India is a country with a large youth population that has an ever-growing appetite for new and innovative changes. The mushrooming community of start-ups is the byproduct of this new fascination and has altered consumer behavior altogether. With an increasing demand for good tech, is there really enough to meet the demands of such a large population?
When we examine the hardware start-up community closely, there aren’t many at whom we can look to for inspiration. Teewe, the flagship product of ‘Mango Man Consumer Electronics‘, is taking on the likes of Google Chromecast and Apple TV. Started by a team of young engineers who just wanted an easy way to watch the movies and shows on their laptops, the company has grown from just 9 people in January 2015 to 50 plus people by August 2015. With a clear vision to bring a seamless and hassle-free entertainment experience to customers, the company has put its customer feedback at the forefront of its growth strategy.
What’s important to note here is their unwavering focus. There are clear goals set within the company in terms of customer service and satisfaction. What is it that you’re trying to deliver to your customer and does the customer really want it? How are you going to manufacture your hardware and renew it, so that not only do you eventually make a profit and name but design it in such a way that the customer is drawn in instantly?
One of the issues faced by small hardware start-ups is the lack of a proper eco-system. India has talent and a large number of professionals in the work force, but the lack of resources in terms of research, funding, acceptance, etc., add to the difficulty of building and setting up their ideas. The idea itself can’t be sufficient to kick start the process of innovation.
Investor Manish Singhal says that India lacks in the product designing area. The making process is complex and requires skill not only in the technical department but also in sales and marketing. Gathering finance for small hardware start-ups is difficult and not many venture capitalists want to invest in a product that is new and experimental as it’s seen as a major risk. From prototyping to mass production there is a huge cost factor that, if not estimated correctly, can jeopardize the whole business. The product has to reach the Indian consumer at the lowest MRP, after all, Indian consumers are rather particular about getting the bang for their buck. Thus having the right investors is crucial.
Mango Man is funded by Sequoia Capital and India Quotient Fund, along with leading investors from the Technology and Media Industry including Mr. Kavin Mittal of Bharti Soft Bank and Mr. Arun Seth (Ex. British Telecom India). In March 2015, Teewe was reported to have raised INR 11 cr as an angel investment from Kavin Bharti Mittal, PavanOngole of Bharti Soft Bank, Arun Seth (ex-British Telecom), and Palaash Ventures. Shailendra Singh was quoted saying “We are delighted to back Teewe to build this smart hardware, made intelligent with integrated software services. Their first product allows users to watch personal videos and online videos on televisions seamlessly, and the usage data on Teewe is very exciting.”
As far as building a great team goes, there are few start-ups that have it as good as Mango Man. Comprised of ex- Zynga, BSB, and Capillary Alumni hailing from leading institutes viz. IIT Kanpur, BITS Pilani, etc., this variety holds asset value as all members bring their own exposure and ideas to the table. What makes this team great is their ability to hold on to and nurture the core idea and vision even when times are tough. Having the technical capabilities to bring the product to life is one thing. The key is to keep evolving the idea so that it doesn’t lose its relevance and keeps fulfilling the layered uses of the consumer. Timely Innovation and updates in hardware are a must and Mango Man has understood this very well.
Launching a newer, sleeker version of Teewe within a short timeline, with improved design and function, is the benchmark of entrepreneurial skill. Without changing the underlying function of the device, there have been significant changes to the specifications with their second iteration, Teewe 2. Teewe 2 is 30% smaller in size compared to the Teewe and that’s a great thing for a device that needs to fit in the tiny space behind a TV. And anyway, with tech, the smaller the better! Practicality was kept in mind too with Teewe 2’s detachable power adapter and USB cable. The company addressed the major issue faced by all devices in the media streaming category by installing a premium Wi-Fi chip that has an internal antenna, for better and uninterrupted streaming.
The start-up ecosystem looks hopeful with a new generation of young entrepreneurs emerging to bring their ideas to life, but sadly, as noted by many who are already in this particular ecosystem, the infrastructure in India is not yet able to provide the support and nurture required to establish them seamlessly. The narrow focus on education and a general lack of exposure may be one of the reasons why many ideas fail before they have a chance to participate in the profit-centric world of business.