Product Companies must focus on building their products and not run services!

This is one of the posts i wrote for Money control’s SME Mentor section! View Original Post. 

I have been interacting with many startup founding teams. Some of who have been building their product and are running a services outfit along side. Their point-of-view is that the services arm of their company will fund the product part of their venture.

Now, I am not against the idea of running a services company. I also buy the logic of startups bootstrapping & doing small-time consulting gigs or taking up short term projects to earn some revenues. Though, what bothers me is, product startups getting sucked into the services rut.

Let me list a few scenarios that I have come across to bring forth my point:

1. Two people come together to build a web-product. They brainstorm the vision for their product company. Figure out what they want to build initially and realize that they need some working capital to build a team, do marketing, etc. Also, they find out, what they have saved for this venture will not be enough to do all the above. The result – they decide on taking up services as a part-time effort. But eventually, the pressures of external commitment & delivery take major focus. Finally, product is sidelined & they continue to live-up to the services commitment.

2. Two people come together to build a web-product. They figure out what the initial plan of action should be. They realize they need more working capital, one guy opts to running the services part of the venture. The other guy begins to build the product. Eventually, the guy doing the services feels more important as he’s bringing the money in. The Product guy has a different point-of-view. The result: Either things fall apart and they part ways or the product guy is forced to shut shop and join the services part of the venture.

3. Two people come together to build a web-product. They calculate the amount of money they have for this venture. They work backwards to figuring out what they can achieve with the resources they have. They plan on building a minimum viable product and get as much usage as possible before they run out of money. They also plan on reaching out to friends and family to raise more money, once their product is launched, as they do not want to distract themselves right now. As Plan B, they will take on freelance projects for a few hours, if need be to make some money.

All the above scenarios are what I have come across during my interactions with startups. My advice to them is always: Focus is very important for a startup. Any distraction that has a tendency of slowing down your progress or distracting you from achieving what you want to do or are passionate about is best avoided.

Running a services arm is the most obvious thing to do, as it suddenly makes you profitable. But this path needs to be taken carefully. There is a danger of getting sucked into what you don’t want to do.

Scenario 3 is what I advocate. I have seen startups tread this path and have managed to either start making revenues from their product or have managed to infuse some money from friends and family based on version 1 of the product. Now, the choice is for you to make!

A gentleman’s parting remarks, a lesson for all of us to behold!

I admire Rahul Dravid for what he is as a human being. As a cricketeer he’s perhaps among the very few who held the reference “A gentleman’s game” true till date. His simplicity, his focus and dedication are examples for many of us to refer to. 

I was just reading the transcript of his retirement statement and when i finished it struck to me that here’s a guy who’s lived his life through a certain discipline, a discipline of dedication, passion and truth. Something he’s said as his parting lines are ones that’s relevant not just to sportsmen, but all of us across various professions, countries and cultures. Something if all of us tried to our best of abilities, the world would definitely be a better place!

 My approach to cricket has been reasonably simple: it was about giving everything to the team, it was about playing with dignity and it was about upholding the spirit of the game. I hope I have done some of that. I have failed at times, but I have never stopped trying. It is why I leave with sadness but also with pride.

I see you leave with sadness Rahul, but i’ll always be proud of the fact that a person such as you represented our country, India!


Here’s to the crazy one!

Thank you Steve for showing me how life can be lived. To fearlessly make the most of all opportunities and seek opportunities where there is none. To push the limits of imagination. To dis-prove by doing. To live life each day as if it were my last!

Thanks for reinforcing the belief that a kick-ass product does its own marketing. That products are built to make life easier, hence make it an experience! An experience that end users crave for.

You’ve taught me a lot. Though i never knew you in person, though you were instrumental in making inanimate products, you spoke to me through your products. You told me that you cared about me. You gave me what i wanted. You surprised me by making possible what i thought would take technology many more years to achieve. You helped me gain confidence through your products. You made me look good with your products on me. You were the reson that people envied me 🙂

I am proud to be a round peg in a square hole. Thanks for the immense impact you’ve had on me, and will continue to have, without being obvious about it! You are a rock star. You are a hero. To me you are GOD. I will miss you.


We at The Morpheus love Steve and Apple so much that we recently borrowed the text of “Crazy Ones”, engraved it onto a plaque and gave it to the morpheus gang for inspiration!


Naming a name!


‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art myself…
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.


I take thee at thy word:
Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized;
Henceforth I never will be Romeo.

Shakespeare in his classic love tragedy Romeo & Juliet gives out a message that names of things do not really matter, but what things are is what matters. In the context of the play and in many other contexts of life it makes complete sense.


But, when it comes to naming your venture or your product it needs prudence, relevance & wit!

Why a good name?

From the brand perspective, a good name is vital for a venture. It’s like that sexily clad, most attractive hooker by the window that invites customers into that particular brothel. It’s the one thing your customers will identify you and your venture with for time immemorial. It is that name which reflects you and your company’s attitude & what you stand for.

Think – Pepsi, Coke, Google, Adidas, Amazon, Apple – all these names not just remind you of the company & its products, but the also evoke a particular emotion which we relate with each of these brands. That emotion is what makes us recall / remember these brands. And that is the importance of a “name”.

Why this post?

Recently, I’ve been in half a dozen discussions where we have been brainstorming a good name for a venture or a product being rolled by a startup. That inspired me to writing this post. This has a direction in which we thought while thinking up a name, a few personal experiences – my philosophy to deriving names – if you please 🙂

Empty Names?

Look around and think of popular brands that you can recall – all of them usually will have “empty” names that will relate to something the product stands for or the brand means. There are far few names which mean “literal things”. For example, Pepsi – in reality means nothing, except that it may be a derivative from “pepsin” the digestive enzyme used in that drink. But we associate it with “a refreshing fizzy drink” now, coz that’s our association.

Safe? Boring? Interesting? Innovative?

When thinking up names, you can either choose to be safe and boring. In other words, think up literal names for your venture or product. If you are selling books, you can call yourselves “The Book Sellers”; if your product is a pill that helps you maintain your weight and diet, it can be called “The Diet Pill”. Thanks to the bombardment during IPL, I remember Max mobile & fo a long time thought that Micro Max and Max were but the same, till I was proven wrong by a friend. This is the danger of a bad name – you will never make an identity for your brand / product / venture. Frankly, in today’s world where there is a million messages bombarded to the users; recall & recognition are huge challenges. These names don’t stand a chance.

So, you have no choice but to be a bit brave. Go all out and get innovative!

Pepsi, Coke, Google, Adidas – these are famous names now, but how easy was it to remember when they started out? They had a zing to it and the entire brand experience made the name stick for a long time! Pepsi was sold as “Brad’s Drink” first – imagine!!!

When you think up a name it’s a brand you are building based on the name. You do not want it restricting your growth after a while when you diversify and realize that your brand name doesn’t relate to what you do.

When I think up names I consider these, in no particular order though:

  1. Who is the initial audience I will cater to?
  2. Does my name sound “exciting” enough for them to try me out
  3. Does the name invoke interest for people to “know more” – frankly, does a name like “GoCarry” invoke interest in wanting to know more for an online shopping protal? For me, NO! It sounds like something I have heard of before, something stale.
  4. Does the name tease your audience? Google / Cisco – these names have a zing to it. It sounds unique and has freshness to it till date. Some company names I like which does bring a kind of newness on reading their names are – Lifemojo / Redbus / Xobni / Reditt / DeskAway / Twitter
  5. Will my name stand relevant 2 years from now and beyond?
  6. Does my name have an unique association that people can recall easily (of course, this also has to do with brand association, but some parts can be achieved in the name)
    1. For Example: Madhouse – we chose madhouse as we had read about this house of great fervor -where a lot of innovation, etc happen in One Hundred Years of Solitude by Grabiel Gracia Marquez and when were looking for a name – it came naturally to us. Also we thought the name is disruptive and will be remembered by people for its uniqueness as it’s a uncommon name.
    2. For Morpheus – we went to the top level of “What we were going to do” and somehow it was aligning ourselves with entrepreneurs’ dreams to achieve and make it a successful business. And so, we said okay we are dealing with dreams here. And since Madhouse was M and we did quite well as a business, we said lets look up names in M. Then we got an idea and said lets look up Greek God Names and we found Morpheus.

Look at something you can relate to. Something the entire team believes in. There is this now popular, then – a college rock band, I know of called – “Thermal and a Quarter” its called so coz 3 of them were pure Malayali’s and one was a quarter malayali. So Three Malayali’s and a Quarter Malayali – Thermal & a Quarter 🙂

You can also consider something that’s common among the founders, something that is near and dear to the founding team. Something that the team can associate with or are passionate about!

You may want to be a little conscious about “What is it that you are naming”. You do not want to call a doctor management system “Cookie”. But you also do not want to call it “EasyDr.”

Don’t be safe in choosing a name, experiment. If it does not work – you can always change it in the initial days of your company. But then, if you have a safe / neutral name – okay, its safe, but you will miss out on the excitement of experimenting. And most importantly, miss out on “Customer Recall and Recognition”. I mean, how many of us consume “Bhag Bakri Chai” – Really?! It may be the best chai in this world, but!

Where all to look:

Experiment with words, look for palindromes, seek “sounds-like” words, look up mythology, history of various cultures and countries. Look into science, math – google, red quanta are a couple of examples. Look at founder names – adidas, konika. Look at nature, wildlife, etc. The options are plenty, it only needs some innovative thought & a good sense of humor to arrive at a good name!

These are some of my personal experiences and tried tested methodology of arriving at a good name. Somehow, many a times its super instinctive too. So do not suppress your instinct. Happy Naming!

Interesting link to company names and how they originated here. So, what’s the story behind your company / product name?

What does it take to get started today?

Well, if you have an idea that you have been ruminating for a while now, then it just takes making up your mind to get started! That is the most important thing to get things rolling. As they say, the first step is the toughest but the largest.


Image Courtesy: Hurdles Start. by Robert Voors

In a day and age like today, there are far too many things that favor the prepared mind to get started and at low costs. Consider a few things:

  • If yours’ is an internet venture, then your initial setup costs are almost zero
    • You can work from your bedroom (or anyplace you choose!)
    • You will incur basic internet costs
    • There is the cloud to host your website and park your data
    • There are very many productive tools online which offer you free + pay as you go options!
    • You can code as much as you want and achieve quite a bit & rope in like-minded friends to help you by offering pizza and some equity
    • You put your product out onto the relevant social media channels and get those early adaptors to use your product and spread it via word of mouth, thus reducing your marketing budgets to almost Zero!
    • There is a buzz about entrepreneurship in India today and so there are quite a few bright youngsters exploring to get started or join a startup, so that’s an opportunity to chance upon
    • If your venture requires offline presence too, then:
      • Lookup how much of money you can afford to invest yourself in the venture (it is important to have your skin in the game)
      • You can ask the Friends, Family, Fools pool also for some investments to get started!
      • Do a backward calculation of what all can you achieve with the money you have and how you can optimize it
      • All of us have a “Grand” plan, but that needs to Start someplace, so think of a minimal viable product (MVP) to start with or if yours is a multi-location idea, think of starting at one location that you can achieve with the initial money you have
      • Today there are multiple variations of shared workplaces to get you started on your physical presence, some that offer just space, some that offer an end-to-end space, connectivity, housekeeping, et al.
      • In all cases think “BootStrap”
      • Think “Innovative ways of making your money work hard for you”

In the end, this post may list things that sound easy. But, you will know what it takes only if you stop thinking about doing and ‘get started’! Nothing is as easy as it sounds, but luck favors the prepared mind. So, what are you waiting for? Get Started Now!

This is the Blog Post i wrote for L-Pad, as a Guest Writer, see original here.

Hiring for Startups: A few tips to note

There was a recent discussion on MVP gang about a particular “wrong-hire” which prompted me to write this longish experience-based note. For more on the discussion Robin of ReachTax has a blog post off it here.

  1. Do not sell or glorify your start-up to the candidate. Be matter of fact, undersell the growth opportunity to the candidate. It may sound a little crazy for a tip, but in my experience, initial employees for a start-up should join the team for the work the start-up does and believe in the concept and the founding team. Joining a start-up for its “The Thing To Do”; For a great salary package, to help their resumes’ or to make their application to MBA look better are all not the right reasons from the start-up’s perspective.
  2. Be Candid and Straight Forward in explaining the Job Description. List out the various things that the person will have to do when hired. Be explicit in listing out obvious things. When I hired for Madhouse in the initial days – we had a small 600 Sq Ft Basement Office – and we insisted that we interview candidates at our little basement office and explained to them what they had to do. “The What” had everything from – Major Responsibilities, Back-up functions and other things one would do as being a part of the team. If i were hiring a customer care person, for example – his/ her core responsibility was to answer request calls, make intelligent movie recommendations, confirm order and send it out for processing. Their back-up functions were – Doing sales calls, packing DVDs. The other things expected were – opening of the office if they were the first ones to come, closing the office if they were the last to leave (We had a solid iron shutter at the entrance), helping in promotions – if necessary – which meant participating in roadshows and interacting with potential customers at Malls and Promo stalls. We explained most of these and gave them real life examples of things to display we mean what we say. If you have to multi-task and do anything that’s required for the start-up or for the benefit of the customer, we all do it – that message was conveyed strongly.
  3. We’d have written Job Descriptions. These JDs not only helped us get clarity on what was expected from the position we were hiring but most importantly, “set expectations right” at the candidates end. The JD would have main responsibilities and secondary responsibilities – listed as one line items. It would also have the main purpose of the position which were usually linked to key items like – customer acquisition and customer service.
  4. Do a trial. In a start-up scenario, one wrong hire would cost us dearly. I’ve made a few wrong hiring decisions – this was not just a bad thing for my start-up, but was a bad  thing for the candidate too. There is no point trying to make the hire work to make it a good hire or convince yourself that its a good hire. Similarly, the candidate will be trying hard to ensure to himself and you that he’s a worthy candidate. This is a pain for the person as well as a loss for the start-up as each day does count and no point investing too much time in damage control or maintenance. As well invest that time in increasing value for customers and productively. And so, a trail period has always helped us. We infact follow it to this day @ MVP and “live-in” with companies before we official induct them as part of our portfolio. This trail period will help set expectations at both ends, get to know the candidate and him/her, the start-up culture better. So, at the end of the trial even if we have to let go of the candidate or the candidate chooses not to continue – it’s fair and not ugly. Only, ensure that the trial period test the candidates in various situations to find out how he performs. This helps evaluate not just his domain expertise and capability; but also his attitude, capacity to stretch & passion toward the start-up.
  5. Another key aspect is to identify a wrong hire quickly and made a fast decision to let go! The longer you postpone a firing decision, the more painful it will get. Be logical and make a fast decision – all of us are humans and we learn out of our mistakes – so acknowledge it and rectify it. By making a fast firing decision -you not only do you and your start-up a favor, you will also be doing the candidate a favor! And ya, the first firing act will be the most painful 🙂
  6. Once the person is in the team, treat them well, make them a part of the group and shower them with care, training and feedback helping him perform!
  7. Finally, lead by example! If you expect someone to do an odd job that is typically not expected from that position outside of this startup – then, to make them comfortable and get on to doing it – the best motivation is to exhibit acts that display the founding team, CXOs doing similar things with ease. At Madhouse, Sameer and I sat on the worst possible seats giving the new ones to new hires. Soon we found that, team mates were happily sitting on a not so good chair, if they had to and do work without complaining! Their funda was, if Nandini and Sameer can we will too.

Longish thoughts, but hope it helps. Of course, these are based on my startup experiences in India, where i have seen unprofessional behavior exhibited by some experienced, top management guys; as well as experienced amazing professional behavior displayed by entry-level candidates!

Breaking News: 1 year and MVP is still growing (& strong!)

A little over a year ago, when Sameer & I quit our jobs (again!) & set out on our journey called Morpheus Venture Partners, I could hear whispers in the sidelines…. Some shouted out loud on our face (I love the sorts who are upfront!) Many of them supported us of this decision and thought early stage eco-system in India badly needed something like this.  A few thought we were fraud & just trying to take advantage of innocent entrepreneurs; some thought that there was not much value in what we were doing, a lot of them thought entrepreneurs need money not advice… and so on…

I’ve always done what i have strongly believed in & so was the case with MVP. Not that we had the entire thing  planned out in our heads. We started with a loose model; something that could be of value to start-up entrepreneurs, we were open to learning, tweaking as we learned and executed. But our focus was and will continue to be to give the best and excel in what we do!

And now, one year later, we’ve just announced 10 start-ups as part of our Third Batch and expanded our team. Read Release Here What does it mean to me, as a Partner and one of the founding members of MVP? A whole freakin’ lot!

Indus is a super cool dude, who has entrepreneurship in his blood. The match in attitude, wave length between the team is superb! [Picture this – Indus lives in Bangalore, travels in the local bus, walks some distances to get to a meeting and yet he has all the energy to deliver!]

Thanks to Ankit of Instablogs via whom met Indus & engaged him as a pro-bono Subject Matter Expert for MVP companies. At MVP we had no plans or thoughts of expanding the team in any which way, partly because we ourselves operate like a frugal start-up & partly also because we were unsure about the role of a new team member. But, the guy he is Indus – we just could not, not have him on board! 🙂 Superb human being, great attitude, exceptional humility! With him on board MVP has grown stronger by bounds and leaps! Indus, Thank you! 😉

We were 10 companies strong till June 2009 and the learning with them was immense. Each one of them – Ankit, Nandini, Sumit, Lalit, Sahil, Siva, Rajnish, Varun, Namit, Himanshu, Rakesh, Waqar, Riz, Jay, Sarab, Vaneet & Ishu – are rockstars in their own right. Thinking big, executing fast, fearing not to fail, fighting and fighting through! Thanks guys for giving me an opportunity to associate with you. (okay this does not mean you’ll not see anymore of me!)


Collage Courtesy: S P Hari

The Current Batch now has 10 companies and I personally believe each one of the founders is exceptional. They have a passion, they’ve dared to dream, they are focused.

Adscoot‘s Suyash, stands for hours in the major junctions at mumbai to learn traffic patterns and measure footfalls!

EasySquareFeet‘s Ashu & Snehesh are the most positive people i’ve seen! I can see their smiles through the phone when i talk to them (serious!)

Viv & Hari of InterviewStreet are two rockstar techies who are consciously & fast learning other skills to take their product to market. They have the passion & drive to make things work!

Shashank & Abhinav started on Naabo right out of college – the freshness in approach & the passion they bring with them is infectious.

Arjun of Picsean is an engineer, but his passion towards photography is amazing! He’s a good friend & i’ve seen his focus and smart work in his past ventures. His attitude to learn is commendable!

Robin of ReachTax is a star CA, but i love his humility and the motivational skill he has to make his entire team perform month after month!

Pankaj & Gaurav quit their fancy paying jobs to work on Retail Vector. Focus, quick work and frugality of life is what they are committed towards as they scale this venture!

The first thing that stood out when i met Abheek first was such an young guy and such maturity & humility. (Often age and humility dont go too well). This guy was 7 years old when he started putting Lego pieces into perfect ensemble & several years later, he’s using them at RobotsAlive!

I loved their designs and the quality of tees – Rahul & Mohit of Scopial have their focus completely on “Quality” “Design” “Niche”! They sell tees one could die for! Check a sample out here

I read about these guys in a print article & the next time we were in Mumbai, we met Jayesh & Karthik of VeriCAR. Two guys crazily passionate about automobiles & trying to solve a problem i was once a victim of! I love their attitude and their approach to things. They love getting down to basics and doing things themselves.

I am already having a lot of fun interacting with the current batch and looking forward to more fun, chaos, fights, fails, wins & whole lot of late nights!

Now, with all this happening – a whole lot of learning, association with the best of the lot, new challenges, lots of sense of humor & innovation. I don’t really have the time to think if MVP is a success or failure. But what i do know and will continue to focus on is “work harder”, “create more value”, “excel and achieve mastery”. And for evaluations of where we stand – let that be for the skeptics to comment on, while i play on….  & spread the madness!


Xtreme Startups startup evening — Chandigarh edition — 11th July, 2009

Xtremestartups team is excited to invite you to another edition of Startup Evening in Chandigarh on 11th July, 2009

Please Note: Xtremestartups event happens on the Second Saturday of every month between 3pm and 6pm, block your calendars to meet fellow entrepreneurs and exchange notes of best practices of building businesses!

“Start-up Morning/Evening” is organized under the Xtreme Startups banner. It is a non-profit initiative to support & promote entrepreneurship.The events are organized with the support and help from a lot of friends in the startup community. Previous editions of the event have been held Mumbai, Bangalore, Chandigarh and Pune. Read coverage here.

This edition of Xtreme Startups is supported by Chitkara University, Morpheus Venture Partners (MVP) and

Date / Time
11 July, 2009 (Saturday)
15:00 – 18:00 hrs

Speakers Start-up founders will share their experiences of starting a venture, sustaining it and taking it to the next level.   * S P  Rangi, Founder, Clarity Medicals
* To be confirmed  

To get an invite Contact Nandini: +91 9779140169 / nandiniATmorpheusventureDOTcom, Shahnaz: +91 9779450735 /

Format * Event will be attended by 20+ start-up founders / entrepreneurs
* The event brings together Startup Founders to share experiences and interact with other start-ups in an informal manner. * Guests, like you, will typically be experienced entrepreneur / investor / a person from the start-up ecosystem. * Participation is “invite only”, concentrated group of Startup Founders and others in the startup ecosystem. There is no fee for attending the event.
* Refreshments will be provided at the event

What will you gain from the event?
* Opportunity to interact with others in the startup ecosystem
* Share and learn from each others experiences in running businesses
* Potential to meet a business partner, investor, employee, etc.
* Opportunity to build a strong startup community


If you’d like to NOMINATE a speaker or topic for the event, please do so by sending us a mail: OR

See you on Saturday!

what to write my college essay on

Xtreme Startups Bangalore June Event Announed

After the success of its first Startup event in Bangalore, Xtreme Startups team is excited to invite you to the 2nd edition of Startup Morning on 27th June, 2009 at IIMB Campus. The videos of the previous edition can be viewed at Part I, Part II.

“Start-up Morning/Evening” is organized under the Xtreme Startups banner. It is a non-profit initiative to support & promote entrepreneurship. The events are organized with the support and help from a lot of friends in the startup community. Previous editions of the event have been held at Mumbai, Bangalore, Chandigarh and Pune. Read coverage here & here.

This edition of Xtreme Startups is supported by NSRCEL – IIMB, Morpheus Venture Partners (MVP) and

Date & Time
27 June, 2009 (Saturday)
10:00 am – 01:00 pm

Three start-up founders will share their experiences of starting a venture, sustaining it and taking it to the next level. This edition’s speakers are:

1.  Jaya Jha, Founder,
Jaya Jha along with Abhaya Agarwal started, a print-on-demand publishing solution for India for self-publishers catering to companies, individuals, NGOs, etc.

2. Sitashwa Srivastava, Co-Founder, Creadivity.
Creadivity is an online marketplace for advertising & marketing solutions in India. They have been part of the TIE-EAP program and were nominated for TATA-NEN’s hottest startup awards.

3. To be confirmed

Audience: Start-up founders / entrepreneurs


  • Event will be attended by 30-40 start-up founders / entrepreneurs
  • The event brings together Startup Founders to share experiences and interact with other start-ups in an informal manner
  • The other guests, like you, will typically be experienced entrepreneur / investor / a person from the start-up ecosystem
  • Participation is “invite only”, concentrated group of Startup Founders and others in the startup ecosystem
  • There is no fee for attending the event
  • Refreshments will be provided at the event

What will you gain from the event?

  • Opportunity to interact with others in the startup ecosystem
  • Share and learn from each others experiences in running businesses
  • Potential to meet a business partner, investor, employee, etc.
  • Opportunity to build a strong startup community

Invite Only: It’s an invite only event. In case you would like to attend write to indus AT morpheusventure DOT com OR info AT startupnews DOT in, with your full name and a brief introduction of your startup / venture.

Speaker Nomination: In case you would like to nominate yourself or another startup as a speaker for the forthcoming events, do drop us a mail. We are also open to your ideas and suggestions.

See you on Saturday!