‘It is really important to innovate far ahead of time’
- The focus on innovation helped script the success story, entrepreneurs said at the inaugural edition of HT NxT that seeks to identify key emerging industry trends and address the challenges.
The availability of easy capital has often been cited as a key reason for the rapid growth of the Indian startup ecosystem, which has seen 25 new unicorns in less than a year. However, the focus on innovation helped script the success story, entrepreneurs said at the inaugural edition of HT NxT that seeks to identify key emerging industry trends and address the challenges.
“True, there’s a lot of capital in Indian market, and it’s great for startups. But true innovation is happening in firms that are saying capital is not the reason for success, it’s innovation,” Naveen Tiwari founder and chief executive officer (CEO), InMobi, said. “Becoming a financially independent firm was a phenomenal stage for us to be at, it taught us to be disciplined, build a robust business, and realize the value of making money.”
In January, industry association Nasscom and strategy consultancy Zinnov said in a report that India may have 100 new unicorns by 2025. Of late, the growth has been phenomenal. For instance, Paytm and InMobi took seven and four years, respectively, to reach billion-dollar valuations, while new companies such as Apna, ShareChat, and Mobile Premier League (MPL), reached billion-dollar valuations in a fraction of time compared to the trend setters.
“In the business of technology, people matter. Especially in today’s world where the technology cycle is three to five years, the thing that remains constant is people. We wanted to understand why people come to work, what keeps them motivated and accordingly, we made some drastic changes in the way we understood people. This changed our values and led to a completely redefined culture for ourselves,” Tiwari added.
Geeta Manjunath, founder and CEO of Niramai, an artificial intelligence (AI)-based breast cancer screening company, said an “entrepreneur out on the road” will have to play every role from a finance professional to a sales person, and peon.
“We must have the confidence that we can do it, have a vision in front and then go towards it. Hurdles will be coming one after the other – you solve them daily and move on,” she said.
“We started the company in the basement of a building in Chennai. It was almost like a den,” said Ashwini Ashokan, co-founder and CEO of Mad Street Den, an AI and computer vision startup. “We have always been known to be at the cutting edge of AI. We are ahead of the adoption curve, and we believe it is really important to innovate far ahead of time.”
Startups in the healthcare sector, too, have done a phenomenal job, especially in the wake of the pandemic. Diagnostics, an integral part of the strategy in combating the covid-19 pandemic, was once a background speciality, with limited opportunity for growth. The key theme of the event, ‘Leading the change’, sought to highlight the different perspectives from two generations, that of Dr Naveen Dang, the founder and director of Dr Dangs Lab, and his son Dr Arjun Dang, the CEO.
While Dr Naveen Dang is known for his pioneering work in diagnostics in India, Dr Arjun is shouldering the responsibility during the most testing times following the outbreak of covid-19. “In the Delhi of 1980s, there were only four private hospitals and a handful of labs. The demand for tests was increasing and it used to take a long time for the reports to be delivered. As days rolled, I realized that the future lay in infectious diseases,” said Dr Naveen. “People often ask me what is the trick of the trade. This is not a trade for me. My greatest satisfaction has been my satisfied patients,” he said.
“It has been a fantastic journey. I always wanted patients to be aware of the importance of the best possible reports. Now I am happy that patients are extremely conscious of the quality of reports,” he added.
Dr Naveen Dang said the idea was to serve people, and he was never bothered about awards or rewards. Drawing from his experience in running the diagnostic lab since 1985, Dr Naveen said one must embrace technology, but ensure not to let new technologies bypass the old values.
His son, Arjun, likes experimenting with all new technologies to harness the emerging trends to grow the business. Dr Arjun set up India’s first drive through centre for covid sample collection. He is also the recipient of Hindustan Times TRAILBLAZER 2021 award for innovation during the pandemic.
The Indian diagnostics lab sector, estimated at $6 billion, is growing at 13-14% annually.
As per estimates, with over 100,000 labs, the space if highly fragmented in India, as organised players have a market share of less than 15%. “It was in 2016. I was in the process of completing my fellowship in liver pathology in London, when two distinct paths clearly lay before me. One, to continue in the UK, the other was to return home and carry the legacy forward. I chose the latter knowing very well that I had huge shoes to fill, but at the same time having a crystal clear decision of wanting to make a difference.. I chose to bring home my education and experience and build further,” said Dr Arjun.
It has been a roller-coster ride since the pandemic hit India, he said. “While there has been tremendous learning as the very science if the pandemic has evolved, most of us have faced extreme uncertainty in our day-to-day working. People had to deal with tremendous losses with family and friends having either been affected or succumbed to the virus,” he said.
Dr Arjun’s effort during this time was to ensure the lab’s reports were out within the government-mandated turn-around time. “We also could offer our services to several studies being done,” he said.
Dr Arjun said there were no short cuts when it comes to quality. “Staying informed about the best practices and keeping updated about new developments across the globe is something that is a daily requirement. The entire thought process of diagnostics and all the newer trends that go with it,” he said.
On being ahead of competition, he said one must remain focussed on the value over volumes, and strive for perfection in reports, all day, everyday.