The Power of Ideas, India’s largest entrepreneurship development initiative from The Economic Times is back. Bigger and better than ever before. The Power of Ideas seeks to encourage anyone & everyone with a business idea to realize his entrepreneurial dream. It is a platform where ideas will be polished and nurtured with personalized guidance from mentors before being taken forward to investors for funding. This ET initiative is in partnership with the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India and IIM-Ahmedabad’s Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship.

For more information

About the program : http://www.ideas.economictimes.com/pgme

Eligibility criteria for participation : http://www.ideas.economictimes.com/tc

To participate in the programme :  http://www.ideas.economictimes.com/participate

[The deadline for submission of the Business Summary Format is June 25, 6pm.]

Queries: If you still have a specific query/feedback about the programme, share it with ET at: etideas@indiatimes.com

Start-up Sessions: With the twin objectives of taking those with an idea through the nuances of starting up & guiding them through the process of filling the Business Summary Format, which is the participation form for the initiative, ET has organized a series of learning sessions called ‘Start-up Sessions’. To know more about these sessions & participate in them log onto http://www.ideas.economictimes.com/sup

Social: To participate in exciting contests, have fun with cool trivia etc., follow “ET-Power Of Ideas” on:

Nominate a friend: If you know a friend who has a business idea or is running a start-up, but is not able to take it forward/scale up, connect him to “ET-Power Of Ideas” by SMS ETNF<space>your name<space>his name and his email id to 58888

Partnership: In case you seek to partner with “ET – The Power of Ideas” programme as a mentor/investor/sponsor, drop them a line at etquery@indiatimes.com

** Image Credit : ET Power Of Ideas FB Page

Many times people ask me the question “What is the advantage of blogging/Why should you blog” and to answer that I came with this article which was written around 5 years back. There is a tendency with most of us [including me] to Google our name & see where we stand on Google !!! This is how Himanshu Sheth, a green entrepreneur from Jamshedpur found me. His interesting work resulted in a short Q&A on his startup & other entrepreneurial challenges. So, here we go…
Can you tell something about yourself & your company ?
I am a marketing consultant for industrial products, based at Jamshedpur, the city of Tatas. My work experience in this field is over two decades. My  enterprise, Coir Atlas, is my proprietorship firm at present. Over a period of next six months, I am planning to shape it up as a company, by inviting a few people to join me in my endeavor. Right now, Coir Atlas is at a stage where it has successfully developed, tested and patented some unique Eco-friendly as well as biodegradable products that are meant to replace wooden dunnages, used by Steel industry to support their flat products viz. sheets/plates and coils during shipment.
It was quite interesting on how we met, can you narrate the incident ?
While working for long hours, at times I take fresh breaths by saving my work for review later and venture to surf some unrelated sites on the web. Once, merely on impulse, I googled my name and  found 5-6 references of the same person, that is you (HJS, Banglore). I looked you up and also saw a YouTube clip where you recommend people to start blogging. Since your blog focuses on entrepreneurship & start ups, I decided to touch base with you.
Every idea comes up with an unsolved problem, so what is Coir Atlas trying to solve ?
Steel producers across the globe have traditionally been using wooden logs as separators for shipment of their flat products viz. sheet/plate and coil. With growing awareness on environmental issues like global warming and need to conserve forests etc. availability of timber for such applications for long is a question mark. Moreover, wooden logs act as separator only & do not provide a good frictional hold to the load that is moving at a high speed. This leads to mishaps & loss of life and property worth billions of dollars every year.

‘Coir Atlas’ is an eco-friendly and biodegradable substitute of wooden logs used for such applications. Lab tests and substantial field trials taken by Tata Steel and Steel Authority of India have proved that ‘Coir Atlas’- which is made of natural items like jute & bamboo, provides much better grip to the load during shipment.
What is the technology being used behind the Coir ?
Coir Atlas is a patented technology. It uses natural items viz. Bamboo, Coir and Jute as raw materials. Coir Atlas has been designed and developed in a way that it can be manufactured by cottage industry, mostly using hand held tools. It does not require large plant/equipments or heavy power etc. Coir Atlas also creates employment opportunities especially for unskilled/illiterate women or differently able persons, who may not find employment on regular industries. Women SHG(s) have been involved in manufacture of Coir Atlas.
Can you let us know some of the social benefits behind your venture ?
The social benefits arising out of usage of Coir Atlas are three pronged –
  • It helps saves our precious green cover. It is commonly held belief that we are loosing forests because of population growth and developmental activities. Though it is true, but it is true only in very small fraction. The actual threat to forests comes from ‘single use’ of wood for packaging applications by industries.
  • Wooden runners create the required gap necessary for loading/unloading of consignments. But they do not effectively support the heavy load, while a truck or railway wagon is moving at high speed. Many mishaps keep happening because of shifting of load in transit, resulting into loss of life and property. Whereas jute being fibrous material, provides much stronger grip to the load and will not let the load in motion shift so easily, due to frictional hold it provides to the load. Thus, Coir Atlas will result into enhanced safety on the highways saving precious lives and costly material.
  • It is an proven fact that any extra income in the hands of women is most likely to be spent on children’s education and family welfare.

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In the past there have been many articles written on this blog on BarCamp i.e. BCB2, BCB3, BCB 4 where I came across lot of smart people working on some cool stuff !!! It is during BCB3 that I met Lakshman Srikanth for the first time when he was a “Microsoft Student Partner”. And now straight out of college he dived into entrepreneurship with his startup GAViSTA TECH that solves a very interesting problem. In this episode, we talk to him about his startup journey, challenges, entrepreneurship, idea & many more things….

Can you let us know about yourself and your startup GAViSTA TECH ?

Well, I am an Entrepreneur. Started working on an idea – LegalCrystal and then later on registered GAViSTA TECH as a firm. LegalCrystal is now a product of GAViSTA TECH.

What is LegalCrystal all about ?

LegalCrystal is a search tool for Advocates, Anyone can use it to find laws, judgments decided at different Courts all over India.

Every idea addresses a problem, so what problem does LegalCrystal cater to ?

LegalCrystal addresses two problems mainly-

  • Before we started working on LegalCrystal, we researched existing softwares and came to the conclusion that Searching relevant judgments using phrase is the main problem. We started developing our own algorithm and indexers & built a search engine which is particularly tailored to Indian Law.
  • User Interface messed up in other softwares. Lawyers need to undergo a Teaching Class in order to use the product.! That is just lame. So we worked on UI and “Search Features” which makes advocate’s life much simpler and easier.

So would it fair to say that “LegalCrystal wants to be the Google of Law industry” ?

Well Google is for the WEB and we are for Lawyers on the WEB! With respect to Search Engine and ease of use you might say we are as good as “Google for Indian Law”.

How do you guys ensure that the information on LegalCrystal is up to date with the changes in the law system [penal code etc.] ?

We have a dedicated team to handle updates. We get case-laws from Judgement Information System hosted by National Informatics Center(NIC). For Few we go to respective courts and apply for a copy and then Convert it to text using OCR’s. We have another team which will take care of the data entry. As every judgement is sent to a panel of advocates who write Headnotes, Case Analysis etc. and then its paraphrased , formatted and updated on the website.

GAViSTA came up with the corporate offering of your flagship product LegalCrystal, how has been the response so far ?

Response has been really good! They just FEEL comfortable using LegalCrystal Corporate. We have approached International Law firms, Companies… First thing they like about the product is the User Experience and then the Search, Features. We are expanding the reach to other states very soon.

LegalCrystal started out as a college project, off late there have been many other Indian startups born in a similar manner, do you think that times are changing where students are getting more serious about last year projects ?

It depends on the individual, but there are lot of students who are trying hard to build something unique; Commercializing their invention is what they need to look into..!

Being a student entrepreneur [i.e. right from college], how did you get about hiring the initial team members & getting them to join you ?

As I was Microsoft Student Partner Lead, I already had a network of students in every college in Bangalore. So initially my friends & I started in my room, then later on we hired few folks from MSRIT and PESIT as interns who worked on really challenging tasks. Well, joining a startup isnt a joke! because there are too many uncertainties involved. As we had a solid product with great market scope we were able to convince them!

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Last week we reviewed an Android/iOS app named VocalBee and this week, we have a Q&A with Atul Tatke one of the co-founders of VocalBee. The chat revolves around VocalBee, his views on startups and his tips for entrepreneurs. So, let’s start with the candid interview ..
Can you give a small background of your startup & it’s co-founders ?
We are four of us that are working on this venture. Two of the founder members have been working on voice & mobile technology startup Hummingbytes. Another one comes from smartphone development background. He was a part of the company which got bought over by a big technology company. The fourth one comes from Restaurant and Retail industry. He has deep experience in Business and Technology consulting.
How did you guys come up with the idea of “VocalBee” ?
VocalBee is a spinoff of the idea that got conceived in Hummingbytes. Some part of the engine was built and used in Call Center & other customer service centric implementations.
Which are the areas where you feel VocalBee would be very effective ?
We concentrate on three kind of communications – Question, Idea & Feedback. Also we are concetrating on local government and businesses. I think we will be effective where citizens and consumers want to have quick communication of above type. Location based service is also another key point of the system. Events and promotion is also another feature which is very appealing when you mix it with location based service.
In addition to above mentioned areas, we will be able to capture client specific structured feedback once business is onboard with us.
Can you explain a bit more as to how the entire flow goes from when user sends suggestion/idea to VocalBee [i.e. what happens when I file a complaint of Pothole in my area, where the complaint will go etc. and user can keep track of it] ?
Government Setup: So, if you are in an area in Bangalore and came across a big pothole. Currently there is no easy way for you to raise your concern. With VocalBee you can take a picture, write about it and send it to the city. This communication will be going to a special page that we have designed for India. Also this communication will be going to our Twitter and Facebook. We are also analyzing this data that is coming & eventually will be presenting it to the government.
We will also try to get government to buy into it and give them the account. At this time it will become a claimed account. With claimed account, government can be directly in touch with citizens. They can broadcast events like street construction, water or electricity outage etc. In the US we are working with a couple of towns and their response is very good. They are working closely with us.
Business Setup: You visit the restuarant and like the food. Currently you can go on Zomato or Burrp and give the review. The review goes in social sphere. With VocalBee you give review to the business and we will connect with the business & send your communication to them. Businesses that come on board will be able to have one-on-one connection with consumer. Businesses can also send promotions, events on this established connection. We also have a concept of Wall where other people can answer or vote on public communication. We already have more than half a dozen businesses on this platform in the US.

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How many times do we complain to others about the potholes, poor maintainance of parks, dirty roads, endless constructions nearby our area but have found no solution rather than cribbing about it. This article does indicate that the Indian government is spending good amount of money for the making the roads better  !!! Also, it does make a difference when many people “shout out” about the same issue rather than one person talking about it… Well in such situations VocalBee , an Android/iOS based app can come to your rescue.

VocalBee is a “Location Based” app that uses the strength of crowdsourcing to empower the user to do just one thing i.e. “BE HEARD“.  Be it sharing feedback about good customer service at a nearby restaurant, to complaining about the bad condition of roads or complaining to the government authorities about street lights etc., VocalBee helps you to close the circle i.e. it ensures that your query/complaint/feedback reaches the right destination 🙂

VocalBee has three target segments:

  1. Consumers – Provides a platform to voice out their opinions/suggestions/complaints & ensures that it reaches the right destination so that the consumer can keep a track of the same.
  2. Government – Helps them to cater issues raised by the consumers & keep them informed about the progress of their issue; which in turn would help to reduce the overall cycle time.
  3. Businesses – Acts as a collective medium to take “Honest Feedback” from the consumers which would help them to improve their service & in turn get more business.

Installation

I installed the app on my Android device as well as on my iPod Touch & installed without any hassles. Now we would walk through the features of the app & it’s usefulness.

Startup Page

The “Introduction” page explains the complete idea behind the app and how it would be useful to the users as well as for local businesses.

Usage

With VocalBee, you can either submit an Idea, Question or Feedback. Just like other location based apps like FourSquare, VocalBee shows the list of the nearby places for which the user can submit either of them.

There is an option to click a photograph and attach it to your query which also acts as an evidence of your problem. I posted couple of issues e.g. endless construction of roads nearby my apartment & many people did give a “thumbs up” to the issue & this is where the real power of VocalBee can bee seen i.e. Community Involvement.

Social Media Integration

VocalBee does a good job of integrating Twitter & Facebook through which users can share their “queries” on these Social networks. The UI is clean and makes the app very easy to use. The user also has the facility to keep a track of their queries online through the VocalBee website

Final Verdict & Suggestions

I have been using VocalBee for few weeks & it looks a great tool where you want your unattended issues to be solved & that is the power it gives to the consumers !!! However, there are a couple of suggestions –

  1. Photos taken real-time can only be attached to your query/suggestion/complaint which means the App does not allow to “attach” an already taken photo from the Media Gallery. This feature would really be helpful in cases where you have already seen a problem but forgot to submit the complaint to VocalBee. Also, problems can be seen at any place & at anytime !!!
  2. The life-cycle of the query was not very clear for eg. If I file a “complaint” for potholes against my local authority; to which department the complaint has reached i.e. the flow of the query from “new” -> “In Progress” -> “Closed” can be made a bit transparent.
  3. A further extension could be allowing the users to post “Videos” as well in which case, VocalBee would act just like a Citizen Journalist for consumers 🙂

VocalBee can be downloaded from the Android Market from here. You can also download it on your iPhone or iPod Touch from here. Do give VocalBee a spin and share your feedback in the comments section…

In this article, we speak to Max Aengevelt, co-founder of UK based startup myhomepage. Here Max shares his thoughts about the company, it’s core offering as well as his insights on entrepreneurship.

Can you give a small background of you and your start-up and its founders?

My name is Max Aengevelt. I am one of the two co-founders of myhomepage. I am a recent graduate of European Business School of London; the other co-founder is Massimo Agostinelli who still attends EBSL. Massimo originally had the idea for myhomepage together with his younger brother when working on his Apple Macbook. The way your windows can be displayed all at the same time is something that really inspired Massimo. Why not be able to view the web like this? Myhomepage is a personalized homepage, online password manager and bookmarking service that users can use as a start page. We are particularly proud to have an auto login capability that allows you to automatically login into your websites. From the original idea of being an interactive start page, we have really grown to be a one stop shop to start your online browsing. Myhomepage is a personalized start page.

There are lots of other competitors. What do you see are your strengths and weaknesses compared to them and what the future is like for these services? What is the USP of myhomepage over competitors?

There are several players in this market and we have analysed every single one. Therefore we can say with confidence we have the most complete product. To begin with we are not a widget based news aggregator, nor are we a pure bookmarking website. We offer a lot of different features that make it safer and easier for the user to navigate the web. 70% of websites require a username and password to fully operate the site, myhomepage is place that lets you organize these websites and automatically access them through our auto login feature. I personally would not be able to use the web without the clarity myhomepage gives me. One of our main competitors or alternatives is browsers. Browsers also allow you to store and organise bookmarks as well as passwords which are two of our main features. However, unlike browsers we are online. This means, wherever you are you will be able access all your favourite bookmarks and logins at any time and from any computer using any browser. Also browsers are not a safe place to store your username and password, someone could steal or hack your computer. And unlike other password managers, you do not have to download anything or pay for it. We use a patent pending technology to safely encrypt your account and passwords.

Secondly, as mentioned before, we are well aware of our competitors and no other service offers all the features we offer in one place. There are competitors offering one or two of our features but no one else offers them all in one place. Furthermore, it is designed with a simple, clean layout. We have a lot of great features which make using the website fun – we use thumbnails to display bookmarks, have a unique auto login feature, have drag and drop functionality, bookmarks are organized by tagging, you can import bookmarks and you can easily email bookmarks to your friends. Adding up all these features, myhomepage is a product that stands out from the crowd! Furthermore, ‘myhomepage’ is a great name and brand and one that is you can easily relate to and most importantly trust.

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During our childhood days, all of us would have read about “Hare & Tortoise” fable. The famous lesson from the fable was “Slow & Steady wins the race” however, most of the times; the first mover advantage holds true [except in some cases like the Apple iPod !!!]

It is a universal truth that “Teams always win” hence, the term “I” carries less weight age than “We” since, “I WILL NEVER WIN” only “WE CAN WIN”. The presentation below, which is an updated version of the old fable gives an excellent insight into Teamwork

  1. Never give up when faced with failure
  2. Fast and consistent will always beat slow and steady
  3. Work to your competencies
  4. Compete against the situation, not against a rival.
  5. Pooling resources and working as a team will always beat individual performers

In this article, we have speak to Neeraj Jhanji, founder & CEO of Japanese company ImaHima. Here Neeraj shares his thoughts about the company, it’s products as well as his insights into entrepreneurship.
Can you give a brief introduction about yourself  ?
I am an Indian who spent 15 years in Japan and currently living in Sweden. My professional interest is to create innovative web and mobile applications.
What does ImaHima mean  and what is it exactly into  ?
ImaHima in Japanese means “are you free now?” and is the name of a mobile location-based social-networking service created in 1999 by my Japanese company ImaHima. ImaHima pioneered the concept of sharing current status [location, activity, mood] among friends using mobile phones.

Since then,  I have built several other internet services and my latest project is Colabolo, which is a light-weight issue-tracking software for small teams.

Can you give an insight into your flaship product Colabolo  ?
Colabolo grew out of my own needs for a better way to manage the tasks and communication within my company. Email is very flexible tool but lacks organization and sharing. Excel or MS-Project have structure but no communication. Colabolo is a communication & collaboration tool that fits somewhere between email and project management software. It is perfect for simple task delegation and assignment between team members.

Compared to other software in this category, it is much simple to use and integrates with email so it can automatically create tasks from incoming email. It can reduce the volume and clutter of email. You can find a 40-second video demo of Colabolo here

Who are the target customers for Colabolo ?
Colabolo’s current feature set is useful for freelancers and small-medium size teams.  It is ideal for teams that collaborate using computers or mobile phones sharing a large volume of tasks that need to be completed.

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