Changing Recruitment Dynamics – New Product Launch

When I heard of Bots and how they can revolutionize the engagement experience, my mind went over the possibility of how we can use this in the Recruitment space to engage with candidates the way a good recruiter would.

Another need of the hour from clients has been technically vetted candidates that saves the client’s effort and time in shortlisting.

Taking this problem and adding an engagement layer with bots, we came up with a solution – the Focus Interview Bot.

And what good is a product if we don’t use it ourselves to see if our assumptions are validated.  Sharing the below infographic where we ran the bot for our internal requirement and saw astounding results that validated our assumptions in a big way.

The learnings have been immense.  First I decided to share the outcome of interview.

Will share more learnings in my upcoming blogs.

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Why are start-ups failing in acquiring customers?

This owner of a garage startup has topped Forbes richest man’s list this year for no umpteen reason. He could do it because he knew how to smash-up those tricky startup challenge of customer acquisition and grow manifold within years. And wonder what he believes in when it comes to his business growth? He says, “If there’s one reason we have done better than of our peers in the Internet space over the last six years, it is because we have focused like a laser on customer experience, and that really does matter, I think, in any business. It certainly matters online, where word of mouth is so very, very powerful.” — yes! We are referring to Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO, Amazon.com, currently the second-largest private employer in the United States.

MVS Mani

Today, we will talk about 4 points that are obtrusively failing startups in their life long goal of sustenance and acquisition of customers:

Failing to create ‘Real Products’

The secret behind creating real products is to transform ideas that solve actual pain points or helps even a bit. A pain point is not just the problem you solve for your customer, but the specific reason they finally choose to use your product. Most startups fail to do so. Even if they end up creating one, they can’t find innovative, early-adopters within their target market.

Inability to set clear expectations with the customers results in disinterested customers! Lets look at what a popular beauty brand did!. For e.g. Pantene, the hair care brand, used contextually based mobile advertising, real-time location-based data and strategic partnerships with Walgreens, the US pharmacy chain, and The Weather Channel to address a key consumer pain point – ‘bad hair days’. Upon checking the daily forecast on The Weather Channel, mobile phone users were served a personalised “haircast” with suggestions for the most appropriate Pantene product to suit the conditions outside. Quite innovative, right?

Inability to choose target group appropriately

It’s just a fact that most early stage startups go after the wrong customer segment at first. They are not open to sharing product details with all and more often Talk More and Listen Less’ when the opposite is what is necessary. Hence they are not able to analyze the acceptability of their creation. In most cases, they don’t ask customers their challenges, what value they would potentially see in their product, and if they’d be willing to test it. They often fail to track most of the feedback, find similarities in them and most importantly figure out what those specific individuals have in common. This way they miss to locate their probable target market entirely.

 Random marketing moves

Most startups start spending before even understanding their target group. Instead of figuring out where they’re spending their time online, how they are communicating with each other or what events they are attending, they jump on executing random marketing strategies. Not being tactical and focused in their outreach is another grave issue. When the cost to acquire customers is greater than the company’s ability to monetize those customers, the business model fails. For most startups, first customer acquisition is most likely going to be harder than you originally envisioned. But a majority of the newbie fail to understand this fact and let this govern their willingness to better their product, strategy or spending motives.

Startups don’t realize that their shoestring budget can’t keep them from carving out their own niche if they really want it. Most of them don’t ideate around it.

Blurred and Inadequate Communication Strategy

If you look at the communication strategy of many of the startups, you would notice that they try to guide the customers instead of informing them. Customers are not allowed to make their own judgement and they perceive the company as a pushy advertiser trying just to sell their product somehow.  Even when startups generate customer interest, they mostly don’t get back to their queries and cultivate delay. Sometimes, they are seen to hold back important information about their product/service too which ends up in annoying the customer.  Even if they do, they use negative verbatim when communicating.

Conclusion

Startups, big and small have both felt the withdrawal pangs at some point. Flipkart struggled to raise funds and saw its valuation slashed repeatedly. Japanese giant SoftBank wrote down US$550 million in its biggest India investments, Snapdeal and Ola. 2015 had 11 startups closing their doors and 2016 an alarming 25. Well that’s not the end of the story – India has added over 1000 startups in 2017 with rising focus on new-age advanced-tech startups (Nasscom). No matter what, dreams will unfold and transform into reality only if one can tame the slight glitch in their customer acquisition strategy.

Challenges that second generation entrepreneurs face

The charisma and capabilities of the first generation are often the key drivers of the early development of the family business, but they may impose great pressure on the second generation during the succession process. An estimated $10 trillion is expected to change hands and be managed by second generation entrepreneurs. It is certain that the economy of the nation as well as the world will be driven by these second generation entrepreneurs. Technology, competition, and the ever changing workforce in today’s business environment certainly makes it more challenging for these new entrepreneurs. This will be coupled with the active involvement of the first generation in decision making as well as the running of the business.

As the first generation steps down, what should the second generation do to consolidate its role in the family business?

MVS Mani

Take those risks and not fear failure: Second generation entrepreneurs can be highly risk averse in comparison to their peers and might go more by research and processes, relying less on their gut. They can even be more brand-conscious and can even fear failure.

It is pertinent to take those risks that are needed for the business to move in the right direction. At the same time, this risk must be followed through with meticulous work to ensure that the chances for success are high. Hard work and diligence will pave the path. They must remember that the first generation entrepreneurs reached where they are today by taking those difficult paths.

Maintaining business legacy: Second generation entrepreneurs need to find the confidence from within to be their own people and get over the awe in which they hold their parents. While they get good hands-on experience, they can be process-oriented and hierarchical. They are expected to take on the role of the visionary and to be able to do this one must trust his/her instincts.

Moving into unchartered territories: The second generation has to redefine processes and operations to extract the maximum out of businesses and make them future ready. For this, they need to foray into unchartered territories. How long will the business sustain in its current form? What profit will you make in 5 years? Will the customer like your product? They need to secure an enabling environment within the family business to ensure a positive response for these queries. Dealing with this volatility is something that these entrepreneurs need to ready themselves for.

Succession planning: For the current generation of business leaders to realise their true potential, succession planning within the family plays a key role. Clarity in the minds of family members regarding their expected rights and duties is important, because a lot of it is about perception. It is important to make ensure that there is a positive progress in the right direction when it comes to the future plans for the business.

Young business leaders need to understand global trends, emerging risks and opportunities much better and at a detailed level. Challenging and even breaking barriers; taking calculated risks; continually focusing on their people; making innovation the new normal—these are the cornerstones to success for the second generation entrepreneurs.

 

This article has appeared on Bizztor.

What India can learn from the Israel start-up ecosystem

Israel is often known as the Start-up Nation. Through its vibrant ecosystem and human capital, Israel generates more startup companies than large, industrial nations like Japan, China, Korea, Canada, Germany and the UK. There are nearly 6,000 active start-ups, with 1,300 start-ups being founded every year. Apart from favorable government policies, they have a strong military-backed platform for research.

Corporate biggies such as Google, Apple and Facebook have their biggest R&D centers in Israel outside of the US. In fact, last year saw exits worth $9.2 billion. Compared to the US, Israel has attracted per capita over twice as much venture capital investment and 30 times more than all the members of the European Union combined. Israel is the second most innovative nation in the world, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017.   Mani MVS

According to The Startup Ecosystem 2017 report compiled by the Startup Genome project, which tracked 55 start-up ecosystems across 28 countries, Israel’s capital Tel Aviv was ranked sixth in the world, whereas Bangalore was at No. 20 and the only Indian city mentioned in the list. There are many reasons why the Israeli ecosystem is ranked far superior to ours and we can learn a lot from them. Some of the best lessons are:

Do not penalize failure, learn from it: One of the basic cultural differences between India and Israel is how the latter view failure. In Israel, failure is not penalized. Entrepreneurs who created companies that failed are looked upon as people who gain from their experience. It is critical that people who fail are not looked down upon. As the country is located in a warzone, Israelis have developed a refuse to die mentality and they strive to progress forward no matter what. Persistence is key and they are never afraid to challenge the status quo.

Setting up incubators to nurture startups: The Israeli government has set up special purpose vehicles to give $600,000 risk-free loans to promising starts ups. If the companies fail, then they do not need to pay back the loan but if they succeed, they pay back a 3% annual royalty. The entrepreneurs want to give back to the ecosystem and 25 leading investors and high-tech entrepreneurs joined hands to set up a unique tech innovation hub called SOSA (South of Salame) in 2013. SOSA has created an exclusive global network that bridges the gap between supply and demand of corporate innovation. The open data policy, city-funded co-working spaces, free public wi-fi and strong relationships with global partners are also enabling factors for this kind of ecosystem.

Rich ecosystem: Tel Aviv has all the characteristics of a global tech ecosystem—Education, entrepreneurial spirit, technology, a global mindset, government support and R&D. Outside Silicon Valley, Israel has been able to build a good ecosystem where the government, corporates, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), venture capital firms, and startups have aligned themselves. With over 140 scientists, technicians, and engineers per 10,000 employees, Israel boasts the highest number of scientists and technology professionals per capita in the world. The amount spent on R&D in relation to gross domestic product, and the percentage of Israelis engaged in scientific and technological activity, is the highest in the world.

Industry-academia collaboration: It is one of the foremost examples of the rich collaboration between companies, university researchers and entrepreneurs. Israel has led the world in technology transfer from universities to creating new enterprises. Technion, a science and technology research university, makes it mandatory for every student to take a Minor in Entrepreneurship, leading to the creation of 100 student-led businesses a year, with revenues exceeding $32 million. At Hebrew University, researchers are strongly encouraged to liaise with professionals from the industry to deal with real-life challenges and opportunities. That has considerably influenced academic research outcomes and products based on the university’s tech transfer have generated over $2 billion in annual sales.

India would do well to take a leaf out of Israel’s book of achieving global competitiveness and success through their start-ups and aim to take the leap on a global scale.

 

This article has appeared on Bizztor.

Why Leaders Should Ready Their Companies For Digital Transformation

Over the last few decades, the business ecosystem has changed rapidly. Earlier, the key drivers for setting up a business were resource availability, government benefits or regulatory frameworks. Now, businesses have to take into consideration two more drivers: Globalisation and technology. Technological advances such as Mobility, Robotic Manufacturing, Internet ofThings, Machine to Machine Communication and Intelligent Automation are all changing the ecosystem for businesses across sectors in a major way. Even the government is striving to create a cashless society by promoting digital initiatives in a big way such as urging people to use mobile and internet banking, opening up new avenues for digital transactions such as Unified Payment Interface and increasing the access of technology and connectivity to rural areas.

M V S Mani

It is not just the businesses, but the customer has also changed. The customer is now mobile and social. Since he has access to multiple options, he can be both the influencer and also influence others. While the customer is impatient, he seeks immediate attention. This is the Age of the Customer and the only way to survive in this Age of the Customer is to deliver your business fast and seamlessly across all channels. For this, businesses to exist they need to undergo digital transformation. I have been speaking to entrepreneurs to get a sense of how they see businesses evolving in this digital world and they were unanimous about one thing—it requires transformational leadership.

Need for transformational leadership         

“Every country needs a Minister of the Future,” said Saleforce’s founder and CEO Marc Benioff. 

A leader must be able to visualize and drive the change. Technology has changed the perspective of customers radically. They changed before the organisations and now are pushing businesses to reflect the changing times as well. Their expectations have changed and they don’t want to deal with legacy-old systems and that is putting pressure on organisations.

Even employees research the company online before they join. They no longer want to work in an old-fashioned manner, and if they do they will quit when they find a better job. These days, you can have an office anywhere. Companies can’t just pursue brick-and-mortar strategies; they will also need to go online. Uber disrupted the consumer consciousness with their online strategy and more businesses are going down that path. Organisations are now being forced to deal with the changing customer and employees. Earlier, it was easier to identify the competition. That has changed as disruptions come in a wide variety of forms. They have to transform and this is where leadership is important.

According to a report from MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte University Press, nearly 90% of business executives, managers and analysts from around the globe say they anticipate their industries will be moderately or greatly disrupted by digital trends. Only 44% believe their organization is adequately preparing for this digital disruption.

A leader has to be aware of such disruptions and encourage their company culture to actively take risk and be more agile. They need to ensure that the company’s overall strategy is in line with the company’s overall strategy. Such leaders are likely to take more data-driven decisions rather than relying on instinct. They plan to disrupt rather than be disrupted.

 

This article appeared on Bizztor.

5 basics entrepreneurs should cover before meeting investors

When meeting an investor for the first time, entrepreneurs face a lot of pressure to make a favorable impression quickly. Whether you are seeking $1 million in investment or $50,000, it is important to cover some basic homework before trying to make your case. Here are five things that entrepreneurs should keep in mind before approaching any investor for money:

What is their investment philosophy?

This is the first and the most basic homework that an entrepreneur has to do—Find out what is the thought process or investment philosophy that an investor has along with their domain expertise and focus. This will be crucial as different investors have different approaches to investments. They could be VC investors, or prefer to invest during the seed stage or they may even prefer to invest during the growth phase. These approaches could be based on their beliefs, values, relationship with money, experience etc. and could shift their strategies according to the latest market trends and their past experience

Angel Investor Mani MVS

What do investors like in the startup?

Entrepreneurs may meet several investors while raising money. It is important to find out what the investors liked about your start-up—domain, the approach to the solution, the product/service, future potential etc. While it is up to the entrepreneur to figure out what they will do with the feedback from the investors, it would be a good idea to keep a tab as it helps to understand what investors look for. Investors seek concrete proof that the product/service has a huge market potential and hence look for either proprietary features, competitive advantage such as intellectual property protection or exclusive licenses etc.

Be clear on any other inputs they require

Most investors know what exactly they are looking for. The entrepreneurs should make sure that they give the right kind of information such as more background on the kind of technology used or the competition the start-up faces in the market. The entrepreneur should put forward positive points to the investors and ensure that they get a complete view of the company’s history and financial details, including debt, how money was initially raised, what they are comfortable with etc.

What is the decision-making process and timeline?

Investors have different methods to evaluate an investment proposal. Hence, the entrepreneur should ask each investor what their timelines are like. Sometimes, if investors are part of a firm, they will need the consent of the Board or their Partners before they can go ahead and sign on the dotted line. Hence, it is essential that the entrepreneur ask how much time the investor will take to get back on the final decision. An investor may sound enthusiastic about supporting your project, but it will take a long time to obtain an agreement in writing. Don’t expect a quick yes or no. Prepare yourself for maybes for at least a few months.

What are the future milestones they like to see in the start-up?

For most investors, the proof is in the pudding. Hence, most of them will insist that the entrepreneurs cross a specific agreed upon milestone like breaking even, or expanding into newer categories or markets, or crossing the milestones in terms of employee and customer head count etc. This will give the investor the confidence that the start-up is indeed worth investing in. Investors too prefer start-ups that have a clear and completed business plan and have a view of what the next two-three look like.

If you go into an investor meeting with this checklist in mind, you will have a better chance of being an efficient fund-raiser and maximize your chances.

4 things entrepreneurs should do before meeting investors

Investor meetings must never be taken lightly. Following certain steps will ensure that the end result of the meeting is feasible.  Meeting investors have to be a mutually beneficial gathering where both the parties see some value.

Once you have a meeting set up with an investor, what are the things that you must keep in mind to ensure that all will end well? What will give your business/proposition that oomph factor, given that these investors are likely to meet hundreds of Entrepreneurs with terrific ideas? A good handshake and great dressing can only take you so far. If you have a vague idea and no solid background information, chances are that the investors have already lost interest. While it is important to understand what not to do, what is even more important is how you can prepare yourself.

MVS Mani Angel Investor

Investors/Venture Capitalists follow themes: Investments based on themes are nothing new, and it has become prevalent especially with the emergence of multiple industries and choices for investors and VCs. It is therefore crucial to understand the theme of the investor. It could be something as simple as ‘People do not want to die young’, or even how the ‘Chinese will spend more on frivolous things’. Once you know what makes the investor tick, it becomes easier to convince him/her of your plan. Make sure that you do your homework about the investors. Do your research beforehand and don’t waste time knocking on doors that won’t be a good match for your business. There is no point in taking an IT business to an investor who is only interested in Retail.

Do the math first: I’m sure that all of you have a fair idea of what is the right assessment of your business. Depending on how much the VC’s and investors are planning to fund, chances are that they will have a clearer idea of their expectations from the investment. Ensure that you set a realistic and defensible valuation of your venture and have an idea of it. It is always a good idea to go in with your own idea of what’s a reasonable split. This will help you in ultimately gauging if the deal is viable.

Don’t shy away from discussing past failures: You might feel that discussing failures may not go well with the VC’s, however, it would have the exact opposite effect. An experienced investor knows that as cliché as it may sound, “Failure is the stepping stone to success”. Go in there wholly prepared to discuss prior failures, and what your learning was from them. Chances are that an experienced investor would have done his homework already and would even question you on this. Your ability to stand up and talk about it showcases your ability in piloting from a rough situation and withstanding the pressure. So be upfront and use it to your advantage.

What you need the money for: Investors want to clearly understand if the money you are asking for is sufficient for your objective to be met. If they see through that the objectives cannot be met with the investment that you are seeking, then they may not show interest. Also, ensure that you are not looking at increasing your inventory and procuring a big office. These are secondary.  So a clear cut plan of where the money is going may help you bag the investment. Typical venture capitalists only invest in 0.5% – 2.0% of the deals they see, so mapping out what you want to do with the investor’s money may mean that you might get a chance to be a part of that under 2 percent of the entrepreneurs.

An investor meeting will seem like a daunting experience, but walking into that meeting room fully prepared not only increases your chances of bagging an investment, but also ensures that you can walk out of the room with the knowledge that you have left a good impression.