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In the last few years, the startup ecosystem in India has grown rapidly. India has been recently ranked 23rd largest startup hub in the world, according to StartupBlink’s rankings. However, there is still a lot of scope for improving the startup ecosystem which can boost our economy.
As an experienced entrepreneur, Saurabh Tiwari, Chief Technology Officer, Policybazaar and CEO, Zphin is of the view that building a business is easy, compared to scaling it up and going to the next level where an entrepreneur constantly evolves it.
In a fireside chat organized by Entrepreneurship Cell, IIT Kanpur, Shutapa Paul, Founder-Editor, NewCrop and Founder at Dharma Media Consultants spoke to Tiwari about the key learnings from his journey as an entrepreneur. Edited excerpts:
Q. Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. What made you become an entrepreneur? Where did the genesis of the idea of your company come from?
When I was passing out of IIT Kanpur, I always thought I had to do something different. Right from that time, I always chose options that were more entrepreneurial in nature. Some of my friends were starting a business in Singapore and I jumped into it. I didn’t have much knowledge about computer science but I took the risk and started my entrepreneurial journey. The first step towards an entrepreneurial journey is living with unknowns. You have to realize that today is your day and if something comes up tomorrow, you need to deal with it. In those six years, I built the company from scratch, handled technology, grew the company with more than 100 customers across South East Asia.
After that, I had to come back to India for some personal reason and started working at IBM. I worked there for five years but it was difficult to work in an organization that was multi-hierarchial and your voice wasn’t audible to anyone. I met Yashish at that time and he asked me to join Policybazaar.
In the last two years, we realized that there’s a big gap in the insurance industry in terms of technology adoption. While other sectors have moved forward, there's a big scope of upliftment in the insurance industry. So, Yashish and I decided to start Zphin. One should have an entrepreneurial thrust and should be able to create your own niche. When you start a business, if you get positive results early, that is not where the story ends. You need to scale it up.
Q. Tell me about the most difficult time in your entrepreneurial journey. How you overcame it?
Our business is regulated, that is the toughest moment. Regulation is governed by the government and we do get those challenges. For an entrepreneur, we live by uncertainty. The moment you lose a customer, you feel that you are lost. You then recover and put a lot of energy back to regain the customer’s trust. At the end of the day, you will only be recognized on the revenues generated. At times, you will be doing a lot of stuff that won’t make sense but if your revenues will start making sense to investors, then you are on track.
Q. Let’s briefly talk about the good, bad, and ugly of the startup ecosystem.
When we started our career, there was nothing like Venture Capitalists. Whenever you take a route that is different from league, it’s almost like a failure for society. However, the current ecosystem is very supportive. From the alumna perspective, we can have some kind of mentorship program at IIT Kanpur. Some kind of financial support should be arranged for entrepreneurs.
Building a business is easy as compared to scaling it up and going to the next level where you constantly evolve it. I have not seen too much product innovation happening in India.
That’s a bigger challenge in the Indian ecosystem where innovation is not as good as the West. It becomes tougher because innovation demands investment. Service innovation is happening in India but we need to scale up product innovation also.
We need to have the courage to try something new. We need to work towards supporting product innovation in the industry.
18 Apr, 2022
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