Business Today

A winning hit rate

Most of our earlier start-up listers thrive, except for a few that stumbled.

Rahul Sachitanand        Print Edition: June 27, 2010

Guruji.com
START-UP YEAR: 2006
FEATURED IN: BT's Hottest Start-Ups 2007

IS NOW: Still up but virtually run aground Started as a desi Google to trawl the web for some 50-million-plus web pages hosted in India, this Sequoia Capital investment has struggled for traction. Much of Guruji's grief has come from web giants such as Google and Yahoo localising their own search and from its own inability to attract enough users to make its business plan viable.

One of the company's founders left a year ago and the other, Anurag Dod, was arrested in Bangalore recently for alleged copyright violations. The company that brought the charges? Ironically, the iron-fisted Super Cassettes (owner of the Tips brand), which initially made its name from bootleg music sales before going legit more recently.

Jigrahak.com
START-UP YEAR:2003
FEATURED IN: BT's Hottest Start-Ups 2007

IS NOW: Cantering along, tracking India's mobile phone base The Helion Ventures-investee firm and its brand ngpay today has over 115 brands on its mobile payment site, across 10 sectors, and company executives say more are being added every month. Sourabh Jain, the CEO, touts his company as a fast-growing mobile commerce platform in the country and the largest mobile channel for Indian Railways and Fame Cinemas.

The mobile site has racked up over 5,00,000 users and has won a slew of awards. Jain says the company is bringing new categories (arts and craft, for example) onto the mobile and extending cellphone-friendly categories such as gifting and ticketing further.

Seventymm
START-UP YEAR:2006
FEATURED IN: BT's Hottest Start-Ups 2007

IS NOW: Ahead of peers, finds itself in a crowded market ARs 100 crore in funding from Matrix Partners India, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and NEA Indo-US Ventures and a new CEO in Mudit Khosla has helped Seventymm reinvigorate its business. India's largest movie rental service-or so the company claims-today has over 20,000 tracks on offer in 14 languages.

It recently launched Seventymm Ticket Counter, an online service that lets you book tickets for the latest film releases in your city. However, it's not been a smooth sailing for the top management at Seventymm. The company was sued for Rs 50 crore in January last year by optical media maker Moser Baer for violating sole and exclusive video rental rights for over 10,000 movies.

Lordsofodds.com
START-UP YEAR: 2007
FEATURED IN: BT's Hottest Start-Ups 2008

IS NOW: Chugging along fine with little competition Its single-minded zeal to be India's largest fantasy gaming company continues, but founders Rajesh Kallidumbil and Hariharan K. have jumped on the social media bandwagon to expand their horizon. So, Lordofodds.com has some 10,000 users currently, but applications on sites such as Facebook have added over a lakh overall and helped the company break even in October last year.

The company has expanded into new formats and used its gaming heritage to dabble in digital marketing, too. Having sealed partnerships with the likes of ESPN and MTV, it continues on its high-octane growth path. While funds from its angel investor and internal accruals are keeping it going for now, Hariharan says the company could consider going to new investors a year from now.

Stempeutics
START-UP YEAR:2006
FEATURED IN: BT's Hottest Start-Ups 2008

IS NOW: One of the few stem cell research firms left standing It has been action stations for the stem cell research company funded by the Manipal Group. Over the past year, the company has received clinical trials approvals from India's drugs regulator for its therapies for acute myocardial infarction and critical limb ischemia. It has also got the approval of Malaysia's Ministry of Health to conduct clinical trials for cerebral stroke there.

As a result of its research over the past couple of years, Stempeutics has entered into a deal with Cipla for handling its go-to-market work. Cipla is sponsoring Rs 50 crore in Stempeutics for a range of stem cell-based products, even as patient recruitment for clinical trials gets rolling.

Ikya
START-UP YEAR: 2007
FEATURED IN: BT's Hottest Start-Ups 2008

IS NOW: Well outgrown its infancy and fast scaling up Human resources industry veteran Ajit Isaac acquired a controlling interest in Bangalorebased Ikya back in late 2009. Since then, the 43-year-old Isaac has focussed on rapid topline growth, bought recruiter Coachieve Solutions and a facilities management firm, and has increased its bank of temps or temporary staff for hire to 14,000 from 10,000 in the last year.

Its executive search business now has over a 100 consultants spread across six verticals in six cities. After clocking Rs 220 crore this past year, Isaac, a former HR Head of the Essar Group, is now looking to buy facilities management companies (Ikya runs over 17 million sq. ft. under management) and could also take over a real estate security solutions company to expand its portfolio.

Inbiopro
START-UP YEAR: 2007
FEATURED IN: BT's Hottest Start-Ups 2009

IS NOW: Gearing up for a big upturn in fortunes Since featuring in our Hottest Start-Ups list last year, Inbiopro has continued to focus on on strengthening its pipeline of biosimilars, as off-patent biotech drugs are commonly referred to. With these biosimilars, especially monoclonal antibodies, which have potential use in cancer treatment, the firm is now poised to enter into strategic alliances with Indian and global multinationals for manufacture and marketing of the products.

The longterm aim of Inbiopro, which has two rounds of venture backing from Accel India, is regulated markets like the European Union and Australia. With a change in the slow pace of regulatory approvals for biotech drugs globally, Inbiopro may be in for good times.

Carnation
START-UP YEAR:2008
FEATURED IN: BT's Hottest Start-Ups 2009

IS NOW: On its way to be India's biggest multi-brand auto servicer The brainchild of former Maruti Suzuki Managing Director Jagdish Khattar, this chain of multi-brand auto sales and service outlets has spread to 18 locations. After building a nationwide network, Khattar has started new initiatives such as a service-on-wheels (where a fully equipped service vehicle can go to the customer premises) and has tied up with DC Design and Fiat to provide spares and support to customers.

Earlier in May this year, Khattar disclosed plans of extending Carnation's business with an entry into spare parts by leveraging a technical tie up with Magneti Marelli to tap into a Rs 20,000 crore-plus market. It's not just in sales that progress is being made. Carnation has outsourced its finance and HRprocesses to Genpact in a five-year deal as it seeks to focus on its core business.

Asklaila.com
START-UP YEAR:2006
FEATURED IN: BT's Hottest Start-Ups 2009

IS NOW: Into SMS and other methods of search Atough online market for local search has seen the Silicon Valley Bank and Light Speed Venturesfunded company take its model offline, with the opening of a call-centre based search operation. It has expanded into other search methods too, including SMS search, as the competition begins to intensify.

With a fastchanging market, founders Sriram Adukoorie and Kiran Konduri had better be aware of rivals and the need to expand Asklaila's services. The oldest player in the game, Yellowpages, has gone online, while others such as Just Dial, funded by Sequoia Capital, are even more aggressive, planning overseas forays to tap Englishspeaking markets. With consolidation intensifying in local search, however, industry watchers see Asklaila as the next target of consolidation.

Meritnation
START-UP YEAR: 2001, with business model overhauled in 2007
FEATURED IN: BT's Hottest Start-Ups 2009

IS NOW: Pulling ahead in a crowded online education market The start-up that was almost grounded before takeoff is rapidly gaining altitude now. Founded by Pavan Chauhan and Ritesh Hemrajanion, former classmates at IIM Bangalore, on a shoestring budget of Rs 40,000, the company initially struggled to get going before securing its first handful of customers.

Since those dark days, however, it's been all growth for the web-based education company, says Chauhan. Meritnation today has seven lakh students using its site and has diversified from just retail products to targeting institutions for assessment-based learning tools. With a Rs 5-crore second round funding tied up from Infoedge (which owns the popular naukri.com site), life is looking good for these first-time entrepreneurs.

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