Monday, 12 September 2011

Is Social Media A Component Of Your Marketing Mix?

Marketing and PR experts are advocating the use of social media as this is now a days the only medium to reach out to customers and stake holders at the speed of light. Brands are investing heavily on social media marketing taking into consideration the growing Internet usage in households as well as in rural areas. Although, experts are still in the process of finding out a way on how to measure the ROI for such a form of marketing, the advantage of reaching out to their target customers and spreading the message with the blink of an eye keeps them motivated to invest in social media. I have tried to cover a few points on how brands are being benefited by choosing social media as a platform for marketing purposes.

- Reaching out to target audiences and creating brand awareness
- Track and analyze competitors as well as market development
- Introduce new products in an innovative way
- Build brand loyalty and increase customer confidence
- Direct interaction with the end user
- Social media acts as a platform for conducting market research
- Getting feedback and improving customer satisfaction
- Post job vacancies and find the right candidate
- Increasing business contacts and establishing partnerships

- Identify like minded social media users to further promote their product and services:
There are some people who are termed as “Influencers” in social media. These are individuals with rich experience in their respective domains. Influencers are generally bloggers who blog about a particular subject and create an impact on others decision making. Interested online audience reach out to them for suggestions and referrals. A lot of brands have started identifying such influencers to hire them to act as a medium to advertise their brand and products.

All the above mentioned points are self explanatory. I have explained some points in detail where I found the marketing concept fairly innovative. I have kept the rest open for discussion. Let me know your thoughts on these.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Social Media at workplace: A time killer or a knowledge sharing platform!!

I have come across various articles and blog posts about the increasing usage of social media by employees at their workplace. Some companies have even expressed concerns of unproductive employee engagement and some have given complete access to employees to use social media at their workplace. In my opinion, it depends on the nature of work/ company to set parameters for employees to use social media at work. If the job, like in a banking and financial services sector, where employees are prone to numbers and statistics, it is quite important to remain focused in order to fulfill ones responsibilities efficiently. Whereas, the marketing, social media or communications departments of similar organizations are bound to use social media as it is now a days the most efficient and productive medium of advertising and communication. It is therefore the responsibility of the employer to gauge the usage of social media in accordance to the roles and responsibilities assigned to a particular employee and to clearly communicate the level of social media usage along with the job responsibilities. By saying that, I don't want to say that an employer can restrict social media access for some employees and make that fully available for another group of employees. But, it is advisable to track the social media usage of the employees and to determine how much of the time spent in social media has been helpful in building expertise and promoting knowledge sharing across the organization. Social media channels that allow people to upload user generated content like photographs, videos etc. should be restricted for employees as a good amount of productive time is spent on such activities by the employees that results in a loss for the employer in some or the other way. Atleast, as per my observation, one should allow his/her employees to access sites like Twitter, Linkedin and domain related blog posts as these are channels that add on to the expertise and help in knowledge building across teams. I have tried to support both the sides of usage of social media at work. Finally it goes unsaid that, employees have to be mature enough to understand the importance of the time spent at their workplace and should choose to either engage or refrain from using social media.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Angel Funding in India

Lack of angel funding or very early stage seed money has prevented growth of startups in India. When compared to the number of potential entrepreneurs, engineering skills and product ideas, the options for funding a startup through venture capital, angels and incubators are few.

The lack of investment support at the seed stage is a critical issue since it’s during the initial stages of a startups lifecycle when funds can help nurture breakthrough ideas, business models and products. The Angel community in the valley has played as important role in supporting the entrepreneurial activity and that model needs to be replicated in India.

Traditionally, most of the angel funding in India has come from family and friends. The Indian startup market is still in a nascent stage and can be compared to the Silicon Valley in the early 1980s. Angel investors in the valley have helped build successful companies and have contributed their personal wealth and experience to new entrepreneurs.

While the angel investment concept in the country is in a formative stage, the market itself has started evolving in unconventional ways to fill the gap. High net-worth individuals are starting to form networks or groups that collectively evaluate and fund deals. There has been some momentum in the number of VC firms focusing on early stage investments. Bangalore-based Erasmic Venture Funds and Mumbai-based Seedfund typically invest less than $1 million. State government-backed venture capital funds are also seeing a revival in seed funding - several, including Karnataka, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, have announced fresh funds. Large investment firms like Nexus India Capital, which has a $100 million India fund, and Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ) that typically invest larger amounts, are showing interest in playing angel selectively. There is no shortage of startups or ideas but only a few entrepreneurs have the right experience, discipline and team required to execute well.

Incubators, startup competitions and events where entrepreneurs can demo their products and ideas have started to be organized across the country. The Government of India has started to contribute as an angel investor to help Small and Micro enterprises. The government’s "Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Small & Micro Enterprises (CGTSME)" allows banks to grant loans up to the sum of Rs. 1 crore (approximately $220,000) to small enterprises without any collateral or security.

India is starting to see more angel activity in the last couple of years. But a lot more needs to happen quickly so that brilliant ideas do not die because of lack of funding.

Startups in India – Incorporation and Funding

The entrepreneurship bug has been catching Indians and there has been a lot of startup activity in the last twelve months. There are new ideas and innovation along with proven models from the US being customized in the Indian context. Private sales, social networking, mobile and location-based services are few of the hot trends in the technology sector. Incubators, startup competitions and networking events where entrepreneurs can demo their products and ideas have started to be organized across the country. The support from the government has added fuel to the entrepreneurship drive. Angel investors, Venture Capital and Private equity firms have also started showing interest in the startup businesses and putting in big money behind ideas that have the market potential and the right team.

Any new company in India has to be registered with "The Registrar of Companies (ROC)", the government body that manages incorporation and administration of companies. In India, incorporation of a company is governed by the Companies Act 1956, which empowers the Central Government to regulate the formation, financing, functioning and closing of companies. The Companies Act does not apply to universities, co-operative societies, and scientific and other societies. The Act is administered by the Central Government through the Ministry of Corporate Affairs and the Offices of Registrar of Companies, Official Liquidators, Public Trustee, Company Law Board and Director of Inspection. Private companies are registered with the Registrar of Companies in each state and you have to contact the registrar’s office to access data on private companies since its not available online. Finding information on startups that may be incorporated as "Proprietorship" or "Partnership" firms is even more difficult.

The traditional method of raising capital for startups in India was to reach out to family and friends. However, with US based VC and PE firms setting up shop in India over the last couple of years, this trend is changing. There used to be an "Electronic Data Information Filing and Retrieval (EDIFAR)" website maintained by the Security and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) that maintained filings and funding data. This website has been discontinued and replaced by the Corporate Filing and Dissemination System (CFDS) that was put in place jointly by the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and National Stock Exchange (NSE). However, only information on publicly traded companies is available in this database. Thus if you want to research funding information in India, you have to find on your own by digging through Investors sections of startup websites and following technology news sources such as Techcrunch, GigaOm, CNET, Indian web startup and Startup Dunia. Finding information on the team behind a startup is even more difficult in India and you have to research on the typical sources such as LinkedIn.

The two main stock exchanges in India are Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and National Stock Exchange (NSE). However, there are also several regional stock exchanges in every state. Any startup that wants to go public lists on one of these exchanges. Bangalore (Karnataka) is the center of startup activity in India. The city has been the IT hub of India since the last two decades. Some other major cities where most startups have come up are Mumbai and Pune in Maharashtra, Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh, New Delhi, Chennai in Tamil Nadu and Kolkata in West Bengal. Unlike the US, there is no place like Delaware, which is preferred for legal incorporations due to tax or legal filing benefits.

Useful Resources:

Venture Capital Regulations in India
List of Stock Exchanges in India
Venture Capital Funding and Private Equity in India

Company filing and registration:

* Naming and Registering a Business

* Procedures for Registration of a Business

* Regulatory Requirements

Startup Related Websites in India: