It's a challenging time for startups as with their rapidly-growing numbers comes the pressure to surpass expectations with innovative ideas that can lure fund houses that are looking at growth possibilities.
As a 'startup-hub', India ranks third globally with over 4,750 startups, as per NASSCOM's Product Council report published in October. But the track record of original ideas making it big remains poor.
With unicorns like Ola and Flipkart, which are essentially replicated models based on business ideas of global giants such as Uber and Amazon, respectively, the quest for originality remains. Startup evangelist, angel investor, and co-founder at 91springboard, a Delhi based co-working space, Pranay Gupta, says the issue is far deeper than just the ease of replicating a validated idea.
"The right question would be—why don't investors invest in new and innovative ideas? The answer is simple. A lot of money comes from international markets and it's easier to replicate and run an already successful model," Gupta, a partner at 91springboard, owned by 91springboard Business Hub Pvt. Ltd, explains. "The issue will always be that copies will be more than innovation, but that's everywhere," he said.
Running a business in India is not easy, Gupta said. "Being able to run a business where you deliver what you promise is what the challenge is."
Differentiating from others is what Gupta is consistently working towards at 91springboard by implementing full-proof plans. Bean bags, peppy decors, music and games for recreation at workplace are a thing of the past. The new age startups are looking for office spaces that are professional, presentable yet affordable. With over 600 associated companies and more than 1,900 workers inside the bustling spaces, 91springboard facilitates startups with everything they need to grow. Pitching, reverse pitching, mentor hours, smart hacks for startups are just a few initiatives to name at 91springboard. While recreation areas remain a favourite among workers, the community building sessions every Friday is something almost everyone looks forward too.
"We are the Amazon Web Services (AWS) in our sector. What they did to servers, we are doing in the co-working space," said Gupta, comparing his venture to Amazon Web Services (AWS), which redefined the cloud computing business by enabling one to run virtually everything in the cloud.
Even though Gupta sees no direct competition, the need for a differentiation in an industry, which is growing by the day, remains. He says 91springboard is focussed on community building and activities for its startups that work out of the nine different locations.
Despite the co-working space has so many startups on board and witnesses' discoveries of new ideas every now and then, 91springboard does not believe in the traditional format of incubation. What it believes is in community led incubation.
"The level of hand-holding in traditional incubators is much more extreme. We focus on creating the right community where startups can get a 'crowd sourced' format of guidance. We help by creating the environment and also by making connections via events and our growing network of mentors and even investors who often frequent hubs to meet startups. For startups, this is more ala-carte, pick what you like format," Gupta said. With community-led incubation in place, Gupta does not rule out a possibility of 91springboard venturing into acceleration in future.
"Co-working space and acceleration are separate businesses. We will take one step at a time. Acceleration looks like a distraction right away. We have plans but nothing concrete. It will happen in due course," says Gupta.
While acceleration remains a distraction for the time being for the co-working space, a concern about incubators in India not generating unicorns does not concern Gupta. He explains that even though, currently, there are no examples of billion-dollar companies emanating from co-working spaces, the future holds promise.
A former joint CEO at CIIE, IIM Ahmedabad's incubation cell, Gupta believes that the incubation ecosystem in India is growing at a faster than expected pace. "We cannot compare ourselves to the US. Their ecosystem is 25 years old. In just five years, the country has produced a lot of fantastic startups. In another three years, it will grow by leaps and bounds. I am very optimistic."
Bullish about most startups in the internet and mobile sectors, Gupta believes both virtual education and virtual healthcare will be big in the time to come.
"We have startups where you can call a plumber through a simple text message. This is very recent. Similarly, people are slowly yet gradually getting comfortable with video calling. That will change the dynamics. I am looking forward to a time when my doctor will be available on video call."
A few names that have been associated with 91springboard and found a perfect work place for themselves are Paytm, Oyo, Freshdesk, MailChimp, Google Cloud Platform among many others.