Startup India, Standup India - Hardware Entrepreneurs Cheat Codes!

Two consecutive days off are a luxury that's difficult to get for entrepreneurs - and much more difficult if you are a bootstrapped entrepreneur like myself :). This sort of a long weekend break on Independence Day provided an opportunity to be in solitude and some kite flying time with Nandini.

However, the mind (due to its compulsions) started working on its own project - a cheat code for Hardware Entrepreneurs of India. And suddenly I saw this speech of PM Modi on Startup India, Standup India. I am a fan of his #MakeInIndia and now #StartupIndia campaign - so chipping in with my ideas and ground know-how.

I think entrepreneurship is difficult in any setting/country, but, making Hardware products in India is not for faint of heart. There have been companies (like Su-kam or Ahuja Electronics) who have made remarkable hardware products in India and scaled, however, either the problem that they were trying to solve was specific to India (power cuts are not common in US or Europe) or there was a cost arbitrage.

There may be a few stories like Teewe, Thinvent, Watchy or even us (Avishkaar Box) going around, however, there's no ola, flipkart kinds of posterboy successes in developing hardware products in India. There are loads of odds stacked against the hardware startups in India - I have noted a few and added ways around as well:

1. Hardware Talent:
To make hardware, you need four different kinds of skill sets - Electronics Design, Embedded/Application programming, Mechanical Design and Packaging design. Embedded/Application is a no-brainer, we have so many software Engineers available they may be able to do the same. The challenge is to find the other three skills (fellas who can design PCBs or people who can create accurate form factor in solid works and graphic designers who have a know-how in packaging design).

Solution: I have found the Diploma/Engineering combination of Electronics Engineers as good fellas to take over the Electronics Design aspects and even Embedded Software Design. Even the graphic designers can be taught packaging design. The real problem is finding solid Mechanical Engineers (I still do not have an answer there) - I taught Solid works to myself am now delegating to others.

2. Lack of Tool Rooms:
In order to build your form factor in a scalable manner, you will have to invest into dies and moulds. I believe the biggest issue stopping the hardware rise in India is due to non-existent tool rooms. These are places where you will go for getting your dies made once you have decided on the form factor. These folks have not updated their skill sets since last 20 years or so - and I have seen a lot of hardware startups die here. They are good at copying samples, but, nothing original ever comes to them. Professionalism is also a bigger issue here.

Solution: 3D Printing technology can be used to come up with samples and treat the die makers the way you will treat your spouse on his/her birthday - its just that you will have treat them like that everyday ;)

3. Vendor Ecosystem:
The first thing that Maruti did when they entered India was developing a vendor eco-system. Money was paid and technology transferred to develop vendors that could supply them parts. This was the most difficult thing for Maruti - imagine yourselves now :(

Solution: Since you are not Maruti and you do not have time. You will have to put your charm to application over here - be nice and polite and show them the dream. The folks who believe in you will work with you. Pay on time everytime and organize things like Vendor Felicitation ceremonies and before you know it will all work out.

4. Scalability:
People will say sales channels are a challenge, however, I differ for the right price point and positioning, India has a market for everything. Its the scalability which is difficult to achieve.

Solution: Look long-term while building capacity. We were selling some 300 boxes per month till last year and are already at 900 boxes per month this year. My next step in capacity building is to get to a level of 10,000 boxes per month (knowing very well that my demand is going to be around 3000 boxes per month next year), but, I have to build to scale.

5. Competitive Threats:
Can come in either from cheap Chinese imitations or Awesome US/Europe Innovations. So just producing the hardware is not enough if you want to win in the long run.

Solution: Think about building strong ecosystem around your product where there's either a phone app that interacts with the hardware or some in-built app that can be regularly updated. Further, creating an ecosystem around your product (a sort of user group that works on your product will help a lot). For instance, we have created IRC League - and it turns out they are a huge driver in our growth.

Hope this cheat code helps! Let's Startup India and let's Standup India.

Startup India, Standup India - Hardware Entrepreneurs Cheat Codes! Startup India, Standup India - Hardware Entrepreneurs Cheat Codes! Reviewed by Tarun on 07:25 Rating: 5

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