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Food tech startups will lose flavor in 2016, so you might want to reconsider

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Senior management professional and serial entrepreneur with an established record of success in growing enterprise value Vinod Keni has extensive experience as an entrepreneur, CFO and as a management consultant in North America and Asia. Having lived in the US for more than 15 years, Keni has expertise and experience with investments, venture capital and fund raising. Entrepreneur India interacted with him to know more about the investment scenario in India and what he looks in startups before investing in them.

How can a startup decide that this is the right time to raise fund?

I look at it from the perspective of angel investor. When I say partial proof of concept, I am not looking at full proof of concept; I am looking for 2 to 3 beta customers who have looked at it and said ‘no’ this is working on the given feedback. So, I want to see the product in the market along with the offering and products service. And, it doesn’t matter whether it is B2B or B2C; they should essentially be in the market because if you are in the market only then can you manage appropriate feedback.

So I want to see that. And if they are not and still saying that I am just an idea even that is fine. But if they have an idea, it should be pitched as a well articulated plan. They must share their vision that this is their idea and this is what I need to do about it. Here are all the things that I need to do and this is the reason why I need the money. They should have very strong reasons to come back and say that this is the reason why I need money.

Typically what we have seen with the investors is that if given some investor is investing in say hyperlocal market than we see that there are a lot of investment coming in the same segment. Do you think that investors somewhere are trying to be copycats or are they actually looking for some innovative and noble idea also?

No, I mean most of them look for noble and innovative ideas. Everybody wants to see an idea which is at least a solution for very big problem or something which has fairly large growing market! But what is critical is the fact that most of the investors are actually now also starting to say that I want to bet on certain ideas. Some of those could be repetitive one. But then you have to also realize there are lot of investors who tend to move in herds. But if somebody is working on ‘hyperlocal market’, perhaps it’s time for the trend now. So, I will take a bet on the same.  So, multiple investors are taking a bet on them.

So would you personally like to take a bet on ‘hyperlocal'?

No! Not anymore as the market is flooded with the same. So anything which comes out as the flavour of the month then I think we should stay with it for a while. You realise most of us have certain preferences. A lot of us tend to look at B2C and B2B ideas where B2C typically requires more capital. Since it takes a longer span, you have to build the brand. On the other hand, B2B may not necessarily need that.

So you are indicating that B2B is the next level?

No, I am not saying any of that! A lot of opportunity is present in B2C because there are still countless problems in India and there are no solutions till now. You can’t necessarily take an idea that has come from the developed world and try to model it for India. You have to adapt it!  So from that perspective, there is still a lot of opportunity. I think you have only scratched the surface.

Will Food tech startup continue to rule the trend?

Food tech startup, I think has started to lose the flavor.

Specifically, I would ask you about e-commerce model. There are retailers who shy away from giving discounts. However, e-commerce portal provides heavy discount to their users. So, how far do you think this model is sustainable?

As you have seen during Big Billion sale, most of them go for convenience instead of discounts. So, I think more and more people will start using e-commerce as a medium. So from that perspective, I think the first wave of early lookout for discounts is making headways. They have to move very quickly into the model that they begin.

(With inputs from Samiksha Jain)

Edition: April 2017

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