Sunday 31 July 2016

#StartUpIndia - 10 reasons why India is already a startup nation

We all get ideas but only a few of us work hard to make it happen. A 'start-up' or a 'startup' does just that! The startups knowledge is not associated with money but with inquisitiveness to solve problems and pain points which will resolve the pain of a hundred others.

The foundation of startup lies in finding solutions and making an enterprise out of ideas. Startup founders are known for their risk taking abilities, adventurism and a problem solving attitude. New age startups are beyond apps and information communication technology. Well known Indian startups like Map My Genome, Practo and many others are making innovative breakthrough in the field of molecular biology and healthcare. Startups go viral in achieving social change.

It cannot be denied that we have a million problems, but we also have a billion minds and many more solutions. - PM Narendra Modi

India is already a breeding ground for startups. According to a Nasscom report, India is amongst the top five largest startup communities in the world. India has seen 4,200 startups come up in 2015 which resulted in 80,000 jobs. New jobs add to increased consumption that reflects a spike in India's GDP. India has already become a startup nation. In an event held at Vigyaan Bhavan,  New Delhi, the Department of Industrial Promotion and Policy launched 'Startup India - Standup India' campaign. Startup India is a flagship initiative of the Government of India intended to built a strong eco-system for nurturing innovation and startups across the country. 

10 reasons why India is already a startup nation

1. Startups means new businesses. During last year, 98,473 businesses were incorporated. India is known for large MSME (Micro/Small/Medium Enterprise) sector which has spread across many industries. App based IT startups are always in the news for series of seed funding. Startup India programme encourages startups in the field of agriculture, education, healthcare, etc. They are the expected to expand by handholding and incubation. India's angel investor have been investing in social startups like Arcatron and GingerMind etc. Relaxed RBI and SEBI norms mean great business for fintech startups.

2. The total funding by venture capitalists and banks in startups stand at $9 billion as on 2015, which is more than the combined GDP of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur, Sikkim and Andaman & Nicobar. 

3. Flipkart is the most valued Indian startup. The valuation of flipkart is more than the GDP of 13 Indian states and union territories. Flipkart's Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal were named into Forbes billionaires list. Flipkart's Indian rival Snapdeal is valued more than Vedanta or GSK. Flipkart and Snapdeal are selling huge range of products including real estate, jewellery and automobiles. For delivery to the last person, these e-commerce giants have tied up with India Post.

4. India is home to 5.7% of the world's unicorn startups that are valued at over $1 billion. India's unicorn startups houses are Flipkart, Snapdeal, Ola, PayTM, Quickr, Mu Sigma and InMobi.

5. Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd has become the world's largest startup with the investment of Rs 1,50,000 crore before commercial launch. The telecom giant will be launching 4G service soon. Jio has also launched live TV, music streaming, cloud storage and payment services in digital app space. Home grown Patanjali Ayurvedic Ltd reached historic Rs 5,000 crore turnover in just 4 years since launch. Patanjali is the fastest growing FMCG company with turnover close to major brands like HUL, Colgate and Dabur.

6. In 2015 itself, 17 finance companies received funding of over $290 million; making this one of the most funded sectors of the year and also one showing great promise. With relaxed RBI guidelines in relation to payments bank, this is a new avenue for startups to innovate. 11 companies in the B2C commerce space received funding to the tune of $3.3 billion, which also means that over 33 per cent of the funding last year was in B2C companies and over 50 per cent of these were Unicorn startups.

7. In adherence to Startup India campaign, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan have come up with startup policies. Kerala has decided to invest one per cent of its budget for entrepreneurship. Various MBA colleges have started incubator programs in campuses. 4 more IITs will have research parks on the lines of IIT Bombay and IIT Madras. 

8. Startup Village in Kochi and Vizag plans to incubate more than 1,000 startups in next 10 years. The Startup Village angel fund of $10 million is approved by SEBI. Startup Village is also known for India's first 1TBPS high speed internet.

9. International acquisition were seen in last two years. Facebook acquired Little Eye Labs and Twitter acquired Bengaluru based Zipdial.

10. #StartUpBudget - FM announced StandUp India scheme for SC/ST entrepreneurs with Rs 500 crores corpus. Every banking branch in India have been mandated to at least fund 1 SC/ST entrepreneur or women entrepreneur. Income tax exemption for startups for its first three years of business operations was also announced.

The focus of the #StartUpIndia is to create an ecosystem to establish innovation based startups to increase employment opportunities and overall economic development. The StartUp India action plan showcases benefits such as single point of contact, easy clearances, app helping to register a company in a single day, three year income tax exemptions etc.

Failures are a stepping stone to success. Winding up a company would be possible in just 90 days. It will motivate aspiring entrepreneurs to take risk. Steps like Self Certified Clearance, No government inspection for 3 years, easy patent registration, and development of incubators would add impetus to entrepreneurship.

From red tape to red carpet, #StartUpIndia directly reflects in ease of doing business. is of view that by 2020, India may become the largest start-up ecosystem in the world. Startup India, Stand up India!

- Chaitanya Kulkarni ( )

Monday 18 July 2016

The benefits of longer life cover in a term plan

Insurance plan is an important factor while planning for the future. It ensures that under all circumstances your family continues to maintain their lifestyle and meet their dreams as well as aspirations. It is essential to ensure that loved ones are provided for incase an unfortunate event of death occurs to you.
Term insurance plan is the purest form of life insurance. They are cheaper and are available online at your convenience. A term plan fulfills the need of security. It provides the policyholder with an opportunity to select a specific period for policy tenure. The sole purpose of a term plan is protection and hence, term plans only provide death benefit.
This means if an unfortunate event of death occurs during your policy term then the life insurer will pay a tax-free lump sum amount to your loved ones (Nominee) which will help your family members meet their needs without any significant financial hardship.
A term insurance plan could pay off a mortgage or help in your kid’s education in your absence, ensuring financial security for years to come.
One of the prime compensations of term insurance protection is its lower initial cost in comparison to long lasting insurance plan. With this insurance plan, you’re generally just paying for the risk cover provided by the insurer, you pay an annual premium of few thousands and your beneficiary will receive a lumpsum amount which is way higher than what you pay. For example, if you pay Rs 5000 as a premium for a policy term of 30 years and a sum assured of Rs 1 crore. If you calculate the total amount of premium you pay is only Rs 1,50,000 for 30 years but the life cover you get is Rs 1 Crore.
Term insurance protection is often an ideal choice for people in their family-formation years because they are cheaper and it allows them to buy high levels of protection when the need for protection is often greatest.
So life insurance is a financial tool that will assist you in meeting your overall need of protection. As with a lot of financial questions, there is no right or wrong answer. Term life insurance is typically the best option in most circumstances. Term online insurance is absolutely the right product for anyone with dependents, responsibilities and liabilities. The premium amount you pay is directly linked to your age and hence, it’s better to buy a term plan when you are younger. Keep in mind that if you are healthy enough to qualify for a competitive premium, then your life expectancy will be longer than the term period. Therefore, you should consider a term plan that provides a longer life cover. Also, in the last decade, life expectancy has increased to 8 to 10 years. So if you have taken a term insurance plan till the age of 60 or 70 it may not serve the purpose and the premium you were paying for all these years will not reap its benefits.
It is recommended that you take a longer life cover up to the age of 80. Also, if you realize that you need to extend your life cover later in life, it is possible that you may not get your policy issued due to health issues which may occur later in life and even if it gets issued it will be really expensive because obviously your age will increase.

Wednesday 13 July 2016

Deposits on shore - A visit to VV Mineral, TN.

I often go to the beach to unwind. To listen to the waves splashing on the Marine Drive promenade is a bliss. It is monsoon. Families flock in on weekends to enjoy the beach splashes. Local fishermen gather around to catch crabs that splash in bundles. Some fish...for caviar. One such evening, made me smile to see a beggar in all smiles as he caught some juicy crabs for dinner. A rich one...I thought. As he packed and left merrily I could see the riches our oceans deposit!

Not just spices and silk routes, India is bestowed with a coastline of 7,500 kms. One such rich deposits are sand minerals. India has a vast source of beach sand minerals along eastern and western coast. Our deposits contain heavy minerals like ilmenite, rutile, garnet, monazite, zircon, and sillimanite. According to a geological survey, India accounts for 11% of global beach sand mineral deposits and are scientifically categorized as Rare EarthIn India, major beach sand deposits are found in the Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. This gift of nature has built successful industries and has offered employment to thousands.

Never had I ever thought I would have an opportunity to write about Rare Earth in India… I thought. Although a few days ago, I got invited to VV Mineral; India's largest manufacturer and exporter of garnet, ilmenite and sillimanite. Established in 1989, VVM is the first private company in India holding granted license for Mining and Exporting of Ilmenite from the Government of India. They have reached far across to achieve significant market shares in Europe, Middle East, East Asia, Australia and the USA.

VV Mineral has won the contract for 40 km stretch in India, thus resulting into a huge annual output of 700,000 metric tonnes of heavy minerals which include Garnet Abrasive, Ilmenite, Zircon, Rutile, Sillimanite and Leucoxene.


Garnet Abrasive is mainly used for Water Filtration, Sand Blasting, Water Jet Cutting, Surface Preparation and other applications.

Ilmenite is mainly used for manufacturing Titanium dioxide pigment. It is used in paper, plastic and airline industries. Recently, mobile manufacturer have also started using titanium for durability and light weight.

Rutile is mainly used for Welding Electrode and by Titanium metal and pigment industries.

Zircon is used for the production of opacifiers, glazes and frits, floor and decorative tiles, sanitary ware, glass and steel refractory, metal castings and specialised glass. Also, Sillimanite is used in refractories.

Monzonite can be used for nuclear reactors. In India, Monzonite is used in detergent chemicals, Colour TV tubes, florescent tubes etc.
I was glad that I had a chance to visit their 40 km beach mining area near Thisayenvillai next to the Kudankoolam nuclear plant. This is a natural beach and is being mined without causing any ecological harm. Garnet and other beach minerals is procured through manual labour. VVM believes in maximum rural employment and has the total employee strength of 3,000. The workers at VV Mineral use eco-friendly agricultural tools to procure beach sand minerals. One of the first processes is Sun Drying. 
They believe in using the power of sun instead of industrial dryers which adds up to their green initiative. Then, the beach sand is further processed in the nearest mineral separation plant. At VV Mineral, the used water is filtered and then used for agriculture and pisciculture. The left over sand is then scientifically dumped back at the beach.
What I saw at VV Mineral is making the most of out of basic science books with a sustainable business plan strengthening rural employment. People from nearby villages are employed and trained well. This not only adds to the rural employment but to the total number of skilled labour as well. VVM has a substantial potential to increase rural employment which in the end adds to India's GDP. People from the weaker financial background are empowered with active CSR campaign. VV Mineral is today a global brand in beach sand mining.
The beach sand mineral industry has the potential to feed India's ever increasing industrial and clean energy. It can be great impetus to a variety of industries like water filtration, Paper production, Plastic, Aeronautical machinery, Nuclear power generators. Ministry of Mining has taken positive steps to boost rare earth mining. The newly introduced mining policy will cut the time companies need to take permissions for exploration and allow them to receive royalties. In order to counter China, India plans to auction 100 blocks of mines. Beach Sand Minerals could in turn encourage local manufacturing of defence products, electronic equipments, textile etc. India has the potential to contribute 50% of world's production. Locally produced minerals for local and global manufacturing would account to PM’s #MakeInIndia campaign.

-Chaitanya Kulkarni

Saturday 2 July 2016

Inside the cosmos of the Tetees Koti

Madurai; the Athens of the east! It is a 2,500 year old city which is a 200 km drive from Thisayenvillai. On reaching the destination, first had a quick darshan at Meenaxi Amman temple.

'Tetees koti Deva', I uttered. It means Hinduism believes in 330 million gods. I was in a sheer awe of this magnificent architecture. A million gods braced the gopuras all the way up to its peak and I just stood there glaring at the vastness of our culture. A million colours, a million eyes a million hands...the cosmos had come alive.

The namaskaram bronze sculptures: It felt like a bunch gods were worshipping the goddess Meenaxi.

The Cholan age was one of the greatest period in Indian Art.

This picturesque walls of the temple narrate the epic in different forms.

Shiva the Shepherd

As Michael Wood in his documentary 'The Story of India' puts it, this is the one of the greatest master piece of metal castings in the world.

Shiva or Siva became identified with countless local cults by the sheer suffixing of Isa or Isvara to the name of the local deity. In this instance it is Sundareswara. The hunter gatherer form of Shiva is the patron deity of the farming and herding castes in India.

This metal caste idol shows Shiva as the herdsman leaning on Nandi (Shiva's bull) which hasn't been found. The fantastic details of human anatomy are evident on these sculptures. The Shiva wears a turban of snakes and a tribal girdle.
The consort of the goddess Parvathy, Shiva's wife is standing besides. A classic image of the Cholan or the south indian beauty. They also flaunt stretched earlobes which is still practiced and considered as a symbol of beauty in many African tribes today.

Some of the features of the 'Silpa Sastra' or the Science of Sculpting is evident is Madurai even today. According to the Silpa Sastra the bronze idol makers do not use any of rulers for measurements. Their measuring device is a paper or leaf that can be folded in 9 sections viz; head, chest, waist and so on. The local metal casters still prefer using bees wax for creating a model and metal is then casted.

Every civilization has the idea of how their god should look like. This version of Shiva is a dancer.

It is wonderfully laden with symbols. The drum in his right hand; he beats while the creates the world. The fire in his left that will destroy the demon of ignorance.

The hall of a thousand pillars is another architectural marvel of this temple. It has around a thousand pillars with carvings on each pillar. There is a Temple Art Museum in the hall where icons, photographs and drawing ageing about 1200 years are kept for display. 

Just outside the hall are the Musical Pillars. Each pillar, when struck, produces a different musical note.
It not only is a temple of the goddess but also of art and architecture. A louvre of sculpture indeed!

As I came out of the temple, I suddenly felt like I'm back in my own timeline. Back to present world, heading to my hostel. Well, what do you know...the auto-rickshaw (tuk tuk) guy charged (please read looted) me Rs. 100 for 3 km. Ghor Kaliyug!

Finally, I reached 'Vedanta Wake-up'; my hostel in Madurai. Vedanta Wake up is the hostel chain in South India. They have more than 10 hostels in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka but surprisingly their corporate office is in Gamdevi, Mumbai. Here's a pic of my room. The place is neat :)

Checked in my room and found my roomie Balaji. Balaji is a consultant for water preservation, UV process for industries. He is guiding Britannia as they are expanding their plant. I went out for a food expedition with him. Found a local sweet shop and ordered Mysore Pak, Kaju katli and Badam milk shake for 50 bucks, only. It was damn good! I hope Mumbaikars learn something from the southies.

Later in the night, I met Tamilseran and Mani from my hostel. They are entrepreneurs and own a company in Chennai which works in industrial automation. We chatted on our professions, tamil movies. The long day ended as we raised our toast to backpacking with bottles of Royal Challenge (premium whiskey for TN ) and Idli from Sri Krishna bhavan. As always, hostelling rules!

- Chaitanya Kulkarni

#TICVacations - Something new to learn

Thoothukudi, a town in south Tamil Nadu is where I was. Popularly known as Tuticorin is a port and thermal power plant. There are hardly any tourist places in this part of Tamil Nadu. I was invited to this sleepy town for bloggers meet. It was me and Rajdeep (journalist) accompanying me to the plant of VV Mineral.

VV Mineral is the India's largest manufacturer and exporter for garnet, Ilmenite and Siliconite. These beach minerals are used for electronic and nuclear purposes. My stay was scheduled in GRT Regency approx 10 mins from airport. Like the city, the hotel was lonely too and only had business visitors. VV Mineral bloggers meet was to start early at 7am. I woke up after a series of alarms to find out that I'm running 10 mins late already. Quickly packed my bags and ran to the restaurant below only to have the worst tea of my life. Protip - Always ask for Kaapi.

We headed to the plant in Srivaikuntam, 25 kms from Thoothukudi. We were welcomed by the mining division.

Here I was looking at the product I had never thought I would get a chance to cover! 'Rare Earth' as a topic seems complex but VV Mineral has successfully built a giant industry employing around 3,000 employees across the state. I was witnessing a successful model of rural employment at VV. The mining officer showed us around the plant and explained how Garnet is Illeminet is extracted. The manager made the complex machinery and processes look as easy as if it was from our 8th grade physics books! They have used eco-friendly processes and have brought the cost down.
This also contributes to the idea of 'The ease of doing business'.

Later that day, we went to Thisayenvillai which is the corporate headquarters of VV Mineral. The town is situated near to Kudankulam nuclear plant and the mining department accompanied us. The road to Thisayenvillai was scenic but the road conditions were bad. After a rough ride, we reached to a beach near Thisayenvillai. This 40km beach is rich with minerals and is used for sand mining activities. Garnet, a mineral, is produced on this beach sand 3 meters above. Thus the bottom layer is silica (sand) and top got it right... Garnet. Needless to say it is also well maintained by VV Mineral.
The soft beach sand and blue waters were calling the swimmer inside me. Being a Mumbai lad, it was enchanting for me to see clear blue sea water.

And there we were having fresh coconut water on this scenic beach. This part of Tamil Nadu is famous for Chettinad cuisine. There was quite a spread for the non-vegetarians. I enjoyed my chapati, dal and curd rice. The bloggers meet was concluded and had Madurai next on my list.

- Chaitanya Kulkarni