Friday, October 11, 2013

RectifyCredit and OKListen - startups that are different and other ramblings

I started blogging again almost 2 months ago and the first blog post after that long break was about rejection.  A different kind of rejection happened a couple of days later - a bank rejected my application for a home loan (was mad enough to want to invest in one more property, logic was that one needs a property for every year post retirement, and considering I aim to be around for a long long time, I figured one more would do no harm).

I have been rejected before by banks and credit card companies for a lot of reasons - I used to work for a company call nautanki.tv (Citibank rejected me for this reason), had a bad credit history because my EMI cheques would regularly bounce - I had salaries to pay and any insane individual running a startup would understand this. After retiring from the business of startups, I paid back every rupee I ever borrowed and cleaned up my track record and eventually managed to get a car loan, home loan and a couple of credit cards (part of it was due to my employers and that in itself is another story).

The latest rejection was because the bank found that once upon a time I had taken a loan and had missed a few EMIs. I had repaid them with interest but the stain remained. In their view I am no less than a criminal with blood on my hands.  I tweeted about it and got a response from Aparna Ramchandra who runs Rectifycredit.com - the business is simple, her team works with the credit rating firms like CIBIL and the banks and helps people like me or worse in getting their credit history cleaned up so that they do not get rejected by banks. I found the idea simple and am happy to say that the service is efficient and effective.  I was curious to know how they function, their funding and the scale and called Aparna to chat. What I realised after talking to her is what a lot of us who have been in the startup have started to talk about - does it make sense to give away a huge chunk of your company to get money from angels who are not really interested in your business but are looking at a ROI of 16 - 17% on their investment. She says that it puts unrealistic pressure on the business and takes away the core ideas. RectifyCredit wants to expand, wants to go to new cities and wants to put humans in those offices to have a voice to deal with people who are already scared of the banking and financial sector. She wants to put the trust factor into the business and grow steady.

Another service that I have come to love is OKListen.com. If you are someone who is tired of the Bollywood noise masquerading as music then you must try the service out. It provides a platform for independent music to reach their audience. Currently available via the browser, one can buy jazz albums by artists who would never be found otherwise. They have some of the brightest artists on their service today and do a sizable volume of downloads per month.  I met Vijay Basrur, the CEO and Founder of the service over]coffee - he had the exact same thing to say about funding - do not want to give away equity for just some money.

These are two very small but robust ideas in my opinion and can be grown into large businesses if the inputs are correct. Simple things like connections to people who can help. Relationships that can be leveraged to benefit and possibly a small bit of cash to get to the next level.

I wonder why most angels and angel networks in India have gone the way a VC firm would work. Wonder why no one is willing to invest in a startup that needs sub 1 crore in funding and why do the ones that can fund want so much of equity that the founders do not have the incentive to work beyond the first couple of rounds.

Would a platform that interfaces and performs the role of a mentor work? Would it be possible to pool in resources of the startups and businesses that have crossed the threshold of death so that a pipeline of startups take root? I am not talking of accelerators and combinators and such, am talking even more basic - more grounded setup that provides synergy to the startups. I have a whiff of an idea here but I am not sure yet where it would go from here.

Do you have ideas that can help these two startups that I have mentioned. Write in and I would be happy to share their contacts or just go and look up their websites.

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