OUR JOURNEY TO THE FINALS OF SCG BANGKOK CHALLENGE AND THE H.R.H. PRINCESS MAHA CHAKRI SIRINDHORN’S SUSTAINABILITY AWARD

It all started at ISB in our Competitive Strategy Class Professor Aks has left us with a thought that “platforms will replace pipelines” and it stuck with me and I kept invested in that thought and started reading few articles and a book “The Matchmakers”.  It made me realize that my industry-Solar EPC, will also will be disrupted by a platform in the near future. Then I started to discuss the idea of building a cleantech platform with my colleagues Mr. Praveen and Mr. Dhiraj, and my classmates from ISB PGPPRO, Mr. Chandan and Mr. Sheshu, they all thought it will definitely give us the scale and scope to serve a large market and take the benefit of network effects and complementary services. We got together as a team and started with understanding  customer pain points, we did surveys of existing customers and potential future customers to find out the roadblocks in installing a solar rooftop. Thanks to our Marketing Classes, which focused on empathising with the customer and understanding the customer pain points. In early stages of our ideation came across an opportunity to participate in HULT Business Competition.  We applied for it but were not successful as we were trying to do too many things at the start- like both solar rooftops, electric vehicle charging stations, etc. This brought us to the reality to focus on creating the minimum viable product. We reiterated and made our business simpler with focus on using more technology and partnerships to solve customer problems on a large scale.

Then came the opportunity to participate in SCG Bangkok Business Challenge, our work in the last 3 months has helped us streamline our idea and make it a viable business model. We submitted our business plan and got selected in the internal round to represent ISB in the competition, later we took the advice of Mr. Shiv and Mr. Narvottam, along with our external advisor Mr. Goutham to refine our business plan and apply for the competition. 70+ Schools from across the globe and 20+ Teams from Thailand have submitted their business plans to be selected to the semi-finals, 5-top Business Schools from India were in the foray too. We had a long wait after submission for a more than a month and got to know the results on 20th Dec that we made it into the semi-final list of 19-teams and we were the only Business school selected from India. We were happy that we made it to the semi-finals but then started the real journey to make a good business model that is practical, feasible and viable to win the competition and taken forward as a business after it. SEAL department and Ms. Sumitha has supported us by providing mentorship from Mr. Anubhav Asthana, Mr. Arnab. It was a a great learning experience to work with Mr. Anuhbav and Mr. Arnab to refine our business model and plan, they helped us refine it further and helped us not get distracted by trying to do a lot of stuff at the start.

We later have registered our start-up as Amplify Energy Innovations and started operations, then came the opportunity to participate in Envision, an start-up accelerator event organised by Dlabs, the team at Dlabs has been patient with us and helped us pivot our business model and look at the idea of being an asset light platform, we adopted that thought and participated in the Dlabs Envision events, it helped us understand what the judges look at when we present a business plan, the feedback helped us prepare for the SCG Bangkok event and we met a lot of wonderful people from other start-ups and judges who liked our idea and offered help and advice. After Envision we sought the advice of Mr. Kiran Alla an ISB alum who helped us with few key suggestions on how to perform well in such business competitions, from his experience in representing ISB at competitions earlier and his expertise in energy sector. Before the competition we had a golden opportunity to meet Mr. Neo Kok Beng, professor for Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship at NUS during our international immersion. He helped us apply the lean business model canvas to our business model and tap the hidden potential of our platform by using the network effects and complementary services by studying the customer journey, the pinball strategy, customer value maps that he taught us have helped us show a differential in the competition and win. We met Mr. Jay Arya during the international immersion and had a 15- minute interaction with him, but the help he provided us in providing pinpoint feedback on each slide has helped us cut out a lot of non-value added items and refine our deck for the semi-final presentation.

Our journey at the Thailand did not start on a great note, it started with by losing the printed material for exhibits in transit, we had to run around at get them done in the last minute, as we landed a day earlier than the competition schedule. Our teammates Dhiraj and Sheshu were instrumental in arranging the exhibits in a short span of 8 hours. We had then participated in the Semi-final round and our idea was well appreciated by few judges, but we could not directly get selected to the Finals.. We had to play a play-off round, meanwhile the same day we were selected for sustainability round finals so were had to make 3 presentations on the same day, one in the morning and two in the evening.Sasin has been instrumental in organizing a feedback session with the judges after every presentation, so it gave us opportunity to learn the flaws or the know the better aspects of our business model where we must concentrate.  As we were drained out after pitching the presentation 3 times in the same day and were anxious about the result.  It was announced late in the evening around 8:30 pm during the networking dinner which means we had less than 14-hours for the final presentation due at 11:00 am the next day.  We met Mr. Sharma an Ex- ISB administrator who has taken teams from ISB for many global competitions. He advised us on how to take the questions from the judges in the finals and how to answer them, it helped us great deal to tough judges and their questions that were focused at challenging our business models.  Finally, on the final day we gave our best shot and all the other teams appreciated the way we dealt with the question and the impact of our business model. It has helped us win the H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s Sustainability Award and award for the best presentation in the group. Winning the sustainability award is a good start for our business which focuses on sustainability and clean energy.

Our victory is a cumulation of guidance, support and good wishes of all of them. We dedicate our win to the PGPPro Class of 2019 for rallying with us and supporting us in the journey. We thank ISB for the support and mentorship, it helped us do our part to make the school proud during our short stint here as student of PGPPro. We take this opportunity to thank our families who put up with our tight schedules for the last 4 months and supported us, by taking care of our needs as we worked daily for 2-3 hours after office hours in the ISB library and remotely to prepare for this competition, the learning was worth the effort.  (News Link – http://www.bangkokbiznews.com/recommended/detail/1229)

ABOUT THE COMPETITION-

The SCG Bangkok Business Challenge @ Sasin is Asia’s only global postgraduate start-up competition. Teams will not only be competing for the most prestigious prize of all, H.M. The King of Thailand’s Award that was originally kindly bestowed by His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama IX) and subsequently by King Maha Vajiralongkorn (King Rama X), The Bangkok Business Challenge was founded in 2002 by Sasin School of Management as the first such regional competition in Southeast Asia.  In 2015, the competition introduced H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s Sustainability Award to further highlight our conviction that social and environmental responsibility must be practiced by all businesses, whether they are social, not-for-profit, or commercial ventures. (Link: http://bbc.sasin.edu/)

ABOUT AMPLIFY ENERGY-

ONE-STOP SHOP FOR CLEANTECH NEEDS

We are building a technology enabled cleantech platform that will connect- customers, installers, financers, and manufacturers in a seamless way . We envision to  amplify cleantech implementation in India and other developing countries which are fighting the problems of pollution and climate change. We are currently offering solar rooftop solutions for residential, commercial and small scale industrial customers.

Problem

A customer  who  needs to install a solar rooftop needs to get in touch with- an installer, bank for financing, Electricity Distribution Company for Net-Metering, Manufacturer for warranties, Insurance agency, etc. which is  cumbersome .

Indian government has set a target of 40000 MW solar rooftops to be installed by 2022, but only 3000 MW has been installed as of 2018 due to four major roadblocks- High Upfront Cost, Lack of Easy Financing, No After sales maintenance and lack of incentives.

Market

The Indian market size to be served is $ 30 Billion (Rs.2,20,000 Crores) in the next 8-10 years. Our target is to serve 7% of this market in the next 10 years through our platform and amplify solar implementation in India.

Business Model

We are building technology enabled platform that can reduce manual intervention, time and effort to serve this large market. We are also enabling customers easy financing options from Banks, NBFC’s . Quick and Quality Installations, with long-term maintenance and incentives to produce clean energy.

“Easy Financing, Quick Installation and Incentives”

Website Link- www.amplifyenergy.in

News Links:

https://www.ryt9.com/s/prg/2962392

https://www.ryt9.com/s/prg/2959551

ARTICLE CONTRIBUTED BY TEAM AMPLIFY – CHANDAN, SHESHU, DHIRAJ & YASHWANT

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Pulling the plug

Now since am chugging along the path of becoming an entrepreneur (successful or not, only time will tell), I have decided to map my journey by sharing articles on how I feel about this whole process of transition of transformation.

I’d like to start by talking about how hard it was for me – to pull the plug from my daily routine and just get into starting-up.

Am sure a lot of us have thought about starting up at some point of time in their lives. Some have already crossed the line, some maybe in the process and some decided not to (prudent call perhaps).

I’ve been through this process of maybe/ maybe not, quite a lot of times myself. Have had countless of ideas that I’ve myself drained down for numerous reasons. Reasons sometimes as silly as – aah, this idea may not be liked by many, I don’t have a team yet, why get into the hassle when am getting a decent pay-check, what will my parents think about me becoming a gardener, no one will marry me.. etc.! Each time I did so, I only grew regret and discontent within me. More so when I realised others tapping into those ideas and turning them into million-dollar businesses of their own.

One that I regret killing the most is that of ‘campus-hustle’. It was to be an ERP tool for colleges that’d allow interaction of college admin, students and teachers on one common platform. Here’s a snapshot of what I was about to create with my small team of 3 people some 6 years back.

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I killed it only because I felt that there were many small players doing this back then and no one would be interested. But we all recently heard Charan (Stumagz) talk about Richard Branson being interested in such a platform (of course with bit more sophistication of blockchain thrown into it). There are many other bigger and more established players now in India, only because they saw the gap and went deeper.

I took all of this is a life-lesson and realised that:

  1. There’s always going to be a job that can give you more than what you are getting right now (don’t hold me for this statement as the CAC lead).
  2. There’ll always be someone already pursuing your business idea somewhere (cos you aren’t the only smart ass in town!).
  3. There’ll be always people telling you – dude, why do this, it will never work.

But you just got to do it at some point.

Hence, I did decide to pull the plug for my own sake. To begin with I first explained by idea to my wife and parents and they were all extremely supportive of me pursuing this on a full-time basis (to my surprise). I felt really good and confident about myself with all of them by my side. Next, I found an excellent co-founder in one of my own class-mates (Amit) who too is willing to take this up full-time, has the go-getter attitude, relevant background and skillsets complimentary to mine.

In order to remain steady in my head, I also decided to tell about this to all my friends and family – this not only helps with the marketing but also creates that social pressure of ‘you got no other option – if you quit, way too many people would think that you are a quitter” – learnings from Management of Organisation course – declaring socially.

So this time, I just have to do it.

Some may say that it is a risky call to have left my job before this reached a certain stage but my take was that the phrase “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” had made me highly risk-averse and all the analysis that I had done for my past start-up ideas had resulted in a situation of paralysis. I’d just like to follow my instincts this time.

Needless to say that am pretty anxious and scared of my call – this better work! 😀

linkedin, social icon Setu Goyal