
  • “To share equity in the company, I had a very simple method. Early in the company, you have no clue which co-founder is going to be most important. And the guy with the idea does not deserve more equity – the idea is not important, at all. The best answer is distribute equity equally. You’ll get better commitment that way. For early employees, the people who join the company within the first 6 months, I allocate 7.5%. A total of about 20% to be allocated to all your employees.”
  • “Today if someone wants to create an online store, there is no need to do a website. Just create a facebook page.”
  • “When writing content, focus on the user. Do SEO and SEM, but write content for the user, not for Google.”
  • “There are very, very few tech companies that need to operate in stealth mode. Everybody else should stop being secretive and talk about their idea in full detail with VCs etc. Your execution, your company culture, your method of hiring, cannot be copied. Startups have a DNA which allows them to move very fast and take decisions quickly. Big companies cannot do that.”

WikiPuneri Meetup – Lots of visitors from out of town – 4 June

There’s a Wikipedia meeting in Pune tomorrow (4th June, at 6pm, at SICSR, Model Colony), and anyone interested in becoming either a campus ambassador or generally contributing to Wikipedia (specially things like adding/editing pages about India or Pune, contributing to Marathi or Hindi Wikipedia, etc) should attend. A lot of visitors from other places in India, and abroad are visiting, so this is a unique opportunity to meet and ask questions to people who are prominent in the Wikipedia movement.

This meeting is free for anybody to attend, but registration is necessary. Send your confirmation to: with subject: Attending Pune meetup.

More details:

Ashwin Baindur writes:

Hello friends,

There is a lot happening in Pune next week. We have a lot of visitors in town who would especially like to interact with the Pune Community. Our help and cooperation has been sought for the Campus Ambassador training event next weekend. Our MEETUP DATE IS NOW CHANGED FROM 11 JUN TO 04 JUN 2011 (Saturday) at 1800 hours at SICSR, Atur Centre, Model Colony. Room No 704. 7th floor. Hisham Mundol, National Program Coordinator, who is leading the Campus Ambassador programme, will be in Pune for a week for masterminding the event. Bishakha Datta, Trustee, will be gracing the event on Saturday. Tinu Cherian, the quintessential Indian outreach activist, will also be coming for and participating in the meet – a rare treat for us. I spoke to Arjuna Rao Chawala and he has promised to confirm attendance by an Indian Chapter representative soon.

We have a number of people visiting us from abroad. Frank Schulenburg, Head of Public Outreach and Annie Lin, who leads the Ambassador Program are visiting Pune for the Campus Ambassador training event on 04-05 Jun 2011. We also have P.J. Tabit coming down to India between June 1st and August 21st to support the launch of the Wikipedia India Education Program. PJ is a Campus Ambassador in the US and is on the Ambassador Steering Committee for Wikipedia. We, the Pune community, welcome Frank, Annie & PJ to Pune and hope they have a wonderful stay. We also welcome any members of the Wikimedian community in India from outside Pune who are going to be with us for this event. Do let us know if we can help you in any way.

Broadly speaking, the campus ambassadors will be trained on 4th and 5th Jun by the outreach team comprising lndian and foreign Wikipedians. In the evening on Saturday, the campus ambassadors and the outreach team will be present for our meetup. After the meetup, the Outreach Team has invited the Pune Wikipedia community for a SOCIAL EVENING WITH DINNER. Venue for social evening will be indicated at the meetup.

Coming to another issue, the Campus Ambassadors themselves.

The first batch of Campus Ambassadors has been selected. To those selected, we say – heartiest congratulations, you will shortly be learning to edit and to evangelise Wikipedia. It is a most challenging task and we assure you of the community’s support. We invite you to be part of our community and we promise to help you, guide you and partner you in this extraordinary journey you will undertake. We also know that some other aspirants have not been selected this time round. In most cases, this is due to their lack of Wikipedia skills. To all of them we say – there will be another round of selection coming up in a few months, so have a great heart and wait. The fact that all of you stood tall and came forth means you already belong to the select batch of people who are doers and achievers. We, the Pune community, invite you to join us for this meetup and become part of us. We will help you get the skills to make you ready for the next round of selections.

Many of you all who are interested in becoming Wikipedians are requested to join all of the above :

Also please join the following groups on Facebook:

IMPORTANT: All those attending the meetup from Pune (excepting those selected for the Campus Ambassador program or those organising the event or visiting from outside Pune) need to confirm attendance so that we can plan accordingly. Send your confirmation to : with subject: Attending Pune meetup. Those not attending need not respond. So till then, Au revoir & Namaste, Khuda Hafez and Sat Sri Akal,

Jai Hind
Ashwin Baindur

TechSparks Pune: Founders of JustDial, QuickHeal, Paymate and much more – 11 June is holding a half-day event for entrepreneurs, on 11 June, in Pune titled “Out of the Garage, Into the Market”. The event includes a few talks and a panel discussion, and the line-up of speakers and panelists is very impressive. VSS Mani, founder of JustDial, Kailash Katkar and Sanjay Katkar, Founder and CTO respectively of QuickHeal, Probir Roy, co-founder of Paymate, will be there. So will Shailesh Lakhani, a VC with Sequoia Capital.

This seems to be a must attend event for entrepreneurs in general, and more specifically, those interested in building a tech product/web-service in India.


  • Keynote Addresses
    How to dial the right number – The “JustDial” Story by Founder, VSS Mani
    How to build a Global product enteprise – the “QuickHeal Technologies” Story by Founder Kailash Katkar and CTO, Sanjay Katkar
  • Cloud for Startups by Janakiram MSV, Technology Evangelist, India, Amazon Web Services
  • Go to Market for Startups – by Prashant Choksey, co-founder Mumbai Angels
  • Interact with the panelists:
    • Probir Roy, Co Founder, Paymate
    • VSS Mani, Founder, JustDial
    • Vimalraj Abrahman, IBM,Strategy and Marketing, ISV and Developers Relations, India
    • Shailesh Lakhani, Sequoia Capital
    • Kris Nair, Partner, Opdrage Venture Partners
    • Shradha Sharma, Founder, YourStory
  • Followed by Open House ( Q&A) and Networking Over Snacks

About TechSparks Regional Roundable meetings

These ‘Out of the Garage, Into the Market’ regional round tables are being held in Delhi, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad and are a way of engaging with the entrepreneur community all over India, and also serve the purpose of generating visibility for the TechSparks 2011 Event in Bangalore in August (described later in this article).

Each Regional RoundTable is characterized by two focussed activities -a Panel Discussion featuring key stakeholders in the startup ecosystem and an Open House where entrepreneurs will be given the opportunity to ask any question to any panelist and engage in meaningful discussions and not just be a spectator.

The idea is to have an absolutely open interaction over the topic of discussion, which will be – ‘Out of the Garage, Into the Market.’ Most product technology companies face a lot of teething problems with respect to their go-to-market strategies. There are no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions and hence, it’s an area where entrepreneurs need all the help that they can get and much more. Through the collective might of a panel full of ‘rockstars’, the TechSparks Regional RoundTable intends to support startups by helping them kickstart their product’s journey. In short, the RoundTable intends to help startups get their products ‘out of the garage and into the market.’

What is TechSparks 2011?

TechSparks is a a pan-India hunt for Product Tech startups that have the potential to scale and grow, that may need a push, and that are holding promise. The tech startups identified in this program would be provided national recognition, genuine support and meaningful networking opportunities.

For more details, including how to apply, selection criteria, and timelines see the TechSparks webpage

Fees and Registration for TechSparks Regional Roundtable Pune

The event will be held from 2pm-7pm, at the Dewang Mehta Auditorium, Persistent, SB Road. This event is free. Please register here (click on “Register Now” button).