TiEcon Delhi 2006 Reinforces Its Growing Influence On Indian Entrepreneurship

November 7th, 2006 |

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TiE Delhi’s annual conference, TiEcon 2006, was held on the 26th-28th October. The conference theme was ‘Entrepreneurship: The DNA of Growth’ and the event was a meeting ground for entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, investors, industry leaders etc. Besides the main conference sessions, the agenda also included networking sessions, interest specific networking corners and sessions, assisted introductions and meetings, mentoring clinics, company showcases, not to forget cocktails and dinners. The TiE annual conference has become a must-attend on Delhi’s entrepreneurship/startup circuit and this year’s event was no different.

This is the third consecutive TiEcon that I have attended. And I can sense a distinct transition in TiE’s basic character. TiE, which originally started out of Silicon Valley and was thus a technology forum, seems to be outgrowing its tech origins and becoming a representative body of entrepreneurs in general (and not necessarily tech entrepreneurs). This is evident from the presence of speakers like Vandana Luthra (who runs the very successful VLCC chain of health clinics) at the conference. I think this is a great position to hold in India, for entrepreneurship is increasingly being recognized as a must-have, in order to grow the economy and bring down unemployment and poverty levels.

Not just that, TiE events now have greater participation from the political class as well. Every TiEcon has a local partner (Indian) state, as well as an overseas partner. It’s obvious that the politicians/governments see this as a very useful opportunity to showcase what they have to offer, in order to attract Indian entrepreneurs to invest in their respective geographies.

Some of the highlights of the conference were as follows:

– The partner state for TiEcon Delhi 2006 was Orissa. The state was represented by its charismatic chief minister Navin Patnaik, who attended the valedictory session; he went on to woo small & medium scale entrepreneurs for investments in Orissa. Orissa has recently seen violent protest from local residents over big ticket overseas investments in steel & mining. I feel one reason why the political class is now participating actively in such events is simply because SME investments (in IT, biotech, pharma etc) are much easier to handle politically and socially, than some of the larger investments.

– The overseas partner for TiEcon Delhi 2006 was the Government of the State of Victoria in Australia. They outlined the opportunities available to Indian entrepreneurs to come and invest in their state. It’s indeed very flattering to see how foreign governments are vying with each other to get Indians to invest in their economies.

– The keynote address by Vivek Ranadive of TIBCO was an inspiring account of how he fought against all odds to set up his company in a non-supportive professional and cultural environment. The speaker is an accomplished technology writer as well and I really liked his session.

– One of the sessions demonstrated how TiE now appeals even to institutions such as Bollywood. This session featured noted Bollywood personalities, Anupam Kher and Satish Kaushik. They shared their perspective on how Bollywood is increasingly becoming corporatised and more professional. They have jointly set up a film production company and they implored investors to discard their step brotherly treatment of Bollywood and invest there, without fear or apprehension.

– The organizers of TiEcon shared the results of a quick survey that they had conducted amongst the VCs/investors about their perspective of the prevailing investment climate in India. The results indicated that the most popular investment segments in India at present are in the internet/mobile areas followed by the retail sector.

– If number of VCs attending the event is any barometer of the ongoing private equity activity in this country, then it’s fair to say that the venture capital activity in India is booming. I heard somebody joking, that there are more VCs at TiEcon this year than entrepreneurs! While that statement obviously is untrue, the fact is that VCs are increasingly playing a very active and constructive role in unleashing entrepreneurial activity in this country.

– The conference had separate sessions focusing on different phases in the life cycle of a startup – starting up, scaling up, realizing value and exit strategies. I found this format very well structured.

– Venture Capital firms are now initiating special programs to promote startup activity. It was very heartening to hear about the launch of the TiE-Canaan Entrepreneurial Challenge, a business plan competition that will promote early stage entrepreneurs. The event is being supported by INSEAD, Evalueserve and the Band of Angels.

– Day 1 of TiEcon featured a workshop cum mentoring session for selected startups. I did not attend this, but for those people who are actively seeking funding, this was a great opportunity to get help from VCs, experienced entrepreneurs etc. This special workshop was in association with Deloitte & Touche. It covered various aspects of how to develop an effective business plan for funding. It also had real case studies of successful entrepreneurs along with the VC’s who funded them.

The number of attendees at this year’s TiEcon was the largest that I have seen in the last three years. It’s a no-brainer to predict that this trend will continue in future as well.

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