Coverage by Bhat Dittakavi of Variance.AI on “Local to Global” by Dr. Srikanth Sundararajan at T-HUB on 25th Jan 2018.
Successful entrepreneurs are happy to share their learnings with the budding entrepreneurs. Some invest in them and some take time out to mentor. However it is extremely rare to find a serial technology entrepreneur turned VC partner give on-demand quality time at scale to Startups and academic institutions. Dr. Srikanth Sundararajan is such a rare gem of net giver.
When we contacted him earlier this morning to invite him for a session in February, he readily offered to come today itself. He is very pro-active in accommodating his schedules to support for the cause of Startups anytime.
Dr. Srikanth started as a researcher at HP and Informix in USA. Then he founded, scaled and successfully exited Pretzel Logic. Later he worked as CTO at HCL, CTO at Cognizant and COO at Persistent. He worked as a venture partner at Helion and is currently a partner with Venturest. He is also a visiting professor at IIT Bhubaneswar.
Dr. Srikanth Sundararajan
Local to global:
Local to global is typically applied to B2B. If you plan to go global, you better have a horizontal problem to solve. How many of you used Remedy? I built the first version of it. Freshdesk is light weight one and is horizontal. The key thing is simplicity and pricing. We need to have a non-heavy product that is easy to implement. You want to see volumes. Long on-boarding is a no no. Little touch points with quick rollout are important. Take Nephroplus which is a dialysis chain. Vikram of Nephroplus made sure he got superior processes and he is fine with not having any IP. He could use data points and has an operationally heavy model that is relevant to india. In order to have a local business go global from being in India, it got to be simple, replicable and easier to implement.
For B2C businesses, taking something local to global is not easy. Take Whatsapp. It needed loads of money to go global. Darwinbox, a HR startup based out of Hyderabad has appealed to global world with its light weight. Same is the case with Quickbooks online.
Q) We are UX company. We did first version of DarwinBox. How do we go global?
Service or hourly based work is a slow climb as you compete with many local players out there in USA. If you have a platform offering such as Adobe on cloud, then it would be better as you can extend the virtual ecosystem.
We have grown Persistent from $10M to where it is now. We took it public. Now it has its own challenges too.
Q) When do you decide local to global?
Live in the culture and be in the culture. Just because you have succeeded in your country, you can’t easily do it in another country. Have networks.
Q) India versus US funding?
Who can write big checks in India? Nephroplus needs big checks for their business model. These are operational needs. Take DarwinBox. I tell them to go to VC fund in USA as that is their target market.
If you have investor from USA but your target audience is here, have a dialogue with US investors to reduce his stake so you can have indian focus if that is where you are heading.
Q) What to do with angels in next rounds?
Get rid of your angels by giving them a premium. Let it be practical. Keep it simple.
We invested in TFS, TaxiForSure. Many said Ola and Uber are the same. Why is it different? Uber is classic share example. 77% of US owned vehicles and only 26% of them have effectively used them and hence there is an opportunity for shared economy there. Ola is into taxi rides. Taxi rides versus shared economy. There was an opportunity for Taxi4Sure and we grabbed. We went aggressive with online taxi booking with some head room for growth and some forward looking momentum. When Uber came to India, they got to morph. How many of us share our own cars? Then we sold TFS to Ola as it gave Ola a head start against Über. In the end everyone is happy.
Q) Any outreach strategy to target physicians?
When you go after physicians, you shall go for non-experts. Don’t target experts and very big names. Budding and not-yet-popular doctors start trusting you as you bring them business. The following is what you need to focus on.
85% of online Lenskart.com
business comes from offline. Ophthalmologists are into healthcare and hence is this example. Ben Franklin got 4000 centres but it got lesser funding than say Nephroplus.
Q) We are into aerial pesticide market. Can I make it a solution or a service to the rest of the world?
You can’t take this to a farmer in Portugal. Cargill as a company has so many modified channels. Leverage on channel partners.
Q) Your take on last mile travel connections?
Is this a scalable offering? Do you want to have customised experiences to travellers in each vertical or offer them all together across? Unless you have horizontal offering, you can’t scale this, else you become a curated market place.
Q) We got global aspirations. We need local partners. How do we engage them?
Have a contractual agreement such as value-added reseller. In some countries, you may need local representations. Have some kind of JV with P&L and you shall be alright. if you go global, please understand you have to have a local partner. Even Whatsapp needs local one at operator level. Global revenue share model has to be clearly explainable to the incoming investors.
I am more aligned with IIIT Hyderabad from very early days than my association with T-Hub.
Q) What do you look for when you invest!
Focus is the key and we ride on some luck.