Interview with MS Rao - Founder Aujas Networks - Part 1

Here are some excerpts from the interview of Mr.M Srinivas Rao, Co-founder and CEO of Aujas Networks. Aujas is a pure play digital security services provider offering life-cycle security services such as Application Security, IT Risk Management, Identity Management and Vulnerability Management. Aujas was co-founded by Srinivasa Rao, Sameer Shelke and Manjula Sridhar in 2008. The company received seed funding of $3 million from IDG Ventures India. This is the part 1 of the interview & this will be followed by the video sessions of the interview.

About Mr.Rao’s background: After passing out of IIM Bangalore Mr.Rao joined Sonata Software when it was still an early stage enterprise. From there on, his corporate journey has taken him to a number of small companies that he helped grow large –Network Solutions (Netsol) being an exemplary success. He has also worked for Microland (was again one its first few employees), IBM-Netsol and Cisco (his last corporate stint before starting Aujas).

Q: Mr.Rao, are you a first generation entrepreneur in your family? You have obviously enjoyed your entrepreneurial journey, was it difficult?
A: Yes and No! Entrepreneurship does not run in my family and I have been the first person to go down this path. But it’s not that I started out all of a sudden in entrepreneurship. It was a gradual process. I joined Sonata Software after graduating from IIM B, you can classify this as a bit risky but not totally entrepreneurial. My subsequent jobs were similar in nature and risk levels. I was amongst the initial employees in Microland and started their distribution division & handled various divisions like education services etc. Then Network Solutions happened – I was a partner in the company and we built it up for 8 years before selling it to IBM. Aujas would qualify as the first company that I am attempting to build from ground zero.

Q: A number of our readers are MBA aspirants and are also interested in entrepreneurship. You worked for a start-up after the MBA, any advice for our readers?
A: Well, I joined IIMB right after my engineering without any work-ex. Actually, I did work for 5 days at a cement plant as an electrical engineer (smiles). In my opinion, having some work-ex before doing an MBA gives more value as you are able to relate the concepts that you study to real business life. For a fresh grad, it will all be just theory. Having said that, for me IIM B was a great experience. I made great friends there, learned a lot and there are absolutely no regrets on doing it right after graduation.

Q: So just before you started out in Aujas, you were working with Cisco. What role did the Cisco environment play to spur you to start something on your own?
A: I would say whatever Cisco and other big companies do to do well works for them. There are standard procedures for doing things and there is certain amount inflexibility – of course it works for them. But from a personal point of view, there are factors you cannot control and a number of times you have to toe the line – so to say. I had gone to Cisco thinking that I would spend the next 2 years in the company but exited in about 7 months.

Q: What’s your take on serial entrepreneurship? This is your second entrepreneurial venture after Netsol.
A: Yes, I would say 1990 onwards, the nature of my work has been entrepreneurial. Serial entrepreneurship excites me a lot mainly because when you work in a smaller organization your ability to ‘impact and influence’ is a lot more than when you work for a large company. So that is very encouraging of course. When I worked with IBM after the sale of Netsol to them, my leeway got decreased. Basically the degree to which you can ‘impact and influence’ goes down in such cases.

Q: So what made you stick to IBM-Netsol for one-and-a-half years?
A: Well, we had sold Netsol to IBM and being part of the top management at Netsol we were legally obliged (also, we felt we were duty bound) to integrate Netsol with IBM. We also had to ensure that the interests of our employees – who had become IBM employees then – were protected in the new environment. Another important reason for my staying around was the protection and enhancement of the several successful customer relationships we had built by then. So I basically worked until I could safely say that all interests were taken care of.

Q: One major facet of entrepreneurship is the ability to build teams. What has your experience been in the case of Aujas and what major quality of yours has come in handy while forming this team?
A: Oh! This is an interesting story. Manjula Sridhar (now the Chief Technology Officer at Aujas) was an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at IDG Ventures building technology in the area of digital security services. IDG was keen to invest in this space and had been supporting her endeavors. When Manjula’s technology was ready to go into business, IDG asked her to build a suitable team. That’s when she found me on “Linked-in” (http://www.linkedin.com/) and liked my profile. She contacted me and I got interested too. Then we met the IDG team and were asked to prepare a business plan and build the complete start-up team.
As for the other team members, I had known Sameer (Sameer Shelke – Chief Operating Officer for Aujas) from my days at Netsol. He was with the Professional Services team at Cisco and I represented Netsol in an engagement with Cisco. We had a few things in common too – both had worked at Microland at some point in time and both had worked at Cisco too. He joined us as COO. Our other team mate, Naveen is also a Netsol Alumnus.

Q: Interesting, so you were just an acquaintance with Sameer but obviously you remembered him as someone who could join you. How do you manage to identify people with such qualities?
A: I basically look for people who have an entrepreneurial proclivity. You may be working for a large company but your entrepreneurial nature is evident a lot of times. A lot of us secretly aspire (smiles) to be entrepreneurs but are worried what might happen if the company goes bust – worried about our security and safety. Many such people need that one spark to spur them on.

Q: Ok. Let’s come to Aujas specifically. How big is the size of the opportunity for Aujas?
A:

Dignity Second Careers

We have seen many job portals & recently some of them targetting specific group of people. Going in same direction, Dignity Foundation started Dignity Second Careers, a job portal for people above 50 yrs of age. So much like Naukri.com or JobsAhead.com, DignitySecondCareers.com works the same way and supports people who have recently retired and have had a relaxed 3-4 months of break but have started feeling restless sitting idle at home.

Though i couldnt find the similar numbers of job openings like on naukri etc. but the numbers were good, the profiles seemed good and frankly speaking you cant expect the same traction or nos. considering that these job openings needs to be very specific.

A good initiative to help those retired & active souls who still want to go to office at 9 AM and not sit back at home and keep sipping coffee :). To know more hit http://www.dignitysecondcareers.org/Default.aspx

Bigshoebazaar.com

Bigshoebazaar!

Not many amongst us would have wondered of having an online shoe shop. But yes thats what is the latest on the "i" Startups.

Bigshowbazaar brings to you a collection of world's biggest brands on one platform & to add to it the luxury of having discounts. Not only that, most of the shoes come with 100 days gauratee and free home delivery. Though on one hand you really feel its an innovative thing but on the other there's this feeling of nothing great in the concept. But all said & done, a smile crossed my face on seeing such a shop. To read more hit http://www.bigshoebazaar.com/

Wizdom.in

With so many students in India preparing for GRE, Wizdom is the first adaptive learning service for GRE with an aim to provide enjoyable and effective learning anywhere any time. Started a few years back by Anand Kannan from IIT Madras and Yogish Lavanis who holds a degree from IT BHU and IISc Bangalore, Wizdom has been able to bank on the huge market for educational needs. Wizdom connects the Student to an expert teacher, a server with algorithms and a student facilitator to deliver adaptive learning on both PC & Mobile. The method has proved to be effective, convinient and enjoyable and hence Wizdom has been able to attract many students to become a part of the system.

To know more hit http://wizdom.in/index.html

Party Hard Drivers

Party Hard Drivers - I am sure the name makes you feel what it would be!

A novel & wonderful concept executed well in Bombay, Party Hard Drivers provides drivers to drive "your car" back home after you have had "more than justified" alcohol and hence make you reach home safe! PDH (Party Hard Drivers) has banked on the "dont drink & drive" laws and has helped people come, have fun, drink and enjoy till as late as they want without worrying who & how would the car be driven.

Surely a new idea and i am sure it would have been difficult to convience people to handover the keys of their cars to an unkown driver and not just car even your lives and privacy. But then PHD has gone ahead & done a thorough check on drivers, have a detailed record of them and hence slowly have been able to convience people to use their services. Started in Mumbai with 20 drivers, they were able to break even in as less as 4 months & now are planning to move to other locations.

With Indian culture becoming more westernized and with late night parties increasing, PHD surely has cashed in on the idea and are all set to mint millions out of it. to read more hit http://www.partyharddrivers.com/home.html

Discussion with Founder - ASAP!

ASAP - Its not as soon as possible but the name of a venture which is making waves and has been able to create a niche for itself in a period of just 1 year. Today we discuss with Ruchi Chopra, Founder Any Surprise Any Place (ASAP) on how she has been able to build something which is truly innovative.

Manik - Hi Ruchi, So how has the journey been right from ideation of this wonderful idea to execution.
Ruchi - ASAP is someting that i started working on while i was still involved in my corporate career with a clothing giant. From working on weekends to taking it full time its been an exciting and exhilariting journey & i have enjoyed every bit of it.

Manik
- Tell us about the execution part of it, i mean how many people are involved and how are you planning to expand both in terms of business and people.
Ruchi - As of now there are 4 people and we are operating out of Haus Khaz Delhi (though we plan to shift soon like we have been doing over last 6 months - laughs). In terms of ideation, it s completely handled by me and my team members support me in the execution effort. Besides this team there is a virtual team of free lancers across the globe whom i involve on need basis. About expansion, we are currently providing services across India & for that matter we have been serving global clients with most of the off shelf products and similar products. In terms of people we are looking at recruiting people and i am trying to find people who can think likewise and dont compromise on the quality front as thats what is highly important for us - one bad service & the word of mouth starts

Manik - Most of your products are serviced to individuals. Any plans to serve corporate customers?
Ruchi - Yes, we have provided services to a few corporate clients last year and are in talks with around 5-6 corporates in Mumbai. (I keep flying to Mumbai & have a small sales team in Mumbai)

Manik - Any advice to youngsters who plan to start afresh?
Ruchi - Hmmm, Some days back i was at LSR and this is one thing that i told there also that you cant have a huge set up to start with. When i started i started very small and hence you cant imagine to have a glass office and other luxuries to begin with. Also, you got to have faith in your idea else its difficult to actually take it forward.

Manik - Great! Thanks Ruchi it was nice speaking to you and wish you all the best in future!

To know more please hit http://www.asap.co.in/

Interview with youCharades

youCharades is based on the popular guessing game Charades where one player acts out the words from movies, books etc. We have played the game so often but never imagined having an online version of the same & thats what Alok Kejriwal has for you at youCharades.com.

An interview with the Product Management Team of youCharades -

1. youCharades brings online a concept which is extremely popular. How has the response been and how many users/hits have you been able to generate?

We have been able to achieve a substantial amount of traffic and traction since our launch. We've had a lot of User Generated Charades created. The webcam record feature has really helped. InviziAds.com (Which is a sister concern) were our launch partners and we are happy with the results. It can only get better now.

2. Considering that it falls under the overall umbrella of online games how do you plan to compete with websites which offer similar but vast range of games (incld parent company contests2win)

Its a video entertainment platform. Users can have a lot of fun and it also acts as a Video Talent Platform. Be sure to check out our Facebook app too: http://apps.facebook.com/youcharades

3. What is the current team strength & who all are there in management team?

It's the entire team of Contests2win.com. Alok Kejriwal is the Chairman, Raj Menon is the COO.

4. What is the operating model (revenue) and what are the future plans both in terms of branding and hence increasing the audience base?

We have a well planned marketing plan. We'll concentrate on content and viral marketing too. We are in the process of signing up a lot of partners and this will help in getting some traction too.

To know more hit http://youcharades.com/

Interview with Founders - Green Mango

I was amazed with this concept and really loved it. The entire concept and exceution has been exceptional and as i promised to get to the execution steps of Green Mango - here are a few questions on what the name signifies & how is it executed.

1. To start with, what does the name "GreenMango" signifies & how does it relate to the concept.

The name GreenMango reflects the social mission that is at the heart of our business. One of our inspirations in developing the GreenMango concept is a woman named Malou Bacani, who sells green mangos on a street corner in Baguio City, Philippines, where Yasmina grew up. She works every day for 10 hours in order to earn enough money to support her family and save for her daughter to attend university. But despite her hard work, she is still struggling to achieve these goals.

With limited access to affordable marketing channels, micro-enterprises and small businesses in India often struggle to survive. We designed a platform to help these small, low-income entrepreneurs in India to promote their businesses, increase their incomes, and ultimately find a way to better support their families. We built GreenMango to support hard-working micro-entrepreneurs, like Malou, in achieving their goals.

2. What is the operating model for GreenMango, especially the revenue model.

How does a plumber find his customers? And how do I find a good plumber? GreenMango is a platform that connects small business like plumbers, carpenters, tailors, plumbers, mechanics, etc. with their customers. We create value for these businesses by making them visible to thousands of potential customers. And we create value for the shoppers who visit our site (greenmango.co.in) or call our call center (04066616677) by offering a fast, easy, and reliable way to find the services they need everyday. GreenMango generates revenues through listing fees, premium services, and advertising.

3. How easy or how difficult has it been to collect and continously update the information/contacts for Plumbers, Carpenters etc.

The GreenMango model was designed keeping the online and offline customers in mind. Our technology and our field operations work in synch to maintain a reliable database of information for our customers.

4. Do you plan to widen your spectrum in future or you plan to continue focussing on Hyderabad.

We look forward to taking GreenMango across India and into other countries in the years to come.

To me this is one of the best & most iNnovative sTartup and extremely well executed. 5 Stars! To know more Green Mango

Mobicules

They say they make sense out of social networks!

Most of us do know that social networks provides endless opportunities but how ...we dont know. Thats where Mobicules come into picture. Mobicules builds applications that fits into social networks & "unleash the power". So whether it is conceptualizing, designing, implementing, maintaining or marketing of social network - they do it all! Mobicules already has many applications running on "Facebook" - iAspire & GizmoGuru are the prominent ones and have Spleak Media and BH Networks in the client list.

The brains behind the concept - IIT Kharagpur Alumni - Munish Bansal, Niraj Ranjan & Nitesh Nandy!

To Read more hit http://www.mobicules.com/

GreenMango

This is an idea which is very very close to my heart! Just a few months back one of my partners in i-Startups and I sat down for 2-3 weeks, researched & worked hard on this but couldnt execute it.

But today incidentally i found this on the web! GreenMango is a search engine for your daily needs. So be it Scooter Repair, Plumber, Electrician etc. you will be able to get there contact details on the web. It doesnt stop there, you can write reviews on them and hence let the people know about the quality of these people.

Amazing job Nandini Narula & Yasmina McCarty (the founders of GreenMango). Though it is currently focussing only on Hyderabad i am sure they have plans to expand to other parts of countries.

I have many questions on the execution of this including how they maintain updated contact details, their revenue model etc. and let me try to get in touch with the founder and find out how they have developed this model.

Congrats Folks! This to me is truly an iNnovative sTartup! To know more hit http://greenmango.co.in