Producing India's First Start-Up Feature Show

An Executive Summary of how we evaluated Start-ups to feature them for ET Now's Starting Up Feature Show


In 2010, In India, start-ups in general and especially tech start-ups were still a very ignored space. The proliferation of smartphones had as yet not begun and mobile broadband speeds were still using 2G and 3 G connections. With that being said the internet was now firmly established and many budding new businesses were cropping up online. As a Business News Reporter, featuring start-ups and initiating coverage on this still disregarded sector was an opportunity waiting to be exploited. The opportunity was initiated by Sudhir Syal, as editor of the show Starting Up. A 30-minute feature show covering the world of Start-ups, Venture Capital, and E-commerce.

The question of course was how do you identify genuine start-ups from the riff-raft and how does one showcase and highlights its strengths? Well, the answer was soon clear, diligence on a start-up by a news reporter had to be very similar to that of a Venture Capitalist asking questions during a Start-Up Pitch.

The Pitch

When a start-up pitches to an investor it has to answer 5 core questions convincingly in a manner that showcases an Opportunity for Growth and more importantly a potential major return on investment.

These 5 Core Questions are as follows:

  1. What is the Business Model of the Company? 

          Simply put, how does the company make its income? What is the manner in which a service or product is sold to the end customer and how does the company deliver value?

      2. What are the core metrics that govern the dynamics of the stated Business Model?

          The performance of every start-up is governed by key core parameters which indicate the efficiency of the Business Model. It is important to note here that these are not entries on the balance sheet. Parameters like 1) Conversion Rate 2) Lifetime Value 3) Net Promoter Score 4) Return Rate and many more vary according to the business model executed.

      3. What is your Go To Market Strategy?

          Got a great service or product? Well, how do you take this to the end customer and convince him/her of its value?  How do you position the brand to attract the relevant customer to your Business?

      4.  What is the Business USP?

           Does the Business or management have an ace up their sleeve? This could be a Intellectual Property, Connections to certain industry whales, Expertise in a certain skill, or even Government Regulation.

       5. What Barriers to Entry does the business create?

           You've got a Great Business? That's fine but how do you stop others from easily replicating the same business? How difficult can you make it from anyone else coming into the space and eating a portion of your market share?


         Great businesses always have highly compelling answers to these questions making it irresistible for an investor to say No to funding the business. Convincing an investor is often the first step in demonstrating strong credentials.

Due Diligence

When Dealing with start-ups it's hard to verify claims unless the start-up is willing and ready to show you their numbers, which they never are, however, there are ways to identify the various claims made about the business model. 

  1. Is there a Global Equivalent?       

         There are two distinct types of start-ups 1) A Pioneering Kind and 2) A Replicating Kind.

         Pioneering a brand-new concept and idea is very rare and requires a very mature venture capital community that is willing to lose money in the hopes of searching for that Billion dollar unicorn. It is often a start-up that is replicating a globally proven business model in the local market that is in play. And so identifying the key parameter that made the Global equivalent successful can determine if the local start-up is on the right track. 

      2. Understanding if the Barriers to Entry are Plausible:

          Having patents and strong intellectual property is only as good as one's ability to financially enforce patents and the realistic market expectations they are playing. Most developing economies do not have strong mechanisms in place to enforce patents and IP Contracts. And so realistic barriers are expected.

      3. Control over the Business Model: 

           Many start-ups have fanciful ideas that customers, B2b partners, and other peripheral entities will drive sales for the start-up. When in reality any business must always have full control over driving its Business Model and Service Quality forward. Understanding the power dynamics between Business, Customer and other stakeholders is a key aspect of a successful startup

       4. A winning Company Culture:

          If you've looked around you easily realize that the downfall of most startups is unethical and or inefficient company culture and corporate governance. Many dynamic young entrepreneurs fall prey to the Google-styled culture of being aggressively paced in its growth and reckless with securing loose ends. In the race to monopolize the market start-ups engage in antagonistic work environments and hire & fire cultures. Through experience, this always comes back to bite the start-up unless a balance between growth and culture is attained.