It was a mini festival at India’s financial capital Wednesday, as more than 1,500 people flocked to Santa Cruz to celebrate the spirit of entrepreneurship, innovation, and startups at the very first edition of TechSparks in Mumbai.
Day 1 began with YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma taking a trip down memory lane—calling this occasion her ‘homecoming’. After all, YourStory originated in this City of Dreams back in 2008, a time when startups and entrepreneurship were neither cool nor mainstream.
Pretty much setting the tone for the day, this tinge of nostalgia rang through several key sessions as Mumbai’s innovators and disruptors took the audience on a journey of highs and lows, successes and failures, and shared their learnings across decades and challenges.
In the first session—a fireside chat with Shradha Sharma—Harsh Jain, Co-founder and CEO of Dream11 and Dream Sports Group, recollected how people refused to take his ‘dream’ seriously until the fantasy sports startup raised its Series C round. “People would tell me, so you’ll join your dad’s business next year.”
But the first cheque wasn’t an easy task as Jain reminded the audience how he was rejected about 150 times before Kalaari Capital and Think Investments decided to get on board in 2014. According to Jain, getting one ‘yes’ from an investor could take many years, “but once that happens you will find yourself being chased by almost every venture capitalist”.
The rest is history. Today, Dream11 has more than 160 million users. And the startup has raised around $1.6 billion in funding so far from marquee investors including Tiger Global, Falcon Edge, DST Global, Kalaari Capital, and Multiples Equity.
Jain announced the company was setting up an innovation centre in New York in collaboration with Columbia University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science to advance research on new-age technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.
After a healthy dose of fantasy sports and Jain’s passionate list of reasons why entrepreneurs must see Mumbai as a key hub for innovation and entrepreneurship, Neeraj Roy, Managing Director, Hungama Digital Media Entertainment, took the stage. A strong supporter of the up-and-coming Web3 segment, Roy spoke about the company’s bets on the sector, and preparing its customers for a “more immersive world”.
The veteran entrepreneur had a few words of caution too. A survivor of the dot-com bust, as well as the 2008 recession, Roy advised startups to not look for capital only from a valuation perspective. “Value comes before valuation. If you are building the blocks right and filling the need gap in the most disruptive market, capital will always be available to you.”
With TechSparks in Mumbai, the financial capital of India, it was only natural that the discussion veered to the most-talked-about asset in town: money. In a fireside chat with Shradha Sharma, Dilip Asbe, CEO of NPCI, emphasised upon the vast opportunities that lay ahead for the organisation, adding that while the last few years hae seen the Indian fintech space grow by about 50 times, there was potential for another 50X growth.
Dilip Asbe, Managing Director and CEO, NCPI
“The way IndiaStack is going global, fintechs should aspire to go global too,” Asbe said. “They are already building in India, and now they can build on similar platforms outside as well.”
He added that India was inching closer to processing 1 billion digital transactions a day, and NPCI was already preparing to handle 10 billion daily transactions.
“When I first spoke about a billion transactions per day, we were 37 times away. But now, we are around 3.3 times away, which means we are much closer now,” he said.
Speaking of money, Sridhar Sankararaman, Managing Director at Multiples Alternate Asset Management, and Nitin Chandalia, Managing Director and Partner at Boston Consulting Group (BCG), took a deep dive into the funding winter and how startups could survive this chill.
Emphasising on focus, dominance, and value, Sankararaman—who is an investor in Delhivery, Dream11, and PVR Cinemas—said 2021 saw multiple startups begin new lines of business to grow into the higher valuation they commanded, taking away from their core business. “Focus creates dominance, dominance creates value,” he said, encouraging entrepreneurs to focus on their core business and profitability.
Adding to that, Chandalia called 2021 an aberration in terms of valuations on offer, as well as the volume of deals, saying that early-stage dealmaking had slowed down. The startup ecosystem’s growth-at-all-costs mindset had clearly taken a backseat with founders as well as investors focused on growing at a steady pace, he said.
Dia Mirza, actor, investor, and Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Environment Programme, and Nandita Sinha, CEO of Flipkart-owned fashion company Myntra, brought girl power to the stage as they joined Shradha Sharma to discuss how they had overcome male-dominated workplaces and were now empowering women professionally.
“For instance, when I got married, under the supervision of a woman pandit (priest), it evoked curiosity, as well as an inspiration among others. And, yes, priestesses exist, even though it’s rare,” Mirza said.
Today, 50% of Myntra’s customers and nearly 40% of its leadership team are women. The Flipkart-owned firm also empowers over 350 women-led businesses, growing 3X faster than other businesses, added Sinha.
On offer at TechSparks Mumbai was also a dedicated Web3 track, packed with insightful conversations around blockchain technology, its use cases in enterprises, the impact of the metaverse, how Web2 companies are leveraging Web3, and much more.
At TechSparks, YourStory and The Decrypting Story also announced a partnership with India Blockchain Forum (IBF). The two parties signed an MoU to collaborate on bringing corporate and enterprise innovation leaders together to ideate and figure out best practices, identify use cases, and celebrate success stories of digital transformation involving Web3.
There’s a lot more in store as an action-packed Day 2 is upon us.
For our full coverage on TechSparks Mumbai, click here.