Category Archive : Venture Ideas

Nikunj’s Wedding and a Business Idea

Over the last weekend, AVF Associate Nikunj married Chandni in a beautiful and intimate ceremony that took place in Vapi. The newly-wed couple looked like they were made for each other and I wish them the best for their married life together!

A bunch of us from Artha attended the nuptials, witnessed many memorable moments and made some amazing memories that included dancing on the streets of Vapi.

One of the things that struck me during the wedding was the omnipresence of the camera crew during the ceremonies and many other moments. Since they were right in the front, they got the best view of everything that was going on. It caused the people behind them to strain their necks just to get a glimpse or end up with a partial view of what was going on.

The obstruction caused by the camera crew who were capturing moments for future viewing actually took away more from the moment than their work could deliver in the future, because:

  1. There was no way that the camera crew could have covered all the angles
  2. 99% of the people that attended the wedding won’t be watching the wedding video. In fact, many of them were trying to capture the moments on their own cameras!

Camera crews are present at almost all Indian weddings and corporate events. The 3-4-person teams usually charge up to 25-30K per day which shows that there is a large enough budget. I do not need to establish the number of weddings or events that take place in a country of 1.2 billion people that have such video crews – so there is a sizeable market to figure out a better solution for!  

Nowadays, everyone owns a smartphone with a decent camera. Hence, it could be a good idea to find a way to aggregate the photos, classify them based on time and place, curate the best ones and eliminate duplicates to provide a wholesome view of the event.

This collaborative project would lead to an amazing collection of some of the never-before-captured moments. It will also give the guests a feeling of having added a personal touch to the special moment of the bride and groom. Quite a power pull. Lastly, it would ensure that all attendees get a full view of every moment of the event.

I did a simple Google search to see if there were any companies working in this area and I found a list of companies curated by Shutterfly but none of them were building it for the Indian audience… maybe it’s time someone did!



Seeking Email Nirvana

I have been looking for a single solution email app for the past 2-3 years but with limited success. On an average, I receive 300 emails per day in my two company accounts and around 100 in my personal accounts.

Until now, I have been training Sanebox to parse these emails and send them into folders based on conditions like-whether I am in ‘cc’ or the ‘to’ field or whether the email is an invoice or a newsletter. Off late, Sanebox has been creating more issues than it is solving. For example, I was in a conversation with a broker in the US who regularly sends me deals. We were deep into a deal when his emails stopped showing up in my inbox. I thought he wasn’t interested in pursuing the matter further until I found out that he had replied, but his genuine email could not be deciphered from his newsletters and went into the wrong folder. This is not a one-off instance because Sanebox has made such mistakes (and vice-versa) many a time.

Another issue with Sanebox’s AI engine is that it won’t send me reminders of emails that have been lying unread or unarchived in folders that it sent them to unless I check those folders myself. The AI also doesn’t allow me to route certain emails to specific people without manual intervention (meetings to my EA, prospects to my team), nor does it automatically put emails from contacts that I am most in touch with, at the top of my contact list. Since Sanebox is a service to analyse incoming emails (and not even a good one at that), it does not provide any help with sending, tracking or scheduling (sending) emails which makes its price quite onerous.

I track emails that I send out to ensure that they have been read and the files or links within them clicked and based on that report I follow-up with the recipients.   

After a lot of research, I honed down on Yesware about a year ago and it is a good solution. But it frequently crashes my Outlook, does not work without an internet connection (i.e. I could not schedule emails when I was on a flight) and surprisingly lacks an option to schedule sending emails, without reopening my Outlook client. To solve that, I switched to Boomerang, which does have a solution to schedule emails but comes at the cost of a horrible tracking feature. So right now, I am contemplating using BananaTag which promises to solve the problem of scheduling emails that I wish to send but doesn’t work from a mobile device.

I would gladly switch to another service but haven’t found any that do half as decent a job as Sanebox on incoming emails or Yesware/ Boomerang/ BananaTag for outgoing emails. That is not saying much for any of them because I wouldn’t give any more than 2 stars (out of 5) for their problem-solving skills. However, I continue to keep Sanebox & company, just like my society keeps the unfit, old security guards because they provide a mirage of security when it’s clear that they are incapable of doing the job that they were employed for.  

So, this morning I thought about what I was looking for in an email client and the list was quite simple.

  1. It should have the ability to combine all my email accounts
  2. Intelligently analyse which ones are important based on my previous conversation history
  3. Suggest responses that match my style of writing
  4. Set automatic reminders for me to answer, archive or delete emails that have been lying in various folders since kingdom come
  5. Reach out to people that I have not spoken to in a long time.
  6. Track how recipients are interacting with my emails
  7. Remind me if an email remains unopened or unanswered (with suggestions)
  8. Schedule sending emails   

I believe this is a problem that is screaming to be solved because almost everyone I speak to, is dealing with some version of stress derived from email overload and if there isn’t a good resolution soon, people are going to start giving up.

Radicati Group estimates that every day over 281 billion emails are sent out (almost 50%of it spam) to 3.8 billion email accounts and this problem is only getting worse. Has anyone figured out a way out of this mess?  Let me know!


Venture Idea: A Vendor Backed Credit Rating System for Corporates

It is hard to gauge the independence of a rating provided by a rating agency since the company being rated is the one who pays the agencies’ fee. So, any agency that gives a company a rating that negatively impacts the company’s business bears the risk of losing the client to a competitor willing to give an insincere but higher rating. Therefore, each time an IL&FS type fiasco takes place (where the rating agency is caught napping), it increases my conviction to find a team that can build an alternative, credible rating system.

One of the reasons rating agencies are out of tune with a business’s current affairs is because audited documents provided to them are already several months old. In contrast, vendors of the same company have a constant finger on the pulse the business, because they frequently transact with the company. A delay or default in payment tells vendors that the business is in financial distress. Although litigation is the next logical solution, vendors have traditionally avoided it due to difficult enforcement and lengthy court procedures. However, this changed under the recent NCLT laws that allow an operational creditor to take a company to court to get its dues quickly.

In many cases, a simple legal notice from the creditor could lead to a resolution because the defaulting party wants to avoid NCLT and the risk of all its creditors demanding their dues. Therein lies an opportunity!

If there was a platform that allowed vendors to create and send legal notices to its debtors and track how many were resolved and how many got taken to NCLT, it could use this information to create a reliability index for companies. These ratings could then be listed on a separate website accessible to vendors looking to trade with a company. A vendor/company looking to do business with a new company can use this platform to assess reliability by viewing a transparent record of the company’s payment history. On the other hand, this will incentivize defaulting companies to clear their dues and improve their rating, thereby attracting better business terms.

A need for this alternative rating system is evident from the 9000 cases that were filed on the MSME Samadhaan platform to recover 2600+ crores. The 50bn owed by Essar Steel to its operational creditors is another prime example and this is the tip of the iceberg, but a massive business opportunity.


Are Capsule Hotels the Future of Indian Hospitality?

The horrendous experience travelling to Hyderabad was definitely salvaged by the quality of interactions I had at the Campden Regional Family Summit. The summit was followed by a co-investment workshop where startups pitched their ideas to a group of family offices for investment. While most of the ventures were the kind that would appeal to patient capitalists, one of them stood out to me. This startup has the potential to open up a blue ocean in the space at the cross-section between low budget business hotels, hostels and solo travelling ie capsule hotels.

With the ability to pack in a large number of beds in a small area, community bathrooms to cut costs, and the capsule design providing an air of privacy that one craves in a hostel, the capsule hotel format brings their customer the best of both hospitality verticals and cost.

The venture that was presented yesterday viz UrbanPods has set up a location in Mumbai. I am planning to stay in their hotel for a couple of days to fully immerse myself in the experience because I truly believe that it is a great business idea for value-conscious travellers in a high-cost real estate market like India.


Who Will Save India from Bad Customer Service

It took a lot of painstaking effort and careful planning to ensure that I would be in my hotel bed in Hyderabad between 11:30 pm and 12 midnight so that I would be fresh for the conference I was attending today. Bad weather coupled with lousy pilot scheduling resulted in a 4-hour delay, most of which I spent sitting on my seat waiting for Indigo to send out a new pilot to commandeer the aircraft. I finally reached my hotel at 3:30 am and fell asleep around 4:30 am thinking to myself whether the airfare I had paid to Indigo was cheap enough for me to endure the toll this lack of sleep would have on my body today. As you might guess, it is not, and will rarely ever be.

It is time that the enterprising youth of our country got together to create a service along the lines of Resolver. It is a known fact that consumer courts have the highest resolution rates in the country; add that to the rapidly growing internet population statistics and a growing consumer market with many new brands and there could not be a better time than today to start such a venture.

Karishma and I have worked on this idea previously and we are very passionate about investing in this space. If you or someone you know is working on this or anything like it… reach out to us ASAP!


The 24x7x30 Networking System

Today is the last day of the Rise 2018 conference. This year’s conference had over 15,000 attendees where I received and handed out over 200 business cards, just like I do at every other conference. However, every time I meet some great people at an event, I end up losing contact with them and it isn’t until the next time I bump into them that we speak again. Tired of consistently failing at my networking efforts, I was determined to figure out a system to keep in touch with the network I formed at Rise. My quest for a system was solved by Gaurav Singhvi, founder of the Financial Supermarket and an Executive Director of BNI Surat.  

Gaurav introduced me to a 24x7x30 system of networking that he learned from Dr Ivan Misner and Brennan Scanlon’s book Avoiding the Networking Disconnect. While I have not had a chance to read the book (it is available on KindleUnlimited for free) I did read Dr Misner’s post on and heard a podcast through which he explains this system. 

In a nutshell, Dr Misner advocates that one should reach out to a person that they have met at a networking event within 24 hours through email or a handwritten note. 7 days later, add them on the social media account that they use most frequently but without an intent of selling them anything. In the next 30 days, try to set up a meeting either in person, via Skype or a GoToMeeting and seek out how can one provide help in their business. This must be done with the intention of relationship-building and not market a product or service. In this way, the contact becomes a part of one’s network and the networking exercise can bear fruit.  

I believe that this system makes more sense than any random system (read: lack of system) that I utilize so I am going to apply it right away and measure my results. If you have utilized this system or know of an alternative, I’d love to hear about it!


Is Hong Kong’s Octopus Card a Model for Mumbai?

I am in Hong Kong attending the Rise 2018 summit.  This is the first time I walked out of the Hong Kong airport and my expectations of this city were based merely on what I had heard about Hong Kong from the people who live here. Little did I know that I was in a for a surprise.

The first thing that I noted about Hong Kong is the lack of digital penetration when it comes to modes of payment i.e. digital wallets, debit cards and credit cards are useless here as Hong Kong thrives on cash as a medium of exchange. My first experience with the lack of digital options started when I tried to get into a cab from the airport to go to my hotel but was denied service as I did not have any Hong Kong dollars on me. I had to go back to the ATM inside the airport so that I could pay the cab service.

Another incident took place when I was trying to buy some groceries from a store at the MTR station and the store didn’t accept any of my cards.  The experience at the bakery a few doors down wasn’t any different. It was a surreal experience considering how deep the digital payment players have penetrated the Chinese and Indian lifestyles and since Hong Kong is supposed to be the gateway to investing in or out of China I just expected digital payments to be universally accepted here. In fact, this peculiarity stumps even the local expats, especially those that often visit China and I think it is a phenomenon worth further investigation.

While I spot an opportunity for a smart founding team to penetrate the Hong Kong payments market, they could face fierce competition from a local closed loop card called the Octopus card. This closed loop card is just like London’s Oyster card or Delhi Metro Smart Card in that,  it allows the user to deposit money to utilise the public transportation infrastructure. However, the interesting thing about the Octopus card is that it is an acceptable mode of payment at most pay points that did not accept digital payment mediums. Take for example this morning, I ordered an amazing breakfast smoothie at the local breakfast place, the cashier would not take my credit card but they had a reader to accept the Octopus card. I found the experience weird and brilliant at the same time.

It made me think of creating a similar closed loop payment ecosystem in an Indian metropolis like Mumbai or Delhi. A payment card could be used to access the public transport infrastructure, pay at stores, maybe even pay tolls etc. The card (like the Octopus card) should be partly owned by the local government so that there is a strong trust with the consumer as well as the merchants accepting the card. To ensure a seamless experience, the card will require an able tech team, an ambitious entrepreneurial team and a strong network infrastructure.

However, the transaction data, the fees from merchants and interest from the balances on the cards could create solid revenue streams. Introduce the ability for banks, P2P lenders and NBFCs to provide the consumer & the merchant credit based on the transactional data and it is a serious business!


Contact Management Solution for Gifting

This year, I have chosen to simplify several things in my daily life, one of them being my 5000+ member contact list that grows by 100-200 new contacts every month.

Currently, I use FullContact to manage all my contacts. It scans business cards, merges duplicates and scrapes the internet to find and attach all the social media accounts of my contacts to update me on their latest activities.

Additionally, I have been using Accompany. It sends me a daily email digest with the latest media articles involving anyone from my contact list. It also allows me to sync my calendar and sends me a bio of the people that I am scheduled to meet. It usually includes their latest media mentions and articles, giving me the chance to build a strong rapport at the beginning of every conversation.

However, there is one service (or a feature) that I wish there was an app to address. It would save my team and I the time and effort we spend doing this task manually every year.  Every year we go through an arduous process to send gifts to my contacts on their birthdays, anniversaries or religious occasions like Diwali, Eid, Holi, Christmas, etc. A feature or service that could semi-automate this process, providing an easy solution to this problem could be an interesting concept that an enterprising group of individuals could work on.

My idea for this model is:

  1. Connect with my (the user’s) contact list
  2. Scrape through online sources for birthdays and anniversaries of my contacts
    • Also, try to figure out the religion they follow so that a personalized wish can be sent on their respective religious festivals.
  3. A week before someone’s birthday/anniversary, ask me the budget that I would like to allocate to their gift and try to find them an interesting card, bouquet or a gift that can be sent on my behalf.
    • Then the service could send me a variety of options for gifts based on the budget that I had allocated and allow me to pick the one I prefer most.
  4. This service will also need to get in touch with the person I am sending the gift to, for their latest address, a response that the person getting the gift can choose to keep hidden from me or let me update on my contact list with the latest info.
  5. The service can start to learn and over a period, start getting smarter in terms of the budget and the gifts that I like to send
    1. They could also start to classify who I prioritize from my contact list based on the budgets and frequency of gifts that I send that person
  6. A similar exercise can be done before a religious occasion on a larger scale.
  7. As my contact list continues to increase, so does the business for this service

There are two ways the company makes money. Thus, the revenue model could be:

  1. Convenience Fee

If the company decides to charge this fee it is imperative that the quality of the gift and of the service is of the highest order. A low-quality gift or shoddy service will ensure that the user is lost forever due to the embarrassment it would cause him/her.

Secondly, the company should ensure that the prices they provide for their gifts are the best prices in the market. I have tried Wishup and Quintessentially to solve this problem in the past, but they tried to price gouge me, dissuading me from using their service again.

  1. Affiliate commissions

The company can get affiliate commissions from their vendors and then decide to share a part of it with their clients by providing better (cheaper) prices than they could find anywhere on their own. As the number of gifts grows, the relationship built with the vendors and customers would act as a significant moat against competing service providers.

There are numerous articles that can tell you that the size of the gifting market in India is huge. In fact, this research report from Technopak estimated the size of the market to be $40-42 billion, and a more recent article from TOI estimated it to be $65 billion. There is already an abundance of digital players trying to make their mark in this space. However, most of them do not provide as in-depth a solution as I have drawn out here, which opens up a blue ocean in an otherwise red sea.

Karishma Kirpalani from our team is in charge of finding me a startup that provides this service. If you or someone you know is pursuing this, email us on attn: Karishma Kirpalani.


PSA: On the lookout for Consumer Brands

The Indian wallet is growing larger. A recent estimate predicts that the per capita income for India will rise to $4,000 by 2030 from the current figure – $1,650. The consumption habits, as well as the points of consumption, will undergo significant transformation due to 3 major factors i.e. better supply chain infrastructure, ease of doing business under GST and penetration of the internet.  

Internet penetration will hit a significant milestone in the next 12-18 months when over 50% of Indians will be connected to the internet, primarily through a mobile device. These mobile internet connections are quickly transforming into consumption nodes through which the Indian wallet gets access to new consumer brands that provide alternatives to the brick and mortar brands that are available offline in Tier 2, 3, 4 towns.  

Although the demand for alternative brands has existed for a long time, poor infrastructure and complex inter-state trading laws prevented entrepreneurs from pursuing such ventures. As an early stage investor, I too avoided investing in such ventures as these companies required significant capital expenditure to create the framework to supply goods across the country. Secondly, founders had to generate a ton of illicit funds to pay-off tax & bureaucratic terrorists that always found fault in operations.  

GST broke down these barriers and made it easy for start-ups to set up a warehouse in one state and supply their products across India. In addition, the improvement in supply chain infrastructure & connectivity, help in paying off rich dividends for ventures. Therefore, our fund team is actively looking out for consumer brands to invest in, from mattresses to packaged food. 


The hunt for my mattress points to a shift in Indian E-commerce

In January, I found myself at my orthopaedic’s office for the 3rd time in 12 months complaining about unbearable back & neck pain which were not only limiting my movement but also leading to sleepless nights. Obviously, concerned about my frequent visits, he did an array of tests that revealed that it was nothing serious. So, he inquired further into my daily habits, activities, time spent on the computer and so on. After giving all the information that I had given him some serious thought, he concluded that the issue could be the mattress and pillow that I was using. He surmised that these items had most likely lost their firmness and suggested that I should change them immediately. Little did I know that this exercise would take me from the outskirts of Bangalore to the ports of Kolkata and open my eyes to a rapidly growing industry and proof that Indian consumers were growing up.

The first company that hit my eye was a company that had (at that time) over 1000 reviews on Amazon, with 95+% of those being a 4-star rating or higher. I assumed that 1 out of 10 people will actually go online and rave about a company (1 out of 3 will do it if it is a negative feedback) which meant that this company had sold close to at least 10,000 mattresses on Amazon alone! The average product price was around Rs. 15,000 so this company should have done 15 crores in sales online (the number is much higher than that) but, the best part of my research was finding out that the company had not raised any external funding. This sleeper hit of a company is Wakefit, founded by Ankit Garg and Chaitanya Ramalingegowda. In a recent interview, they predicted that their 2-year-old startup would exceed $5 million in sales for FY2018. This is an impressive number for a nascent startup with no retail presence at all.

I reached out to Vinod and Dhiral on my team, and with my initial findings and our combined brain power, we were able to identify 5-6 other companies that were selling mattresses online. I decided to visit each one and although it took longer than expected, I got into their warehouses, offices, and factories and had the chance to speak with each founder. While most parts of those conversations are confidential, their stories and experiences confirmed the increasing comfort of Indian e-commerce customers to make large ticket purchases online. Not just that, but they have even become comfortable purchasing goods from brands that they haven’t previously heard of and are willing to pre-pay for the same (these companies do not provide COD).

This entire exercise served as an eye opener for the AVF team and I, concerning the Indian consumer. We realized that the Indian e-commerce buyer is becoming more and more confident to make purchases of over 10,000 rupees (except mobile phones) online. Going forward, we are actively reaching out to product startups with larger ticket sizes since we feel that this could be the next wave of e-commerce purchases and that has already hit us or is about to.

I did end up buying a mattress and pillow set from Wakefit, as a mystery shopper and it has been 2 months since they delivered and installed my new mattress. It is safe to say, that I won’t be visiting my orthopaedic for back or neck pain any longer.