Every day, we hear new startup stories, some are inspiring, some are disappointing and some just don’t make any sense, neither in terms of the usefulness of the product, nor in terms of being a worthwhile investment opportunity.
It is a great thing to start up, and we must give it a try, but what is more important to note is that most of the ideas these days seem to not be in sync with what is required on a long term basis, or what our country really needs. In the excitement and eagerness to start something new, startups have forgotten some basic rules of the game, and hence do not seem to be aiming at bigger goals.
Do we need another one? Are any of them actually making money? If we review the financials that are on the MCA portal, available on paying a simple fee of Rs 100, we can see that these balance sheets are definitely not showing any profits, and are bleeding investor money. Now, the positive impact of these websites is the opening up of a whole new online marketplace and related ecosystems, the fact we can order almost anything online and get it delivered in a couple of hours is super convenient for some. However, most of these e-commerce companies have realised the importance of investing in the backend support and related activities, which, to my mind, makes for a much more profitable venture. Thus, we often see these e-commerce ventures scouting for companies providing innovative warehousing and logistics solutions.
The startup ecosystem can get better only if more startups focus on improving the ecosystem at each and every step- that will eventually improve the online experience. So instead of focusing on another online portal, startups should focus on related activities, related problems that are currently a hindrance to the success of the online shopping world, and work out a solution to resolve them in the best and the most efficient manner.
This is another hot topic in the startup and investor circle. However, I think this segment is doomed to failure since startups are trying to make this work without actually thinking about the underlying dynamics of the sector. Many startups in this sector have closed or are about to.
Why is this so? Because they are not really focusing on resolving issues in the present ecosystem required to make this work. Startups need to find solutions to first enable an ecosystem to develop; home chefs, professional chefs, delivery people, kitchen equipment, delivery vehicles, quality control, food labs and test labs- there are many variables involved in this business, and many areas for potential success. A startup in this sector can be profitable only when the startups start focusing on infrastructure first. Startups should also make the apps and the enabling technology, but it is also important for them to introduce the government to new infrastructure developments, support new ideas for employment and address a wider issue so that it can benefit the apps and technology that will support it.
As far as this sector goes, we can only see a fight between two rivals with foreign funding trying to capture market share and disrupt the field. The good thing with this sector is that people found a reliable, fast and cheap mode of transport, and drivers found a higher standard of living; but what’s next?
Startups need to look into the adequate training of drivers. What about car servicing for such drivers? What about car loans? What about social profiling, and driver behaviour mapping? There are various related portions available to explore, and building a startup to help in the evolution of this sector can be meaningful and relevant.
The only way India will start competing with the world, especially the USA, is by focusing on R&D. Apps will always depend on Apple, Google and Microsoft; no matter how good your app is, the bigger chunk of profit will always go to these companies. Unless we start ideating on a bigger scale and support large R&D projects, it will be difficult to achieve bigger dreams.
A startup needs to focus on ingenious ways to resolve our country’s problems, starting with fixing roads faster and making them more durable, and enabling every house to generate its own power and utilise resources efficiently. New and innovative housing and building material will enable the government to achieve its ambition of providing shelter to all; ingenious ways for revolutionising agriculture and related technology uses, and community building will enable self-sufficiency; e-schools will ensure that education reaches every village.
We just do not need another temporary viral idea; we need a good reliable efficient solution to each and every problem faced by our country, because every successful solution gets recognised and rewarded. The day every startup works on resolving India’s problems will be the day the Startup India project will succeed and India will get its successful entrepreneurs.
So don’t just start up, please take time out to sort out the right problem.