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The High Five
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Wonder Grass (Low-cost housing) soaring temperatures and streams running dry in Nagpur do not deter Vaibhav and Nachiket Kaley from expecting their business to yield a rich harvest. The Kaley brothers are betting on a master plan, where bamboo becomes the cure for all ills in India’s housing sector.
Two years ago, Vaibhav, 33, an interior designer, along with his brother Nachiket, 28, an IT professional, decided to follow in the footsteps of their father, Vinoo Kaley, known as the ‘bamboo man’ and set up Wonder Grass, to provide low-cost housing options using bamboo as the main construction material. The walls of the houses are sometimes plastered with cow dung and mud to give a cemented look. The structures, the brothers claim, can withstand mild earthquakes and cyclones and are good options for coastal areas. “The time has come for bamboo. The market is opening up for sustainable living solutions,” says Vaibhav, director, Wonder Grass.
So far, they have done well. Turnover has trebled, while profits have increased manyfold too. The company has revenue targets of Rs 20-25 crore in a 8-10 year timeframe. They already have a bamboo auditorium project for an educational institution at the Andhra Pradesh-Orissa border and a housing project in Vapi.
With a marketing office in Bangalore and assembly line operations in Nagpur and Belgaum, the firm is looking at scaling up operations and will soon have 100 artisans working for them. To retain manpower, the Kaleys set aside 20 per cent of equity in a trust that will share profits with the workforce.
A low cost of Rs 400-450 per sq. ft, as against Rs 650 per sq. ft for a low-cost brick-mortar dwelling can be a driving factor for the bamboo houses.
TRI Technosolutions (Robotics)
they are doing what many of their calibre should, but don’t — getting into R&D. Both Gagan Goyal and Abhishek Biswal, alumni of IIT-Bombay, started TRI Technosolutions, an educational robotics and embedded systems start-up three years ago. Today, the company that does most of its R&D out of the Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, IIT-Bombay, is already profitable. Its training modules are being used in 18 schools and more than 200 colleges across the country.
Goyal started it in 2006 with a set of pilot workshops in 10-12 colleges in Maharashtra and Gujarat. A year later, Biswal, 27, quit his job with a construction company in the Middle East, and joined him.
HIGH-TECH: Abhishek Biswal (left) and Gagan Goyal
The company now has two wings: Thinklabs provides training and hardware in embedded software and robotics to engineering students, and Robo.in conducts workshops in robotics hardware and software for school students. The company’s courses range from two-day ones to those spanning two years. So far, more than 35,000 engineering students and over 1,000 school students from institutions such as IIT-Bombay, Bishop Cotton School, Bangalore, Dhirubhai Ambani International School, Mumbai, etc. have been trained by TRI.
The company has invested Rs 2.54 crore in the business, bulk of which came from Mumbai-based angel investor Seedfund. There are plans to invest Rs 1 crore to expand the network of owned-centres across the country — it currently has two centres in Mumbai and Bangalore. With a target revenue of Rs 100 crore in 7-10 years, the company needs to grow fast.
Citizen Media (Internet media)
Being snowed in for a quarter of a year is probably great motivation for churning out blogs by the hundreds. Citizen Media, a Shimla-based Internet startup that runs a user-driven blog network, has 15 sites and manages 4,000 articles per quarter. Profits are modest and revenues, the company claims, are growing steadily.
The husband and wife duo of Ankit and Nandini Maheshwari, in 2006, started the venture with Rs 40,000 as seed capital from a small room in Delhi. Today, Citizen operates out of the STPI (software technology park of India) in Shimla and employs 50 people. Ankit, an engineer from Aligarh Muslim University, quit his job with eBookers in Delhi and took the plunge with a team of four. Nandini, who at that time was a chartered accountant aspirant and a part-time writer, joined in soon. “I had a small budget (Rs 40,000) and little option but to become a revenue earner in the next three months,” says Ankit.
CHOC-A-BLOG: Nandini (left) and Ankit Maheshwari
The company’s revenues come from two channels. One, advertising revenues from blogs on topics such as current affairs, gizmos, environment, etc. The flagship, Instablogs, claims 100,000 registered members and 8 million page views per month. “To generate revenues in the content business today, it has to be efficient, scalable, ROI-driven and viral in nature,” says Ankit. The company deploys a strategy called DOCS (distribution-oriented content strategy) that registers the pros and cons of the content the blogs generate. Second, revenues from services, such as developing CMS (content management system) for UTV. It enables media houses to manage the content they are producing.
So far, Citizen has relied on self-funding and some seed capital from Vishal Gondal's SB Venture Group. It is now looking to raise about $4 million through venture capitalists. The money will be used to build a sales team, expand into multiple languages and develop channels for distribution of its content on mobile. The couple will need to work real hard to become the Rs 100-crore revenue firm they dream to be.
Anilesh S. Mahajan
iViz Techno solutions (IT software)
When Bikash Barai, co-founder and ceo of iViz Techno Solutions, wanted to enter the world of ethical hacking in 2006, he was hard put to find investors. So, he put up his own paintings, about 12, for sale and raised seed capital of Rs 1 lakh to start iViz. Within three months, he was able to sign on eRev Max, a UK-based IT company as a strategic investor.
PROBLEM SOLVERS: Bikash Barai (left) and Nilanjan De
The security management start-up, headquartered in Kolkata, provides on-demand automated penetration testing to customers. “While conducting one penetration testing exercise, it dawned on us that even as a security expert we cannot detect all multi-stage attack path possibilities,” says the 27-year-old Barai. To overcome this, they explored the use of artificial intelligence to simulate all multi-stage attack possibilities. The resultant product simulates a human hacker’s intelligence to detect attacks on a system or network, and suggests remedies.
The product currently has a patent pending with United States Patent and Trademark Office. So far, over Rs 5 crore has been invested in the business (Bangalore-based venture capital firm IDG Ventures India invested $2.5 million) and while revenue growth is robust, the company is not profitable yet. Barai projects $1.5 million revenues in 2009-10. Today Barai and co-founder Nilanjan De, chief technical officer, iViz, plan to reach out to 25 markets including Europe and the US. The two IIT-Kharagpur graduates seem to have a tough road ahead.
White Smyle (Healthcare)
when you enter the white smyle clinic at the posh hauz khas area in new Delhi, it would not seem any different from a regular dental clinic. The difference is made by Vivek Iyer, the 26-year-old founder of White Smyle, a dentist who talks and thinks more like an entrepreneur. Iyer’s objective is to make dental treatment for middle class Indians and un-insured foreigners affordable without compromising on quality. White Smyle, he claims, is the largest and fastest-growing dental treatment chain in the country, and is profitable.
WIDE SMYLE: Vivek Iyer
The company currently runs seven clinics, of which four are in NCR (national capital region), and one each in Chennai, Rishikesh and Bangkok. The first clinic, in Haus Khas, New Delhi, was started in March 2007. Now, over 40 specialist dentists work with the brand. “Dental treatment is very expensive both in the West and in India.
I have reduced costs largely by going in for a series of clinics in the NCR,” says Iyer. A tooth extraction at any White Smyle Clinic would cost Rs 100 as compared to Rs 500 in any other regular clinic, while one can get a dental implant done for Rs 15,000-35,000 as against Rs 25,000-75,000 in other clinics.
Iyer has invested Rs 30 lakh in the business so far, primarily from his own resources and bank loans. He is now looking at raising Rs 10 crore to finance future expansions. His plans include entering into a PPP project with the government to open 15 centres in the Delhi-NCR region, which he says will give the company assured revenues of Rs 70 crore for 10 years and an opportunity to open 300 centres with the government in 2011-12. The PPP, however, is not yet in place. But Iyer claims that his company is one among those shortlisted for opening dental clinics under the central government Health Scheme.
Anilesh S. Mahajan
(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 29-03-2010)