Things to consider before opting for partnership registration

Things to consider before opting for partnership registration

Managing a partnership firm isn’t a cake walk. Many factors must be considered before signing the final partnership agreement. Though business partnerships may have its own perks in terms of monetary and intellectual matters, it also has its own share of disadvantages, like possible disagreements, monetary adjustments, or ego clashes, leading to a fallout. As such, it is important to have an unambiguous partnership agreement with clear and comprehensive clauses. We have culled out some important aspects one must consider before sealing a partnership agreement to avoid disputes and impasse in the future.

 

  1. Be wise while choosing your partner/partners: The success of every partnership firm depends on the partners working towards a common goal. Disagreement between the partners may lead the firm to downfall. Hence, it is important to have a partner/partners who has a similar thought process as yours and looks at things with an aim to achieve the common goal. Networking is a great way to help you understand the other person’s work methods and values in this regard.

 

  1. Create a balanced Partnership Agreement: A well-drafted partnership agreement is a must for a partnership firm to work seamlessly. Here are a few key points to a balanced partnership agreement.
  • Name of the partnership firm: Choose a unique and original name for your partnership firm. The name should not have resemblance to any existing business. There is also restriction on use of words like “empire”, “emperor” or “crown”. Use of such words in a business name requires prior government approval.
  • Partners’ contribution and ownership: The partners’ contribution may be in different forms such as cash, assets, or services and based on that their subsequent valuation of percentage in ownership should be determined.
  • Allocation of profit and loss: Details on how the allocation of profit and loss will take place should be clearly mentioned in the partnership deed.
  • Partners’ authority in decision making: The role of the partners having the authority to take part in the decision making process should be clearly defined. This clause should specify who should have a final say in the decision making process or if any decision requires a majority vote or a unanimous consent.
  • Allocation of management responsibilities: Splitting up of duties among the members along with individual responsibilities is the key to an ideal partnership deed.
  • Admission of a new partner: The process of onboarding new partners should be properly documented.
  • Exit of a partner: The withdrawal process of a partner should be clearly documented in the agreement. There may be withdrawal of a partner either by death or by choice.
  • Dispute resolution methods: The deed should contain specifics about dispute resolution methods to be opted for possible difference of opinions that may arise in the future. The dispute resolution methods should necessarily contain Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) or court-order to handle disputes.

 

  1. Preference of LLP over general partnership: Before deciding on a registered partnership, you may want to go through the benefits of a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP). An LLP comes with many advantages as compared to that of a regular partnership firm. These benefits include-
  • Limited liability of the partners
  • Separate legal entity of firm from its partners
  • The firms capacity to own assets in its own name
  • Flexibility
  • Perpetual existence which is not affected by the death or exit of the partners
  • Tax advantages
  • Easy fund raising capacity, etc.

 

  1. Capital distribution Clause: The capital distribution clause in the partnership deed should include varied ways of capital distribution among the partners in the form of cash, tangible assets such as land, premises, machinery or inventory, and intangible assets such as personal network of contacts and goodwill etc. The clause should also specify the partners’ initial contribution to the firm and any changes that were made in the capital amount during the continuance of the firm (in the form of cash, tangible or intangible assets etc.).

 

  1. Plan a systematic exit strategy: The partnership agreement should specify a systematic exit plan for all the possible dissolution scenarios, which should include-
  • Partnership dissolution procedure
  • Every nook and corner of the distribution of profits, assets, and capital
  • Strategy for dissolution of the firm

A good exit strategy will help you avoid chaos and deadlocks in the decision making process of the firm. One of the most viable strategies in this regard is taking a third party on board (specially in case of a 50/50 partnership) who will act like a tiebreaker in case of voting polls among the partners to avoid deadlocks.

 

A partnership registration is a great way to start with for any new organization. But, with the passage of time, and depending on the expansion of the business, one can always opt for conversion to other business structures such as LLP, Pvt. Ltd. Company, or a Public Ltd. Company, as per the size and requirement of the business.

 

 

Geetima Das
Agri-Fintech Startup from Assam creates a platform to accelerate financial inclusion of the Indian farmers

Agri-Fintech Startup from Assam creates a platform to accelerate financial inclusion of the Indian farmers

For a predominantly agrarian economy like ours, farmers are the backbone of our economic constitution. About 70% of the country’s population is engaged in agricultural activities, with 120 crore population principally depending on it for survival. Unfortunately enough, our food growers aren’t the ones getting the kind of focus they deserve. About 12.5 crore small and marginal Indian farmers have little or no access to financial products. Most farmers are unaware of benefits like crop loans, livestock loans, and insurance. To keep the farming business going, they end up taking loans from local money lenders at exorbitant rates of interest, resulting in debt traps and the consequent loss of land and property. Banks are risk-averse to lending to the farmers due to the shooting NPAs (Non-Performing Asset) in the segment. The agriculture credit market in India stands at USD 200 Bn and despite it being a priority sector, the GNPA (Gross Non-Performing Asset) from the agriculture sector and allied activities in Public Sector Banks stood at Rs 1.04 lakh crore at the end of July 2019 as against a total credit of Rs 9.42 lakh crore. Hence, the proportion of GNPA to total credit is around 11 percent. This has forced banks/insurance companies to rethink their business model and reduce their overall credit facilitation to agriculture and allied sectors, preventing the financial growth of small and marginal farmers. The Assam-based startup, Farmeasy Technologies Pvt. Ltd may come as a ray of hope for the Indian farmers with its digital platform that creates and records the creditworthiness of the farmers and allots scorecards against them for easy reference for the financial institutions. 

Farmeasy Technologies Pvt. Ltd provides a digital creditworthiness scorecard under its brand name Farm Infinity (farm∞) to each farmer registered on its platform, based on its proprietary algorithm that considers over 80+ individual parameters like basic KYC, total cultivable farmland, GPS coordinates of the farmland, soil health data, livestock, crop cultivated, availability of irrigation facilities, farm equipment, years of experience, number of household members for each farmer, etc., and considers over 600 data-sets and 10 Mn data from Government database. The financial institutions can use these scorecards to keep a check on the live profiles of the farmers, along with tracking the various parameters for better decision-making in terms of awarding loans and providing insurance products. Banks, MFIs (Micro Finance Institutions), NBFCs (Non-Banking Financial Corporation), and Insurance companies can use these scorecards to determine the creditworthiness of farmers and sanction them various financial insurance products/services, like crop and livestock insurance, farm loans, KCCs (Kisan Credit Card), etc. Apart from steam-rolling hassles for the Indian farmers in obtaining loans, Farm Infinity’s proprietary algorithm based creditworthiness and risk assessment scorecard will also help reduce the NPAs of the financial institutions. It is similar to that of CIBIL (Credit Information Bureau (India) Limited) scorecard, used for determining the creditworthiness of employed and self-employed individuals. The startup focuses on digitizing and automating the loan cycle and insurance workflows of the Financial Institutions.

Farmeasy Technologies founder, Gunajit Brahma

In 2012, Gunajit Brahma and a group of IIM Indore alumni started a venture by the name Jeev Anksh Eco-Products Pvt. Ltd. Jeev Anksh is a social venture dealing with providing market linkages, contract farming with buyback assurance to small and marginal organic farmers and their farm produce. It was while working for the venture that they got familiarized with motley farmers and the variegated problems plaguing the Indian agricultural sector. They noticed how the farmers had to struggle in securing monetary aid from the financial institutions. A further probe brought them to terms with the financial institutions declining granting loans due to inadequate documents for verification and the farmers’ rather questionable capacity to pay back the loan amount. That was the trigger point for Gunajit Brahma and his IIM Indore batchmate, Alok Kumar Ekka, to start Farmeasy Technologies. Gunajit’s experience of working in the agricultural sector and Alok’s tryst with the banking sector proved to be an ideal combination for a fintech startup addressing the agricultural sector. Apart from the founders, the company is lent the essential experience and technical knowhow with founding members like Kaustav Gayon – IIT Kharagpur alumnus, and Ram Munda – NIT Durgapur alumnus. Besides, a retired banker at the Indian Overseas Bank, Samir Baruah, has joined the team as an Advisor. The company is also in discussion to pull a retired IAS officer into the Advisory Board.

Farm Infinity, with its user-friendly mobile platform, enables farmers from even the remotest areas to register themselves just with a finger tap, dismantling physical restrictions and commuting challenges. Asked about the efficacy of the platform in a country where a good number of farmers are illiterate and digitally constrained, Gunajit informs about introducing a speech recognition feature to abate the problem in the future.

“Since the majority of the Indian farmers do not have any know-how of running a mobile application in the English language we are also working on introducing a voice-driven form or speech-to-text feature to our application so that illiteracy can no longer be a barrier for them,” says Gunajit Brahma. Interestingly, the idea for integrating a speech-to-text feature was suggested by the officials from Microsoft who had visited The Nest earlier this year.

The startup is also planning to develop a vernacular version of the application. It will be available in all 18 recognized Indian languages, easily accessible to the farmers of different states. Besides, the company will tie up with Farmer Producer Organisations (FPO) that will play a substantial role in terms of encouraging the farmers to get onboard on the platform. Initially, the mobile application will be rolled out for the FPOs/FPCs and agribusinesses alone and will be let open for individual farmers subsequently.

The startup would charge a subscription fee from the financial institutions for assigning and maintaining exclusive web-based dashboards on the platform with updated information and farmer scorecards. Conversely, it plans to pay a finder’s fee to the FPOs and FPCs for every farmer onboarded from their networks.

While the Android application will be officially launched and made available on Google’s Play Store soon, the basic website is live now.

As the government-initiated programs like BIRAC-Sparsh try to attract agri-tech startups to introduce new-age innovations in agriculture and aid the Indian farmers to do away with the primitive method of weather and soil dependent cultivation, Farmeasy Technologies holds the potential to offer a sound solution to the financial assistance deprivation faced by farmers that have frequently ensued in heart-wrenching cases of suicides in the farmer community. And now that Covid-19 has pushed digitization from being an add-on to a need, ventures like this are going to grab the interest of the agricultural stakeholders and the investors, alike.

 

A startup from Assam is trying to uplift the conditions of the farmers in North East India by offering them a price 1.2 times more than the market for the produce. Read to know more.

Startup rising in Assam, it’s Challenges, and the role of Assam Startup

Startup rising in Assam, it’s Challenges, and the role of Assam Startup

In 2017, when the Department of Industries and Commerce, Government of Assam, picked up the baton to formulate the Assam Startup Policy, its topmost priority was to find a strong and long-term solution to a critical problem of the state – Unemployment. The Assam Startup initiative is the result of imperative brainstorming to develop a model for self-sustenance wherein the youths are empowered to write their own destiny rather than depending on the corporates or even the government to determine their career graph. Imagine if we have a thousand number of youths turning into successful entrepreneurs over a span of 5 years, how many job avenues will they be able to create for a thousand others! But this cannot happen in a single day, a month, or, for that matter, even a year. It’s crucial to overcome some deep-rooted challenges if the dream of an entrepreneurial revolution in Assam has to be realized.

The first and most crucial challenge is Mindset. Ask about one’s notion of an ideal career and most of them will say, ‘I want a job that assures security and a decent salary.’ Entrepreneurship, on the other hand, is about a die-hard passion to take risks in order to achieve impossible milestones. On the contrary, we are mostly averse to taking risks. In fact, risk-taking is often considered a wild vice. But let’s not blame anyone for this. It’s a mindset intrinsic to our upbringing. Most of us have grown up believing in ‘getting settled’ with a decent job for survival. Why take risks and walk extra miles when life could be easy and stakes secured by bagging a decent job? In order to convince ourselves that we are far more capable than being mere survivors is something that would take time, awareness drives, and a few success stories from the local ecosystem.

Talking about success stories, these stories must, very importantly, reflect the kind of impact that they are making in society. Profit-making is just one part of it. For instance, the story of a common man with a degree from India’s top management institute, dismissing offers of executive-level jobs to make homecoming and hit the fields of rural Assam to start a community farming project. Immediately the focus diverts from the amount of money and comfort he missed from a possible high profile corporate job to the amount of good he has done to the community of farmers of his home state. Imagine the magnitude of respect he commands through his efforts and the impact that he creates. Let’s also understand here that apart from security, another very important element attached to a job or career in this part of the world is Respect. Most of us want our children to grow up to be doctors, engineers, professors, or maybe someone holding a coveted position in the administration. This desire does not just emerge from the income considerations, but equally from the kind of respect that these professions command. As such, it becomes important to convey to the people that entrepreneurs do not only make profits but also command an immense amount of respect because of the positive changes that they bring in society and to the economy as bold and ethical leaders. When we talk about changing mindsets, change must be brought, both, in the youths to try and tread the path of entrepreneurship, as well as in their parents to support the decision to take up entrepreneurship. And this can come through extensive awareness campaigns across the length and breadth of the state.

However, even if one has finally realized the amount of money and respect that entrepreneurship can bring, he/she might still pat an argument: “Business isn’t in our blood.” It’s very common among us to say that business comes naturally to someone in Gujarat or Rajasthan, but not to us, with a few exceptions. Perhaps, what they see as a genetic construction is, in reality, a lack of exposure. This brings us to the second challenge: Exposure. One will remain unsure and scared about a thing as long as he isn’t exposed to it.

Talking about the importance of innovative thinking and problem-solving skills for successful entrepreneurship is easy. But the question is how to imbibe the skills when one isn’t exposed to these? In order to stop playing safe and start taking risks without fear of failure, the need is to get exposed to a challenging environment where brilliant risk-takers are playing smart gambles to successfully resolve problems through innovative thinking.

In this part of the world, even if someone thinks of a startup idea, he would, most possibly, bury it within himself without realizing the possibilities of building his idea into a profitable, scalable, and sustainable business venture. Cut to a city like Bangalore, Mumbai, or Delhi, a youth deciphers the commercial viability of an idea as soon as it hits him. He isn’t scared to shape his idea into a business because he is completely familiar with startups and entrepreneurship. He has seen people discussing startups and businesses at the coffee table. He is in sync with the entrepreneurial environment. It is this kind of exposure and familiarity to entrepreneurship that we are wanting in.

Need has been felt for creating a buzzword among the people of Assam about startup and entrepreneurship. The way North East India feels at home with music and guitar, a startup trend needs to be created with a supportive ecosystem so that the youth feels at home with startup and entrepreneurship as well.

However, even if one has the required mindset, it all comes down to being null without the knowledge of doing business. Lack of Business Knowledge is the third challenge typically faced in Assam. As mentioned earlier, being more of a job-oriented community, our interests as well as the academic curriculum are focused more on job-based subjects than on entrepreneurship courses. We must understand that while passion and risk-taking are entrepreneurial virtues, it will end up like a mighty bedlam without strong and levelheaded knowledge of the business. That’s one of the fundamental reasons why a lot of brilliant ideas die down in Assam without making any noise.

It was this understanding that propelled the launch of Assam’s first state-owned incubation centre, The Nest, wherein brilliant ideas are given suitable directions for their best possible execution. Fledgling startups are made aware of the best practices and thoroughly mentored about what to do with an idea and how to develop it into a suitable business model. The IIM Calcutta Innovation Park, having years of experience in building startup ecosystems, especially in the East and North-East India, has been entrusted with the responsibility of implementing the initiative by the Government of Assam. India’s premium institution is vested to impart the much-needed business knowledge, provide intensive mentoring and handholding to the startups so that they end up with the required knowledge and confidence to fly high after graduating from the incubation centre.

With over 5000 young innovators and fledgling entrepreneurs currently toiling in the state to realize their entrepreneurial dreams, the seeds have surely been sown for raising a fertile entrepreneurial landscape in Assam. It’s now up to the ecosystem developers to nurture these young entrepreneurs, support them with adequate resources and infrastructure, and fortify them with sound business know-how and confidence to create local heroes out of them. The good news is that the process has already begun. A unified community of passionate people is emerging gradually that sees entrepreneurship as the common answer to the variegated problems in the state and shares the common goal of seeing Assam emerge as one of the top ecosystems in the country. 

While Assam Startup has been conspicuous by its leadership role in creating a startup movement in Assam, perhaps, the emerging startup rising in Assam would fall short of the desired outcome without full-fledged participation from the stakeholders and expert contributions from other key industries, especially the ones working with startups, entrepreneurs, and MSMEs. Activation of EDCs incubation centres in various academic institutions in the state project an encouraging trend in this regard. Premium institutions like the Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship (IIE), STPI, Guwahati Biotechnology Park, and Technology Incubation Centre (IIT Guwahati) are sharing the baton along with Assam Startup in encouraging entrepreneurship, scouting for promising startups and innovators, and helping them with resource and research infrastructure for product development and reaching entrepreneurial goals.

 

 

By Satarupa Mishra

 

Survival to Revival: Startup Strategies to outshine the Pandemic

Survival to Revival: Startup Strategies to outshine the Pandemic

The pandemic has by and large resulted in a testing time for business establishments, especially for startups. While the supply chains have been severely disrupted, it has become a task to keep the cash flowing. Nevertheless, hard times are meant to either make or break you. Since the abatement of COVID-19 still remains entwined with uncertainties, it is important to stay alert and prepared for all the scenarios. Here’s a list of smart adoptions to keep your business afloat during the pandemic.

• Analyse the burn rate in both the scenarios: Analyse the current cash outflow and the cash inflow during the normal days. Optimize the burn rate and look out for areas where you can reduce spending viz., glossy marketing, office rent, and other expenses, some of which could be avoided even after the crisis is over.

• Adapt to the trend and create an entirely new revenue stream: Adapt to the current market landscape and optimize your new revenue model. Brace yourself for the possibilities of an entirely new revenue stream emerging post-pandemic.

• Take cues from competitors: Observe the competitors that have been coping well with the pandemic. Observe the different activities they have engaged in to outshine the crisis. Adjust your strategy and realign your business to better match the competition.

• Communicate with the stakeholders: Consult with your investors and external experts (business mentors) to plan the right form of communication in the given situation. Have an honest conversation on the situation and its impact on your business with credible industry experts.

• Look for grants: Governments across the globe have been offering special COVID-19 grant schemes to help companies counter the current situation effectively. Identify suitable schemes and waste no time to apply.

At the end of the day, there’s no fixed rule to wade through problems. The most striking quality of startups is their whacky, out-of-the-box thinking to find ingenious solutions to the problems. Startups from The Nest have also explored new ways to sail through the pandemic. Whether ensuring decent cash flow or putting a check on cash burn, the startups have been working out ways to keep afloat their businesses.

Acknowledging pivoting as a crucial survival trick during the pandemic, car service aggregator Automovill Technologies has successfully ventured into vehicle sanitization services. The startup is using high-grade anti-microbial solutions to sanitize government vehicles, ensuring safety and hygiene in these testing times. They have also sanitized a number of office setups in Guwahati.

When North Eastern handloom and handicraft oriented startup Brahmaputra Fables realized a demand dearth for the regular handicraft items, they wasted no time in diverting focus to mask making. Being a social enterprise, the startup launched a campaign “Make Your Own Mask”, giving standard mask-making tutorials to the local communities to make and earn from masks. To date, they have been able to ship mask orders worth Rs. 5 lakh, opening livelihood opportunities for the local population in the process.

Another social enterprise, North East Farm Sales Promotion, offering on-demand processing and packaging services to farmers, continued to procure agro products from farmers at 1.2 times the market price and sold packaged products worth around Rs. 40 lakh in three months since June. They also utilised this time for R&D and product line expansion. As a result, the startup has been able to launch their new line of herbal room fresheners immediately after the lockdown.

Many of our startups have made the most of the lockdown to undertake R&D activities for product development and expansion. The slowdown offered startups the time to upskill themselves. Attending different knowledge webinars have helped them with better insight and enabled them to fine-tune their business models.

Areca leaf tableware manufacturer, Recon, made a nifty move to build a pipeline of skilled workers during the lockdown. At a time when product manufacturing mostly remained suspended, the startup utilised the time to skill up local women from the BoP community to make areca tableware. In the process, the startup isn’t just skilling up workers, but also opening livelihood opportunities for the BoP population.

The incorporation of digital elements had rightfully found the topmost priority for most of the startups. The ones who had hitherto vouched for the traditional sales channel finally began exploring the ease and efficacy of the digital medium. Rather than typically banking on physical stores and retail houses, startups like North East Farm Sales Promotion and Aromica Tea began taking their products to online retail platforms like Tribes India and Amazon respectively. A one-stop place for bicyclers, Spokehub tried to virtually make it up for the dried out cycling events with their newly launched YouTube channel. Another startup, Utkarsh Edutech, shifted a major part of its prototype for school-level Science experiment kits to an online mode. While they continue to work on the prototype for the physical Science kits, the priority has shifted to developing an application with Science experiments in vernacular language integrated with animated Science and Mathematics video tutorials for school students from vernacular medium.

Customer retention has been a major challenge faced especially by the emerging startups during this period. While most of the production and services remained suspended during the lockdown, it was a task for companies to stay fresh in the customers’ memory for finding the first preference in wake of a demand when things would fall back to normal. Guwahati-based Aromica Tea found an interesting way to stay afloat and remind the consumers of their credibility. Apart from taking up mask distribution, founder Ranjit Baruah developed attractive paper flasks and distributed freshly brewed ghost chillie tea in it to the on-duty sentinels in and around the city for free. The initiative managed to garner a decent amount of attention, especially from the media fraternity. They even offered home delivery to the customers, minting decent revenue in the process.

The slowdown offered conducive time and space to the startups to touch base with their customers and strike connects with credible stakeholders. The startups came out guns blazing to seize this opportunity. Travel startup Encamp Adventures, offering experiential tours to North East India capitalised on the pause to personally reach out to their customers. They utilised the period to run a survey among their customers and have accrued some eye-opening feedback, which would be incorporated into their Go To Market strategy.

A few of the startups came up with interesting ways to cut down on the cost while sustaining the employees at the same time. While some of them had restricted staff remunerations to sustenance allowance, one of them went a step ahead and offered accommodation to the team members along with the allowance. A few of the startup founders went out of the way to explore avenues for cash flow mainly intended at supporting the employees. At an hour when the employees were susceptible to demotivation and inefficiency, the startup founders worked out unconventional ways to pump up the team with reassurance and appreciation.

Industry gurus have been championing unconventional collaborations as a means to survive the current crunch. And our startups have bought into the suggestions wholeheartedly. Rather than typically banking on retail platforms like Amazon and Flipkart, startups like Aromica Tea, Esah Tea, and Manorama Foods & Agrotech have collaborated with Brahmaputra Fables to leverage its online platform for sales.

There is no strict guidebook for survival. Smart thinking and agile implementation are the keys to finding unconventional solutions for subsistence. The confidence and chutzpah unique to the startups inject in them the drive to stay undeterred by hurdles and rather make the most out of the challenges.

It is because of this impeccable problem-solving spirit that the 26 startups from Cohort 2.0 managed to generate total revenue of around a crore in four months during the pandemic. From launching a parallel trading company to trying hands in dropshipping and grocery delivery beyond the company purview, the startups have hardly left any stone unturned to sustain themselves through the pandemic. The Government of Assam’s POC and Scale-Up grant worth Rs. 3.3 crore to the 31 incubated startups under the My Assam Startup ID has also come as a timely respite for the startups.

If it takes the worst of a situation to bring out the best in someone, perhaps, no one fits this bill more than the startups. The array of challenges hurled by COVID-19 has posed an opportunity for startups to think harder, explore the creative pockets of the mind like never before, and devise ingenious solutions. If the problem-solving mindset is a key virtue for startups, COVID-19 has corroborated its urgency like nothing else.

 

North East Farm Sales Promotion betters livelihood of 1000+ farmers in North East India

North East Farm Sales Promotion betters livelihood of 1000+ farmers in North East India

Bhanu Pratap Singh was working in the development sector while DS Poonia was an IAS officer, holding several coveted posts during his three decades of service. Well-versed with the agricultural dependency of the North-Eastern states, they spotted a visible slack in product packaging, processing, branding, and marketing of the agricultural output among the farmers, which, in turn, constricts adequate returns. The region produces a handsome quantity of fruits, spices, and cashew, etc. But, it could not fetch a market price for the farmers at par with the markets in the other states. Marketing approaches and processing facilities, procurement practices, infrastructure, etc. act as major constraints in rural marketing in North East India. That’s when the duo decided to launch North East Farm Sales Promotion (NEFSP) in January 2019 with the objective to promote and create a market for the natural products from North East India.

North East Farm Sales Promotion offers on-demand processing and packaging services, addresses the common branding needs of farmers, and extends support in retailing, exports, and institutional sales. Realizing that the farmers are often forced by the middlemen to sell the perishable items at a much lower price due to the unavailability of cold storage facilities, NEFSP has also started offering sorting, grading, pouching, and vacuuming services to the farmers. For instance, ginger is ground into a pouched ginger paste, pineapple pieces are freshly tinned, while oranges are bottled up into squash. The startup procures the agricultural produce/products from the farmers for a price 1.2 times more than the market and sells those across the country. In the process, NEFSP is enlivening livelihoods for its 1000+ partner small farmers across North East India.

The startup is also churning out innovative value-added products like Naga Chilli Safety Spray, varieties of natural Room Fresheners, etc. It has set up warehouses at Guwahati and NCR and has market tie-ups with 26 stores across the country to sell the products. Besides, the startup curates gift hampers for government and corporate.

NEFSP’s commitment to give the farmers their due under any circumstances has especially stood out during the pandemic. While farmers in several parts of the country have received a major blow due to the lockdown, North East Farm Sales Promotion has continued to procure products like black rice, king chilli, beans, turmeric, black pepper, handmade soaps, etc. from its partner small farmers at premium prices and have been marketing the finished units across India. In the month of June alone, NEFSP did a business of close to Rs. 10 Lakhs and is, currently, working on completing orders worth Rs. 33 Lakhs received from various retailers across India. Founder Bhanu Pratap further informs about the bright possibilities of securing another order of Rs. 35 Lakhs in August.

And while many of us cribbed and cried over the business losses due to the pandemic, North East Farm Sales Promotion has utilised the time to revamp its product line and is gearing up to launch a number of new products, like cinnamon and bay leaf powder, Tripura cashew nuts, and Cinnamon and Bamboo Room Fresheners.

Indeed, entrepreneurship does not demand readymade roads. Real entrepreneurs thrive on carving out roads through the impasse.

 

Carving one’s own way comes with a number of life lessons. World’s youngest Seven Summiteer, Satyarup Siddhanta has seven life lessons that every entrepreneur would identify with. Read it here.

 

By: Satarupa Mishra
Quick Ghy sets to pose as Guwahati’s answer to UrbanClap

Quick Ghy sets to pose as Guwahati’s answer to UrbanClap

The service sector has been an emerging domain in India with cities coming up with smart solutions to everything. Owing to the increasing demand for daily essentials in the cities, a Guwahati based startup – Quick Ghy Pvt. Ltd – has started a digital marketplace for services.

Quick Ghy is a unified platform for services that allows users to list their services online and help them get connected to potential clients. It works on building an instant, reliable, and convenient platform that allows users to access home care and personal care services in the comfort of their homes.

Siblings Gaurav Medhi and Drishti Medhi identified the pain point of the urban households in getting access to instant reliable services that have emerged as a necessity due to a busy urban lifestyle. Without wasting much time, they decided to act on designing a solution that would result in a win-win game for both the hyperlocal service providers and the users. They laid the foundation of Quick Ghy in June 2019 and had soon started gaining decent traction.

An incubatee from the second Cohort at Assam Startup – The Nest, Quick Ghy offers an array of home care services like plumber, electrician, carpenter, dietician, psychology counselor, deep cleaning, personal grooming and beauty, and personal fitness.

With the COVID-19 posing challenges for people and businesses, Quick Ghy has started sanitization services for both domestic and commercial spaces like the Central Bank of India office in Guwahati. A team of service partners in PPE kits sanitizes the space after undergoing due temperature checks.

Starting up with Rs. 3 Lakh as capital, Quick Ghy has come a good way in just a year, catering to more than 1000+ households and commercial places to date. With a keen understanding of the unserved needs of the people at this hour, the startup has tailored virtual sessions on fitness and mental wellbeing and is also working on enabling home visits for delivering personal grooming services while maintaining strict safety norms.

Quick Ghy is, currently, banking on their social media handles, leaflets, and word of mouth to disseminate awareness about their existence. Works are underway to get the App in place soon.

Coming from a business family, it won’t be an exaggeration to comment on the siblings’ inherent drive to innovate solutions.

“Having had the niche to explore and the urge to contribute towards a greater goal, we decided to pave our path towards entrepreneurship,” Drishti says.

However, the inheritance of key entrepreneurial traits did not make their journey any easier in the early days. Asked about the key challenges that they had faced, the sibling founders are quick to point out about the trials undertaken to establish the product-market fit. With national players like UrbanClap already making their pan India presence loud and clear, the people of Guwahati do have a fair idea of the digital marketplace. But, gaining the confidence of the customers about their services being at par with those national players was tasking that demanded a good amount of patience and persistence. The issue of logistics, especially in times of COVID-19 has been posing another major challenge. Nevertheless, the young founders have fared well to overcome those challenges and carve a way for themselves.

Their positive spirit and entrepreneurial zeal are evident in their vision to go pan India in the next 3 years in the face of bigger and more experienced competitors existing in the market. More than anything else, their mission lies in impacting livelihoods and helping the thousands of vocationally skilled workers in the country find easy access to the market. The process has already begun as the Guwahati-based service providers, working with Quick Ghy, have already recorded a spur in their earnings. For instance, the electricians working with Quick Ghy have witnessed a sharp rise in their income from Rs. 5000 a month to Rs. 10, 000. It’s this impact-oriented perspective that is expected to take Quick Ghy to places.

Perhaps, all that they would need right now is a bit of support and confidence of the locals from their city, Guwahati, because, no matter wherever the climax might lead them to, their success story must germinate in the hometown.

 

Here’s a story about a startup that has launched an app to organize all the donations and distributions of the COVID-19 relief materials by a number of volunteers & volunteering organizations in the Cachar district of Assam.

 

By: Satarupa Mishra
Gyan Panda, an ed-tech startup from Assam earns ₹2 Lakhs in 3 months since launch

Gyan Panda, an ed-tech startup from Assam earns ₹2 Lakhs in 3 months since launch

Call it a fluke or a meticulous plan, the ed-tech startup, Gyan Panda, has launched the online learning app at a time when the world has realized the need for remote learning platforms more than ever.

In 2019, founders Manash Boruah, Dibakar Dutta, Bhaskar Jyoti Dutta, and Pravakar Dutta explored the need for a bi-lingual digital learning platform that would help students from Assamese medium schools to undergo a smooth transition to the predominantly English mode of learning at the higher secondary and degree levels. The high-priced packages at coaching centres and uneven availability of these centres in the remote districts of Assam were the other problems that they wished to address.

Manash, an engineering student in Jorhat, chanced upon a conversation on social media with Dibakar Dutta, an engineer by profession. While they discussed the idea, Dibakar got Bhaskar and Pravakar on board as well. Together they brainstormed for months to design high school and higher secondary level tutorials for SEBA courses that would help the students clear their concepts.

Gyan Panda was incorporated in October 2019 and sooner works got kick-started to develop the online tutorial app. Gyan Panda started offering online video tutorials for Mathematics Advanced Mathematics, Science, English, and Physics for students from ninth, tenth, and twelfth standards. While the mode of instructions remained predominantly Assamese, they soon launched Mathematics classes in English while obliging to the user demands. Works are underway to introduce Assamese and Social Science as well, which, the founders intend to offer for free.

Apart from these regular subjects, Gyan Panda has a special section catering to the basic concepts of Mathematics for those who need special care to grasp the basic concepts. Besides, there’s a Basic English Grammar course and an Extra Curriculum section focussed on career guidance, etc. Interestingly, these sections are offered for free. The Live Test section enables students to write class tests for gauging their performance.

Currently, there are 8 faculty members on board, giving out meticulously designed video tutorials. The number is expected to go up to 10 with the introduction of the two new subjects – Assamese and Social Science.

Gyan Panda is offering the school level courses for an annual subscription fee of Rs. 600 per subject, while the higher secondary level classes are on offer for Rs. 1200 per subject. A quarterly instalment option is also available, especially to make it more affordable for the people from the lower economic strata.

Acknowledging the inadequate knowledge of online payment among many, Gyan Panda has introduced a Help section especially to guide users on the process of making online payments. Furthermore, they have reserved the bank deposit option for those who aren’t comfortable with the digital payment method.

The startup has smartly leveraged the current demand for remote learning to rev up the revenue right after the start. Since its launch in April 2020, the Gyan Panda app has witnessed over 37, 000 downloads, with the daily active users tallying to around 2200. As Manash informs, the users are increasing by 500 every day. Till last month, the startup had made a total revenue of Rs. 2 lakhs, recording a phenomenal revenue growth of 117% in June.

While the founders are ideating new features almost every day, they are undertaking research and analysis of the existing digital learning platforms in the market to identify loopholes and cull out key learnings that could be applied to Gyan Panda to make it more effective and user-friendly. For instance, Manash points out about the relative ineffectiveness of animated educational videos for slow learners, who need special handholding by the teachers. “We feel that we cannot completely do away with a classroom environment, especially for students who need more time to absorb learnings. We are planning to introduce live classes in the future while making a conscious effort to create a classroom environment,” Manash informs.

As big names in the startup investment world are quietly keeping an eye on promising ed-tech startups in the wake of the pandemic, the one like Gyan Panda is expected to hold a strong ground in the race for impact-driven innovations in the education sector.

 

By: Satarupa Mishra
Is your marketing plan ready for the “new normal”?

Is your marketing plan ready for the “new normal”?

While COVID-19 was crashing down the traditional ways of marketing one by one, Digital Marketing said “Checkmate.”

COVID-19 has brought about drastic transformations not only in one’s personal life but also on the professional front. From scurrying out of bed in the morning to reach office on time after duping the traffic to taking a few paces to the work desk at home; from highly expensive events to low-cost webinars; from warm hugs to simple oral gestures; from handshakes to Namaste; the new normal is all about getting your work done while keeping distance.

It’s a difficult time for businesses as the traditional ways of working are kept on hold for uncertain periods. Many business houses have resorted to lay-offs and pay cuts to stay afloat in the sail for survival. As a more drastic measure, many organizations have been shut down, either temporarily or permanently.

While the traditional ways of working are doomed, the world of digital marketing has seen an unprecedented boom. Most business houses have already flung their wings to the digital world because the need for an online marketing strategy is now a necessity for survival.

The new normal has compelled marketing gurus to strategize new tactics to adapt to the changes ahead. We list down a few of those tactics to cope with this new normal.

 

Social media as a marketing tool

Social media platforms and apps have seen a tremendous spur in usage during the lockdown. People are turning to these apps to combat the isolation and keep them entertained, connected, and informed while they’re spending more time at home. It’s high time for businesses to make the best of this opportunity and turn it to their advantage. Provide engaging photo/video/text content and engage audiences across all the social networks. Conduct polls, chats, and live updates to engage the followers. Gone are the days when social media was just for fun. Socializing is a skill now and you need people for it. Take social media as seriously as you would take any other marketing channel.

Amp up the digital presence

Have you ever wondered about the chronology of weblink appearances whenever you type some keyword? Why a particular web link appears at the top and why another appear at the bottom? Naturally, people end up clicking on the top two or three links, and hence, it is important to have a website with good search engine optimization (SEO) principles so that your online presence is not lost among the competition. Remember, more than ever, this is the time when people would visit your organization virtually than physically. Make the best use of this opportunity and build an outstanding SEO that can help you stand out in the crowd.

 

Pay per click advertising (PPC)

As the name indicates, PPC is an online advertising model in which advertisers pay each time a user clicks on one of their online advertisements. The phenomenal increase in internet usage during this period of social isolation has opened wider possibilities for online ad conversions. This is the perfect time to launch online ads and grab mass attention at a minimum cost.

 

Conduct virtual events

In the past few months, events and field marketing have faced severe lashings. Issues of and safety have forced physical events and field marketing to take a backseat. But as they say, “where there is a will, there is a way”. It’s a smart move to shift the in-person events to digital platforms in the form of webinars and virtual events.

 

Add website chatbots

Give your customers a conversational experience by adding chatbots to the website. Adding a chatbot will help connect with the visitors instantly, create a pipeline, retain customers, and ensure an improved customer experience. Instead of asking your customers to send a mail and doing manual follow-ups, a chatbot can help deliver an in-person experience digitally. Chatbots can be used to give information about the products/services, answer queries from the visitors, and subsequently connect with the sales executives. The feature further accelerates the digital transformation by providing a 24*7 customer experience.

Customer survey and behavior analysis

Customer behavior has turned more unpredictable and experimental in the current situation. It’s time to adapt to the changes and tailor the marketing strategies accordingly. Marketing’s new normal has brought one more addition to the B2B, B2G, and B2C scene – B2Me. The B2Me concept aspires for mass customization towards delivering Living Services that adjust, modify, and revolve around the individual consumers. This is the right time to target customers as individuals and focus on delivering personalized experiences to help build valuable relationships with the consumers for securing customer loyalty. One of the best ways to achieve the B2Me target is customization. Customers are ready to share personal data in exchange for customized attention. Create a profile of your customer’s unique choices, interests, and needs based on an analysis of past interactions and product genes. This will allow you to penetrate beyond just knowing what customers purchase and understand why they made those choices.

 

Video marketing

Visual contents are always attractive and can convey the message effortlessly. Engage your customers/potential customers through video marketing. A video is engaging and easy to understand. It can also be shared across multiple platforms. Also, you can record your webinars and use that content, later on, to grow your audience and build the brand.

 

Content marketing and customer stories

With the marketing game going virtual now, there will be more people looking for online content. Share positive stories of your customers and innovations around the globe. Use case studies and customer reviews. Analyze which of your webinars, resources need more social proof and give a shout out.  Also, you can conduct content analysis and use this period to improve the overall content performance.

 

Compile different segment of employees

Your organization must compile different segments of employees to meet customer expectations and achieve business goals.  This will include an assemblage of your marketing/sales team with other key partners like the IT department and third-party agencies towards ensuring smooth sales and marketing and seamless customer experience. Thanks to the new normal, your best marketing personnel must now get upskilled to balance both human proficiency and AI knowledge for delivering smooth customer experience.

 

Guwahati baker rustles up innovative ways of serving Black Rice

Guwahati baker rustles up innovative ways of serving Black Rice

Innovation can take place anywhere – in a lab, a hostel room, or even in the kitchen. While the popular buzz for innovation revolves around technological breakthroughs, one cannot dismiss its existence even in things as basic as food. If the general definition of innovation includes a new product or a new method of utilizing an existing product towards serving the market needs better, a home baker’s craft to rustle up innovative ways of serving black rice can, arguably, fit in the definition as well.

Keyaa Das Choudhury’s experiment with black rice makes an inspirational pocketbook for those who remain smitten with a thing of wonder, but could not think of creative ways to put it to the right use.

When Keyaa Das Choudhury, a homemaker based in Guwahati, came across black rice at a fair in Guwahati, she was bowled over by its tremendous health benefits. After asking around for a recipe, she finally prepared a regular black rice pudding. Although happy with the outcome, she couldn’t contend herself with making just a single recipe of this wonderful ingredient.

“My husband didn’t like the pudding much. Or let’s just say that it was more of a regular item tried and tested down the generations. It was disappointing to see such a wholesome ingredient getting wasted in a single recipe. There had to be other ways to cook it. There must be more people like my husband who look for better serving variations to it,” Keyaa says.

Two years later, someone from her family had gifted her another packet of black rice bought from Manipur. This time, she decided to try and spin her wand (a spatula in this case) to try out something new with this Midas ingredient. She pulled out her grandmother’s recipe of a regular cake baked in an ethnic coal stove. But instead of the regular flour, she experimented with black rice. To her surprise and relief, the black rice cake came out better than she had expected. Her next experiment was to make the cake more palatable for her kids and tried baking layered cakes with delectable icing. Her experiment worked this time as well.

Ecstatic and encouraged by the success, she baked a cake for her two acquaintances from the Assamese film fraternity, Surjya Hazarika and Malaya Goswami. She disclosed to them, for the first time, her clandestine urge to start her own venture – an all-black rice bakery. The movie stalwarts enthusiastically validated her idea. In fact, Malaya Goswami was the first customer of Keyaa’s Black Rice Creative Baker’s Industry launched in 2019, ordering for an eggless black rice cake.

From that day to date, Keyaa’s focus has relentlessly been on innovating wide varieties of black rice desserts and savories. Though designer cakes and cupcakes are her specialties, she makes equally scrumptious chocolates, biscuits, dosas, idlis, cutlets, and laddus – all made from black rice. Her special salted black rice tekeli pitha (an Assamese recipe traditionally made with sticky rice, jaggery, and grated coconut) and savory black rice cakes with chicken and cottage cheese are must-tries for those who love experimental cuisines. Perhaps, it won’t be entirely wrong to call her culinary twists with black rice as a remote form of incremental innovation that increases the value of an existing product for consumers.

Of course, Keyaa’s quirky black rice fares weren’t perfected overnight. It required time, effort, and perseverance to get the proportions, temperature, and the ingredient combinations right. The appetizing outcome is all set to make the difference for people who swear by the nutritious benefits of black rice.

Keyaa’s out-of-the-box black rice dishes have rewarded her with around 50 regular customers from Guwahati and Kokrajhar, receiving 4-5 orders for designer cakes each day, on an average. As a baker, Keyaa dreams of the day when she could represent India in the global market for the indigenous confectionery and chocolate items.

A self-taught chef and a mother of two sons, Keyaa is taking baby steps every day to hone her entrepreneurial acumen. Keyaa’s creative mind conceived the idea of popularizing black rice through a variety of scrumptious delicacies. Next, through her trial and error experiments, she has succeeded in innovatively dishing out enjoyable black rice eatables. Perhaps, with a bit more focus on strategic business practices, a new chapter awaits to unleash and reward her efforts with a profitable enterprise. Especially given the current tide skewing towards indigenous products and local innovations, the right kind of branding and promotion can give Keyaa’s Black Rice Creative Baker’s Industry deserving access to the global market.

 

 

By: Satarupa Mishra
5 take-home notes from stories of startup failure

5 take-home notes from stories of startup failure

 

Swearing by the stories of successful entrepreneurs is a good practice. But digging into the cases of startup failure is equally smart. If a success story tells what to do, a startup failure teaches what not to do. Here are 5 such stories of startup failure to learn from in order to unlearn the bloopers.

 

Shyp
Shyp stormed into the scene with a promise to make cargo shipping as easy as the “two taps on a smartphone.” The company founded in 2013 in San Francisco by Kevin Gibbon, Joshua Scott, and Jack Smith, grew at a rapid pace and managed to raise $62.1 million in quick time. The startup was under the media spotlight and comparisons began to be drawn with Uber, so much so that the stories got into the founders’ head. While Shyp focused excessively on the vanity metrics, the founders were caught offhand when the need arose for re-strategizing and reorienting the company in the wake of decelerating consumer growth.

Note in a Nutshell

A Startup that witnessed a sprawling growth in the initial days, eventually had to die a slow death in 2018 due to a fixation with growth and the inability to flex a strategy to keep up with that growth.

 

Jawbone
The consumer electronics company was launched in 1999, offering wearable technology, like portable audio devices, Bluetooth speakers, and fitness trackers, etc. The company attracted the interest of big VC companies like Sequoia, Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Andreessen Horowitz and had raised over $930 million in due course. Overfeeding with VC funding had artificially shot up the valuation of the company.
Meanwhile, however, news of product failures began to grow more prominent and the company’s wearable technology struggled to stay up in the race against the industry giants like Apple, Samsung, and Fitbit. It had also got into a legal spat with Fitbit on claims of patent infringement and trade secret misappropriation. Finally, weighing under an insurmountable financial pressure, Jawbone announced the liquidation of its assets in July 2017.

Note in a Nutshell

The Company messed up due to overfunding, especially with the failure of an ambitious product in the face of stiff competition, affording too little margin for mistakes.

 

Juicero
Juicero shot to limelight with its $699 Wi-Fi connected premium juicer that came with proprietary cold-pressed juice packs. Company founder, Doug Evans even compared his pursuit of juicing perfection to another perfectionist, Steve Jobs. He claimed that his juicer had the power to lift two Teslas. Having succeeded in creating a sensation around the product, the company raised $118.5 million right in the initial days. However, once the product had hit the market, a few of the investors expressed dissatisfaction over the bulkier size of the juicer than what was originally pitched. The biggest blow came when Bloomberg released a video that showed how their juicer packs could be squeezed with hands to yield almost the same amount of juice and just as fast as by using the juicer. This largely dissuaded consumers from buying a luxury juicer. Subsequently, they reduced the product price to $399 but decided to shut down just 16 months after the initial launch.

Note in a Nutshell

The Company that had everyone in confidence about their claims to take juicing to the next level, had to draw curtains because they did not care to test the product and pricing with the users before launching.

 

Beepi
Beepi introduced an online peer-to-peer marketplace for buying and selling used cars in 2014. The startup venture came at a time when demand for such a marketplace was rather high. Being able to address the pain point, Beepi soon managed to raise $60 million Series B funding round. Unfortunately, the startup could not take care of the money. It went through a high burn rate that reached $7 million monthly at one point while paying exorbitant salaries and furnishing the office space with extravagant items. Further, if reports are to be believed, the leadership failed to get rid of micromanaging decisions that restricted the employees from learning fast and acting on it.

Note in a Nutshell 

The Company that speedily rose to prominence and managed to bag funds even faster fell prey to reckless spending.

 

Yik Yak
Back in 2013, when Yik Yak, an anonymous chatting app, was launched, it attracted a large number of young takers, mostly the college-goers. For a time when smartphones had started witnessing a boom, many innovative apps were launched, much to the users’ delight. Yik Yak smartly tapped on the opportunity but failed to capitalize on it further. The app was plagued with cyberbullies and crass content that led to some colleges and universities even banning it. Entries of more popular chat apps like Snapchat and Tinder proved to be the final nail in the coffin for Yik Yak. It had decided to call it a quit in 2017 without anyone remembering or missing it anymore.

Note in a Nutshell 

A Company that rose in popularity by tapping on the current trends failed to create a roadmap to stay afloat against competitors and beyond the current trends.

 

 

By: Satarupa Mishra