Aspiring entrepreneurs will find inspiring stories and insightful frameworks for their journey in this new book, Winning in Central India: The Story of India’s New Entrepreneurs By Bala Srinivasa and TN Hari.
The authors provide a glimpse into a new generation of founders who are taking advantage of the platform business models, smartphones, and digital behavior shifts of Indian consumers. They hold the key to opening up vast new opportunities to consumers and investors.
See my reviews of related books startup compass, startup , From startup to exit, Scale masters safe startup, messy middle financing your startup, And the venture capital investments.
Bala Srinivasa He is the Managing Director of Arkam Ventures, with 21 years of experience including two successful startups. TN Harry He is an angel investor, startup advisor, and co-author of Say No to Jugad: Make a Big Basket (See my book review here).
See also our selection of Top 10 business books of the year From the past 10 years: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012.
Here are my major takeaways from this compelling 185-page book, also summarized in the table below. The material is written in a straightforward storytelling style, backed by lots of data and analysis.
Nearly 50 percent of India’s 75,000 startups are outside the eight metro areas, according to GAME founder Ravi Venkatesan, in the book’s introduction. The democratization of ideas, capital and founders propagates the entrepreneurial movement.
Small-town entrepreneurs now have the confidence, capacity, and capital to succeed in their own ventures, and the flywheel speed of early breakouts is increasing. “Government policies can be a headwind or a tailwind, but the locomotive is the entrepreneur,” he says.
In the time since India’s 1991 reforms, the upper middle class has benefited the most, but prosperity now needs 500 million people at the top of the pyramid. The authors call this part “Central India”.
Digital media and seasoned entrepreneurs can help tackle the intractable problems of demand fragmentation, physical operating costs, customer acquisition, low education levels, and underemployment. The factors encountered along the way for entrepreneurs were Aadhaar, UPI and Jio influence.
The authors trace India’s journey down a number of paths, such as the rise of cricket stars from small towns, and the evolution of film themes (agrarian struggle, urban poverty, NRIs, modern identity).
The early waves of tech entrepreneurship were in the IT services boom, followed by start-ups using technology to tackle pan-India solutions for India’s top 100 million consumers. Companies like Flipkart inspired entrepreneurs to solve India-centric problems, followed by a series of IPOs (Zomato, Nykaa and Freshworks).
The authors note that the next wave of bold and persistent entrepreneurs is to cater to Central India (family income of Rs 3 to Rs 20,000), who prioritize value over conveniences such as 10-minute grocery delivery.
The size and speed of digital platforms and markets has triggered virtuous cycles of visibility, trust, income growth, and upskilling. This has been applied to the labor markets as well as tourism, thanks to smart entrepreneurs with innovative business models.
These models incorporate product innovations such as bag packaging and pricing, pioneered by Chinni Krishnan (Chik shampoo, CavinKare). Banks have yet to discover the models for these bags, leaving the door open to fintech companies.
The authors note: “Often the client has not an affordability problem but a cash flow problem.”
2. Pandemic effect
The authors note that “the speed and ferocity of the COVID-19 crisis has overwhelmed millions of Indians.” But as a silver lining, it has also spurred digital transformation and behavior change in health, education, entertainment and retail.
“It is difficult to overstate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in changing the trajectory of digitization in India,” they add. until kirana Stores have ramped up their digital activities, and non-millennials have increased their online behaviors.
The authors note that “the COVID-19 crisis has also opened up deeptech opportunities in India by removing regulatory barriers in record time,” citing drone delivery of vaccines.
The authors provide a range of examples of business models and startup strategies targeting Central India.
Razorby It started with secure, affordable and easy payment capabilities for online businesses. Her patience and planning included face-to-face content marketing and events, the authors describe. They have helped information-hungry businesses in small towns, and offer online self-service options. On a large scale, unit economics became profitable for the highest groups.
Dislikes Heal farmers’ aversion to risk by offering full online consulting services, as well as ensuring income to try new crops. They roped in local small business owners as distributors, but without the need for delivery at the doorstep.
“Farmers were willing to trade convenience for value. This has been a popular trend across Central India,” the authors note. They add, “One of the distinguishing elements of Central India is that the time has come for the rich and the poor.”
crazy It launched off-campus tests to assess the market’s need for microcredit to purchase laptops, phones and travel. Its online business model has helped in acquiring customers at low cost and serving them to the Central India region as well. It has developed its own algorithms for credit assessment and risk management.
Meesho It helped small businesses enter the e-commerce space, and it created integrations via WhatsApp messages and stories. Women entrepreneurs helped promote unbranded products in their communities.
urban company It has created an integrated marketplace powered by technology for home services. It retained control over the quality and consistency of services, and features such as consumer ratings helped increase value and demand for skills development. It has addressed the ambitious and empirical needs of low-income segments by offering quality at low prices.
Jumbotail Aims to update the local kirana Stores with mobile applications for workflow. In the early days, she also recharged their phones to enable transactions.
The authors note: “One of the key lessons here is to focus on the user experience and solve the gaps without waiting for all the pieces to fall into place.”
Jumbotail realized customer experience and loyalty was the most important ‘North Star’ ever kirana The store,” they add. They will do anything to retain a customer who can easily go to another nearby store.
Other examples include Real Yatri (Predict train arrival times based on outsourced mobile user data), Sweetened (hyperlocal slang news), the animal (A market for livestock buyers and sellers).
Key lessons from these examples have been captured in an outstanding chapter of The Gamebook for Success in Central India.
4. The road ahead
In addition to entrepreneurs and enablers, the authors make a powerful case for social reformers dealing with challenges such as discrimination, oppression, social stigmas, and extreme poverty.
Examples of change makers with compassionate vision include Phoolbasan Bai Yadav (Women Empowerment Self-Help Groups), Samina Bano (Comprehensive Classrooms, RTE in UP), Govindappa Venkataswamy (Aravind Eye Hospital), cooperatives such as Amul, and the craft platform Industree.
The authors summarize: “India’s glory lies in the thousands of start-ups, small businesses untied to emerge as the big enterprises of tomorrow.”
The wave of entrepreneurship can truly create collective prosperity, in the words of Edmund Phelps. This will be driven by the need of millions to develop new products and solve problems.
The authors caution that India’s youth bulge can be a risk rather than a promise if not harnessed well. Young people should have better skills to get past unfulfilled jobs, and access to entrepreneurial resources can help here.
Ultimately, team culture and strategy are key. Aspiring entrepreneurs must be willing to learn from and empathize with Central India, cast aside prejudices and prejudices, and articulate a compelling vision. Eventually, venture capitalists originating in Central India will also finance their ideas.
In short, this is a must-read book for aspiring entrepreneurs and a useful guide for innovators looking for new opportunities in emerging economies like India.
YourStory also published a pocket brochure Entrepreneur Proverbs and Sayings: A World of Inspiration for Startups As a creative and motivational guide for innovators (downloadable as apps here: apple, Android).