Saturday, December 21, 2013

A suitably bootstrapped perspective

As someone who routinely wears boots under Levi’s 511s, I understand the sheer utility of those small loops called bootstraps - Sramana Mitra’s high focus on an entrepreneur bootstrapping the start-up in her book “Seed India -How To Navigate the Seed Capital Gap In India (Entrepreneur Journeys)” helped me appreciate the criticality of this aspect in the Indian venture funding context.

The book’s USP is its brevity and the matter-of-fact, blog-like style but what keeps your interest on is the verbatim reproduction of the interviews. Spurred by the author’s knowledgeable querying, the interviewed entrepreneurs come up with some honest reflections & very useful insights into their successful entrepreneurial journey. Some statements though come across as anachronistic, particularly when Sachin Bansal of Flipkart seemingly undermines the adaptation, penetration & potential of digital books and affordability of e-readers in India - the fact that I was reading this book on my Kindle Fire HD made the assertion even more ironic.

While it is a welcome trend that Indian start-up stories are getting written about, I once again can’t help but notice that the term ‘start-up’ is gradually getting equated with IT/ITES/ Cloud enterprise.  Most other enterprise categories such as biotech, green-tech are clearly missing out being written about as interesting case-studies since they can’t quite compete with a typical cloud based start-up which (can..) starts generating income within few months of existence – As Sramana did admit passingly, the logic of bootstrapping one’s business is a very different ball-game if the start-up product offering is physical (~biotech) as against being virtual (~SaaS)

Coming back to the book, I felt that what was perhaps intended to be showcased by the author but not quite articulated is an observation that ‘bootstrapping an early enterprise’ comes quite naturally to Indian entrepreneurs given the culturally ingrained reluctance to diluting ownership/ stake of a start-up business early on & the practical jugaad (in a fair sense) mind-set of sailing in two boats before hitching on to the one of choice.

Considering this being a cluster/ market dominated by such lean business ethos & relatively more fiscally-conservative entrepreneurial attitude which by default de-risk the investor’s moolah, one’d have expected India to be a hot destination for an alternate asset fund manager looking for a safe-harbour for her/ his precious dollars, but quite obviously it is not. Of course it is also apparent that there isn’t enough fish in the pond for any LP to develop a serious strategy betting on Indian start-up scene & perhaps the only way to make this ‘LP-friendly entrepreneurial ethic’ work in India’s favour at scale is to seed more & more promising enterprises, bootstrapped or otherwise.


Just wondering.... the Global LPs could be a lot more interested if the Indian VCs claim to be ‘Conservative’ rather than being ‘Contrarian’ in their choice of deals :-)

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