Should I start up on my own? (Times of India, July 24, 2000)
I get mails from many of you seeking opinion on whether or not you should start on your own.
Possibly bitten by the recent Dot.Com bug and many success stories like HotMail and IndiaWorld,
you dare to think different. It is indeed a welcome development that young Indian entrepreneurs like
you think of this option. The climate (political, technological and economic) is right; India in general
and Bangalore in particular are accepted destinations for such activities. So it is good to think of a
“start up” now. But you should be clear about the issues involved.
The positive things first
Starting up an IT related company is relatively easy – there are very few Government controls. If you
have a great idea, get a company name registered with Registrar of Companies. They even have a CD
for you to check if the name you want is available; they are “modern” enough to accept company
names likes “XYZ.Com”. You need to rent a small premise good enough to place a set of computers.
Computers and software are the only “equipment” you might need to start the activity. Luckily, they
are very affordable. Power is a problem, but computers do not consume much power. You can
manage with batteries, inverters, gensets.. Government regulations permit you to have such
“software factories” located anywhere, including residential areas. Government Departments like
Software Technology Parks of India are so “user-friendly”, that they will give you high-speed access
to Internet at concessional rates, permit you to import computers without paying duty etc., with
minimal restrictions. There are enough IT professionals available in India, whom you can hire and
start your operations real quick. If you need Venture Capital, there are a number of Indian and
International funds readily available –
• Public sector funds like National Venture Capital Fund administered by IDBI, State IT VC funds
like KITVEN in Karnataka
• Private Sector VC funds like ICICI Venture Fund, ILFS Venture Funds
• International VC Funds like Draper, ICF Ventures and even Kleiner Perkins (of Vinod Khosla
You can register the site by paying in Rupees as the Site Registrars like Network Solutions operate in
India. You will get lots of information about start-ups, Business Plans etc from NASSCOM site,
IITB Start-up club, Jumpstart site etc. So you are all set to go.
Let me tell you the “downside” also. Start-up is NOT for the faint-hearted. Nor it is for those with
ONLY greed for money. Gone are the days when VC’s and Angel Investors were ready to write a
cheque for any idea. Gone are the days when you can hope to get your company taken over for “big
bucks” by Satyam, Microsoft, Intel or Cisco. It is sweat, hell lot of work, fierce competition, uncanny
innovation, sustainable business model, “for sure” revenues and returns, technically sound for
scalability and above all an ability to keep your ideas “under wraps” till you get your funding and an
equally challenging task of keeping “your flock” together with the “fire in the belly” for several
quarters, if not years. First you need a solid idea; Internet and Dot.Com are crowded with ideas – is
yours compelling enough to stand out, is the question. Second you need a solid team - CTO to
identify the emerging technologies, CFO to arrange the funds and COO to get the operations going.
You could be all rolled into one; but you need to “wear the hats” as the situation demands. Together
you need to work out a solid business plan and a workable “value proposition”. You need to sell the
idea to the investor. Negotiate the right amount of “stakes” so that you get the “right amount of
money” and the “right proportion of the equity”. Other issues like Branding, Marketing, Positioning
etc., must be “managed” too. You need to constantly “watch out” for the competition and keep
yourself “ahead” all the time. All this would call for guts, leadership and vision.
It is a great time to be thinking of start-up that too in IT-related areas. For a change, it is good to be
in Bangalore or any other town in India. But the advantages can be leveraged, ONLY if you are
determined, hard working, ready to face the challenges and “rock solid” in technology. Strong
technical education like IIT education is a great help; B School education like IIM training helps too
– but they only provide the “early advantage” – you need to go beyond them. Both “technology” and
“business” are getting constantly getting redefined that no School will be able to “teach” you all that
is necessary to start on your own.
If you are brave, adventurous, technically sound, with business acumen, start today. It will be great
fun. Let me wish you the very best. Jump by all means but do assess the depth and your abilities
before taking the plunge.
(The author is the Director of the Indian Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore (IIIT-
B).These are his personal reflections on the IT industry, more so from an Indian perspective.The
inputs are from journals, magazines, sites, newsletters and newspapers. He can be reached at :