Journey of Start up India

Gurpawan Mand’s fixation with the television show ‘Junkyard Wars’ inspired him to build small electric units using scrap and these kits are used to teach students physics. His company CoolJunk packages these units as educational kits and sells them to schools.

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Shruti Chakraborty/The Wall Street Journal

Gurpawan Mand is the founder and chief executive of CoolJunk, a startup that makes do-it-yourself kits for kids as a way to learn physics.
.The engineering graduate didn’t like the way physics was taught in his school years, and only grasped some of the concepts while doing experiments and hands-on applications during his college years. He figured that such practical learning tools would attract students to physics and sciences, in general. So, Mr. Mand spent his summers during the final years of college developing and testing concepts, and adding one of his pet fancies: To recycle junk. His trial runs to build a do-it-yourself kit were sponsored by his parents, who loaned 5,000 rupees ($112).

When he thought he was ready, he borrowed another 20,000 rupees ($448) from his parents to get the business going.

CoolJunk’s one-room office in Dwarka, a suburb of New Delhi, looks like that of other startups–stuff and people competing for space. Mr. Mand shares the office with 22-year-old Vaibhav Sharma, co-founder, who during a visit had cleared enough space on a desk to put together a circuit that connected a battery to wires that would become part of a kit that students would use to understand use of electric energy in our daily lives. Ankur Chaudhary, 24, who joined the company two months ago to handle sales and marketing, meanwhile had found a sane corner to do his market research on potential clients among the city’s schools and learning centers.

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Students work using the do-it-yourself kits at a workshop at a school in New Delhi.
.After almost nine months of opening its doors, CoolJunk armed with partnerships with 17 schools to hold explanatory workshops paid the company’s two founders — Messrs. Mand and Sharma — employees 15,000 rupees ($336) each in May. “We got drunk that day,” Mr. Mand confessed. So far, the company has generated revenues of 300,000 rupees ($6,726).

CoolJunk, like other startups, is looking for a source of capital, and was among the 10 finalists that qualified to make their pitch to potential investors at the Indian Angel Network’s boot camp held last weekend in Delhi. Here are some common experiences of what challenges small startups face in India, which are not few by any measure.

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.Find the right partners: CoolJunk learned this lesson the hard way after a friend billed the company for goods at prices much higher than cost, and even sold the idea to another potential startup. Other startups at the boot camp also said finding the right mentors and vendors is key. “Funding from friends and family can offer only financial support, but one needs expertise and experience of entrepreneurs who have successfully built businesses,” said Mohit Goyal, founder of Indian Angel Network.

Be flexibile: “Since we were inspired by Junkyard Wars, we initially wanted to work only with junk, recycle them and use them in our kits,” Mr. Mand said. However, the company realized soon enough that working with junk would hamper their plans as they try to expand the scale of their production. Further, sourcing of junk from scrap dealers brought along its own problems and buying parts from stores to use in their kits eventually became a better proposition for the business.

Employees: If there was one issue, outside of capital, that was common for all startups it is the challenge of finding and hiring talent. Lack of a steady stream of revenues is a huge deterrent. CoolJunk says the company couldn’t afford to hire someone until they got enough revenue to pay them. Interns may have been a viable option, except they didn’t want to work at a company with an office that’s smaller than many garages.

Seek Capital: How much of seed capital one gets is critical. The more you have, the easier it is for you to focus on developing the product and overcome any other initial problems. Nine out of ten innovative entrepreneurial ideas die even before the take off stage due to lack of funding, according to the Indian Angel Network.


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