The Chennai chapter of TiE (a global body for encouraging Entrepreneurship) organizes an annual conference called TiECON. TiECON Chennai 2015 happened today at ITC Grand Chola.

Opening address was delivered by Lakshmi Narayanan, TiE Global Board of Trustees. He recalled Bill Gross’ analysis on “The single biggest reason why startups succeed“, it turns out it’s not Idea, not funding, not founders but TIMING. Collaboration is an important idea now, crowd sourcing is a key collaborate model example. 


Lakshmi Narayanan, Vice Chairman, Cognizant

Padma Chandrasekar welcomed the audience, Chandu Nair talked about the De Bono “Six Thinking hats” book and how today’s conference was inspired by the idea.

This year’s billion dollar baby was introduced – Girish Mathrubootham, Founder & CEO, Freshdesk who recalled his fascinating story of building a world class product firm from Chennai. Girish talked of the incident where Zendesk CEO called FreshDesk a RipOff and how they handled it.


Mahesh Murthy, Founder – Pinstorm

Next on stage was Mahesh Murthy who talked on Blue Sky Businesses, what India’s next wave of start-ups could look at:

  • More and more in today’s startup world the market leader takes 85%, second player takes 8.5%, last 0.85% and rest is between all others. One common thread you will notice is that most of the market leaders haven’t advertised much, they get their business through word of mouth. Those startups which splash money in advertising, full page ads are likely to go out of business. 
  • Unlike other BRICS market, in India you can’t copy n paste the ideas that succeeded in abroad. In India Google is Google, whatsApp is whatsApp, unlike Baidu in China and Yandex in Russia. Gibson scifi, the future is already here it’s only happening in pockets.
  • As William Gibson, the SCI-FI writer who coined Cyberspace said “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed”. 
  • Every business takes takes 12 years to succeed, in three years you will get light showered on you and you need to make best use of it.
  • Nano degrees or super specific degress from the likes of Udacity will be popular than regular courses. We will have Classes on multi tasking, today we are trained in school to do linear thinking.
  • Nuclear families will give way to atomic families. People will differ marriage or will not marry at all. People will have continuous dating. Matrimony portals need to become “pal” portals. There will be huge demand for smaller house, say for 600-800 SQ feet that’s suitable for one or two people to live. People will have continuous dating.
  • Today we live at 22, 44, 88 years levels. Till 22 we live the life designed by our parents, next 22 years we live on the guilt of their sacrifice to us on our shoulders. The next 44 years is what we live for ourselves, once the kids go to college. So there is huge scope for businesses catering to 44-88 age group. For example places where families can get together hotels haven’t figured it out, you can have drivers/cooks/maids shared between these people. Service providers, Legal decisions for this age group will be an attractive business. 
  • Decline of offices, more will work from home, demand for furnitures for these people.
  • More people are choosing non metros for living, I am seeing many startups from Goa, from Pondicherry.
  • There will be demand for new type of “A” class luxury cars at Rs.8 lakh band that are super small, may be chauffeur driven motorcycles, we may see two wheeler exclusive lanes too. 
  • I see rise of 5G in Mobile, Governments may do “Right to Bandwidth” like Rights to Education act. We will have an era of extreme data mobility say I pay Rs.2000 per month and can use X amount of bandwidth wherever in the world I travel to. You will see the idea of a perpetual traveller, one who doesn’t reside in any country for more than 130 days and tax laws will become friendly for them. Devices will be smarter, you will see personal routers, car routers and so on. 
  • The war of Android and iOS will become irrelevant as you will see a UI layer that abstracts the underlying OS. 
  • It will become norm for entrepreneurs to be running multiple companies, they will want to run lifetime business, not just flipping business and be serial entrepreneurs.
Ronnie Screwvala, Founder UTV Group

Ronnie Screwvala, Founder UTV Group

Ronnie Screwvala spoke on his journey, to Dream with Eyes Open:

  • In College I was arrogant. Failing in Inter commerce took the sail out, took my arrogance out, making me realise that Arrogance has no place for an entrepreneur. 
  • There is no single biggest failure, in each stage of life you feel the most pain for the failure that happened at that time. 
  • My theatre experience as a hobby helped me throughout my carrier, it gave me the confidence. You have to figure out what’s the exact model that works for you in your communication. 
  • Conviction is very important. When I was selling remote (Cable TV connection) I went to over 5000 houses no one was interested in that. Everyone around me said it’s not working, but I said hell with it, I am convinced, I want to be an entrepreneur and I will do this. Then we took the ideas to Hotels, we had build a eco-system for getting the TVs and rest is  history. When you want to build a market that doesn’t exist, every problem is your problem.
  • Overall, as a country we don’t think of scale. Subconsciously I was obsessed of scale. I wanted to get a million subscriber but we managed to get 100,000 in year two, but had I not dreamed of 1 Million, we wouldn’t have got the 100,000, that won’t be possible if I was not obsessed with scale. 
  • Hiring was never easy, in the initial days when the sector (TV/Broadcasting) didn’t have credibility I used to go to individual talents’ parents to convince them on the carrier in the sector. 
  • If you are convinced in your idea then you will not wait for funding, but you will go and start.
  • Boutique business is great, if that’s what you are comfortable then that’s the right business for you, not every business has to scale.

Evam Karthik Kumar

Then comedian Karthik Kumar did a  standup comedy session that lightened the audience. He made jokes on Curd Rice, Airport security and everything in between. Wonderful!


Ravi Gururaj, Head NASSCOM Product Council, Investor

Ravi Gururaj spoke on “Anecdotes from Successful Product Startups”:

  • To get the bottom of the (sales pipeline) funnel to open up more,  rather than throwing more balls down the funnel. Make the funnel narrower, reduce the flow angle. Reduce the height of the funnel.
  • Focus on Mobile engagement. 
  • As a developers if your own family don’t use the product  then who will use it?, reflect on that.
  • Can you create Value for individual user, even if he/she is not connected to anyone else with your app. Once you crack that, then go to the second user, then look at connecting more than five and so on. Don’t start with the idea that my app will be awesome, will change the world if millions are connected using it. Marketing and reach doesn’t work that way. 
  • Recently I got my iPhone fixed from a local shop in Bangalore within 15 minutes when Apple service centre wanted a week. The secret for this according to the shop’s owner Harish Agarwal was that he buys original Apple products (iPhones, iPads, Mac) for full price, then disassembling them to get the individual parts. He makes more money on Apple products than Apple themselves, from a $1000 phone he takes apart and sells $3000 as individual parts. 
  • The world is flatter than ever, it’s easier to do a startup than ever, India is a land of opportunity, you need to look around you to spot it. 

Pravin Sekhar, Kreator-In-Chief, Krea moderated a session titled “Football, Jackfruit and Tree” on off-beat entrepreneurs. Three companies that featured in that were:

  1. James Joseph of JackFruit365 talked of how after many years working for multinationals like Microsoft he went to start a food business around humble Jackfruit. About his book, Working for India – Living in Bharath. Youngsters need to have courage to work from their home and still succeed.
  2. Vibhu Natarajan of Vimanaa Landscapes on how he tried his hands on Orchid Planting in Tropical climate (Chennai) then went on to build a business around growing and selling Palm trees for customers in India and abroad. How his trees can survive the journey of 4-6 weeks without water. His success was his obsession with Delivery and Quality.
  3. Sunny Narang founder of Anglian Omega Ventures on how he got to investing and nurturing Football talent in North East, Eastern UP and take them to clubs in Europe. KhelNow where he is connecting audience and talent.

Pravin Sekhar, Kreator-In-Chief, Krea

Pravin Sekhar moderated a Masterclass on customer acquisition. He introduced Swati Bhargava of, Preeta Sukhthankar of Label Corp and Ramkumar (SVP Corporate Marketing) of Cognizant. Ramkumar spoke of how in Cognizant they don’t worry too much about customer satisfaction which are just numbers but on whether the customer buys more from them YoY which is the best proof of his/her satisfaction.

Rajiv C Lochan, MD & CEO of Kasturi and sons

Rajiv C Lochan, MD & CEO of Kasturi and sons

Rajiv C Lochan, MD & CEO of The Hindu group spoke on “Transformation in Family business” on his 18 month journey heading the 137 year old group. He talked off four important points that’s guiding him on his present journey:

  1. Clarity of vision and direction. 
  2. Preserve the core – high quality journalism, we want to be the record of the country  
  3. Fearless adapt, adapt pre-emptively 
  4. Obsess on values

Rajiv is the  first non family member to be in the board in it’s 137 year history. Immediately after coming abroad he got S Mahalingam (Former CFO of TCS) and Vineeta Bali (Former MD of Britannia Industries). They helped on getting the clarity of vision and direction. Apart from print advertising, they are trying with various other business models in small ways: 

  • Businessline for campus targets an audience of 0.5 million audience from B-school students and aspiring students.
  • With Sportstar digital, going in for a transactional model. Basic content is for free, but entice readers to participate in transactions. We want to try, fail, but fail fast.
  • With to be a trusted  advisory for end to end housing needs. To use our strength to get Legal experts on board, to do due diligence. Get transparency in to property pricing, in a way put The Hindu stamp of approval on the pricing. 

There were many challenges, the need to get everyone on board, some stakeholders would be from different cut of cloth, to get the editors on board as well while assuring them of their editorial freedom. When I see some startups spending huge amount of money on us (on print campaigns) I am happy but at the same I wonder what’s their business model, what’s their sustainability.  For us we want to Rely on trust of the parent brand. If we can solve the Problem in Housing we see opportunity to solve problems in SME space, Consumer front and more. We are not doing all this to create opportunities for family members but for the overall growth of the business and to maintain the original vision of the company. 

Lastly, I personally feel we are going to create more wealth in next ten years than we did in the last two hundred years in India. We need to resolve issues with values for achieving this. Value issues like should I jump a traffic light is easy, what I am talking is how do you handle on a loyal employee who is lying. 

Lekha Washington, Actor and Entrepreneur

Lekha Washington, Actor and Entrepreneur

Lekha Washington, Actor and Entrepreneur talked on:

  • How she wears multiple hats – Actor, Sculptor/Designer and Entrepreneur. How she dresses, speaks and acts differently in each of these roles.
  • When designing, you need to rethink on things, not worry about other people’s judgements. Don’t pigeon-hole yourself, you have only one life.
  • On her Ajji brand, where they are designing products that are beautiful, have utility and are world class. Her dream to change the notion that Scandinavian designs are better than Indian, to change it is to focus on every aspect especially the finishing touches.


Categorized in: