How BITS Pilani's networking session Conquest guided promising start-ups
Conquest was providing mentorship in five major categories which includes fundraising, product management, customer acquisition, tech, and scaling up and operations
“Would you consider financing my start-up?”, was a question most start-ups asked mentors at the recently concluded networking session of Conquest, BITS Pilani’s International Startup Challenge in Mumbai.
Conquest was providing mentorship in five major categories which includes fundraising, product management, customer acquisition, tech, and scaling up and operations.
This year, Conquest, in association with Exotel and CitrusPay, received more than 1200 applications from varied sectors, ranging from healthcare to Internet of Things and virtual reality. These applications were scrutinised based on their models, sustainability, user traction and a number of other parameters. After three rounds of screening, the top 50 startups were shortlisted for the Networking Sessions held in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore
Though the few sessions that Firstpost attended did not get any promise of funding, but instead what they did get were promises to connections that would help the startups. Some were B2B start-ups while some had come out with products that had found market acceptance but had not gained much traction. These start-up founders were here to know how to widen acceptance for their products.
Some of the ideas were the need of the hour to solve issues that most of us expect the government to solve. Or some like Tradex were existing models that came up with innovative solutions for used machinaries. Started by Milind Joshi, Rohit Lalwani and Pradeep Beri, the Pune-based start-up helps companies to dispose off excess inventory be it machines, raw materials, tools, etc.
The start-up with a five member team does not connect sellers and the buyers and the transaction is done offline. What they were looking for is, well, funding and scaling up the model by expanding it to more cities beyond Pune.
Mentor’s advice: The site had over 1,000 products listed which was asked to be divided into four sections, at the least. They were asked to consider a subscription model where the machinery could be rented. They were asked to associate with trade and industry associations to widen the net of consumers.
Another start-up founder seemed to have come only for a sounding board and sharpening of its business model. Ekam Eco Solutions, an IIT-Delhi invested start-up, founded by Uttam Bannerjee and Vijayraghavan Chariar, is focused on building products that are in the domain of sanitation, value-added bamboo products and sustainable livelihoods. It has build a product, Zerodor which is a mechanical device that can keep men’s urinals odor free. The for-profit social enterprise’s zerodor waterless urinals eliminates the use of water, too.
An enthusiastic Sachin Joshi, co-founder, says to the mentor, Chandni Jafri, CEO, Mumbai Angel Venture Mentors, that each flushing of an urinal leads to wastage of 3 litres water. Ekam’s product, Zerodor, a patented design solves a typical contradiction of ‘the liquid should pass but the gas should not pass', says Joshi. The device is fitted in place of the drain plug of the urinal pan and is retrofittable to most of the standard urinal pans. Once Zerodor is fitted, no flush is required for the urinal pan, as the device will let the urine pass through to the drain but won’t allow the gas / ammonia to come out of the drain plug.
The company is now fine-tuning a product that can be used in women’s urinals, says Joshi. The start-up is also looking at harvesting urine to segregate nitrogen, phosphate etc and can be used as fertilizer.
What Joshi was looking for from the mentor was to know how to go about expanding the reach of the product and their business.
Mentor’s advice: Chandni Jaffri of Mumbai Angel Venture Mentors advised Joshi to focus the Ekam’s energies towards building Zerodor which has a demand. “Get into collaboration, go to global markets where there is scarcity of water,” urged Jaffri.
Jaffri was impressed with the eagerness of Joshi and the team that was doing something in the social innovation space. She was skeptical about the market for the product as it requires a behavior shift, Jaffri pointed out.
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