Home / Companies / Start-ups /  ‘What may not appeal to you may appeal to the larger audience’ out there for whom it’s built’

—Mohit Gulati, managing general partner, ITI Growth Opportunities Venture Fund

On paper, the excitement of the next 600 million-plus internet additions to India’s landscape was an opportunity we were keenly evaluating. This was before the catchphrase, Built for Bharat, existed. As a team, we met a host of entrepreneurs trying to cater to this market with unique product offerings, including vernacular language e-commerce and ed-tech solutions.

We came across a social-commerce-cum-gaming platform in Hindi that rewarded a user based on the time spent by answering questions on current affairs and Bollywood trivia. The founder came from the heartland of India and had a great understanding of his target audience, which was essentially all users who had time, including housewives, and watchmen. As much as we loved the early traction on the app, we just couldn’t spend enough time on it because of a user interface that was cluttered and in native languages. This made us believe that the technology team wasn’t good enough to pull this into a large, full-blown social platform, leave aside the commercial side of things. Needless to say, we passed on the deal. However, soon this decision came back to haunt us.

Today, the platform is one of the largest in India and is seeing a healthy amount of e-commerce transactions. Our learnings from this incident are that we should never judge a book by its cover. What may not appeal to you may appeal to the larger audience for whom it is built. Technology is constantly in an evolution phase. We, as venture capitalists, need to get our call on entrepreneurs, who can build or buy better technology constantly, right. For a founder who had reached out to me via InMail, this was the most unlikely of misses that I could ever have imagined. From that day, any and all pitches that come to us are analysed in detail before replaying with a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. We are also on #whatsappbusiness account for more efficient communication with all potential entrepreneurs who reach us. These learnings remind me of a quote by the Spanish philosopher, Jose Ortega y Gasset: “For the person for whom small things do not exist, the great is not great."

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