80+ investors said no to Kabeer before he raised funding from Google; Here’s how he built Dunzo

“The biggest investment you make in a startup is your time; it’s not capital or anything else.” The first big lesson for Kabeer Biswas, from his first startup Hoppr is that entrepreneurship is more about the time than anything else.

Biswas, who co-founded Dunzo, is potentially building the next unicorn, or the startup with over billion dollar valuation. But that’s not what makes him and Dunzo outliers.

“Our mission is to go ahead and say we’re going to make cities more convenient and we’re going to make sure that every store in the city can be transacted with,” he says.

“That’s a massive business. It’s not the business of hyper-convenience, time—this is the business of buying and shopping. This is the business of local commerce.”

“And nobody wants to give you money because logistics as business lost a lot of money in 2015-2016.”

So why go on building it when none of the investors were ready to write the big cheques?

“Because the users wanted it,” he says.

And it continues to be frustrating for Kabeer and his co-founders to explain why Dunzo deserves bigger rounds of funding to fulfil its mission.

By September of 2017, Dunzo actually became profitable. But it was also the year when Kabeer and his team faced a near death experience.

“We ran out of money in June. And by that time we had got 85 people (potential investors) to say “no” to us.”

Dunzo has been an outlier from the time it was born on a WhatsApp group in 2014 and kept battling it’s near death experiences despite a growing community of users who loved the app.

Much before Google invested in Dunzo earlier this year and it became a popular startup, FactorDaily wrote this story in August 2016. “Dunzo! How a hyperlocal concierge app is killing it in Bengaluru

Indus Khaitan on the curse and joy of entrepreneurship

“What can I do that I haven’t done in the past, or trained for?”

At 44, Indushekhar Khaitan has been an entrepreneur, a VC and a corporate executive. Khaitan’s journey across these assignments was triggered by the restlessness to do something he had not done before. And that meant long, painful journeys apart from discovering what he’s good at, and what he’s not.

“We had no idea what venture investing was when we started Morpheus. We didn’t even know we had to set aside 2 per cent as the management fee for our salaries etc.,” he says.

“Now that I piece it all back, I was only finding what I’m capable of doing and what I’m not.”

“When I decided Morpheus wasn’t for me, it was because I couldn’t see myself giving gyan to founders without actually doing it,” he says.

After Morpheus, things changed a lot.

“I was now feeling, where’s my power, my army?”

So what really changes when you’re not an entrepreneur?

“In a job, boundaries are laid out for you. As an entrepreneur, you lay out the boundaries. You’re still the same person,” he says.

Why is Indus not an entrepreneur again?

“You do a startup, make half a million, the bar is $50 million for the next one. Now the next one has to be $500 million worth of your time. That bar is actually the bar that doesn’t let you enter entrepreneurship until you have the next 500 million idea,” he says.

For now, Khaitan is training to be a pilot apart from helping the SaaS startup Chargebee hack its next phase of growth.

“In five years, if I’m a pilot, that will be a completely different career.”

Arpita Kapoor of Mech Mocha on making “India play games”

“If I wasn’t running a startup, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”

If there’s one thing most of the entrepreneurs will agree as the biggest influence while building their startups, it’s the personal transformation they go through.

For Arpita, who comes from a small village called Pihani near Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, growing up was all about watching how generations of Indians were relying on mobile screens for everything from entertainment to business.

At 27, she now runs Mech Mocha, backed by both Accel Partners and Blume Ventures. (Both are among FactorDaily’s backers, too.) Mech Mocha builds mobile games for Indian users.

She met her cofounder Mohit Rangaraju while still in college. Together, they attempted an online food startup in the campus (IIITM Gwalior), which didn’t work out. Now, Mohit helps her balance “excessive entrepreneurial optimism” with the realities of running a startup.

“We balance each other out.”

Sunit Singh on designing Cleartrip

Amid India’s smartphone boom and the rise of large consumer internet companies such as Flipkart, Myntra and several others, profitability and funding rounds have dominated the narratives.

Designing these consumer products, creating engaging user interfaces hasn’t really made any big headlines, though.

Cleartrip, with its simple, uncluttered mobile web interface, has been an outlier on the design front. When most rival travel websites were busy packing their sites with innumerable features and deals, Cleartrip chose to doggedly keep its focus on a simple user interface when it launched in 2006.

“We said, ‘Who is on mobile, and who are we designing for?’,” recalls Sunit Singh, design head of Cleartrip until August 2015.

“That helped us with a laser-focused design approach. In terms of the complexity of the interface, we cut it down to quite a extent.”

Singh adds: “That’s where I first learned the value of being laser-focused.”

So, how does a product balance ease of use and user convenience with this quenchless urge to pack more features than your rivals?

“You have to pick your battles. You can’t fight all of them. Designers have to pick their battles.”

Is Cleartrip indeed a greatly designed product or is it just that most of its rivals have shabbily designed products? How and why does Cleartrip continue to live on?

“I think about this question a lot myself. I would always tell my team that get to a level where there’s no other way to do it. There’s no better way to do it. I think that’s the secret,” says Singh.