E-Boot Camp@IWSB – Eurekas, WOWs and Tête-à-têtes with Entrepreneurs and Investors

E-Bootcamp at IWSB Campus

E-Boot Camp at IWSB on Dec 4, 2010.

IWSB campus not only wore a festive look but also had many eager learners from various institutions and corporate who were there to listen, interact, participate, share their ideas and seek opinions and advise on their ideas.

It was an amazing day the budding entrepreneurial aspirants for sure, but the dozen wizened entrepreneurs and investors, who took time off to spend their precious time to be at the event, were left inspired by the eagerness of the students and entrepreneurial aspirants.

There were three panel discussions and interactions followed by a session by Sreeni – “Think Big, Start Small”, that focused on breaking the myths about ‘starting a business with sophisticated ideas and big money that we want’

The first of the panel discussion had three eminent personalities – Girish Batra (Alum IIMA), Founder, NetAmbit; Vivek Agarwal (Alum IIMC), Founder, Liquid and eGurucool; and Gagan Kumar (Alum IIMB), Accel Partners,  representing the world of ‘investors’. The session was moderated by Girish Batra.

The second panel had Shantanu Prakash (Alum IIMA), founder Educomp; Gautam Puri (Alum IIMB) co-founder CL;Sreeni (Alum IIMB) co-founder CL and Director IWSB;

The third panel had  Vivek Bihani (Alum IIMB) and Co-founder Magic Software and Founder InSync advisors and Arindam (Alum IIML) Director IWSB and co-founder CL

Here in is the capture of the first panel discussion on “Opportunities – discovering one”

The inaugural address with the first panel - Girish, Gagan and Vivek

Moderator – Girish : Q. How do you create an Idea? How do you think about being an entrepreneur? What is the motivation of becoming one?

Me too challenges are higher. Thinking need to be unique. How do you chase about going ahead.

Capital and manpower are challenges in the initial stages. Examples are few, resources are limited, less control on resources, capital, challenges you go through; can you anticipate some of them, how do you bring risk mitigation;

Gagan –

Discount whatever I say, since I am only a facilitating person. Girish and Vivek have created business

Why become an entrepreneur in the first place? Even if you have taken a call, it is a fashion today to say I want to be an entrepreneur!!

Vivek –

That is the basic question. It cannot be over emphasized. Why are we getting into this?

I was reading a quote – “Lot of start-ups do not succeed. Those who succeed are the happiest people in the world” –

You have got to select a problem to solve. And if you do, you will make huge monies. You are wondering what next. It is worth taking a shot. Not having to say later on, why have I not taken the shot? I never really wanted to do it, because never wanted to say to my children – “ I did not try”

Gagan –

I was at IIMB a couple of weeks ago at an entrepreneurial event – you need to evaluate first why you want to get into it. It is going to be a grind.  70 Lakhs additional people joining Facebook every month, what could have been the initial motivation? It is paying dividends now, after all the grind put the people behind.

You can go to corporate, enjoy life, 5-9 job. So if you are convinced of a job you should go there. Go only when you are going to enjoy..

I also look at Satya – Way back in 1993, I thought as much as many others ‘Eh kya karega, padhayega ‘(what is this fellow going to do? Teach?). We all were ridiculing in those days. Look at today, we think “arey yaar hame kyon yeh vision nahin tha!”

You need to be prepared for a number of challenges …I am sure Satya will have hundreds of stories to tell..

Girish –

When I look back, in 1999, when I took this challenge.. I felt I was looking for happiness. Lot of times our actions are determined by what we do…  Now 4000 people strong, may be 7000 people strong pretty soon..

It feels good to see giving back to the society.

So questions are – What is your aspiration? What you are looking at? I was speaking to a friend from IIMA. I realized that his aspiration is not to scale up. If you really want to do business, your path should be clear – the actions you take, the plan you want to follow.. Yes, luck does play some role too…

What is the end-goal in your mind and start working towards it. What would you be like when you are 40-45?

Moderator – Girish : What do you think makes an Idea succeed?

Gagan –

Team, market size of the idea, customers tracking, scalability, certainly differentiating factors, what works, who pays for it… so many questions to be explored

Last 2 years we have done 20 odd investments at the seed stage.

At most of the companies what they are today was not what they started with..

  • A Social networking company, started off well… but today it is SAS platform for recruiters.

No idea is bad. It may not be fundable initially but if the idea can make some segment happy about using the product or service, I am sure the Idea will succeed eventually.

Vivek –

Another way of what they are sharing is..

There is a lifestyle business. One gentleman came and was speaking to me. He is aggregation of courses for people. Do you want your son to take over your business at some time? He said yes. Perhaps he is in a lifestyle business… it is a family-centric approach.

Pursing one idea aggressively. You may want to corporatize. If it works fine, else you may to shut shop. In this model you may have partners and in terms of product and people may grow huge..

No bad ideas, as Gagan mentioned. When I started eGurucool, we prepared a vision of what we wanted to do. We spoke to investment bankers. We were discouraged from raising funds, since everyone asked for documentation of idea and plan … How can we send it across, someone may copy it. It was stupid, we realized later. How will anyone fund without sharing your ideas?

There were 75 companies that were working on the same idea. We raised capital and we executed better. If you are the only one working on an idea, perhaps then the idea may not be with potential. Google guys were willing to sell the idea to yahoo and but yahoo thought it was too expensive and not worth it… now look at google, when they executed the idea!

Good Idea with bad execution does not succeed. But a bad idea with good execution can take it long.

Look at what your interests are.

Two of my friends set up an HR firm. Why will anyone fund you?  Software platform that will reduce the work; I had asked how will you do it without a techie.

Steve jobs said “Steve wozniac; I got a techie to be my co-founder”

So first know what you really like and what you do not have and get people with that expertise…


Execution is the key to success. It is a lot about being practical, pragmatic and you should have your eyes and ears close to the ground. You need to have the ability to learn fast and quick. Name of the game is execution.

If you have an idea where there are already a few players, kindly find gaps – product side, services side….

Always go to people who have experience in your domain to get their opinions. Bouncing off with people. Do not be hesitant to share idea. The real success is in execution and not in just idea. Idea has to be good, but execution can make a killing out of even a mundane idea, else we kill a brilliant idea.

E-Bootcamp at IWSB Campus - The audience and the arena


Try out a few ideas in the campus itself. Pool 1000 rupees and create small businesses of selling ICECREAMS, TSHIRTS etc. a lot of learning happens through…


Challenges are plenty. Journey is going to be bumpy. You will not have the support systems you want. You will have to be aware and try how to mitigate the challenges early.

Challenges will be on multiple fold – Supply as well as Demand side ..

  • sourcing raw material
  • people : how do you attract talent; you wear all the caps initially, but how do you attract the people…
  • market side
  • demand side
  • regulatory compliance

You will have bad and good times. How do you take care of personal and emotional challenges.

Moderator – Girish : How will you take care of challenges?

Vivek –

I will share from my experiences –

You have to be convinced and passionate about your idea… you have to be stubborn headed about it. Think that the whole world is wrong…What is the ideal way of building business?

If I were to do a business today, let us take online community business.. If I were a good techie, I will get a good marketing guy or otherwise. I will spend some good money and put the website. I will outsource or get people on contract. Get good feedback from early users and then reach out to the angel investors..

Have a couple of co-founders, with supplementary and complementary skills. Then  keep the costs low

Make sure your expenses are behind the cash flows. Kindly keep raising capital, so that you can move faster

Getting into execution – You will have to be the chief techie, chief peon…. That is the part of the early growth process. It is not going to be easy.

There are a set of trade-offs, it helps you to understand which way you are going..

Let us say you are selling HR software…making recruitment process easier. Girish, may say I need finance also, I am tempted to get that too…It is always good to get your core competence and what you want to build… stick to it..

People – when you hire people, we get equity and … ‘

‘Hire for Attitude, and train for skills’ we need people who are flexible and dynamic. As you grow you need people with grey hair… Getting one good guy than four compromises is better. You may need to even pay him more that what you make for yourself, but just do it.

The eminent visitors sharing a laughter

Gagan –

In campus we hang on with same friends. Try to create teams that are very diverse. Get the complementary skills..

Ego: Who will be the CEO. Whom should I speak to? He should be outgoing, good sales man, he has to be the face of the company; The one who grinds should be COO. Being humble is one of the critical traits we should look for..


We start with our own 2-4 lacs and I do not want to go to anyone else if I want to get 10-15 lacks they may give, with many stings attached. What does the panel have to say about it

Panel –

If you want to have 10 lacs, I think you will have to get it from friends. If you need 40-50 lacs then you may enthuse investors. Get 20-25 lacs from angels; get things going

Prove your idea with your own money before you can convince others…

I feel you need to get rid off “Strings Attached”.

Size of the market? How do you evaluate…

You need to get the size of the market certainly for any idea.. Even if you are coming out with a completely new product, you should understand the need and wants. Estimate what will satisfy and how much will the demand be. Do a survey that will give reasonable data to crunch..

After starting  business after investing 20-30 lakhs and feel I need more money?

I started my business with 1 Lakh. It is a complete misnomer to feel that you need very big investments.

It is important to distinct between personal capital and capital for growth

How do you get on to the good execution?

  1. Two kids – Flipcart – selling books online – we said kaun kharidta hai
  • Showed traffic and transactions
  • Then we took the plunge
  • Entry barriers – A large book store said they already had gone online and they are multiple times of Flipcart
  • But in a couple of months Flipcart became a multiple of the stores
  • Good search engine work
  • So PROOF OF concept is important at the same time keep your eye on costs, that is the key.

  • Does being introvert not help in setting up a business?
    1. It is not about idea, it is all about execution..
    2. No body is going to fund us only on idea..
    3. You need to talk about your idea to a host of others
    1. i.      Customers
      ii.      People to recruit
  • One team that has won many b-plan competitions but has not started the enterprise yet… Conviction and willingness to slog is the key

So if you are an introvert, but have ideas and are willing to work hard, find someone who will front-end your interactions with external world. Because networking and interacting will take your “proof of concept” to the outside world.

(the interaction is not complete, as I had to rush out of the hall).. Will write the other panel interaction in a separate blog

Kindly leave your comments or write to sreeni@iwsb.in


“My Journey” with Girish Batra, Founder; Chairman and Managing Director, NetAmbit ;

Girish, an IIMA grad started NetAmbit in 2002. Now it is a 4000 People Company. Girish was at IWSB campus as part of “My Journey” series to share lessons and learning from his entrepreneurial journey so far. The interactive session with aspiring entrepreneurial leaders was full of questions, questions and more questions from the youngsters. They got a message, “Be eager to welcome new situations, challenges and experiences, to learn and discover what more you can be”

Girish at IWSB

Distribution companies in any vertical are usually larger than the manufacturers, like Wal-Mart is bigger than Unilever. Worldwide there are a few large companies that follow similar business model even in financial space, eg. Brown and Brown (UK).

Indian financial market is of the size of thirty thousand crore. The market is growing at the rate of 30% annually. While penetration levels are just 4%, still the market is 30 thousand crore market. The potential and opportunities are huge. There have been many ‘manufacturers’ of financial instruments, hawked through a few distribution systems (agents, banks). But consumers needed independent credible and trustworthy consultants and advisors who can compare multiple products available and advise them. That is where NetAmbit moved in.

NetAmbit sees itself as equivalent of a food bazaar of financial markets – sells life insurance, general insurance, mutual funds, corporate FDs, Loans, Credit Cards etc. Eighty percent of market in India lives in smaller towns – tier 3 and 4. Seventy six percent of NetAmbit sales come tier 2 and 3 cities. Now NetAmbit has offices with over 6000 workstations and 4000 field agents.

FORBES June 18, story named NetAmbit as the king of ‘non-affinity’ market for their rigorous process driven approach to customer acquisition.

Where did the Journey begin?

Girish wanted to be an entrepreneur, because he wanted to be secure and successful. Only after going to IIMA, he realized entrepreneurship gives opportunity to contribute to the society. He wanted to build a business that will sustain on its own. “Make yourself such a way that you are redundant…,” which charged Girish.

Girish went on to work for Escorts and Godrej for six years, with a yearning to be an entrepreneur. He was in Bangalore, when parents suggested him to take the next step in his life, getting married. Since, Girish harboured ambition to be an entrepreneur, he always thought of marrying a girl who will be working in a govt or PSU, as she can provide the stability whenever he jumps into his entrepreneurial journey. He did jump in, by moving to Delhi from Bangalore. To the surprise of many a family member, he quit his job twenty days before his wedding!! His family and wife have been very supportive. “Family support is the most important to be successful as an entrepreneur,” Girish avers.

Girish, started with one Lakh as his only investment. “Dotcom was crazy in those days. Unfortunately, the valuation was all about clicks and page views, without the existence of brick and mortar, or revenues to back up.” Girish thought of it as a great opportunity, “We thought of providing offline model to hook on to the online models…” So NetAmbit was seen as Offline services for Online businesses!! NetAmbit is all that surrounds the Net!!

“Since I did start with 1 lakh, only way was to earn our bread and butter… the journey began.”

Dotcom economy busted, we had to reorient… We moved into telecom, started looking for distributing telephone connections to SMEs. This business was short-lived, before NetAmbit oriented towards financial markets.

Today, Bessemer’s best performing investment is NetAmbit. Best capital efficiency in their Indian portfolio…

Girish sharing at IWSB

Q. Were you not fearful about failures when you started…

Failures… Lots of them!

One may fear going to the town if it is raining like today, as you may fear traffic jam… what they hell, get out and experience… why fear?

Every morning I have a long list of issues… but I enjoy trying to solve them…I will talk more about failures later.

Q. How does a Consumer behave?

– Consumer wants more at one place, with a lot of advice and help thrown in. So a bazaar type of operations is a better placed one.
– Net-based? 6.5 crore people use internet in India, only buying rail tickets has gained acceptance, everything else is low; that is where the future is, that is at least 15 years away. HDFC does only 10L on the net out of 300 Crore sales of insurance product in a month
– In any industry, various methods of doing business co-exists, but models would differ in cost efficiency, interaction with customer. India is a land of opportunities. 6000 cities of this country is ready for products. If Tata sky/Dish tv is sold today, tomorrow insurance, loans etc will definitely be. Look at SKS micro finance / Grameen bank how they have moved into explore successfully new models at the bottom of the pyramid.

Most of personal loans are sold, not bought – very few walk into a bank and ask for it…

Net Ambit goes to mass market. We do not go to High Networth Individuals (HNI). We need to evolve a model that will have vast potential. We are exploring. Any model that is scalable and cost efficient will make a killing in the future. Opportunities are immense, growth possibilities and challenges are internal to any corporate. If at all there has been a failure, it is because of internal issues – growing faster, not being open, less adaptable, mostly related to the person(s) who are heralding the business… there are immense examples of these in the recent past.

Q. Who were your competitors and what was the market like when you started?
When we started, only competitor was BAJAJ FINANCE…

Q. What is the critical factor in early days of operations?
Cost consciousness is the most important… Need to be very careful in the early days of any business. In fact, it is important at any given point of time. I have known an international bank that prided itself in their early days in India of giving Cappuccino to every guest who visited their branches. Unfortunately, they had to close down their entire operations for reasons of viability!!

Girish interacting with students

Q. How did you manage to get early customers and retain them?
You need to look out for the next customer. There is no formula. Look for the needs of people and figure out.

FORBES article on NETAMBIT… called the kings of non-affinity – June 18, 2010 article. Mckinsey was impressed by our success on this front.

Q. Affinity and Non-affinity marketing?
Affinity – Selling to those who have affinity towards you. Once a customer is acquired, you will move to affinity team that takes care of the customer. It is a relationship building. Once you create the bond and trust, affinity increases. He will keep coming back and also bring a few more of his friends.

Non-affinity is to bring more and more first timers…We have been very successful in this space with our constant follow ups. We are highly systems driven. Every interaction is captured. Data handling and mining is very strong. This is the secret of success of any company. How well you follow through every enquiry. To what extent you go to satisfy the queries and facilitate the customer make the informed decision.

Q. How does your Non-Affinity marketing work?
Visit our office to see how we do. Seek time and visit us. We will be glad to get you guys spend a day at our office(s)

Q. As you scale up, what are the challenges you faced in building people and organization?

Name of the game is keeping people together…

When you build teams, it is very important to hire the right people. Take time in hiring. Reduce the probability of hiring a person who is not a proper fit, culturally.

1. We look for entrepreneurial, high on energy, ethical, humble, risk takers…at higher level. Humility is a keenly sought after value.
2. Trust once your hire, for their abilities and support their decision-making. Back up their failures or rough patch.
3. Look for people with high ‘Internal locus of control’ at any level

Q. Challenges around scaling up – Which cities, where and when, how do you decide ?

1. We look for Market size of the city,
2. If we decide, we do a Hub and spoke model..
3. Decentralize the decision-making and operations, yet keep a close watch to mentor

Q. Initial selection of products and diversification; future plans and challenges

Initially life insurance was just opening up

Future is very promising….market doubling every three years, growing @ 30%
We foresee 7000 people in 2011, going public in 2012, 1000Cr in next 4-5 years… 250crores in 2011.

Challenges are all internal. It is all about how you keep the culture intact and value systems. How do you bind diversity with one single culture. Appreciating the value system and facilitating them to buy in and relate. It is people driven, how you keep them motivated. How fast you hire, efficiently and train them. Whom to hire and when to hire… It may go to 40000 people, I will not be surprised. We need to constantly train on new products and innovation… train and retain is the challenge…. As market leaders, poaching is always lurking around..

How do you handle the hierarchy formation is the key. Ours is almost flat and a very open organization. We need to make sure that bureaucratic thinking does not come seep in.

Q Speaking about Selling

In India, most of the times we fail in how we sell; Sales experience at the front level is very important.

FMCG companies have mastered it. They send every new recruit as a junior sales officer. I got Rs 150 bugs a day – stayed in Rs.50/- a day hotel, though I could have afforded an expensive one. They make sure you understand the market. Even now, I go and meet two customers every month. That is part of our way of doing things..

In sales, people monitor output only unfortunately.. Very few are bothered about input – how much of effort has gone in the acquisition. That is very important. Document each interaction. Break it down and monitor – Number of calls, responses,

We look for a HR person, who has business understanding. He or she needs to understand sales and marketing front end, to identify the people who will do well in our culture and organization.

Q. How do you approach a client? Since you were the first to enter this market, you might have had to invest in educating the customer..

First we understand a client. If he is not well-informed about the market, we start with only one product

Our non-affinity is all about direct marketing. We reach out to over 80 Lakh new customers every month. FORBES called us king of non-affinity. Our processes are very strong therefore our conversions are very high. It is the process culture.

Students sharing their day with Girish

Q. Name of the game in India is distribution. It is the king. Own these channels…
Owning distribution channels is the key to success. Manufacturer’s distribution will always have great cost inefficiency. Neutral distribution channels with customer friendly services will always be cost efficient and can do many things that will hook the customer. You can see what happens in a Food Bazar…

Q. Strategy Vs Execution –

Started inside out – first Delhi then Meerut. But also look at outside in. So it is both ways. You design on paper and start executing. Then you realize how the assumptions have been not to the mark. Make corrections and keep exploring and learning.

Q. How do you cope with failure? How do you continue to be excited?

Do not hesitate to fail. Never be scared of failures, experiment. Take it as a learning opportunity, and do not make the same mistake. Critically analyze failures. Do not lose by operational inefficiency. Do not worry about experimenting new ideas. Challenges are everywhere…

If you are doing new things, you will fail. You should welcome this exploration. If you have stopped failing, what does it mean? It simply means that you are not doing anything new.

Remaining positive is the biggest thing in life. Dhoni is a good example of this orientation. Tendulkar and Kambli, difference between the two has been all about ‘learning from failures.

Q. How often your decisions were data driven and how much was intuition?
When it is futuristic, many a times it is intuition. You have not had experiences or precedence.. Operational decisions are data driven.. People and futuristic is usually intuition. Yes intuition plays a very important role.

We need to add in such a pace that we should be able to service the customer. Their genuine claims are serviced promptly. We will grow as much as we can serve the customers very efficiently. No pointing in growing faster than what we can service.

Q. Building trust among investors?
They trust your business. They look for history, plan, model… Yet, PEOPLE is the most important. They bet on it.

Q. How do you build NetAmbit as a brand?
How does the small town person believe in NetAmbit? They are buying big brands now from NetAmbit, so that is where we are. As Net Ambit becomes stronger, people will start trusting NetAMbit. That is the way the world market has been growing.. Experiences will help one build the brand…

Lot of creating awareness, educating the buyers..

Q. You have not ventured into Equity distribution, why?
Since the market has not been large, small markets do not go for it… we will move very soon..

Q. What is success?
Successful! When a person is happy about self and your peer group starts respecting you, then you can tell to yourself that it is comfortable..


Girish and Satya go back to almost a decade of knowing each other. Girish recalled coming to Career Launcher’s Sant Nagar office in 2001 and seeing crowd there and wondering how to take care of building a culture in an organization…and listening to Satya saying, “you just need to communicate and communicate, the values that are close to our heart.” Girish shared that he simply follows those words he heard that day.

Though, I have heard about Girish, I met him only today. From 2001-2005, I was heading middle-east operations and was hardly in India. Today once more I realized how much I missed the developments and interactions during that period in CL, India operations.

Thanks Girish for visiting IWSB and sharing your insights. Will be in touch.

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