Monday, November 16, 2015

Startups:#CleanTech Ventures are the next big things

At a stage where Industrialization, automobiles and food processing industry have emerged as the key pollutants and the horizon of end of fossil-fueled economy is coming to an end - the next step for us to focus is to build a comprehensive ecosystem around  alternate energy sources, recycling technologies, waste management,  organic farming and allied industries.  At Cherunathury Tech Ventures we have built a service portfolio that will enable new ventures and technology startups in planning, launching, fundraising and setting up their businesses. 
Clean Tech Ventures are the next big things
CleanTech Ventures - under which we offer our business consulting services, is a comprehensive approach to address various business life cycle challenges for these Renewable and Clean Technology Enterprises.   There are lot of policy leverages in countries like India and elsewhere which can be leveraged.  Many ecosystem players like investors and specialists are available who bring solutions to the table to make the businesses reach and sustain growth.  
We understand that unlike other technology startups, CleanTech Ventures have long gestation periods.  So it is important to get partners and investors who understand the nature of the business and have sustained interest in the sector. Our endeavor is to connect with such strategic investing sources as part of our solutions to these enterprises. 
We are also looking to connect with skilled execution teams who are seeking opportunities.  There are specific skill sets that are in demand, and some or not. Wind energy, for example, seems to be tapering in Southern India, while picking up elsewhere.   
Leverage of core technologies is key for success.  Connecting with research institutions in India and elsewhere, who need industry connects and reach to markets are key factors for building a contiguous ecosystem.  
The market itself is defining itself - the citizenry, the enterprise and the governments have no cohesive approach to prepare for embracing clean technologies in a wholesome manner - the policies have been sporadic, enforcement weak, and voluntary adoption, meagre.  The whole point is that there is an education cycle before the actual business - and that might be good starting point.  However, we all would agree that this is delaying the inevitable.
There is an opportunity therefore to choose the 'battle' and choose the approach.  A series of tactical successes would be the best possible approach to validate long term strategies.  The long story short here is - it is time to start. 
- Ashok Subramanian 
Ashok Subramanian is a Business Strategist and Startup Evangelist.  He is the CEO of @CherunathuryTV, a new age Business Consulting Venture

Friday, October 30, 2015

Industry 4.0 - It is about being connected

Industry 4.0 is charactered by 9 advances in technology - as a Boston Consulting Paper indicates - Big Data and Analytics, Robotics, Simulation, Horizontal and Vertical Systems Integration, Industrial Integration of Things, Cybersecurity, Additive Manufacturing, Augmented Reality and Cloud.   These technology advances summarily advance production - interaction, integration and intelligence among various component of the manufacturing ecosystems. 
The key success factor however, to achieve the three I's - is being connected. The earlier approach to manufacturing was to take up each of the functions - good receipt,  warehouse, production, dispatch - et al and optimized them.  This meant that processes like TQM, Kaizen, Just in time - were applied to each functional unit of the assembly / manufacturing line, and in many cases, automation was used to achieve better results. 
It is about being connected - Systems and Functions - Industry 4.0
However, Industry 4.0 envisages a fully connected factory - which enables same concepts being applied on the complete manufacturing value chain - thereby enabling higher levels of efficiency.  This is possible through modern technologies where each function can exchange real time information between each function.   
What is key here is that there are various systems that might be in silos - for example a warehouse management system might be found wanting in terms of actual inventory available vs a production planning schedule that might want a dynamic change in inventory due to various factors - in some cases, changes in temperature may affect the density / viscosity of a particular raw material, and that in terms will affect the input conditions of a mixer.   If the systems are interconnected, the warehouse management system could alert the warehouse operator to plan a real time change and respond to the production plan.  This helps in avoiding down-the-chain errors and thereby increasing better quality of output and helps meet production schedule as well. 
While the fact that this can be achieved real time reinforces the factor prima facie that each of these individual functions need to be connected and enabled to interact.  This is one of the key facets of Industry 4.0 
-Ashok Subramanian
(C) Cherunathury Tech Ventures

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Industrial IOT is a component of Industry 4.0

Is Industry 4.0 about Internet of Things?  In reality, Internet of Things is more of a evolution of necessity, rather than a technology breakthrough.  In the earlier versions of industrialization, one thought that automation was the key to creating operational efficiencies.  Machines can perform jobs better and with lesser error rates than humans.  That solves one definite problems.
Machines however cannot solve some problems - complex formulations, multi-recipe scenarios in a single line, or multiple lines which feed into each other ( Intermediate product).  The complexities start right from raw materials all the way to finish goods.  The key factor is that when a decision is to made 'in real time' in terms of changing the formula, or prioritizing a mix, or tracking a small piece of exception,  most of the times, there is either a reject, or a delay in decision for which the assembly line has to stopped.  The fact is that the machines do talk.  And the machine to human communication (M2H) and machine to machine communication (M2M) makes the entire process more interactive, thereby being able to understand the 'context' or 'situation' the process or the individual machine is in. 
IOT is a part of  Industry 4.0 
Internet of Things is a disruptive technology - and is part of Industry 4.0.  The key here is to make the sensors more intelligent, and the information exchange that happens either to act, continue or stop ( real time decisions and action and thereafter storing information to practice analytics to enable operational planning ( even though retrospective or historian).  
In many cases, IOT is still finding its way for application - in complex situations like above, manual entry is still there. However, elimination of unreliable data input ( due to delayed and erratic entries) and disconnected systems is what makes the whole thing smart - smart here is about empowering the 'line operators' and 'managers' to take real time decisions on the shop floor.   Irrespective of the reason, if the shop floor operative is able to take a decision - and is able to record the action real time, lot of operational inefficiencies will vanish.   
What this means is - manufacturing excellence is a continuous pursuit - but the key factor to excellence is to create real time information availability at the hands of the actual action owners - through connected systems.  IOT definitely has a role, but is not the be-all and end-all of Industry 4.0. 
-Ashok Subramanian
Cherunathury Tech Ventures (c) 2015

Friday, October 23, 2015

#Startups: What we learnt in 2015 Part 1

Finally, we at Cherunathury Tech Ventures have met about 100 startups. Interesting experience. We shall share this as a live blog till December end. 

Learning # 1 :  Leverage and Delegate

We found that there is only one thing that separates from the more successful ones than the others. It is delegation and leverage. The ones that are better are the ones who delegate and leverage. The ones who are good, but can be better don't. Founders who carry the cross on their own, are limited by time and tactics. Founders who leverage and delegate have more value and respect for their own time, which is the greatest investment in any startup, and spend that time for core and top notch activities.

Learning # 2: Glamour and Gamble

Most startups have founders who know the risks.They know that they have 3% or abouts chance of success. They know they are going to loose other opportunities and many, the prime of their lives. It is called wagering. Both bootstrapping or fund raising are risky affairs, and as they say 'building the parachute as one goes down'. The glamor of being an entrepreneur and founder is a great offset factor - and that intoxication is key for the high adrenaline of foundership.

Learning # 3: Respecting Relationships 
A big difference between Enterprise and Startups is this. In Enterprise business, we return calls and manage relationships - remember, we run on quarterly numbers, especially in sales. Relationships matter. If you don't talk, your competition talks. What we found that founders talk to others only when they need, and expect instant results - other stakeholders are not on your beck and call. You might be busy, but never leave a thread loose. You are part of an ecosystem that does business with you or supports you.

Learning # 4: Trust but verify 
We saw that founders expected investors to place high degree of trust. Questions about investor skepticism - and assuming that the idea and the venture is a 'go', is a given among founders. But the same people don't trust other stakeholders - consultants, outsourced developers, mentors, digital marketing companies and other service providers of the startup ecosystem. Trust, but verify is the best approach, rather than making statements that 'based on my past experiences...' means that you are starting a relationship with distrust.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Startup: Put your glass down

Today,  got a personal lesson from a colleague.  I was thinking that I was doing heavy lifting of a job, an existing contract that normally is child's play. Human error, as they would call it. Simple tasks, but executed with errors. Why?  I was committing mistakes.   Then I came across this story - but the lesson was from a colleague.  
The story is in quotes here -'How heavy is this glass of water? The answer will surprise you. A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they'd be asked the "half empty or half full" question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: "How heavy is this glass of water?"
Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.
She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn't change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."
She continued, "The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything. Remember to put the glass down." End of story. 
I was enjoying the creative portion of the work, but not the mundane.  This mundane part somehow led to errors - leading to dissatisfaction of the customer.  All this is in anticipation of the growth, a larger contract that was being discussed for the past 6 months.  I was stressed, as I continued to make errors, but make progress in finalization of the larger contract.   And when the hour of reckoning came,  my colleague, on a discussion said that let us step back from taking up the larger contract.  
Personally, it was blow - and it is still. All 6 months efforts have gone to a nought.  But it also brought in relief - relief that the contract might have gone awry, and we were not quite capable enough to execute - I was carrying the cross of anticipation and was stressed out hence.   Now with that off, may be I will be able to recoup and plan better.   Letting go, and not worrying is sometimes better than stressful progress - a good lesson to factor in. 
-Ashok Subramanian

Saturday, October 10, 2015

#Startup : Validity of Quotation

How many of us offer something to our clients - especially in B2B sales, and then the client puts in on hold.  Then comes a situation where the client re-invokes the proposal and says 'hey, can we look at this again'.  And your last proposal - stands.  Can you dare to say that we need to submit a fresh proposal?
Time bound validity of offer is key for conducting business

Customers solicit solutions - software, hardware, services, support, consumables - all and sundry in a proposal or a quotation. Many companies - which offer quotations give in the form of a 'proforma invoice' - to clearly classify that they are NOT an legal note, and only for reference.  But proposals for complex projects have many variables - scope, hardware, foreign exchange dependencies, consumable costs, version upgrade windows, stock availability, seasonal factors - and therefore, a budgetary proposal, while can be a reasonable indicator. The customer cannot hold your collar based on it.

Here in comes the validity of quotation. Notwithstanding the circumstances of the proposal, a quotation or a budgetary proposal, irrespective of the nature of product, service or a solution should be valid for a particular time period. This includes prices, discounts, and other aspects.  While E-commerce, FMCG and retail industries handle this very clearly, B2B businesse often overlook this key term in the proposal.  The budget CANNOT be valid forever.  This validity is based on your terms and if needed, on written request and review thereof, can be extended.

Consult your legal team once, based on the nature of your business. Else, in the madness of selling and fear of losing the customer, and other stressful and extraneous circumstances, you will be forced to bind yourself to your offer.  This can be detrimental to all.

- Ashok Subramanian
Cherunathury Tech Ventures

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

#Startup: If you are an IITian, start a tech startup!

While it is not a necessity, and never the Golden rule - why do IIT'ian s- both pass- and drop- outs go after consumer services? An e-commerce portal is neither a problem solver nor a tech startup. It is consumer services business. India needs technology to harness to solve problems both social and commercials. IIMs going after consumer services startups, understandable, but IIT'- no. IIT is designed to build engineers and technologists, who apply their skills and knowledge and enterprise to build tech startups. There are other technology or engineering students from other enterprises who may have great tech startup ideas, but won't be valued by investors. See the gap?

India needs chemical, manufacturing, biotech, metallurgical expertise, and all that is getting trained is going into consumer services startups- and out of which 3% succeed. And IIT's are funded by tax payers. If you are an IIT-ian, and running a successful startup, you are successful, but an opportunity wasted. Pure and simple. And how many of you have become‪#‎MeToos‬? And 'an idea can come to anyone, anytime' is crap.
Dont touch that investor's money, because it is for your alumnus status, and not for the audacity of the business idea. This is not stereotyping, but a call for IIT-incubators and alumnus to get back to the drawing board and look out for opportunities that core skills can come it. IIT degree is neither a proof of intelligence nor a label of pedigree. It was an opportunity for somebody to learn and then contribute. If you dont agree, it is fine. As I said, you may be successful, but not useful. thats all.

-Ashok Subramanian