Five key lessons you missed by not attending #AIT17India

By Anju Edgar, Head – Communications, November 2017

If you have missed #AIT17India, this blog… is not going to help you much. You aren’t going to learn all that we learnt in one week just by reading a blog. However, if you’re interested in knowing the gist of AIT’s top five offerings, read on. This might even inspire you to attend our fifth edition, next year.

We had 28 participants from Switzerland and India sign up for the week-long, intense training camp to transform themselves from researchers to entrepreneurs. From industry interface sessions to interactions with investors to learning the legal aspects, the camp offered a holistic view of their entrepreneurial journey ahead. However, there were some key elements they learned that prepared them for the long haul, which as per the participants “were something they’d have never learned elsewhere”.

Let’s take a look at the top 5…

  1. Product development is only half the battle won

So you have an excellent product. Great! But that alone won’t help your startup survive and thrive. You’ve spent a lot time on your research. Now it’s time to focus on market research. A strong business plan, with a vision to sustain and scale up is imperative.

The training camp offered insights to various aspects like commercialization, IP & Legal rights in India and hiring the perfect team for a startup as well offered a peek at the co-working spaces available.

  1. Be pitch-ready, all the time

Listening to 28 business pitches for 5 days isn’t quite enjoyable. We agree. But when it prepares you to pitch your idea to a spectrum of audience from scientrepreneurs to inverstors to journalists to laymen, you know you’re ready for the next level.

At AIT India 2017, we made every participant pitch-ready by bringing in experts who could provide critical feedback and by throwing surprises at them (rather shocks) like having to pitch without a notice, or in less than 3 minutes. With the aid of the experts, the participants were able to significantly transform their pitches in a span of 5 days. We could quite confidently say that they can now deliver a perfect pitch even in their sleep.

  1. Don’t underplay your competition

It’s important to believe in your startup and its ideas. But it’s equally important to be aware of the competition in the market and their offering. Startups often downplay their competition, especially while pitching to investors. However, that’s never a good idea. Investors keep tab on the market and have a clear idea on the potential of newly emerged startups.

The key is to differentiate yourself from the competitors without downplaying them. Focusing on your USP and the added value you could deliver at attractive price points would have a better chance in gaining the confidence of an investor.

  1. Customer is king

This cliché phrase is indeed debatable in today’s entrepreneurial world. While the marketing gurus school the followers on the importance of treating your customers as the single-most priority, there are brands like Apple that prove the opposite. But let’s get back to the startup world and look at the core reason why we exist? To create and keep customers.

So while the world debates over whether customer is king or not, let’s try to be unquestionably customer-focused. There’s a market exploding with options and you need to be ‘the’ choice of your customers. Understand their evolving needs, behaviors and customize your products and services accordingly. In short, the most important voice that you have to pay attention to, is your customers’.

  1. Patience can take you places

So you have an excellent product, a solid business plan, your USP and a strong customer-base in place. Almost everything on your ‘entering India check-list’ completed. But are you ready for overcoming the hurdles ahead? The truth is that you’ll never be completely prepared as an entrepreneur. The key is to be patient and to overcome the challenges thrown at you, at every phase of your journey.

For example, India is a price-sensitive market and you’ll need to meet the demands of the value-conscious customers that might not boost your profitability immediately. Entrepreneurs need to be patient, offer value, gain market share and then reap the benefits slowly yet steadily. Always remember the market size and potential than the immediate rewards. Also, there are plenty of options where you can cut costs such as the ‘Make in India’ initiative which is a big boon towards reducing the manufacturing costs.

The AIT India Camp didn’t paint a rosy picture of ‘starting up in India’. We offered a glimpse on the challenges, unfiltered. We also offered insights into the sea of opportunities in India. It’s up to our researchers-turned-entrepreneurs to choose the best fit. For our Indian participants this has been an inspiring, empowering camp. For our Swiss participants the camp has certainly changed their thinking from ‘why India’ to ‘why not India’.

The ten Swiss participants and the selected ten Indian participants will take this journey forward as they meet in Switzerland in April 2018, for the Swiss leg of AIT. We’re not winding up, we’re awaiting more success stories…

Interested in knowing more about this one-week intense training camp? Follow #AIT17India on Twitter.

About AIT

The Academia-Industry Training (AIT) is a joint initiative of the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI), Switzerland and Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India. AIT aims to support scientists in transforming their high-level applied research into market application and discovering their entrepreneurial potential. By connecting scientists from top institutions in Switzerland and India, the program promotes an international network and enables access to one of the most promising markets and intellectual capitals in applied research.

The program is mandated by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) to ZHAW ‘Leading House’. It is co-organized with venturelab, swissnex India, Department of Science and Technology (DST), SINE IIT Bombay.