Our Special Correspondent Saahil Menghani got an opportunity to catch up with Manik Kinra and Sitashwa Srivastava, Co-Founders, Jade Magnet, a TiE Venture, and world’s only end to end crowdsourcing platform for marketing and advertising solutions.
Saahil Menghani (SM): Lets Begin the interview by discussing about your scrathing days. When did you launch your start-up?
Manik Kinra (MK): We started around two years back with the name ‘CreADivity’. We register the company in October 2009 by the name of Jade Magnet. That is when the company actually started. However the platform, www.jademagnet.com, was launched in January this year.
SM:Why change of name from ‘creADvity’ to ‘Jade Magnet’?
Sitashwa Srivastava (SS): When we initiated this business, the main idea was to create a platform for creative ads and hence the name creADvity. There are, basically, two reason for this change of name. Firstly, we are no more doing just ads. There is a lot of design, marketing etc that happens through the platform now. Secondly, we figured out that a lot of people were facing problem in pronouncing ‘creADvity’. Some used to call it ‘creativity’ and others used to consider it as a spelling mistake.
SM: How has your experience been?
MK: Its been good till now. There is lot of learning that has happened. Primarily, considering that it is a very new concept, especially for the Indian market — there is lot of educating that has happened. It has been fun.
SM: Tell us about your background. What you both were before being the innovation prodigy?
SS: We both had our share of working with reputed MNCs. So, moving from there to start something which is a different concept (when it comes to India) has been a challenging yet a joyous ride.
SM: Which MNCs?
MK: I worked in CSC-Computer Science Corporation, third largest IT company of the world.
SM: Is it the first time you have plunged into entrepreneurship? How did this idea knock the two of you?
SS:Yes it is. We have done some exciting non commercial stuff even before this though. Both of us had done our MBA from Great Lakes, Chennai and that’s where we both thought of doing something like this. We had heard about a lot of crowdsourcing platforms dealing with various fields like legal, marketing, technology, financial but nothing like that in the creative space (however, there are few now).
SM: Despite one’s confidence there is definitely some anxiety in the initial phase of the business. So, tell us what was the feeling like when you got your first few clients?
MK: Luckily for us, what happened was when we took our pilot to TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs), there was a considerable interest generated about our concept. In the panel itself, there were few entrepreneurs who had their own companies, so we got some business directly from there and simultaneously what happened was that TiE has this entrepreneurial summit every year. In 2008, the summit took place at Banglore and considering the fact that we were a part of TiE Banglore, we got significant mileage from that summit as well. Even though we had few early clients, it was always challenging to reach a state where steady revenue keeps coming.
SM: Could you tell us a bit more about your association with TiE and how it has helped take your enterprise forward?
SS: TiE has given us mentoring, financial advice and connected us for initial investments and a lot more. Through TiE, we were able to tap on quite a few guys and that helped us to get some of our initial clients. Even after that, we used TiE considerably because TiE has a very good network of entrepreneurs. With somebody like TiE — which has a considerably large database of people on it itself — to say that we are backing this start-up is enough to build trust among the clients.
SM: It is certainly innovative, you are bridging a big barrier. Those who need a platform are getting it. Firms are also being delivered what they require. What are the next stages in your start-up?
MK: Next step is that we are trying to scale it up to an extent that a significant amount of transactions takes place. So, we are doing multiple things for that. One is that we are tying up with a large number of SME networks. Second is that we are trying to build up our independent account management model which is essentially like a franchise.
SM: What kind of franchising are you looking at?
MK:We are building a layer of independent account managers who are good in client relationship and while selling their own products can use their relationship to sell creative services as well. They can then use Jade Magnet platform as their virtual delivery arm to get work delivered and earn monetary benefits through the engagement. For ex a marketing consultant is anyways consulting a retailer on building brand and website etc. By becoming our independent account manager he then not just advises but also work with us to get it executed. This will increase his spectrum of services and will help him earn more revenues and for us this will help us reach larger audience with lesser investment.
SM: What are your views about entrepreneurship with respect to ideas amongst youngsters?
SS: It is too early for us to comment on it but as an ecosystem, entrepreneurship is building up very fast with so many opportunities within the domestic market itself Also, entrepreneurship was something that was never thought of as the first option. It was only those people who didn’t had a job or an opportunity who ventured into doing something like this. But things have changed now. There is a lot of respect people have started getting as entrepreneurs. Things are slowly changing.
SM: So Sitash, do you think that there is no dearth of talent but roadblocks like lack of motivation plus shortage of funds and absence of proper mentoring?
SS: Whether it is mentoring or funding or networking, there has been a significant improvement in the circumstances than what they were two years back. They are lot more incubation networks now — many people willing to mentor. So all those things are now coming up. It will take some time to develop.
SM: How difficult or easy is to find venture funds? How was your experience?
SS: It was difficult because the market was in a bad shape when we started. It took us around 18 months. Things are much better now. Now the entire VC ecosystem depends on revenue model, unlike 2006, when companies were interested in how many clicks you are getting on your website.
SM: I was reading a write up in which u mentioned that “your the second largest outsourcing platform in India”, so when are u planning to become no 1?
MK: We can’t become the largest crowdsourcing platform because largest crowdsourcing is done by the Indian Government. So, we are happy to be second largest in India.
SM: Which means you are the number 1 non-government organization in this industry?
SS: We are also the largest crowdsourcing platform in Asia providing delivery assurance
SM: How do u see the current advertising and creative market in India and the world?
MK: There are basically two markets that we are focusing primarily: India and USA, however we are slowly venturing into the middle east. In USA, the model is much mature. There is lot of investment in advertising there. I think by 2013, there will be around $ 5-6 bn spent on creative marketing in India. As these SMEs grow bigger, more business will come to the domestic market.
SM: What has been your biggest achievement in non-monetary terms? Have there been any success stories on your platform?
SS: There are two-three providers who have been able to gain tremendous value from the platform in last few months. One of them was working in a small ad agency but then started working on Jade Magnet and today he has a three member team and his 65-70% of the business is through the platform. Obviously , they keep on looking for different ventures themselves but a significant part of their revenue flows through Jade Magnet. It makes us feel very proud that yes there are talented folks who are benefitting from the platform.
SM: Do you think opportunities are booming in India? Is there something you would like to change about the Indian business ecosystem?
SS: There are lot of opportunities that exist in India right now. It is just that people need to tap them. I have heard a lot of people cribbing about present eco system. I myself do it, whenever I find time. But if I have to look at it from the other side, that’s how any Ecosystem in any country gets built. It takes time. There could be ways to speed up the growth
SM: Advice for youngsters looking to enter the business industry and also for those who plan to venture out in your industry.
MK: Its a general assumption that at the start-up stage the only thing needed is money. You don’t need a huge chunk of money to start-up. You can start-up with a pilot and then slowly grow. Whenever you go to Angels, try finding someone who could actually mentor you and not just invest. When it comes to our industry, there is lot of hope, lot of development that is happening. I would say, it is extremely hot field to enter.
Thanks Manik and Sitashwar for taking time out and talking to Youth Ki Awaaz. We wish you all the very best for your venture. Cheers!
You can visit Jade Magnet at JadeMagnet.com.
Photo: L- R — Muki (Angel Investor); Co-Founders: Sitash (CEO); Manik (CMO)