About Me

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Mumbai, India
I run an IT Security consulting firm based out of India. We started off from scratch in 2001 when I was 21, and have offices in Mumbai, Bahrain, and UAE. The idea behind the blog is to share the stories of how we run the business, the deals we make, the deals that break, the heartburn, and the sheer joy.

The Ultimate Startup Guide

The Ultimate Startup Guide is an e-book that provides answers to all your questions related to starting and growing a business in India. Everything you wanted to know about entrepreneurship in India from ideation to registration to marketing to hiring. The book contains a large number of practical examples, anecdotes, interviews, and motivational material to help you get started, and to grow rapidly in a booming Indian economy. If you've got the idea, this book will help you through with the execution and realize your dreams. Here are some of the key questions you will find answered in this book:
  • When starting a business, what are the legal issues involved?
  • What form of incorporation is better suited to which type of business?
  • What tax issues are involved?
  • How do I start a business and what are the pitfalls?
  • How do I market my business in the absence of significant funding?
  • How do I get funded?
  • What are the basic accounting concepts I should be aware of?
  • What is a business plan and how should I build one?
The brief table of contents of the book is as follows:
  1. Getting started
  2. Ideation
  3. Forms of Enterprises
  4. Funding
  5. Basic Accounting and Taxation
  6. Import and Export Licensing
  7. Trademark and Patenting
  8. Rules for NRIs and Foreigners
  9. Building a Business Plan
  10. Marketing on a Shoestring
  11. Website and Branding
  12. Women Entrepreneurs
  13. Templates
To order the Ultimate Startup Guide - email me at kkmookhey@gmail.com.

Details of the book are:
Title: The Ultimate Startup Guide
Author: Kanwal Mookhey
Pages: 150
Additional: Companion CD contains numerous templates for building your business plan, calculating cashflow, preparing profit and loss, and balance sheets, preparing invoices, your resume and profile, marketing material, websites, contracts, and many other useful and motivational material.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Asian Women Entrepreneurs Fair

This seems to be an interesting event - the 3rd Asian Women Entrepreneurs Fair. However it is being held in Bangladesh, and seems a slightly politically hued event (what with a Minister for Commerce and Water Resources inaugurating. But very much a step in the right direction. If nothing else it would be an excellent platform to network and grow business. I wonder if anything of this sort happens in India?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Communication disorder

This article by Wired News laments the sorry state of affairs with regards to our ability to communicate. While cellphones and emails have increased the amount of communication we do on average, it has greatly killed the art of communication. A survey quoted in the article, conducted by Yahoo! and OMD shows that the average family is doing 43 hours of multi-tasking work in one day!

Look all around at the emails and SMS's we receive and the horrible spelling and grammar of it all. And how frequently people will end up chatting on IM with someone who is in the very same room! I hate it when someone who could have picked up the phone and spoken to me about an issue would rather send me an email or worse still chat with me on IM. Chatting has to be the #1 communication killer, especially when other options are easily available.

While email would ensure putting things on the record, I'd personally prefer the following order of communication:

  1. Meeting in person. Especially in business, a face to face meeting can have far greater positive outcomes than simply email or phone communication. It is quite likely that a client or partner may be more convinced about doing business with you if you go visit them than if they have only spoken with you or emailed you.
  2. Phone call. It is extremely tedious at times to give an explanation of an issue over email. And how often do we feel tempted to resort to emoticons to convey the emotion behind our message, even in formal emails. Because very often the text of the email simply fails to communicate the tone of the message. Just pick up the phone and talk! There's nothing like the sound of a human voice at the other end of the line to change the way the other person perceives you.
  3. Emails. Compared with the blasphemy of doing business or personal communications over SMS's with their 160 character limits, I'd prefer email any day. Also, when doing business internationally, emails are one of the best means of communication, unless you use Jajah.
  4. Chatting. It's cheap, but it's horrible in terms of actually getting one's point across. While I might be mid-way through answering the first question, the other party is already onto their next point. Grammar and spelling are usually the first casualties.
Sidenote: The one mode of communication that simply defies logic is the scrapping that happens on social networking sites such as Orkut. Intimate, personal conversations all out in the open, and a nightmarishly clumsy way simply to keep track of conversation threads. Maybe I am a bit old-fashioned, but send me an email instead of a scrap...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Review: Bootstrapper's Bible - Seth Godin

In one word - brilliant!

If you're starting off a business from scratch, or struggling through the pains of keeping your overheads low and competing with the big guys, then the Bootstrapper's Bible by Seth Godin is for you. It's available free for download here.

Some gems from the book:

  • A brilliant idea will kill you. Go for an idea that is likely to make you money, not necessarily something that you personally think is great. He gives the example of the Inc. 500, which is a list of the fastest growing small companies, and almost all of them are bootstrapped, and many of them are in boring, mundane lines of business (the #1 company makes toothbrushes).
  • Don't get too caught up in trying to become a Bill Gates or a Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs. What may have worked for them is often an exception to the rule. While their business models get all the hype, very few people can actually replicate them.
  • Focus on sales and advertising. Often entrepreneurs - including yours truly - focus on the services and the products, and shy away from marketing. Personally, I have always felt I am really bad at marketing (so my next big challenge is already staring me in the face), and so haven't focused on meeting customers and pitching to them. But the importance of this is simply too great and very often overlooked by bootstrappers.
  • Get a mentor. And some pretty cool ways of going about getting mentors and dealing with them so the relationship doesn't go bust.
  • Ideas for calculating your cash flow. Based on what you've been spending and earning in the past 9 months. And the best point about getting credit from suppliers instead of trying to get money from banks or loans from family/friends. Very neat!
  • Just start! Don't plan so much that that's all you end up doing. Go out there. Get in front of customers. Talk to partners and vendors and peers. Get your idea into execution, even if you're holding onto your current job. Whatever you do, don't just sit around waiting for the right time, the right idea and the right execution plan. As Goethe apparently said, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
The only downside would be that he doesn't directly stress the importance of practical things like search engine optimization or partnering with the right companies to get outsourced business. But at a strategy and thought-process level this book hits the mark.

Entrepreneur success story - Javed Habib

Most of us in Mumbai who may have opened Page 3 of the newspapers could not have missed reading about Javed Habib. With his long list of celebrity clients, he is the most prominent face of Habib's hair and beauty enterprise. Started by his father, they clocked a turnover of Rs. 10 crore (USD 2.2 million) last year, and are planning for an IPO in the next fiscal!

They already have salons - many of them through the franchisee model - not just all over the country, but also in New York and the UK. They also have their own training institutes to teach the stuff. Amazing, how far you can take something as mundane as a hair-cutting salon.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Why ethics makes good business sense

Another corporate scandal - this time at one of the more respected companies - HP. As the story goes, HP found out that one of its board members was leaking confidential information. They hired private investigators to find the source of the leak, and probably gave them carte blanche. What the PI's then did was to impersonate the directors and obtain telephone records and other personal data on seven directors, nine journalists, two employees as well as family members of those targeted individuals.

To add insult to injury, the HP board simply dithered over taking any concrete action once the scandal was outed. And even before that when they knew that the PI's had overstepped the line by a big margin.

Now, Patricia Dunn who headed the board and oversaw the investigation has been asked to resign, and Mark Hurd has taken over. Hurd then comes out with a statement on the scandal, which has some real gems in it:

"I understand there is also written report of the investigation addressed to me and others but I did not read it. I could have, and I should have."

A director is implicated as being the source of leaks. A high level investigation is launched. A written report of that investigation is available, and Hurd says he knows about the report, but didn't read it!

"In, I believe, February 2006, I was informed by the investigation team that they intended to send an email containing false information in an effort to identify the source of the leaks. I was asked to, and did approve the naming convention that was used in the content of that email. I do not recall seeing nor do I recall approving the use of tracer technology."
What's naming convention?

He refused to take questions about it later on.

While pressures from Wall Street, venture capitalists, customers and employees always creates an emphasis on results, when those results come at the cost of corporate ethics, you know the truth will out someday, and the shit will hit the ceiling fan. Even now, HP should have made a clean breast of the entire situation, given that they're going to have to answer a Congressional committee on the same issue, and more "facts" will come tumbling out.

If nothing else, ethics in business makes sense because you know that the fallout from the truth emerging into the public domain will probably create a far greater loss than the gain you are looking at. In HP's case, they were of course motivated not by financial gain, but from the eventual cost of sensitive information being leaked out. The question that begs to be asked is which loss will be greater?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Charan Gill - curry tycoon brings Scots to India

Chanced upon a very interesting rags to riches story - Charan Gill landed in Scotland with nothing to his name, and worked long hours at dockyards, before getting an apprenticeship at a restaurant. As the story would have it, he started to manage a franchise of that restaurant chain, before branching out on his own, and making his millions with a 16 chain restaurant with a turnover of £12 million.

Advertising tactics included finding a guy called Rick Shaw, and having him make deliveries in rickshaws! Also, having curries delivered by chopper.

He sold off his chain last year, and has now started a new venture to promote Indian markets to the Scots.

Also worth reading should be his autobiography "Tikka Look At Me Now". Proceeds from the book sales will go to the Harlequin Charitable Trust. Very cool stuff, I say.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

All right, so give me something I can actually buy!

For a car enthusiast and constant traveler, the one thing that hurts me most about India is the sheer lack of variety in the cars that are available for purchase. Add to that the exorbitant prices that most cars are at, especially when compared to the prices the same models command in other countries, and you begin to really feel you've got a bad bargain.

Let's take the Honda Accord for instance. In India, a standard Accord is priced somewhere in the Rs.16-17 lakhs range, approx USD 40,000. If you add in all the options, and road tax and insurance, you end up at a bit under USD 50,000. And suddenly you feel (quite rightly) that you've bought yourself a high-end car. Globally though, the Accord is a mid-range car usually priced at USD 20,000 to USD 25,000. Or the Mitsubishi Lancer, which in India is again somewhere at the upper end of the mid-range cars along with the Corolla - USD 20,000 I think. We were recently looking at a car for our Middle East office, and a brand new Lancer comes in at approx USD 12,000 - that's about Rs. 6 lakhs - almost half what it would cost in India. The same goes for other run-of-the-mill models such as the Skoda Octavia or the Ford Mondeo, which are considered status symbols in India. For God's sake, all the taxis in Dubai are Camry's!

And now comes news that Audi has launched its drool-worthy Q7 priced at a whopping Rs.61 lakhs or USD 140,000! Enough to dry up your throat for a pretty long time.

And that's only the pricing saga. Look at the sheer lack of car models on Indian roads. Where are the cute Peugeot's? Or the Mazda 6? Where're the two-door sports cars? I mean do you expect me to buy sedans, when I should ideally be buying a sleek two-seater coupe?!? Even Hyundai hasn't bothered with its Coupe, and neither have Honda, Ford or Toyota. The least they could have done is offered coupe versions of their already popular models. So one wouldn't have to pay a foot and an arm to guys like Dilip Chabria and look like wannabes in the bargain. Or end up only dreaming of the super-sexy
Mercedes SL-class roadster, which comes in at a cool USD 200,000 only, if you please.

I now live in a constant state of mortal fear that I'll be hitting a mid-life crisis when these models actually become available and affordable! Sigh...just give me a good car, with a price that makes sense. I am already paying a pretty penny for fuel.

PS: I have been informed through reliable sources that Harley Fat Boys will be available within the Rs. 3 lakh price range. Anyone know more on this? Though the cynic in me says that this might be just another case of a multinational dumping obsolete, slightly remodeled, renamed vehicles.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Starting young, really young!

Here's an interesting article about three young Brits who've started their entrepreneurial journeys really young.

Jake Lunn is 10 years old and has an online business selling customized napkins to yacht owners. He's saving up money to buy his own yacht some day.

Oliver Bridge, aged 17, sells large-sized shoes at Biggerfeet.co.uk

Sarah Green, aged 20, sells furniture online and turnover is expected to hit £400,000.

What is noteworthy is they all bootstrapped their business, and their offerings are primarily online, although sales are of actual goods - napkins, shoes and furniture.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

You know you're in Mumbai...

Back home after a few weeks, and feels good. You know you're in Mumbai when:

  • You're out driving, and it's all nice and sunny, and in two minutes it begins to pour and everyone is scampering. And then two minutes later the scene is exactly the same as it was earlier, except everything and everybody is now moving through a sheet of rain
  • You have to meet a friend who lives on the other side of town, and both of you whole-heartedly agree that it is best served by taking a local train instead of driving through evening rush hour.
  • You have to attend a friend's wedding with three elaborate functions, and your friends and you are conspiring to get away by attending only the reception. Mostly because of work, but also because if we attend just the wedding, that's all right too, yes?
  • When you have to navigate half a dozen rickshaws, two BEST buses, random cyclists, and twenty pedestrians just to get into your office lane.
  • When out of any 10 random conversations in the day, the probability that one or more of the following topics will be covered is very close to 1:
    • The stock exchange, and the latest hot stock tip
    • The situation of potholes on the roads
    • Which movie is playing, and what's the latest Bollywood gossip. Not that I care, but did you know that Dia Mirza is seeing Kunal Kapoor!
  • You don't hesitate before calling people up on weekends, cause hey if I am working, so should he!
Ah, good ol' Mumbai...