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From working for India’s biggest automobile manufacturing company to co-founding Jabong, one of the most well-known brands in the e-fashion sector, Praveen Sinha shares his knowledge and experiences with 4Ps B&M

How did Jabong happen to you?

I always had aspirations to start something of my own. While pursuing my MBA, I launched my first venture, Aquabrim, a water solution company. While I was in McKinsey, I continuously kept looking out for big startup ideas, and at that time I realised the opportunities in e-commerce.

When we started in 2011, the industry was at a starting stage, even in terms of fashion merchandising. There were few players in the market and we found good traction in the e-commerce fashion merchandising industry and realised that there was a huge potential in this sector.

Did you always think you would be an entrepreneur?

Yes, post my graduation, when i started my first job at Maruti Udyog, I realised that I wanted to convert idea into reality, and hence being an entrepreneur was the preferred choice.

Israel is a start-up nation that has shown the world how entrepreneurs can change a country. What are the lessons India and Indian entrepreneurs can learn from Israel?

Israel being a small and young country has produced significantly more productive high-tech startups. Israel is a startup nation that has shown the world how young startup entrepreneurs can change a country with their product focus, innovation, technology, risk-taking and creative population. Most important has been their focus on building/developing global products/services and not necessarily products for their domestic consumption. A few attributes which we can learn from them are 1. Accept failure: learn from them and build something better; 2. Networking skills: connect with relevant people to scale and refine the idea; 3. Government support: in terms of favourable policies and government sponsored research platform.

Is Modi’s vision of “Start-Up India, Stand Up India” the right way forward?

I think Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s direct involvement in promoting startups with “Start-up India, Stand up India” is a great step towards signalling the importance of start ups. It has also helped simplifying the startup process, and that will be helpful to overcome business obstacles like costs, procedural complexities and delays for entrepreneurs trying to set up new businesses, which i believe will give impetus to innovation and will encourage many young entrepreneurs to turn ideas into action. But there are many elements which still need to be done. However, I see many initiatives enabling and empowering the start-up community, for example, providing Twitter handles for startups is a good use of social media.

Is India’s start-up boom a bubble that’s ready to burst?

Indian start-ups are definitely in an early stage. I would say startups are undergoing a reality check rather than saying that they are in a bubble (some of them are heated, though). Some of the sectors and ventures may face troubling issues and might be currently downgraded by the market; but fundamentally, start-ups in India will sustain and survive in the long run and will continue growing, as Indian start-ups are built on a strong foundation.

You are an active investor too with investments in varied organisations like Anasha Art, Wassup etc. What do you look for while investing?

1. First, I always look at the team including founders, their passion backed by product and customer focus. The team should have a good combination of strategy and execution where execution has higher weightage.

2. The strength in the idea

3. Scalability: In terms of market opportunity and market size

4. Existing competition/differentiation

5. Business fundamentals: measured on profitability impact, employment creation impact or social/ environmental impact.

How would you define your leadership style? A leader who inspires you?

a. Detail oriented

b. Hand holding but not micro managing

c. Getting together to build something beautiful and big

Many leaders inspire me. It’s the quality of a leader that influences me and hence I draw inspiration from multiple leaders. There are many life events of Swami Vivekanand and Ratan Tata that inspire me.

People are the most important part of any successful organisation. How do you make your best people stay?

Today’s employees desire to learn new things, create wealth, and have a healthy work-life balance. We provide them opportunities to work on projects across departments that expand their overall knowledge and also prepare them for higher responsibility/career growth. We make sure we’re paying them competitively. However, I think the most important is the culture, where we are transparent, open, respectful and helpful to each other, which motivates them to stay back.

What would you describe as your most successful moment in business?

I have been part of many ventures now and some of them we have initiated from idea to reality. Getting the first client and their feedback is always delightful. There are many successful moments, varying from celebrating scale, customer feedback to getting investment.

Your advice to budding entrepreneurs?

I would advise focus on execution without compromising on business fundamentals. You will be pulled in ten million different directions but you should be able to clearly state your priorities (for the day, month, and year ahead). You have to stay focused. Your targets may shift so it’s important to stay nimble and you must be smart about what you’re working toward.

When you are not working, what is it that we can find you busy with?

Reading and walking are to me great comfort as these facilitate self-reflection and self-discovery Another thing you can find me busy with is networking with upcoming entrepreneurs.

What are your plans for the future?

Currently, I am focusing on making a roadmap for the next stages of my existing ventures. I am engaged in identifying the longer term future trends and demands of the marketplace, regionally and globally. As we can’t completely predict the future, so my approach is to consider multiple scenarios and make some collective bets to create a true, shared vision of the future.

Your views on the new bill on FDI in e-commerce?

It’s a well thought out bill, which might need further detailing. Having a clear cut regulatory framework helps the ecosystem to avoid ambiguity and improves investments in the sector.

How will the e-commerce sector in India shape up in the future?

India will be very close to US and China in terms of e-commerce market opportunities. However, we have a few more years to reach there. There will be multiple disruption not only in the product sector but in the service sector as well.

The new buzz word is ‘m-commerce’ – mobile commerce. What are your opinions on this as far as India is concerned?

M-commerce is growing rapidly as a stable and secure supplement to the e-commerce industry. Shopping and payments through smartphones are the new trends. I believe most of the e-commerce transactions will move to mobile and m-commerce will contribute to a major part of the e-commerce industry’s total revenues. Smartphones are becoming the central part of shopping experience for many people despite internet penetration being low.   

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