ThreadSol founders on what it means to not be “an Uber of anything”

“It’s a game of belief,” Manasij Ganguli tells me about getting customers, investors and employees around you. We are sitting in his living room at Noida home, east of capital New Delhi, with his wife Mausmi Ambastha.

This becomes “a game of thrones” if the startup idea you’re pitching doesn’t have a global equivalent.

For Ganguli and Ambastha who co-founded ThreadSol in 2012, building a network of believers meant facing over 100 rejections, both from investors and customers, in their first year.

From getting early adopters of the product, to getting investors see it as a business worth backing, and even convincing early employees — everything boils down to building a network of believers, the husband-wife duo tell me.

“We could not point to any proven model in China or the U.S. We weren’t an Uber of anything.”

Five years since it was founded, ThreadSol now says its software touches nearly 1 billion pieces of garments produced annually, helping the brands and manufacturers save costs by identifying and plugging wastage.

Lessons Amit Ranjan learnt building SlideShare

Consumer Internet products are tough to build, and even tougher for them to survive on their own. If the product is good, it’s more likely to be gobbled up by a large software dinosaur. And if it’s not adding millions of loyal users at speed, a slow, painful death is the only way forward.

In June this year, Microsoft said it’s shutting down the company’s file sharing service Docs.com because its recent $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn brought in a rival product, which’s far more superior. The product, SlideShare, was acquired by LinkedIn in 2012 for over $100 million.

I sat down with Amit Ranjan, cofounder of SlideShare, who now spends time working with the Indian government on building next generation digital products.

In this two part Podcast, Ranjan discusses lessons in building SlideShare in the first part. In the second part to be published on Thursday, we focus on his experiences in working inside the government machinery.

Inside Tejas Networks’ long, slow journey: From near-death experiences to IPO

Outlier-Sanjay-Nayak-Tejas

At 52, Sanjay Nayak is not among the young, restless and “cool” breed of entrepreneurs in India’s startup ecosystem. But then, his telecom equipment startup, Tejas Networks, is not really a newbie either. Launched in the year 2000, Tejas Networks has been through at least three near-death experiences.

I have been tracking Tejas’ journey for well over a decade. I always thought India lost out on a massive opportunity to create a homegrown telecom equipment behemoth by not supporting Tejas against the likes of Huawei backed by the Chinese government. As I sit down with Nayak for this week’s Outliers, he shares many other battles, and how his team conquered them all to come this far.

The first one near-death experience came during 2009 when Tejas’ biggest customer, Canadian telecom equipment-maker Nortel, filed for bankruptcy.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] “Our international revenues at that time were growing at 100% year on year, thanks to Nortel. But once it filed for bankruptcy, it was kind of a slow death for us and our revenues too collapsed with it” — Sanjay Nayak, founder, Tejas Networks   [/perfectpullquote]

“Our international revenues at that time were growing at 100% year on year, thanks to Nortel. But once it filed for bankruptcy, it was kind of a slow death for us and our revenues too collapsed with it,” Nayak says.

Then, around 2010-2011, India’s famous ‘2G scam’ shook the country’s telecom sector and forced customers to shelve buying equipment for expansion. Tejas was right at the centre of all this. “Indian operators were not buying, international revenues collapsed, things weren’t good,” he says.

By 2011-2012, Tejas’ revenues took a massive dip — from over Rs 600 crore to around Rs 200 crore, one-third of what it was. “We were in a mess,” adds Nayak.

From there, Nayak and his team rebuilt Tejas based on the learnings during each crisis. Last week, the company launched its Rs 450 crore initial public offering, the first by an Indian telecom equipment maker.

Listen to this Outliers podcast to learn from Tejas’ battles.

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Google’s Rajan Anandan believes the internet will transform a billion lives

Rajan Anand, Google’s vice-president for Southeast Asia and India, with Pankaj Mishra, CEO, FactorDaily, in Outliers

Rajan Anandan, Google’s vice-president for Southeast Asia and India, is a diehard believer in India’s internet story. “I’m a perennial India bull… The internet is going to make India reach even greater heights,” he says. He adds that Google’s mission in India is “internet for every Indian.”

He also believes in the country’s potential to produce multi-billion dollar companies in the digital economy. He’s been an active angel investor in the ecosystem, having backed startups such as Instamojo. “A huge number of them (startups) have become profitable, because they had to… When you realise you can’t raise money, you have to get profitable. That’s the agility of Indian entrepreneurs,” he says.

As I sit down with him for this week’s Outliers chat, I fire away questions at him:

Is Snapdeal a failure or a success?

Are current startup founders capable of handling scale and complexity and creating long-lasting companies?

Did everyone create a hype about the potential of Indian ecommerce?

What are Google’s ambitions? Will it ever cross the line and become a service provider in ecommerce and food tech?

And so on.

Anandan holds fort well. He cites Snapdeal as an example of an early starter in India’s ecommerce, which helped change consumer behaviour for good. “Snapdeal will be remembered in a very positive way,” he says, adding it’s one of three-four companies shaping the ecommerce industry and case studies will be written about it.

His obsession with technology is rooted in his stint at MIT. “If you went to MIT, you either love technology or at the end of it, you knew so much about what was happening at the time,” he says, adding he studied neural networks at MIT 20 years ago, something that is mainstreaming only now.

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