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2018 — The Year That Was…

As anticipated by us at the beginning of the year, 2018 was special. CIIE completed 10 years of incorporation as an autonomous legal entity through which we have done most of our work over the last decade. We take the opportunity to thank all you well-wishers who have been an integral part of our journey during this period. As expected, nostalgia hit us and we thought the best way to celebrate the decade will be through celebrating the journeys of the (s)heroes supported by us. We published a coffee table book “CIIE — Celebrating 10 years of Experiments and Entrepreneurs” covering stories of 50 amazing and inspiring enterprises, and also the story of creation and re-creation of CIIE. Of course, we also partied really hard to celebrate the same! Celebrations aside, 2018 will always remain special for us. The year marked the beginning of three awesome new initiatives at CIIE — which will drive a lot of our work over the next few years. a) Bharat Innovation Fund — Premised on CIIE’s decade-long experience of backing innovative start-ups, we announced the first-closing of the Bharat Innovation Fund — designed as an early stage deep-tech fund to nurture and catalyse globally competitive, IP-driven innovations to disrupt emerging sectors. Marquee names including corporates like Philips and Bajaj Electricals, insurers like ICICI Lombard, and fund-of-funds like SIDBI-FFS and BIRAC-AcE Fund, joined us in this endeavor. Through the fund, we identified and are in the process of backing some amazing entrepreneurs disrupting traditional sectors ranging from oil and gas, market-research, lending, cancer research, medical diagnostics, big-data among others. We publicly announced our first two investments — in emotion-AI focussed Entropik , and Detect Technologies , an intelligent drone and non-destructive testing based asset monitoring solution. b) Bharat Inclusion Initiative — To continue our endeavors to catalyse underserved sectors, we launched a first-of-its-kind partnership to boost the creation of inclusive technologies for India’s masses — Bharat Inclusion Initiative (BII). We were delighted to receive support from marquee partners including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, J.P Morgan, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and Omidyar Network. During the year, through BII, we initiated six research projects aimed at identifying new financial inclusion use cases and trained over 150+ fintech ventures through our sprints. We are also accelerating 11 amazing new ventures through the Financial Inclusion Lab . We have also made seed-investments in Kaleidofin — a saving and investment goal focused startup for underserved segments, and a stealth-mode startup creating new APIs for banking and fintech space. c) Centre of Excellence — Our tech-incubation efforts also received a significant boost in 2018, as Government of India’s Department of Science and Technology approved the development of our technology-business incubator as a Centre of Excellence (CoE). The Government’s support will enable us to democratise our incubation and acceleration efforts to newer geographies and sectors. While we started some amazing new landmark initiatives in 2018, our past initiatives and start-ups continued to bloom too. Creating Regional Ecosystems — Through Startup Oasis and Innocity, we continued to energise regional ecosystems across Rajasthan and Gujarat through initiatives like SAP Accelerator, Crafts Accelerator, T-Start Incubation Program, Innocity, and many more. During the year, we provided training and acceleration support to over 115 startups, provided grant, debt and equity financing to 100+ startups including Drivamp, Next Big Innovation Labs, NoPo Nanotechnologies India, StrataEnviro, among others. Accelerating the Best across India — Through our flagship national programs, Power of Ideas and India Innovation Growth Program, we scouted for over 8000 ideas, provided mentoring and training support to 119 at IIM Ahmedabad, and provided financial support to 76+ ventures. During the year, we also provided seed-investments to several startups including Agricx Lab, Oizom Instruments, Dheeyantra Research Labs, Reculta Solutions, Trillbit Technologies, Bombay Hemp Company, Heelium Sports, and many more, creating solutions across areas like agritech, defence, environment-tech, among others. We also launched the ShelterTech Accelerator to help startups apply tech towards building affordable housing solutions. Scaling and Exiting — Our portfolio companies continued to scale-up attracting capital, talent, customers, and attention. 2018 marked the 30th successful exit for CIIE and its affiliates. Infuse’s portfolio company Fourth Partner was the highlight for the year as it gave us a multi-bagger exit during the phenomenal $70 million investment by TPG’s Rise Fund. Other successful exits during the year included Ace Micromatic Manufacturing Intelligence Technologies, Boond Engineering, iNICU Med, Eagle Photonics, Gridbots Technologies, Fibre Optika Technologies, among others. Research — We continued to scale up our academic and applied research efforts. We undertook sector intelligence with publications on Farming as a Service with Bain, Financial Inclusion with JP Morgan and Microsave, and Sustainable Mobility & Energy Access commissioned by AVPN. Our academically driven research on incubation, entrepreneurial learning and effectuation were featured at several reputed international conferences. We recently hosted a panel symposium at the Academy of Management Small Conference on Startup to Scale-up. Our six fellowships in financial inclusion are bringing in novel insights and shared them through over 18 blogs. We also published two use cases financial inclusion, eight human stories , and insights from our research on several forums and platforms. We had sailed out in 2008 with intentions to be a market maker. During the last decade, we have impacted some spaces like cleantech and agritech, that needed a market-based intervention. We are still determined on that path. We are also determined to work with early-stage startups, where there is little support and the risk of failure is the highest. Long yet eventful, challenging yet fruitful, profound and oddly-satisfying, 2018 has been a landmark year for us at CIIE. We end 2018 on a high — as the Government of India just named us as the winner of the National Entrepreneurship Award for 2018 for our work in building the incubation ecosystem. We are super excited about 2019 and are counting on you to continue to make an impact on entrepreneurship in and entrepreneurs of India.


2020: You Are Never Gonna Keep Me Down!

I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down Reminded of this Tubthumping song as we write this 2020 wrap-up note. Much like everyone else, 2020 was hard for CIIE.CO, our team and our entrepreneurs. But hey — come pandemic or come the apocalypse, innovation and entrepreneurship will continue to thrive. And we begin our note by thanking all the entrepreneurs and their supporters (including our rockstar team) for not giving up, and living by ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going!’ Thanks to COVID, we unlearnt and learnt, discovered and invented new things to support budding entrepreneurs and our portfolio startups — which is what this update is really about. But before we get to the details, we are delighted to share the headlines: in 2020 we backed 122 startups across our INNOVATION CONTINUUM. Below lies the chart where you can explore them and learn about what these change-makers were busy with; undeterred and playing offense (vs defense), while COVID played havoc. Chintan Bakshi, Partner — Incubation: Pandemic induced disruption got us revamping our programs to befit the virtual world. Offline touch and connect were truly missed, but we soon realised the online boon: from better structured programs to higher mentor engagement and availability. Apart from the regular diagnostic panels and mentoring sessions — we were able to plan a host of problem-solving clinics and sprints startups to solve their most pressing problems and/or validate their riskiest assumptions. Going virtual for our regional programs met with a significant increase in participation, thus enabling us to serve entrepreneurs and startups from tier 2 and tier 3 geographies of Rajasthan and Gujarat. For certain few, a significant part of our support was focussed on enabling them to digitally transform for the strange 2020. Retaining all the initial excitement, virtual incubation programs and the on-going use of digital technologies to keep it relevantly structured will be continued into our 2021 timelines as well. Our past experiences reaffirmed our learning that specific problem-solving and validation through the means of mentoring clinics and sprints, are more optimally done online. Envisioning a hybrid approach, we hope to expand to newer geographies in 2021 with Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Uttaranchal. Furthermore, we are stoked about launching our first incubation centre in collaboration with Bajaj Electrical Limited in Jaipur. It envisions excellent infrastructure and high quality mentoring for startups located in the heart of this pink city. Vipul Patel, Partner — Seed & Acceleration: Strange as 2020 was, we did find hope in our incomplete yet impactful progress amidst all the muddle. Our vision of becoming the ‘the largest source of pre-series A and series A funded startups in India,’ remains undeterred and renewed. Our energies and efforts in 2020 have gone into providing deeper support to the startups facing unthinkable challenges. Travel restrictions and lockdowns have delayed piloting opportunities for the MVP stage startups; growth-stage startups have lost business, and thereby, revenue; and fundraising took a longer time than usual. These, and the added efforts in keeping employees motivated and engaged has been toll talking for the founders. Yet, our spirits haven’t been knocked down! Challenging times have met reassurance in heartwarming instances and encouraging milestones. Here is a glimpse of some of those. Startups from our existing portfolio raised over $27mn of follow-on/co-investments this year, vis-a-vis $50mn in 2019 — lower than last year, but given the situations they have surpassed the expectations. Our teleradiology portfolio startup supported the combat against Covid by serving 8 lakh+ reports, making 50k+ life-saving interventions; of which 64% were from tier-II cities, 47% reports were assisted by AI, and with an average of 41 mins reporting time. Our inclusive communication startup helped the Government and banks to spread awareness of DBT payments to 3lakh+ women Jan Dhan account holders. A time when supply to grocery stores halted due to lockdown, one of our portfolio startups that provides staples to Kirana stores in Mumbai served 8000+ Kirana stores, fulfilling 90k+ orders with an average delivery time of 24 hours. Our smart stethoscope startup (stethoscope can listen to heartbeats from a distance) deployed 1700+ units during the lockdown. During the lockdown, our last-mile delivery startup repurposed their 4000+ agent network to enable the delivery of essential products to over 2000 villages across Rajasthan. We expanded our deep-tech portfolio across technologies by adding ePlane building a flying taxi for 10X faster commute in cities; Unbox Robotics , AI-driven fleet of vertical sorting robots for the logistics industry; Agnikul building an orbital-class launch vehicle that takes 100 kg to orbit; Sova Health building India’s first and only precision nutrition platform; Comofi creating image-guided intervention platform for minimally invasive surgeries; Pixuate’s video analytics platform for fast, accurate and convenient screening of compliance and regulatory measures; GalaxEye bringing the concept of Edge computing in satellite raw imagery data; Nunam working on next-generation energy storage solutions using second life lithium batteries; and Ubreathe developing a plant-based natural air purifier using a smart bio-filtering process for air purification, to our kitty. We kept our focus steady on inclusion which resulted in us supporting a diversified array of startups — Frontier Markets ’s ‘Saheli’ network for rural distribution of products and services, Kosh with its joint liability group-based lending offered digitally, Whrrl financing against e-warehouse receipt over a blockchain, Credochain offering MSME-cluster based underwriting and cash-flow based lending, Aggois ’s post-harvest receivable financing for farmers, Entitled as the employer benefits platform for low-wage workers, Xaastag that managed market-linkage platform for FPOs, Lakshya as the savings-led financial app for urban underserved. We are glad to share that, out of the ten startups awarded by ET Startup Awards 2020 , two belong to our portfolio — Bellatrix and Agnikul . Building a strong pipeline of startups in the last quarter of 2020, we look forward to engaging with, and supporting these startups through programs and investments in 2021. Somsubhro Pal Choudhury, Partner — Bharat Innovation Fund & Saras Agarwal, Vice President — Investments at Bharat Inclusion Seed Fund Dusting off the plethora of negative news, we rose in hope — over the resilience of India’s startup ecosystem practised in its ability to morph quickly; the wake-up call towards accelerating ‘Digital Transformation’ and the K-shaped economic recovery that we are witnessing with the dichotomy between the Wall Street and Main Street. In Bharat Innovation Fund and Bharat Inclusion Seed Fund, we huddled down with our portfolio startups to ensure the safety and efficiency of the team during the pandemic. We spent the early months mapping the impact on underlying businesses and cash flow; did a bunch of scenario planning exercises; lowered burn-rates and channelised businesses towards less impacted sectors. Fortunately, the majority of our startups were well-capitalised with at least 12–18 months of runway and for the rest, we worked quickly to get them access to some form of bridge and debt financing. Most of our current portfolio has developed strongly differentiated tech, IP driven digital technology and solutions — hence leading to greater market adoption of their solutions post lockdown. Boasting a global customer base, they have been using digitally efficient delivery models to bring about productivity increase and cost efficiencies to their customers along with closing deals with global customers over Zoom calls. One of our portfolio companies Playshifu which develops phygital (Physical + Digital) smart toys, saw a 5x jump in online sales across 15 countries as kids stayed back home amidst working parents. Cybersecurity startup FireCompass , a leader in the new Continuous and Autonomous Red Teaming (CART) space within enterprise security saw its demand increase significantly and Entropik, which operates in the area of using Emotion AI for customer experience testing and increasing user retention, fared extremely well as an alternative for in-person focus groups. Lockdown induced adverse effects on the income profile of the marginalised segment, so Kaleidofin as a Neobank for the informal sector continued to help 145k people save towards their life goals. On the brighter side, it was a year for our portfolio companies to win patent grants from the US Patent office. It was also an opportunity to dig deeper into consumer and business behavioral changes to understand the opportunities and challenges in the post-Covid world. We have since then published some of our research ( Agritech and Consumer behavior in the post-Covid world ) and more insights upcoming (on Medium ). Along with CIIE.CO, we contributed towards ACT (Action Covid-19 Fund) fund and regional support initiatives for accelerating the Covid resiliency in India. CreditVidya, our portfolio company operating in the space of AI/ML-based alternative credit risk scoring, analysed the impact of lockdown on income, spending and savings patterns of a vast swathe of the Indian consumers. vPhrase helped The Times of India on insights and textual summaries of COVID growth patterns by analysing significant amounts of data using their patented Natural Language Generation (NLG) technology. Our portfolio companies successfully raised follow-on rounds. Entropik raised $8 Million in Series A financing from Falcon Edge Capital and Setu (API infrastructure for financial products) raised $15 million led by Lightspeed-US and Falcon Edge Capital. We invested in a cybersecurity platform startup, FireCompass , a continuous and autonomous recon and attack SaaS platform for cybersecurity testing, alongside marquee Cybersecurity experts from the US. We announced our investment in Riskcovry , an insurtech bringing a fresh API-first digital approach, creating highly relevant insurance products through a digital process of underwriting, policy issuance, claim settlement, and compliance. Our wrap-up note of 2020 is a celebration of our portfolio companies and their milestones, and of Playshifu being honoured at the prestigious Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Innovation Awards . Last year our vision was: product and technology development, investing in the most impactful areas and marshalling the right processes and resources to scale. 2021 will be the year to deliver in these directions! We continue to remain excited and focused on our dual agenda of driving ‘ Deeptech Innovation that can scale globally ’ from Bharat Innovation Fund and our goal of driving ‘ Inclusion through Technology and Digitisation’ via our Bharat Inclusion Seed Fund. Supriya Sharma, Partner — Insights Unprecedented, one of the most popular adjectives of 2020 describes it all: the year, the pandemic, response to systemic racism, migrants’ exodus, lockdowns and what they entailed. At Insights, it got us improvising in response to some challenges; while for the others, we paused, took stock and changed course to be able to generate knowledge and tools that were more relevant to the evolving world order. During the year, we undertook solving for financial inclusion in several ways. We selected and supported seven studies under the Bharat Inclusion Research Fellowship . These were across the high impact domains of gig economy, mutual insurance, MSMEs, women’s digital access, FPOs, and meso insurance. These studies are helping unravel insights and high potential use cases . We will publish and share the research findings and use cases with you over the next few months. In 2020, we also undertook a rather novel initiative of research-backed prototyping to solve for the low-and-middle-income users’ mistrust in digital financial products. We hosted consultations with over 25 leading fintechs and policy experts, collected data from over 250 users across five states, and finally hosted a Design Jam which led to the development of five prototypes. These design prototypes are mainly aimed at solving the new users’ lack of confidence with using UPI and engaging existing users through the product journey and avoiding their experience of alienation. We did this study with some stellar partners — DICE India , Parallel Labs and TTC Labs at Facebook . A comprehensive docket of this study with suggested principles of designing for trust will also be out soon. Keeping watching this space! We also published three cases — Eko, Kaleidofin, and Micro Housing Finance Corporation — all on startups building for the underserved in India. We started working on these cases a little over a year ago with the goal of creating learning tools that are relevant for startups that are building for Bharat . While Eko illustrates the effectual approach that is critical in fast-evolving markets and policy systems, Kaleidofin demonstrates how the Bharat startups can build customer centric value propositions. The case on Micro Housing Finance Corporation touches upon the dilemmas encountered by founders along the growth path, particularly their exit from the startup. Finally, we passed a milestone in 2020 with publishing our 50th story under the People of Bharat . We are now taking this series to the next level. More on this soon! Knowledge, we believe, is collaboratively created. While the universe of webinars was exploding in the lockdown and WFH phase, we adopted a somewhat analogous approach to generate collective and shared knowledge. Commissioned by the International Finance Corporation , we undertook developing a model for a state’s agtech policy. Towards this goal, we put together five roundtables with agtech startups, incubators and investors. Not only did these roundtables open up a treasure trove of on-the-ground realities facing startups and futuristic outlook of investors and incubators, these intimate conversations also led to creation of networks and potential partnerships. For the study on research-backed prototyping for mistrust (described earlier), we curated four roundtable consultations with fintechs from digital payments, insurance, savings and investment and credit and one with policy experts. Digital transformation and an oversupply of content across platforms also marked 2020 conspicuously: at the start of the year, we were ready to publish a coffee table book ‘Unlocking the Future’ on The Economic Times Power of Ideas — the entrepreneurship program that we ran between 2008–19. Taking cognizance of the incoming virtual world, we took a step back and reimagined the physical book. While our website showcases a digital version of the book , we have chosen a more visual-storytelling approach in introducing startups that went through the program and are now touching the highest echelons of success; our Instagram handle flaunts some of these visuals. We collaborated with Prof. Rakesh Basant at IIM Ahmedabad to offer the course New Technologies, Design and Business Models, completely online. We opened up the world of civic tech for the students to delve into and emerge with ideas, product designs and business models and supported them with various tools for all of this to be done entirely on virtual platforms! Stepping into 2021 with hope, perhaps more wisdom and definitely a stronger drive to create tools for founders to tide over unprecedented futures — first half of the year will be packed with publications around landscapes and deep dives in the domains of telemedicine, alternate proteins, crafts, insurtech, property rights tech, legal tech and civic tech. In partnership with IIMA and IRMA, we will also be undertaking extensive surveys, focus group discussions, discrete choice experiments and a field experiment. In parallel, we will continue to dive into high potential sectors and technologies to publish tools for founders, investors and sector catalysts to identify and evaluate novel opportunities. Our work on developing learning tools and cases on Indian startups will continue to surge ahead; so will experimenting with publication formats for greater access. 2021 will witness the publication of two books aimed at equipping founders and founders-in-making with inspiration and decision-making schema. Bygone months may have been unprecedented, but remaining ahead of the curve is in our DNA and we will continue to do just that in 2021. Balancing optimism with realism, resilience with risk, and reinvention with survival — there was much to learn from the year gone by. Expanding into new geographies, exploring less-ventured sectors, creating knowledge that inspires, building companies of consequence — there is much to do in the year that will be. You are never gonna keep me down! Onwards towards an innovative and inclusive 2021.


A Candle in the Dark

Our definition of happiness keeps evolving. Realising that your happiness lies elsewhere and finding it is the challenge that almost all of us face at some stage or the other. Vinay Jaju and Piyush Jaju, having spent early parts of their careers as a financial analyst and investment banker, respectively, realised that their happiness lay in solving the big problems plaguing their country. It is this pursuit of happiness that drove Vinay and Piyush towards social entrepreneurship and launching ONergy, an enterprise delivering solar power to off-grid villages. ONergy started as a not-for-profit organisation called SwitchON which aimed at increasing awareness about climate change and sustainable living. In 2009, Vinay and Piyush made a film questioning India’s reliance on fossil fuels, especially coal, and bicycled across the 1600 km long coal belt to promote it. During their journey they realised the severe power shortage the villagers had to deal with, when they had to pay Rs 5 to get their own phones recharged! Next, the brothers came up with affordable products powered by solar energy providing the villagers with LEDs and clean cooking solutions. Over eight years, their interventions have led to saving 30,000 tonnes of carbon emissions and impacting more than 500,000 lives. This journey was, by no means, easy. During early phases, they had to do everything themselves. They ran around unloading products from trucks, making demonstrations to villagers and installing products at villagers’ homes. Their problems intensified when they could not meet customer expectations and their products received negative feedback forcing them to do product recalls. ‘Is this what we want to do?’ ‘Where are we going wrong?’ the brothers would wonder. Remaining steadfast and learning from each experience and feedback, the brothers have persevered. Soon, the tables turned. A few successful orders later, they found their métier and were on their way to becoming a flourishing enterprise. “Stick to your guns, and everything will work itself out.” Vinay and Piyush have grown immensely as individuals with their roles changing every six months. Their evolution from a purely implementation role to a strategic role has been enriching and has helped them understand the imperative of placing faith in their team and empowering them. Having learnt to let go, the brothers now find deep happiness in the growth of their employees. With their team’s backing, they are steady on their pursuit of happiness, powering those who are left behind.


A Comparison of Models of Farmer's Access to Markets

In-depth case studies of three startups with different models of farmers' market access. Data on cropping output, yields, and financial health of farmers, associated with each of the three startups, were collected over two cropping cycles. Interviews with respective founders and their teams were done to draw conclusions.


A Digital Dukan for Kaarigars

The handicrafts sector is the second largest employment generator in India, providing employment to more than 7.3 million people. According to the national census of handicrafts, the Indian handicrafts industry is a billion dollar industry (worldwide) and contributes to 2% of the global market. According to the UN, over the past 30 years, the number of Indian artisans has decreased by 30%.
Many such crafts are the sole domain of the women in the household — providing them social and financial independence without having to leave their homes. While many have adopted modern techniques most of the traditional clusters are witnessing gradual decay and decline due to many reasons. The biggest factor for the decay of traditional clusters is the lack of product orientation to market demand and their inability to understand and link with markets. In the absence of appropriate market linkage several of these livelihood options cease to be remunerative and are consequently abandoned by the artisans: who are then forced to migrate to work as unskilled labor in urban markets.
Over the past many decades several NGOs have been supporting the revival of these traditional clusters in rural India through the creation and nurturing of women’s artisanal collectives. The NGOs have largely been spearheading the forming of groups, promoting SHGs, training in both traditional and new skills, capacity building and the gathering of resources for all of the above. In more established clusters, an oft seen model is an NGO providing the above services using grants from large donors, a microfinance arm supporting the SHGs in the cluster and extending micro credit to the artisans and a for-profit arm taking the artisanal products to both national and international markets. While this has been remunerative for the artisans, the artisan herself has become invisible in this faceless go-to-market model with her identity, pride and sense of dignity lost somewhere in this supply chain.
Can we create a face-to-face market for artisans and if so how? This question led Nilesh Priyadarshi, a research fellow from Gujarat Vidyapith to come up with the idea of a “Kaarigar Clinic,” India’s first rural business clinic for kaarigars (artisans) that helps rural artisans strengthen their traditional businesses. It helps to create and sustain micro enterprises in rural areas for people, particularly women artisans; who do not have the formal education, resources, technology know-how and the business skills to start their own businesses. The unique mission of Kaarigar Clinic is to develop these artisans as entrepreneurs and help them to generate livelihoods for themselves and other artisans and to keep them from abandoning their traditional crafts and migrating. This has not only helped them to preserve their traditional culture and crafts but has also helped to generate incomes from the same.
Most rural cooperatives are either struggling to survive or fail in their nascent stage. According to the team at Kaarigar Clinic there are many reasons behind this, but the common contributors are the lack of appropriate market linkage, technology upgradation and product innovation and they feel that the people involved in these cottage industries do not have the ability and skills to enable them to understand market needs and changes. Kaarigar Clinic provides the platform for individual rural artisans, rural cooperatives and micro enterprises to join hands with this platform and sustain their businesses. The team at Kaarigar Clinic helps to diagnose their strengths, weaknesses, their potential and their USPs and thereafter, continuously handholds these artisans to develop strong and sustainable business models.
With Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as one of its main solution pillars, the organisation has been advocating for individual artisanal brands which give the artisans concerned the value, recognition and dignity they deserve. They started their project with a Rabari artisan called Pabiben and launched her brand — the first women’s artisanal brand. Today, Pabiben has become a face for women’s empowerment and earns 25 lakhs a year while supporting 150 women artisans in her community. For Kaarigar Clinic was also a business model prototype which they have since successfully replicated with other artisans.
Most artisans do not have a permanent place to market their products, do not have access to quality raw material supply and do not have direct connections with buyers. This has been further exacerbated by the current pandemic and its effect on the tourism industry. Artisans living in remote villages are not mapped so it is difficult for prospective customers to find them, know about their craft or buy their products. Artisans also face other management problems as they do not have a proper record of their inventory, their sales figures and do not even know the best selling and least selling products. While several E-commerce marketplaces for artisanal products exist, they charge high margins and do not directly connect artisans with buyers.
Kaarigar Clinic’s emphasis on ICT use has helped to address all of these issues. To go a step further, the team at Kaarigar Clinic is developing Kaarigar ki Dukan a local digital marketplace which will connect local artisans, suppliers and buyers within 100 km radius as a first and then domestic buyers and suppliers subsequently. The platform will allow artisans to open their own digital dukan (shop) on the platform and operate it at zero margins. Artisans living in remote villages will be able to upload their profiles, portfolios, videos and their contact details giving them a ‘digital identity and digital address’ as part of opening shop.
Additionally, this artisan friendly platform will include MIS services for artisans to upload and manage their inventories, sales and other business details — anywhere and anytime. Artisans will be able to share details of their dukan via email, WhatsApp or other social media platforms. This will help customers to locate local artisans, browse their products and then make direct purchases. Domestic and international buyers too will be able to register and connect directly with artisans to place their orders.
At this time, there is no single platform which brings together artisans, suppliers and buyers and allows for their interactions and transactions. For digital space on the platform, it is envisaged that artisans will pay a small monthly rental of Rs 300. Artisans will then be free to scale up their businesses both locally, nationally or internationally.
This platform is under development and the team is confident that it would greatly benefit the ‘more than 200 million artisans’ in rural India. The plan is to take this across the country and have state level teams who will onboard artisans, suppliers and buyers in their respective states and also continue to handhold local artisans. The team at Kaarigaar Clinic is confident that the projected numbers will make Kaarigar ki Dukan a self sustaining business venture while still retaining its social purpose.
As our team talks to artisans working with Pabiben Rabari, Rajiben Vankar and others in order to assess the efficacy of this Gandhian model of rural development, Nilesh Priyadarshi and his team envision developing a 1000 such micro artisanal entrepreneurs and create self-sufficient and sustainable livelihoods for 1,00,000 families across rural India. References:
Priyadarshi, N. & Patel, S. Kaarigar Clinic: Rural Business Clinic for Kaarigars. Gujarat Vidhyapith
Kaarigar Clinic-Rural Business Hub-Start Up. Presentation (ppt)by Nilesh Priyadarshi, Ph.D Research Scholar, Gujarat Vidhyapith


A Journey from Space to Earth

Satish K.S. is an entrepreneur by habit, an explorer by choice, and a farmer at heart. He was born and brought up in the startup capital of India, Bangalore. After completing his engineering studies, Satish started his career in product development in the aerospace and automotive verticals at HCL and continued to hone his technological expertise with them for over 12 years. Having been raised in a family that believes in staying close to its roots, Satish always knew farming to be his true calling, after all, it had been practiced by his ancestors for generations. In 2007, he decided to take it up at his ancestral village while still working at HCL. It was here that Satish understood the true meaning of struggle. Traditional farming methods, where a lack of technology and poor water resource management were the norm, reduced his farm’s productivity radically. This made Satish realize that the farmers were in dire need of technological expertise that could improve their outputs. He knew that he had to find a solution to this. Along with a friend, he designed a smart irrigation controller to save water by 30–40 percent. He quit his job in 2012 and worked full time on developing this idea. By 2013, the idea was crystallized enough for Satish and his friend to launch his startup. From having to convince farmers to come on board to powering the startup through his personal savings, it has been quite a ride for Satish. Difficult times abounded. His co-founder’s departure meant he had to fend for himself. Satish’s patience and optimism kept him going and after months of intense, committed hard work, Flybird was on track to make a mark in this industry. With a vision to ensure sustainable growth for the farmers, he tackles the challenges posed by each day, for taking his company to new heights. “Be patient, have a clear vision with alternate plans ready, and take calculated risks in order to be successful.”
He feels truly rewarded when he sees his venture making a positive impact on the lives of farmers.
Today, Flybird is a recognized name in the farming space in India. Satish now has his eyes set on the next level. To establish Flybird as a globally recognized name for affordable and high-quality farming products. While looking back, he regrets nothing and only wishes he had been faster and more effective in team-building and in increasing the overall productivity of farms. Firmly rooted with Flybird, Satish is in for the long haul. And there is no other way that he can imagine it!


A Journey of Self-Realization

Surga Thilakan and Sreeraman Vaidyanathan began their entrepreneurial journey at IIMA. Upon graduating, Surga went to work at Goldman Sachs, London, while Sreeraman joined Microsoft, Hyderabad. Surga, however, yearned to derive a deeper meaning from her work. “Finance and banking do not matter to a person on the street,” she says. Wanting to doing impactful work, she quit, came back to India, and joined a small microfinance company named Ujjivan, to understand one of the critical problems plaguing the country. During the same time, Sreeraman had started exploring the field of education. He had joined an Ahmedabad- based firm to understand how corporates can participate in education. With her tenure at Ujjivan getting over, Surga and Sreeraman came together to co-found iStar. Aiming to meet the growing need for medium-skilled labourers in India, iSTAR addresses the vexing ‘employability gap’. They provide skill training and recruitment services to college students across the nation. Today, iSTAR is an accredited partner institution of the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and has trained and placed over 20,000 students across 10 states, while raising multiple rounds of venture funding from NSDC, Unitus Seed Fund, and Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. While the objective was earnest, their journey has been fulfilling yet challenging. As with most startups, there was not enough capital to go around when they began. They did not even have an office to call their own. Until another IIMA alumni provided them with a room, their ‘office’ was an ‘extra room on the terrace.’ With iStar based out of Karnataka, Sreeraman had to learn Kannada quickly to communicate with slum-dwellers. Early on, they also did not know where the next round of funding would come from or if a contract they worked hard for would fall in place. “It requires a certain level of insanity to keep doing it.” Understanding people has helped Surga overcome the hurdles that have come her way. For Sreeraman, it has been perseverance and his ability to solve problems differently. Even in the most difficult of times, the duo’s innate confidence, that things do work out ultimately, has kept them going. After all, they are on the path of doing good. “The night is the darkest right before dawn,” Sreeraman would often say this to Surga and the duo kept at it, undeterred. They fondly remember the graduation ceremony of their first batch of students. With almost all the students acquiring jobs, the memories of the joy and pride of families of these students still warm the hearts of these two driven entrepreneurs. While setting up iStar, they had a close, and perhaps a little unsettling, tryst with hyper-ambiguity, where the rules of the game were changing every second — a sea change from their earlier jobs. Was it fulfilling? ‘Yeah!’ they say emphatically. Would they do it again? ‘Without a doubt!’ they beam.


A Landscape Study of Bharat Startups – The Price Sensitive Customer

The 25 Bharat startups that we studied cater to a particular target segment – the low and middle-income group. The low and middle-income customer is a distinct segment and servicing these customers comes with challenges. We also have less knowledge about the needs and requirements of individual customers. In the past decade, as India’s rural and urban consumption rose, the market has observed a shift in consumer patterns and behaviour. Thus, there is an opportunity for startups looking to build for a highly price-sensitive customer. The low and middle-income customer is looking for products and services that would complement their lifestyle, choices and needs – most of all that would be value for money. Building for the price-sensitive customer The price-sensitive customers are those users who are unwilling to pay for services that are traditionally free. Building for this particular customer comes with a unique set of challenges for startup entrepreneurs. From our interactions with Bharat startups, we distilled a few key points that can help entrepreneurs understand the challenges and also opportunities in building for the bottom of the pyramid. Revenue is important Bharat startups that aspire to target price-sensitive customer also need to identify a strong revenue model. In the absence of a robust model, the startup could be limited to operating as a social enterprise with reined-in options. Low dependence on customer revenue could also raise a red flag among potential investors. Adjusting costs, cross-subsidising customers or generating value for a third party are creative/alternate models of generating revenue for a startup that serves the low-income customer. Creating self-sustaining enterprises also ensures that customers keep on receiving value in the long term and builds credibility among stakeholders. Customers’ perceived value Assessing customers’ perceived value of a product/service allows entrepreneurs to price it attractively. Customers in the segment are also found to be averse to paying for news or entertainment. Another Bharat startup Lokal – a platform that sources and distributes regional news in vernacular languages have found customers reluctant to pay for additional services. Lokal has recognised this challenge and started generating revenue through advertisements. On the other hand, we have startups such as Blackboard Radio whose customers are more than willing to pay for English speaking classes as they perceive more value from these. Face assumptions head-on Entrepreneurs recommend checking one’s primary assumptions about the customer with different stakeholders. Assumptions about the low-income customer is a mental barrier that can be overcome by testing and challenging these assumptions and further finding ways to match product offerings to those of customers’ real needs/expectations. For instance, BulBul and Meesho are e-commerce startups that are leveraging their business on rising demand for lifestyle changes from low-middle income customers. Finding and segregating a real need Entrepreneurs need to isolate the real need or pain point of customers. Doing so can help them deliver a unique value proposition that has real consumption value for the customer. Entrepreneurs can use tools such as the Business Model Canvas/Customer Persona Template to know and understand the needs of the customer. Thus, they can assess whether their product offering solves a need. Find ways to change customer’s behaviours According to experts in marketing, designing and marketing products is in a way directly or indirectly trying to get customers to change their behaviour. A report by Deloitte (2019) highlights the change in customer behaviours across various parameters over the past decade in the USA. Coupled with similar studies back home, there are considerable opportunities in the area of financial services. The rapid adoption of mobile technology also means pushing customers to change their behaviours around adjusting to the product. For instance, customers who save at home have to be induced to change their behaviour in case a fintech startup is looking to onboard them on a formal savings system. Studying these trends can help entrepreneurs understand low-income customer. They can, thus, cater to the rising needs of the segment and build profitable business solutions. Innovative customer approach Bharat startups need to be innovative in solving for low-income customer. This means exploring asset-light models and using technology to save on costs. Rail-Yatri, which started as an app-based train travel guide, is now looking to enter the bus market by creating a multi-modal solution for inter-city travel. They do not invest in assets (buses) but partner with travel companies to save costs and chase revenue. Successfully building for the low-income customer comes by debunking assumptions/myths about the customers’ choices for a low price, technology-savviness or homogeneity among the target segment. Bharat startups have a huge potential customer base with rising demand for various products and services waiting to be approached. But, will they answer the call?


A Landscape Study of Bharat Startups: An Introduction

In India, the informal sector employs about 80% of the total population. These include people of the low and middle-income segments – employed as well as self-employed. In recent years, the segment Bharat – comprising the young, Indian customer characterized by the rapid adoption of mobile technology – has become very attractive to startups. In the last couple of years, a lot of Indian startups have started interacting with the Bharat segment. Some of these also have gained traction, and therefore garnered attention. As the opportunities in this market expand, venture capitalists have been looking towards these startups, intending to invest in this space. The following article highlights startups in a landscape study and analysis of Indian startups that have been catering to the Bharat segment. The Bharat market space Total internet users in India grew from 498 million in 2018 to 636 million in 2019 – nearly half of the internet users coming from rural geographies. By the end of 2020, the figure is expected to touch 700 million and is projected to reach 974 million by the year 2025. In 2016, Jio entered the Indian market, drastically reducing the rates of using the internet to encourage mass adoption. With better access to the internet, various startups have also entered the market, hoping to cash in on the lowered rates. These are in the space of e-commerce, fintech, entertainment, agritech, accommodation, social commerce, edtech, and travel. A 2019 study found India has more internet and mobile phone users in the rural areas compared to urban geographies, and thus a large segment of potential customers are awaiting services that cater to their various needs. We will be running a five-part series on the Bharat startups and the features that are common between them. An Introduction to Bharat Startups For the landscape study, we picked and curated startups from a search on Tracxn. Filtering for location (India), sector, business model, and year of founding, we handpicked 25 startups that were found to be catering to the Bharat segment. We selected these 25 based on their relative success, such as funding, about five years in running, expanding customer base, and proven product concept. Most of these have been in business for an average of 4.5 years, with an average of USD 277 million in funding. We also picked these startups because they were doing well according to the success metrics of their respective sectors. While there are other startups as well that are catering to Bharat, but we chose to focus on 25 as these cut across sectors. Most of these are (Business-to-Business) B2B startups, which highlight a trend that the direct consumer in the segment is still to become internet savvy. ECommerce In the e-commerce space, Udaan, ShopX, and ShopKirana are B2B startups catering to retailers of mom-and-pop stores. ShopX comes with a feature that also allows the retailer to onboard customers seeking specific commodities, thus enabling stickiness to the platform. ShopKirana builds on a loyalty points system and customer analytics that help deepen engagement with the app. The main characteristics of the startups are a zero inventory model, elimination of middlemen, making available a wider range of products, and also disbursing credit as a source of revenue. AgriTech In the agritech space, Jumbotail, Ninjacart, and CroFarm are working towards the delivery of fresh produce sourced directly from farmers/producers to retailers, restaurants, and large grocery chains. CropIn is into farm management using AI (artificial intelligence) and big data analytics. It has also partnered with the Department of Agriculture and the Government of Karnataka for the delivery of farm management insights. Startups in this sector intend to connect to farmers and retailers directly; eliminating middlemen for farmers while ensuring fresh produce for customers. FinTech In the Fintech space, there are several startups offering credit for small and medium services. KhataBook is into digital lending and aspires to deliver other financial services as well. BharatPe, OkCredit, Finova Capital, and Lendingkart are chiefly into credit lending services for MSMEs and small-middle income consumers. This space has opened up for people of low and middle income by giving them access to financial solutions; especially, credit and savings. EdTech In the edTech space, Byju’s has seen profitable growth in recent months. Byju offers tutorials for competitive exams as well as online classes on various subjects. Doubtnut is an app that helps students clarify doubts about classroom topics. Startup Blackboard Radio uses voice-based AI (Artificial Intelligence) to teach English to non-English speakers. Travel and Tourism Travel and tourism as a sector have also perceived value in catering to middle-income consumers. First started as an app providing comprehensive information about trains, RailYatri recently started a bus connectivity service to create a multi-modal solution for inter-city travel. With 65 destinations across 18 hubs, RailYatri is catering mainly to the Bharat segment. TravelKhana is a startup that delivers food to seats during train travel. Further, OYO Rooms provides affordable no-frills accommodation solving the problem of dependable accommodation for the travelling middle-income customer. Social Commerce Meesho and DealShare are social commerce startups that target homemakers as micro-influencers to sell goods at discounted rates among their social networks; thus leveraging the Bharat segment’s social networks. Each of the sectors covered in this article has the potential to grow soon. The Bharat segment is coming to the fore and further waiting to be serviced. It holds vast potential for startups looking towards them.


A Landscape Study of Bharat Startups: The Importance of Building in Local Languages

We at CIIE.CO looked at 25 Bharat startups in 2020. Here, building tech in local languages appears to be a boosting factor in the adoption of the same. In India, about 10% of people are comfortable using English as a language, and startups in Fintech have also been able to service only 43% of the internet user base, most of which operate in English. A KPMG-Google report (2017) found the Indian language internet user base grew at a CAGR of 41% from 2011 to 2016. From 234 million users, the Indian language internet is projected to target 536 million users by 2021. Although English remains an aspirational language for learning in schools, startups have seen wider acceptance for Hindi when it comes to technology adoption. Nuances in the language is a challenge Research shows that adopting an app offering products or services is much more likely when offered in the local languages of people who are not fluent in English. It is important to note that using an app in one’s local language breaks a major barrier to effective communication and also makes a potential user less hesitant to try the platform, and improve its ease of use. However, it is essential to note that one cannot just translate from one language to another. The nuances of each local language cannot be shunned and need to be adhered to. For instance, even if an app is in the Hindi language, a user from Bihar and another from Punjab may not be comfortable with it as their dialects would highly differ. In our interactions with some startup founders, we realised that building in a vernacular language is one of the solutions to solve for adoption, yet navigating the nuances of dialect remains a challenge. For instance, digital payment apps that come with a Hindi language interface are expected to scale adoption. However, a significant chunk of users in Uttar Pradesh who are native Bhojpuri speakers face difficulty in interacting with the app in Hindi. There are 22 official Indian languages, 13 scripts, and over 750 dialects. Even Hindi, which is the official language, has dialects that change over geographies. The complications for a startup building in local languages arise from the sheer number of main languages and are made more complicated because of various dialects. Audio-Video as Content When it comes to Indian languages, the consumption of content happens primarily in the form of audio-video content and not written content. Startups could use Audio-video content to build product awareness, promote engagement, and interact with users. With translation tools becoming more available, startups can begin experimenting with content X language pairs alternate language pairs – for instance, create the app interface in English and the video content in vernacular. Interesting use-cases of Bharat startups Most startups catering to the Bharat market have incorporated local languages on their platform. No sector comes across as an exception in this observation as even apps such as Dailyhunt (entertainment) to RailYatri (Travel) are in vernacular. BharatPe already has an alternate language feature in Hindi; during the Covid 19 lockdown, they launched a voice-based application to help retailers minimize touching their phones. The app version also features a voice alert in the local language for transactions completed. Voice and audio content in vernacular languages form the core business at ShareChat. ShareChat is an original video content sharing app with a userbase of 1.5 billion. It allows users to upload and share content in 15 languages. That is, it is a social media platform for people who are more comfortable interacting in their native vernacular language. ShopX, a platform that helps small retailers access premium brands, is available in 9 languages. Its B2B2C model has two interfaces – one for the retailer and one for the customer. Along with a loyalty point system, the app is also available in vernacular languages. Thus, it builds credibility and engagement with both kinds of its users. Kahatabook, an app in digital ledgering services, further relies on word-of-mouth publicity and recommendations amongst retailers. With a database of 60,000 users, no doubt its availability in ten vernacular languages contributes to its popularity. Meesho and DealShare, both social commerce apps, are available in three vernacular languages. This has helped them rope in a large user base of the price-sensitive customer. In edtech, DoubtNut is a startup that invites students to upload pictures of their doubts in classroom subjects such as math or science. According to the co-founders, almost 90% of their users are from non-metro towns and cities, which they credit to being available in 11 languages. Voice assistance in vernacular languages is an upcoming area that shows good tech adoption potential. Bharat startups should definitely explore the segment. For the User For the user of a Bharat app, engaging with it in vernacular language is an empowering experience. While privacy and data usage is a valid concern, the ease of operating and consuming content in one’s own language makes it highly authentic as well. On their part, startups need to be transparent and accurate while dealing with privacy and consent issues. Thus, it will help build awareness and trust among their users. With a large population residing in rural geographies, most potential tech users in India will look towards startups building in their local languages. Are Bharat startups up for the challenge? That remains to be seen.


A Landscape Study of Bharat Startups: The Increasing Use of WhatsApp

We at CIIE.CO looked at 25 Bharat startups as part of our Bharat Inclusion Initiative program. We found specific ways in which startups were building adoption to their respective platforms. One of these is the increasing use of WhatsApp to connect and engage with customers/users. While large businesses in India have already tapped WhatsApp to engage with customers, Bharat startups are also quick to realise the platform’s ability to connect to customers. With Jio entering the market in 2016, internet prices were slashed; thus, driving adoption in urban and rural India. This has subsequently also urged the adoption of other digital messenger apps. WhatsApp ranked number one in a global ranking of messenger apps and has quickly become a popular business platform. In July 2019, the app had 400 million users in India alone, which was an increase from 200 million in 2017. As of June 2020, WhatsApp had 1.5 billion users in 180 countries. Now, India has emerged as the biggest market globally with hardly any competitors in the picture. WhatsApp has been promoting its platform for business in India, given its market penetration in India is rather low at 28%. In July 2019, it partnered with NITI Ayog to promote women’s entrepreneurship and has also launched WhatsApp Business and WhatsApp Business API (a paid service) for small and medium businesses. Why is WhatsApp so popular? The app is easy to use and widely popular because of the ease of sharing video and graphic content. It works on a 2G connection and also supports KaiOS – a mobile operating system for feature phones. It also remains partly functional during low internet connection and can thus be used in areas with poor internet connections. Research shows that 92% of people trust family and friends’ recommendations for an app and WhatsApp’s business potential is high because of its ability to organize large groups of people online. It is no wonder then that Bharat startups look up to the platform as more than just for ‘staying-in-touch.’ Use cases of Bharat startups using WhatsApp In our analysis of Bharat startups, we found many of them have successfully leveraged WhatsApp for their respective businesses. Doubtnut and LendingKart are using Chatbots, which is a paid feature by WhatsApp Business. As part of WhatsApp’s drive to encourage ‘Conversational Commerce,’ Chatbots can be customized to give almost human-like responses to handle customer care. Further, Doubtnut – a platform that enables young students to solve their doubts in mathematics and science subjects, uses WhatsApp Chatbots to interact with their users. LendingKart, on the other hand, provides small business owners access to capital and loans and uses Chatbots to receive and verify client documents. Khatabook, a startup that offers digital ledgering services, sends reminders/notifications to their customers through WhatsApp. Dealshare, a social commerce platform shares the latest offers to its users via WhatsApp groups. Lokal – a news app for regional customers – allows users to set their WhatsApp status from within the app, which helps them generate more leads. Meesho – another social commerce platform, allows users to resell products on their app by sharing information via WhatsApp. In fact, its sellers can build their entire business on it. According to the founders, their resellers do not have to incur huge expenses to get customers they can use WhatsApp for communication and engagement. These are just a few examples of startups that are driving business growth through WhatsApp. The varied use-cases and the sheer number of startups leveraging this platform shows just how a digital messaging app can drive businesses within the Bharat segment. Conclusion This concludes the end of our series on the Landscape Study of Bharat startups. In our analysis of successful Bharat startups, we tried to understand the common factors for their growth. Thus, we found that enabling digital trust, building in vernacular languages, and using digital messaging apps along with a focus on word-of-mouth marketing were driving factors for the growth and success of Bharat startups. For startups servicing the Bharat segment, it is also crucial to address the needs of the extremely economically sensitive customer and offer a combination of products/services that stand out. Further, they must be easily accessible and improve the lives of the Bharat segment.


A Landscape Study of Bharat Startups: The Role of Trust

The landscape study of Bharat startups studied 25 upcoming startups servicing low or middle-income customers in India. We spoke to a few founders and analysed their business and customer acquisition models. Thus, it appeared that these startups were solving problems by leveraging and building trust within the target segment. Trust is a dominating factor in digital adoption. But there are two kinds of trust at work in society and commerce. One is ‘relational trust’ that refers to the interpersonal social exchanges in a group setting. The second is ‘mechanical trust’ – a mechanism that ensures Cybersecurity by delivering predefined outputs reliably and predictably. While mechanical trust is easier to ensure, relational trust is harder to achieve – and concerns around it are of a more complex nature. According to Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory, Individualism and Collectivism are two fundamental aspects in any given society. India has a predominantly collectivist culture where the focus is on community rather than individuals, the dynamics of which also affect/apply to digital adoption. For someone from the Bharat segment, trust is essential in embracing new technology. Global surveys corroborate this in digital trust with significant concern for personal data sharing. The same report also finds trust as the basis for bilateral relations in business, customer retention, and customer perception. The figure below shows the five attributes of trust given in the Trust Adoption Model, as featured in a USAID report documenting the complex and universal way in which trust works in technology adoption. As shown in the image above, ‘Product Recourse’ is a fundamental aspect of solving trust issues, especially regarding technology adoption. This means access to reliable customer service becomes imperative for startups looking to build trust within their customers. In this article, we will highlight three ways in which startups are enhancing trust for technology adoption. Banking on existing trust mechanisms Consumers from Bharat have a long-standing relationship with the local mom-and-pop store as they make most of their primary purchases from there. By involving these local stores in order fulfilment, e-commerce startups are tapping into the trust that has been built over many years between the store and the consumer, thus eliminating the need for them to build trust with the consumer directly. Startups in the B2B e-commerce (grocery/durables) space such as ShopX and StoreKing have used a B2B2C model to tap into the Bharat segment. For instance, ShopX comes with an additional feature that also allows the retailer to onboard customers seeking specific commodities, thus enabling stickiness to the platform. ShopKirana builds on a loyalty points system and customer analytics that help deepen engagement with the app. Startups engaging the services of Micro-influencers Micro-influencers and trust represent a cause-and-effect relationship where the recommendations made directly influence the consumer’s actions because micro-influencers come across as personal, authentic, and relatable to the average buyer. Meesho enables individuals and small businesses to sell items using popular social media sites and Khatabook provides digital ledgering and other financial services. Here, both startups use micro-influencers for advertising their products. BulBul and Simsim also use micro-influencers (predominantly women) to sell products on their platform. This is because peer acceptance plays a determining role in tech adoption – especially for women. Along with trust, such a way of selling products mirrors the offline shopping experience and also makes first time online shoppers less hesitant to purchase online. The key for startups here is to provide a seamless user experience and minimize user risk to boost onboarding. Relying on the word-of-mouth Lastly, the prominence of word-of-mouth in the growth of successful startups, once again shows how a Bharat consumer bases a lot of their actions on trust. A study by Compeau D. & Tsai, P. (2010) demonstrated the effectiveness of word-of-mouth in technology adoption in large organizations. Hearing about a new app from friends or family will more often than not convince people to download and try out the app as well. In other words, it acts as an effective testimonial. Khatabook and OkCredit – providing digital ledgering services, servicing retailers, and small business owners – have benefited from word-of-mouth marketing. On the other hand, Udaan, a B2B e-commerce startup, that aims at proving good efficiency and at low cost by connecting wholesalers, distributors, and retailers have mostly grown its business by relying on word-of-mouth advertisement. Global companies are moving towards addressing the issues of trust in digitization. Thus, tech startups catering to Bharat are also learning to rely on tried and tested methods of increasing the confidence for digital adoption.

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