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.


Powerful and effective leadership definitely has one key component – inspiration.

No wonder inspiration from the leadership team brings about better employee motivation, performance, engagement and deep commitment.

If the leader is successful in communicating the organisational purpose with passion and transparency, then he has actually established the inspirational culture within the organisation. Others will certainly follow suit.

Facets of Leadership - Mani

All successful and inspiring leaders have key facets that build confidence in team members and provide the latter with a direction to follow

Approachable and open to listen:

Gone is the stereotype leader of yesteryears whom people dreaded, where the former did not keep any channel of communication open to make employees feel comfortable. However, things are not the same today. The new age leader is a good listener and gives 100% attention to what is being said. He is approachable and strives to build strong relationships with all his team members.

He has high EQ and can empathise with people, connect to them on one-to-one level, read them like a book, yes, even the unspoken communication. Such as approach will boost the morale of employees to maintain a positive attitude always.

Be well informed and well read:

Only a leader who has a broad understanding of various subjects, ranging from management, politics, finance, global trends and even behavioural psychology can command respect. The knowledge can be gained from various sources not just reading books, journals or biographies of leaders, but also by listening and providing solutions to others’ problems.

For example, the extent of learning I received while volunteering during the Chennai floods, the behavioural patterns among the public during demonetization and analysis of

Trump’s victory, etc., provided a holistic learning experience for me. A leader will always have something substantial to share with his team members, whenever he meets them. Such a person will exhibit confidence and trust and remain a great inspiration for employees.

Remain transparent in communication:

When leaders are transparent, employees trust them and relate to them better. In case, if any false expectations are set, due to some reason, care should be taken to remove it and

When leaders are transparent, employees trust them and relate to them better. In case, if any false expectations are set, due to some reason, care should be taken to remove it and apologise, before the employees feel betrayed.

Leaders should also be open to feedback from employees and see the relevance. Today, social media also provides an opportunity for the leader to share his thoughts and experiences, even if they are not perfect. This attitude makes them real and human, thus enabling employees to connect with them better.

During crisis, lead from the front:

This attribute of the leader is truly inspirational. During good times, everything looks hunky dory and it is easy to lead a team of already happy individuals. But how should the team lead respond when bad news arrives? Yes it is not simple, however, this is also an opportunity for the leader to show his integrity and strength.

He should accept the failure, analyse it calmly and logically and arrive at a solution and communicate the same to the employees. This will induce confidence in employees and the respect for such a leader will go higher.

Coach them instead of just instructing:

Good leaders have the ability to make people realise their own potential and capabilities. They almost, always leave a positive impact on all they are associated with. They help employees to have different experiences, discover themselves, learn new things, carve their own career path to attain success, which is very motivating to employees.

Good leaders do not push employees by only telling them what to do and set deadlines. Such behaviour only pressurises employees, who become de-motivated and not perform to their best ability leading to low quality delivery. For overall growth of the organisation, the leader should coach employees on an on-going basis and also ‘Walk the Talk’.

The original article appeared on Bizztor

Do you Know Hurling??

I was having a dinner meeting in  Dublin- Ireland , Meeting was organized by IDA with one of  their clients over a wine , they were happily talking about Hurling one  of the Sport of Ireland which was widely played , It was 3000 year old game . It is mix of hockey, football , and rugby.  I was surprised I did not know about it . Decided to find out what Ireland is popular for.

I was on a Business trip to Ireland, but it was short and memorable 4 day tour to Dublin. It was 8.30 PM landed on a Sunday. Bright sunshine outside and understood the sunsets as late as 10.30 PM. Picked up small talk with Chauffer and he was very happy that he drove in Modi’s convoy few months back and he was claiming half the Limo in Ireland is booked during our PM’s trip .  He was also conveying their next prime minister for Ireland  is half Indian.  Full of lush green through out the journey from Airport to O’collaghan Stephens green Hotel . I remembered ooty , British colonies  always had nice greeneries around and nice buildings  . Ireland was one of the colony for them . Dublin is part of Republic of  Ireland , northern Ireland is still with UK. He mentioned many tourists come there for golf. I understood 60% of worlds golf field is between Ireland and UK  .  when he dropped me at the hotel he was extremely courteous. I don’t know whether that is effect of British colony. He told me don’t miss going to trinity College library one of the best place to visit. I did not find time to visit .

Got down from the Limo and looked around and saw the site of Tram . It is one the transport available for people. Checked in to the room . Rooms are larger then typical European hotel . While checking in  saw many of visitors relaxing in Pub post golf and some of them after site seeing.

Since it was day travel slept well and woke up very early , it was bit dark and drizzling, By 6am got down to street for a cool walk . It was 12 degree, straight from Chennai , felt like walking inside a Air-conditioned city. When I started to walk I saw very few are walking or some of them cycling.  Drizzling started, if I would not have come for Business meet , I would  have walked in the rain . . But tourist who are interested to walk around there is walking tour in Dublin for Euro 20 , walk is for 2 hours . Every day went to Stephens green park for a walk .The  cool weather with mild breeze and green around I felt very light. Want to sit there doing nothing .  Park had few statues around and I was  surprised to see  Rabindra Nath Tagore statue ,  when googled saw he was first Non European  Nobel Laureate , hence one of  his Irish Poet friend opened his statue on  Tagore 150 birth anniversary.  It was very nice feeling.

Next day had my Irish Breakfast and headed to Carlow which was 80Km drive , I was accompanied by Senior Executive of IDA . It was nice drive and saw some horse  grazing in the field , It was beautiful scene  to watch .  When I commented about the Nature she told me country has some best horses in the world. May be because of climate which is between 4 to 20 C. They Breed horses in few miles from the place on the way to carlow .

Been to Carlow Institute of technology, engaged in few meetings . Realized that they have good talent coming out of university who can be engaged by leading companies.

I was taken to visit a office space which was located beside a river shore very Beautiful location ,  rental was   euro 12 / Sq ft . My mind was calculating it is lesser than Chennai IT park. We also get good resources from the university.   Similar property in Dublin might cost euro 70 / Sq ft .  Why not we do next start up there?? . When we drove back to Dublin saw few rowing clubs , I was told they have best rowing teams and Sailing teams in the world .

The IDA executive who accompanied me to Carlow is specialized in managing Chinese investments coming in to the country , and I asked her where does Chinese investors invests . She told me most of the investment come in for Aircraft leasing , and Ireland companies plays major role , 50% of world aircraft leased by Ireland companies . She travels regularly to china one thing they like to get from Ireland is BABY MILK . Ireland is largest producer of Baby milk and best Beef too.

Next day visited to Dundalk to a universities and IDA organized few more meeting in their office  , On return nearing Dublin was struck in traffic and buses where going free in the lane left to us . They also have right hand driving like India and other lane is only for buses . We move faster in Bus than using our own cars .

When I came close to Dublin there where many cycles parked in parking lots , it is one of the method where the tourist and people of Ireland use for their  transportation . You can pick up the cycle and drop it close to a place where you wanted to visit, we have to get some renting card to use the facility. It was cool seen to see cyclists has separate lane too .    

Next day I had one meeting in the morning hours and rest of the day free till the night .  Decided to take Hop in and Hop off tour it was euro 20 for a day visit . Took a bus within ten minutes saw one Indian Restaurant got down had lunch euro 12 for a fixed meal and again took the bus . Bus has routed in Dublin some prominent tourists places  saw 3 churches ,  few distilleries, the guide told that IRISH invented whisky one point they had 26 whisky distilleries and few Beer breweries  . Bus also took us  through the Guinness Brewery , Teeling and Jameson Distilleries, Thought I  should have extended my stay by one day  only to go around these places and taste some good fresh alcohol  .

When I took the plane back I was convinced, why company like google , Microsoft , Verizon,  Linked -in has set their offices here , good climate , multilingual resources , cheaper and loyal , friendly taxation and pleasant weather , pious people and beautiful country .  IDA is there to help for handholding for your success.

Some planning tips

  1. Staying middle of city will cost Approximately Euro 200 per night
  2. Can plan for a minimum 4 days trip
  3. PUBS and various cuisines are places to hop
  4. Cost of lunch/ dinner plan for euro 10 / person/ day
  5. Walking / Jogging/ Cycling best place to do
  6. Tesco departmental store is there every where in Dublin . We have salad of our choice for euro 2.
  7. Many gyms are around
  8.  Pedestrian shopping street
  9. Stephens green mall is in walking distance .
  10. Airport shopping is small
  11. Good Colleges for education
  12. Real tourist friendly place .


5 Ways You Can Make The Perfect Start-Up Pitch To Investors

In the Age of Start-ups, there is absolutely no dearth of entrepreneurs, no matter what the field. As the start-up gets more crowded, it becomes more difficult to stand out in the crowd and also makes grabbing the attention of investors a huge challenge.

So, how do you convince the investors that you are the next big thing? Preparation will be key. It will be necessary to have a deep understanding of the business, its key drivers, the targeted customer segment and the focus of your company.


Tell a story: Everyone likes a story. By making your elevator pitch a simple story, you will be able to get the undivided attention of the investor. Ensure there is a consistent flow and it is easy to follow. Don’t get too technical and ensure that you don’t use too many jargons either. Do your research properly and your story should describe the problem that the company is planning to address. Remember, the story you tell will invite probing questions and you must be able to back yourself up on all your decisions. If you get the investor’s interest piqued, then you would have won half the battle.

MVS Mani_bizztor

Show results first: Once you have hooked the investor with your story, follow it up with numbers and features. Is your product or service innovative or disruptive? If you are meeting an investor who understands the space, then ensure that they understand your business proposition well.

You will need money to get customers, but you will also need to show customers to get money. You are better off trying to do the latter than the former as investors will then be convinced of your ‘Proof of Concept’. Showcasing the results will also help the investors get an idea about the true value of the company and the potential revenue that could come their way. Avoid following the crowd.

Find the investor’s interest: Do your homework on investors before you pitch: What are their interest areas? Is what the entrepreneur is trying to gain from his business at par with what the investors are expecting? Do not inflate your numbers or omit critical information that will impact the business or exaggerate the extent of business relationships.

A good investor will always do due diligence and so entrepreneurs need to be open about whom they approached for investment. Investors will always do their own background checks and if they find something being misrepresented, then the relationship will start off on the wrong foot.

Quality of investment: There are different kinds of investors. Some investors just want to invest their money and then not get involved in the day-to-day operations, while others insist on a broader role. Some of the biggest factors that an investor considers during decision-making is if the entrepreneur understands the kind of space that he/she is operating in, the dynamics of the environment, the capability to stay in the market and aggressiveness of their growth plans. Having a clear-cut exit plan in the start-up pitch will tell the investor how the entrepreneurs have envisioned the eventual transition of the venture.
If a start-up has no exit strategy, then it might indicate that they are more likely to build a lifestyle business than a potential high-growth venture.

Passion, Openness & Flexibility must shine through:
Investors want to build relationships with entrepreneurs who have the passion, are flexible and open-minded to relentless change. That combined with their optimistic nature and enthusiasm will see them through the toughest of periods.

Investors want entrepreneurs to be open and responsive with them so that even if any issues crop up, they will be able to address the same. Besides, it is their traits of restlessness, impatience for action, the desire to spend one’s life doing what you do best and care the most are some of the characteristics that make entrepreneurs successful in their endeavours.


The original article appeared on: Bizztor

5 Companies that created new industries

Indian entrepreneurial spirit has been on an all-time high in the past two years. However, the big ticket funding rounds and the survival rate has been mushy. In the last year, one funded Indian tech start-up has shut shop every 10 days. 2016 saw over 200 start-up closures, which is 50 percent higher than the year before. Surprisingly, a sizeable number of these were ventures with promising ideas and no funding issues as such. However, they had operational paralysis and logistic concerns.  Some of them were PepperTap, Parcelled, and TinyOwl.

Logistics is pivotal to any ecommerce business since that’s what signifies your customer touch-point value and that is reassuring.  With a 20-30 percent decline in funding, 2016 also lashed biggies like Flipkart, Snapdeal and Ola with its capital withdrawal pangs. Startups funded by investment giants like SAIF Partners, Helion, Sequoia, Paytm and Flipkart were also victims.

MVS Mani

Start-up success is therefore definitely not dependent only on the monetary aspects. What works? There are Companies that created new industries amidst these. Let’s take a look at 5 such success stories.


Coming from a humble middle class family of Chennai, no one would have predicted that Sridhar Vembu, the son of a High Court stenographer, who never attended college, would build a venture that would give tech daddies like Google, Microsoft and Salesforce, nightmares. Known as the Bootstrapped Buddhist, Sridhar opined how the company’s vision should essentially be the operating system of choice for business. This is what probably gave him the courage to shrug off naysayers and turn down acquisition overtures. Zoho recruits students out of their schools and polytechnics and not premium engineering colleges, an experimental training system aimed at creating a talent pool. Key takeaways from his entrepreneurial tips kit would be pursue unconventional wisdom and build a business that makes money.


A nightmarish customer experience that revolved around shipping a TV from the USA helped Girish Mathrubootham start Freshdesk. A cloud-based customer support software & helpdesk ticketing system, Freshdesk assists customers over email, phone and social channels. The start of all this was an entrepreneur, then an employee, wanting to do better, what he did daily. With domain knowledge and talent available in India, they went beyond traditional customer support and built a 360 degree customer service platform on a cloud based SaaS. Starting with just 60 lakhs and two members, Freshdesk set on 3 plans – sprout, blossom and garden.  They even kept a plan B handy which was to shut down if unable to ship out products in 9 months and make $20,000 in another nine- a plan which was never needed.


Zarget is an inspiring journey of the trio, Arvind Parthiban, Naveen Venkat, and Santosh Kumar, who wanted to put website conversion rate optimisation tools into the hands of startups, small business owners, and marketers, and effectively reduce their reliance on developers and IT teams. Sitting as a Google Chrome plugin, the SaaS tool received 1,500 signups with 400 companies during its launch year. It is aimed at making it easy and affordable for any person or business to access the solutions they need to increase engagement, and drive revenue across their websites.


Chargebee makes managing recurring payments and invoicing easier for online businesses. It’s an idea that gave life to global business in a local flavour. One didn’t have to give up on customers for a mere difference in currencies. ChargeBee processes over $100 million annually for their customers that include fast growing startups like Freshdesk, Kissflow, Soylent and VinylMePlease.


If not for his daughter, Supam Maheshwari would have never started FirstCry in the first place. During his frequent business trips abroad, he used to buy a lot of baby products since there were limited choices in India. He thus conceptualised FirstCry.com, an online and offline brand providing a range of products for babies, kids and moms in 2010.  FirstCry, the largest online shopping portal for kids, and expecting moms in Asia got its strategy right in the estimated Rs 30,000 crore baby market of India.

Entrepreneurship is something that is open to all. The possibilities are endless, and though there will be challenges, there are many who have gone ahead and made a mark for themselves with hard work and determination. Not all of them may be well-known. Looking forward to hearing such unknown success stories from you. Do write to me.