More and more startups are riding on technology and using it to their benefit. Learn how to do it in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
Starting a machine-tool venture as a 17-year-old would have posed its share of problems for Rajkot-based Sanjay Tilala, the founder of Jay Khodiyar Machine Tools (JKMT). The company is into manufacturing briquetting machines. Briquettes are a biofuel substitute to coal and charcoal and are used for heating industrial boilers to generate electricity from steam. The business is product intensive, leaving Tilala little room to offer his output far and wide.
Cut to two decades later, Tilala now gets about 50 enquiries a day through his website. Such has been the power of the web that Tilala says: “We are successfully promoting our business through the Web and are finding takers from across the globe.” Web presence has become a norm for any business. What is driving businesses to have a website of their own is not just the digital presence, but an extended distribution arm that costs less. Take the case of Delhi-based Saurabh Mathur and Jigyasa Makkar, founders of Motorpaneer, a web-based recommendation engine for new car buyers to make smart choices. For them, building a website was at the crux of their startup.
Says Mathur: “As a designer-developer team, it was hugely helpful to have most of the skill sets required to develop the product in-house within the founding team. It made conceptualisation a lot easier, since we found ourselves instinctively coming up with ideas that we mostly knew we could execute as well.”
Driving down costs
Tech giants like Microsoft, Google and Amazon provide startups in the software-based product or service space with technology infrastructure to start and grow their businesses. Startups can use cloudhosting platforms that are on offer to build and run their websites and create other applications. Says Rajinish Menon, director, Microsoft Ventures, India: “Startups utilise the cloud to host their solutions, provision various services and service their customers more effectively through a pay-per-use model, which enables them to grow more on a tight budget.” Some of these services are also available free for technology startups at initial stages. Amazon lets startups use the AWS Free Tier for a year. Startups which are part of accelerators also get free limited usage credits from Amazon and Microsoft for an initial period.
The benefit of reach
The Great Indian Adventure, a travel company, has used GoDaddy to set up their website and reach customers globally. Says Pranav Chandra, 33, managing director: “A website is akin to online real estate. It acts not only as a storefront for your business, but also helps attract relevant customers and get recognition.” Says Rajiv Sodhi, managing director, GoDaddy India, “In the age we live in, for any business to service its customers and grow, it is very important to have a digital presence.” A question that often gets asked is the need for a website in the era of social media. “Social media cannot be considered as an alternate for websites,” says Dhanasekar Mani, founder and CEO, RedWebDesign. in, a web-design company, and HostingRaja.in, a web hosting service.
“Your website acts as a 24x7 sales and support person and most people want to know more about your company before doing business with you,” explains Mani. Companies that want to build a website for their offline business, but are not necessarily into building web-based applications, can use services of Internet domain name registrar and web hosting companies. There are three main steps you should consider: Buy a domain name, pick a hosting service and use an application to create and manage your website content. There are many service providers like GoDaddy who make these steps easy for a startup and offer bundled services starting from Rs. 99 per month for the first year. Local players such as Hostingraja.in also have different packages to suit a startup and their needs. There are also some free options available for startups in their initial stages. India Get Your Business Online is a Google-led programme that offers a free domain name, a free easy-to-build professional website and free hosting to start-ups for a year.
“Know your Internet freebies and use them liberally but walk away in favour of a paid alternative when a free resource takes too much time and effort to implement,” advises Mathur. Having a web presence for the sake of being there does not pay off in the long run. But with a clear objective of what the site would do, you get the benefit of an additional revenue stream to support your current business.