January 29, 2010
Interview in 'Advantage Bengal' – A publication by Indian Express Group
I was recently interviewed by Indian Express group for their publication "Advantage Bengal". Here is a transcript of the interview for my blog readers!
1. As an IT entrepreneur what do you feel are the key strengths of Bengal as an IT investment destination?
Most environmental parameters can be offset using technology, so it is useless to compare any destination based on those parameters. Therefore 'people' become the biggest differential factor for any geography. People are different in different parts of the world and they become the competitive advantage and the differentiating factor. The same goes for West Bengal.
2. Please share with us your experiences in Kolkata as an IT entrepreneur. What are the major advantages & challenges you faced as an IT entrepreneur in Bengal?
I have a mixed bag of experience in West Bengal.
- Availability of talent
- The tightly knit peer community
- There is lack of serious competition and therefore you get clear visibility and rapid growth
- Local market potential is lacking
- There is a proven apathy of state government towards local companies
- General lack of professionalism and dynamism
3. Tell us about Indus Net Technologies. When and how it was set up? What is the total strength of the company?
Indus Net Technologies was set up in 1997 as a hobby. In 2002, I decided to build it into an organization and started building a team. We started with web hosting and gradually diversified into web design, web development, Internet marketing and recently into Internet strategy consulting. We did not find big enough local market and therefore pioneered the concept of selling web services through Internet. We generated a very good traction based on our innovative marketing and rock-solid project delivery mechanism. Today we are around 300 people strong and have offices in Kolkata, Chennai and London.
4. Who are the major clients of Indus Net Technologies? How big is the company in revenue terms? What are your targets? Do you have plans to increase the headcount in the coming years?
We have 8000+ SME clients worldwide. Besides them, we also serve (We cannot disclose the name due to privacy reasons).:
- Major Insurance and Financial Service companies from the UK
- Major global publishing houses in Europe and India
Our expected turnover for 2009-2010 on the lower side is Rs. 150 million. We expect this to grow at a pace of 75-110% per year on year for next five years. It is difficult to plan on revenue terms in a dynamic market scenario such as Internet services.
Our headcount will also increase accordingly. However, we are looking at breaking the link between headcount and revenues.
5. 'Seeders', a brain child of yours have been helping 'young brains' to set up IT start-ups. Can you elaborate on the activities of 'Seeders'? What necessitated the setting up of 'Seeders'? How it is helping IT entrepreneurs in 'germinating' their business ideas and plans? Tell us about some of the major projects funded by 'Seeders'? How big is the Corpus Fund?
'Seeders' has been set up as a partnership firm between myself and Pallav Nadhani of Infosoft Global Private Limited. 'Seeders' has been formed to provide the right eco-systems to startups to help them grow from an idea stage to expansion phase. Most startups struggle for the right kind of mentoring, connections, guidance besides infrastructure and capital. 'Seeders' offers the complete package. The entrepreneur needs to walk in with the right attitude and a bright idea.
We are IT entrepreneurs and therefore we can effectively mentor and guide IT related ventures. Considering this, we only entertain business plans and proposals for IT projects. It can be of great help to IT entrepreneurs as they can get the complete eco-system in a single package. It will accelerate their pace and give wings to their ideas.
The corpus fund is of 2 crores to start with. We will continue to add to it with time as situation demands. We have reviewed over 25 business plans so far. We are in advanced level of discussion with 2-3 entrepreneurs and will soon close few investments.
6. How can one avail of the facilities of 'Seeders'?
They simply need to visit http://www.seeders.in and fill in the paper-napkin business plan. We do not want people to create projections and detailed plan for us, unless we believe in the idea and the capability of the entrepreneur. This makes everybody's life a lot simpler.
7. How pro-active is the State IT Department / Webel to the needs of IT entrepreneurs like you?
WEBEL did helped me very proactively when I relocated my business from power starved Dalhousie to Sector V by providing me space in SDF Building. They have always tried their level best to help us in all operational issues which was in their capacity. I will also like to highlight the help extended to us by STPI Kolkata and TiE.
State IT Department has always had the best intentions for us (IT SMEs). However, for some reason we remain deprived. To quote you a simple example – State Government is trying their level best to woo investment from Wipro / Satyam and Infosys by offering them big stretches of prime land at discounted prices. However, local companies do not get the same equal treatment. I am echoing the sentiments of a big segment of IT SMEs in Kolkata as I have interacted extensively with them and they believe it is a lost cause.
8. How you have benefited from your association with IT organizations like TiE?
TiE is a great learning and networking platform. I would say that it is like doing an "Executive MBA" in true sense. There are so many helpful and passionate people around in this wonderful organization, who passionately drive the cause of entrepreneurship. I find like minded people who feel (like me) that entrepreneurship is the only way poverty can be abolished.
9. Future plans??
Indus Net Technologies is looking at a rapid growth trajectory in 2010. We are looking at firming our base in the UK and taking our footprints beyond.