There have been numerous start-ups flourishing lately through unique ideas and aggressive positioning

When SlideShare, a presentation-sharing site was acquired recently by LinkedIn for Rs 640 crore, its India-born promoter Rashmi Sinha said she couldn't have been happier. The deal has also created a lot of buzz in India about which other start-up could face similar success. New names such as Uniphore, HelpingDoc, iDruple,Wingify, Eko, Stayzilla and many others are mushrooming, mostly led by young entrepreneurs.

“Start-ups have the opportunity to aggressively position themselves as more efficient alternatives to traditional business models through innovation in technology and business models. For example, the e-commerce industry is beginning to grow at a break-neck pace as the penetration in tier-II cities is improving. Whereas, brick-and-mortar retail chains are not in a position yet to reach these areas,” Mr Umesh Sachdev, Chief Executive Officer, Uniphore Software Systems told The Hindu Business Line. Mr Sachdev is also the co-founder of the company that was started in 2008.

Uniphore, with 40 employees, has a customer base in public and private sector banks, NBFCs, healthcare and education service providers.

The company uses speech technologies to give its customers mobility to connect and conduct business through any mobile phone, 24X7, online or offline and in any language.

HelpingDoc is another example. It is an online portal started by four friends – one doctor and three graduates from London Business School – with an objective to provide convenience of choosing a doctor to patients online. The founders generated the idea from the fact that in India, most of us do not have an obvious way of knowing which doctor or specialist to go to for a check-up. It also has to factor in lower cost and geography so that one does not have to travel much.

The company offers multiple channels that reduce waiting time for accessing quality healthcare. All one has to do is log on to its website and according to the problem of the patient, gets suggestions from experts a list of doctors, to go for.

“Rather than going to hospitals for just an appointment or asking for a specialist, one can log on and check for appointment from sitting at home from a list of doctors. The service is free for patients and gets instant replies on SMS and email on their appointments,” Mr Amit Bansal, Chief Executive Officer and one of the founders said.

He said the company which started last month has a list of more than 1,000 doctors and the list includes specialists from hospitals such as Fortis, Max and Vedanta. The success story is that there have been around 300 unique visitors per day and 10,000 plus visitors in a month's time.

HelpingDoc charges a subscription fee of around Rs 500 from each of the doctors enlisted in its website. Services to patients are free, but have to pay the doctor's fee on their visit.Mr Bansal said as of now, HelpingDoc's services are available in Delhi and national capital region, but would expand to Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune soon. It would begin in one of the cities from September, he said. The company was started at the cost of 100,000pounds (around Rs 1 crore) with each co-founder contributing 25,000 pounds.

The good thing for these start-ups is that the worsening economic environment has not impacted venture funding and one can still see strong deal flows and investments across the board. In some cases there was not much requirement of investment. Take the example of BlueAnt that makes short videos or films. It was started with an investment of just Rs 1 lakh last year. Started by an undergraduate in BTech - Electronics and Instrumentation from Vellore Institute of Technology, Mr Arjun Jassal, BlueAnt broke even in the first three months of its starting up. Working out of a small office at Greater Kailash in New Delhi, 27 years old Mr Jassal has no employees – he is the one man army – and hires people on project basis.

But analysts say that though there are new start-ups with new ideas, they have to be specialists in what they do. “Significant number of contracts is coming back in the market either for renegotiation or for renewal of contracts including smaller deals, where such companies can look for opportunities. However, the start-ups or smaller firms have to have specialization in the field to capture such deals. Specialisation can only make them grow faster,” Mr Sid Pai, Partner and managing Director at TPI (an independent firm) said.

Companies like eTechies.in – a technology support company for computers, printers in repairing and annual maintenance in households and some enterprises, have delayed its breakeven time to few more months.

Started in 2010, the company had targeted a breakeven seven months ago but had delayed it to another few months, given the challenges in the economy. However, Chaudhary said there is growthas their business is unique. The company invested around Rs 30 lakh when it started and had another round of investments in January 2012 of $ 2 million (around Rs 11 crore) funded by Inventus Capital Partners.

There are many others and probably venture capital funds in Silicon Valley are already eyeing some of them.

ronendrasingh.s@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on May 29, 2012)
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