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Two Entrepreneur Interviews: Deepak Shenoy of Moneyoga and Girish Saraph of Vegayan Systems

I recently did two interviews with two very different but passionate entrepreneurs: Deepak Shenoy, co-founder of Moneyoga and Dr. Girish Saraph of Vegayan Systems. Over the past year or so I have spent a fair amount of time talking to both of them and have followed their journey as entrepreneurs.

Deepak and I have spoken at length about entrepreneurship, startup environment, Bangalore, etc over the phone, but never got around to meeting over that cup of filter coffee in Bangalore. Blame it on the messy traffic congestion in Bangalore that precluded me from going to his part of town! Deepak is a passionate and seasoned entrepreneur and it was great fun interviewing him. In the interview Deepak made some great points about entrepreneurship in India.

Girish is an academician turned entrepreneur that I met at the TiE Mumbai conference in 2006, where I interviewed him the first time around. He was very excited at having won the TiE_Canaan Challenge for that year and was looking forward to going to INSEAD Singapore to spend 6 weeks there. I remember how Girish patiently and methodically answered all my questions about the software his company was building and gave me the big picture overview that also helped me in getting a better grasp of his company. Methodical is the word that comes to mind when I think of Girish since that trait or character is reflected in the manner in which he has plotted the course for his startup and in the way he did this interview that I did earlier this week.

  • Devender Singh

    Dear Freind,

    I understand that starting a company makes pass through lot of legal process and registration . But i hope u will appreciate that it is part of governance process. And dont u think if not instantly on net but smothly next Door CA can get it all done in a months time. Fair enough I think. Though it should be furthe stremlined . We are lot better than what we were few years back.

  • http://www.gmail.com kamla bhatt

    Clarification: What I shared about setting up of comapanies was gathered from talking extensively to entrepreneurs and from my own experience. I tried setting up a company a couple of years ago, and I know of numerous people who have set up companies and know the issues they faced while through the process. One entrepreneur had to wait 6 months to get his paperwork done before he could get VC funding…but he was diligent and thorough and did not any loose ends. The process is still opaque and that leads to quite a few problems and there is nothing wrong in higlighting that. Do talk to entrepreneurs who have set up companies and received funding and they will tell you the unexpected delays and problems they run into when they have allocate share certificates or take care of other paperwork.

    I remember what it was like to set up a company in 1992…anyone remember that time? So, yes compared to 1992 the process has changed quite a bit, but it is not at a point where you can go to one place online, register your company, receive the company seal and tax number and get going all within 48 hours. I wish Rad they had vending machines in the US to dispense all those various tax id numbers etc, it would be so much fun :-)

    It was both educational and interesting to read the various comments on this thread because it gave me a pretty good insight into how people think :-) and how as Amartya Sen pointed out we do love to argue. My, don’t we all love to jump to conclusions, and I am certainly not deleting myself from that group!

    Best of luck to all those who have companies or are looking to set up companies.

    Thanks,

    Kamla

  • vyaas

    Kamla,
    I too returned from abroad and started a company.
    To register a company and start selling there are a set of procedures. Knowing that you have to obtain a PIN,DIN, PAN, TAN, Sales Tax No, professional tax No etc. took me time. There are also rules to register with RBI etc for receiving and sending money.
    Once you know what is to be done, you have to follow a set of procedures whether in India or abroad it is the same.
    What I agree is these rules are not clearly laid in one place in India. You probably have to meet another entreprenuer and you’ll get all the insights.

    Sometimes we have a slow process, like the server at mca, or getting a corporate credit card (atleast for me).

    But then, you are an entrepenuer, so you have to be extremely patient. Patience and Perseverance are 2 good virtues which I am trying to improve upon.

    Rgds
    Vyaas

  • http://www.blackbytenetworks.com Samir Kelekar

    Vikas
    Just to clarify, I never tried to register a new company
    with the MCA site.

    My experience was with analysing some companies which I
    did for another project. Also, my experience has been
    with turning a provisional DIN into a permanent one;
    this is not to do with the site per se, but dealing with
    the MCA people.

    Having said that, I dont think anyone has a pre-conceived
    mindset about govt. We just go by experience, in fact, we
    give huge benefit of the doubt to the govt.

    For instance, I have very good experience with the Bangalore One bill payment service. I dont complain about
    it at all.

    I have also dealt extensively with the govt. and know
    that when a certain minister wants to pay you, it can
    happen instantly. There is no bureucracy involved at all
    or all delays disappear.

    But I fail to understand why we have to judge govt. by
    a different standard than we judge private companies.
    If I recall right, we have had discussions on this very
    board where we have discussed how Indian private company
    websites have had bad UIs or something to that effect.

    Why dont we judge the MCA website by that standard then,
    but instead there are huge number of guys trying to defend
    eseentially a very pathetic site/UI by all standards of
    the term.

    regards,
    Samir

    PS: I agree with you again on the point that speed of
    registration does not have anything to do with the
    success of the venture. Sometimes however, you want to
    register a company fast to beat some other deadline. In
    such a case, these things matter.

  • vikask

    though the discussion is not mca.gov.in site, let me add my experience.

    setting up companies is not a very difficult job at all. though there will be many people like samir who will tell you horror stories about it. i do not point it as his fault. the services and interface could have been better and maybe he has really had some bad experiences with the site.

    however, we need to get out of our mindset of ‘everything indian and sarkari has to be pathetic/unworkable/silly’. maybe kamala should try and register a company and see for herself rather than quote anonymous people making sweeping statements.

    moreover i agree with the view that the speed of setting up a company has nothing to do with the venture being successful.

  • http://www.teknotrends.com Samir Kelekar

    yeah, talking about mca.gov.in site, one cannot imagine that one can
    have such a slow site for the company affairs division of a country which is supposed to be an IT super power.

    It is an ideal example of how the UI shouldnt be.

    Try analysing a company out there, and you have to figure out some
    numbers of a company, for which there is just no instructions. One has to be a genius to make guesses and figure out things. The error
    messages wont tell you anything.

    Also, if you dont do things in the right order, you have to do things
    all over again. And of course, there are no instructions as to
    what is the right order.

    I pity my CA. To get my DIN turned from a provisional one to a
    proper one, the poor guy had to send my form a
    number of times. They will confuse first name and last name and what not. But CAs of course in India are epitomes of patience. They will do all
    the dirty work that is required including perhaps standing in queues outside the Babus’ offices and what not.

    I tell you one needs to have ultimate in patience to get through this electronic maze. After you register a company, doing business is
    much easier! No wonder after one has gone through this test of
    fire, Indian entreprenuers could prosper in any other system.

    But then, I figure those of Indians who have never been outside
    India — for them, this system is like heaven compared to the
    hell it was previously. For those who have been abroad, this
    is no good.

    And btw, after shifting the system to an electronic one, uploading
    of every form is charged like Rs. 400/-. I dont know where the
    money goes, if they cant use it to increase the server speed.
    At least in the manual case, these forms such as one for change
    of directors, one could turn them in without paying a fee.

    regards,
    samir

  • http://www.druvaa.com Jaspreet

    Kamala,

    I think when people abroad and “foreign returns” take a fresh look at India, they want to see things complicated.

    India is just another different system. While online and vending machines works well in US, hiring or buying people for money works equally well here.

    Think like a entrepreneur to get things done and make money out of it, not like an idealist or educationalist.

    - J

  • Rad

    Dear Kamla

    I have set up a company in India in recent past. And though it took some time, it was not a difficult process at all. Of course you will never get DINs and PINs at vending machines.

    Go to mca.gov.in You can apply for the DIN and PIN there as well as search for the availability of company names. You will immediately get provisional numbers. It hardly takes more than two weeks after that. I made some mistakes filling the forms and got an email from the registrar office explaining it.

    It is not that difficult to get in touch with a good CA who will help you with all this. It doesn’t cost a lot either.

    Btw, I was also foreign returned at that time.

    I apologize for my strong statements, but sometimes I just can’t take it.

  • http://india-vc.blogspot.com/ Bipin

    Kamla,

    It isn’t “that” difficult to register a company. Find a good CA and she/he will do the stuff for you. I did face some problem ( while trying to get the name, TCS system software went down) but it isn’t nerve jangling.

    I don’t think any new venture fails/succeeds due to the speed/complexity of registering the company. Ofcourse, processes can always be made better. And they are getting better.

  • http://www.gmail.com kamla bhatt

    Hello Rad:

    I am puzzled about your comment. Either you have set up way too many companies or you are a lawyer or an accountant. It is hard to guess since you choose to remain anonymous without publishing your name. I wonder why?

    I think there is a lot of education and awareness that needs to be created and many new entrepreneurs constantly struggle with setting up a company. Sometimes that is compounded if you happen to be a “a foreign returned *.*” as you so politely put it. Jingoism simply obfuscates the complexities that are involved in setting up a company. Perhaps, you will be kind enough to spell out the steps and write a post on it since you have such a strong view?

    Setting up a company in India is not easy and you would know it if you have been through that complex maze. As one entrepreneur put it the complexity has moved from the babus to the online world. Try getting a PIN number, a DIN number and countless other numbers to get your paperwork completed before you can hang a board outside your office.

    But, more than anything else I am really curious on why you would make such a strong statement? Lashing out really does not solve any problems. But, engaging in meaningful dialogs surely does result in better understanding. I hope you can engage in a dialog.

    Thanks!

    Kamla

  • Rad

    Such a lame explanation Kamla…you still don’ know enough about the paper work and bureaucracy? How many stories you wan to hear? And isn’t it the typical Indian mentality of kissing every foreign returned ass, as if someone is returning home to liberate an emancipated nation…

  • http://www.moneyoga.com Deepak Shenoy

    Anup: Thanks for that. The “public portfolios” is an opt-in – by default all portfolios are private, and you have to check and make it public manually.

    Community features such as “follow this user” will then be dependent on whether users make their portfolios public or not. Of course this bit isn’t ready yet!

  • http://www.druvaa.com Jaspreet

    Nicely done interviews. I like the homework you do before the interview.

    your website still needs some work.

  • http://www.gmail.com kamla bhatt

    Hello Vyas:

    Knowing them wss definitely not a criteria :-) If I use that as a criteria then I’d have to interview a lot more people.

    Deepak and his co-founder are doing something v. different..it is in the financial space, which is something that you don’t come across v. often. In India, you typically you only hear of people in the tech space, at least that is the case in Bangalore. Everybody seems to be in mobile space there.

    Girish is also an interesting entrepreneur..he is a US-returned academician turned entrepreneur. I was curios to hear his story since there is still a fair bit of opaqueness and bureaucracy is setting up a startup in India. The paperwork is mind-boggling at times! For instance, I can register a new company in the US online and can have my paperwork within a couple of days. That is not the case in India. How did Girish deal with that? I was curious to know and plus he was doing something very different too…it was not a mobile vas company or an IT services company.

    Hope this give you a better idea on why these two entrepreneurs were selected.

    Thanks for asking that question.

    Kamla Bhatt

  • Arup Bhanja

    Very Nicely done up Moneyoga.com but why show public portfolios ? Probably can do a drill down on the Qly data for individual stocks … showing ratios, etc ….

    Great Work !

  • vyaas

    Kamla,
    I read your interviews and they are good(nicely done). Same here.
    Can you please tell why you selected Deepak and Girish, is it because you knew them or you did on the basis of some criteria. If it was on some criteria can you please suggest them. It may be useful to know.

    Vyaas

  • http://www.moneyoga.com Deepak Shenoy

    Hey Krish: Thanks! I’ve been writing about my picks in my blog, though honestly I haven’t got a multi-bagger types yet. 2 baggers perhaps. Too small a horizon :)

    That’s an interesting approach for funding and we’re actually talking to a couple people about it (the move to Mumbai helps!). Early days though, and requires some defocussing from the site; but it might just prove to be the way forward.

    I’ve been wrong enough times to know that there’s no such thing as a sure thing. If there was, I wouldn’t be telling anyone about it. We’re more into disciplined investing – so the idea isn’t to figure out what stock makes money but a larger theme – what kind of investing strategy makes money.

    That means apart from identifying high probability entries, it’s also about cutting losses short, riding profits, hedging risk (with futures/options), statistically validating a strategy (“Buy this stock, it’s giving a bonus” is an invalid stragegy statistically for the most part) etc.

    It’s also about managing capital appropriately – how much to allocate, when and how to get out. We don’t plan to address this right now, that’s a for-later.

    The difference is not great to longer term investors. But for those interested in the one year or less timeframe, it makes all the difference.

  • http://www.gpsurvivalkit.blogspot.com krish

    Hey Deepak,

    That was a pretty cool chat. Now whisper into my ears the next multibagger before others get wind of it. The quickest way to gain funding for your venture is to help a few early customers get rich, and talk them into investing in your venture. You have their cashflow data and many could volunteer as it gets proven.

    The downside is that if your first few strategies backfire, the busters will go talk about it. If they have a blog, worse ;)

  • Anonymous

    The Interview link are swapped.