MandE: Thanks Nithin for accepting to come down here, for this interview. I would like to begin the interview with a brief background about you and then explain about what you company - Transitainment does.
Nithin: I am basically a computer engineer, Graduated from NITK Suratkal in 2007, and I worked for some time in product R&D with National Instruments. Post that I completed my MBA from IIM Bangalore. It was after the MBA that I decided to start something on my own. Right now I am running a start up called ‘Transitainmenet Ventures’. We are focused on the travelling consumer. A lot of people now are spending an increasingly large amount of time commuting to work and they are really not doing anything during that time. So we thought of accessing this customer while they are travelling and do interesting things around it.
MandE: You just told you “decided” to start off, was it that you all of a sudden decided to start off or you always nurtured the aspiration to start off?
Nithin: I think everyone in India has an aspiration to start a business of their own. Rather than a question of “If”, Its more a question of “when?” A lot of people have reason that this is not probably the right time to start; I will do it later, when I have some money and when I am more secure etc... My reason was very simple. At this point of time I really don’t have a lot of personal commitment and the hunger is there. Also India is growing market now with tremendous opportunities everywhere. Very soon get a lot of these opportunity will get closed up. Right now there is a lot more room to do funky things. You go a decade later and I think the number of opportunities would be much considerably less than now. I maybe wrong, but I guess if it helps me keep my mind clear, so be it.
MandE: I understand that you started off from a personal angle of saying it is ‘NOW’. How did you team receive this? How did you go about forming your team that way?
Nithin: When I started really? The idea hit me in a bus. When I was just going around in a bus, I was really bored and I saw the other 50 people in the bus were just staring into the blue sky. I said there is something here.
Then, we thought “OK, In that case, What can we do around it?” and we discussed it out. But then the current team that we have now is different than the team we started off with. Lots of things happen and the team kind of evolves over a period of time. Right now, what we have is a well evolved team I would say. It had come together in a process of time. The team I don’t think happens one day or overnight - It never does. A lot of conflicts of interests happen and it needs to mature after sometime, interests have to align. So it takes some time, for us I think it took about six month to eight months. That is when the team actually came together
MandE: So how did the team actually evolve?
Nithin: There were three guys actually to start off with. There was me, and there were two other people from IIMB. When this idea came in they also got interested and they said there were some people whom they knew who could pitch in. Then we started working for some time and technology was kind of evolving. As the technology evolved, what I did was I got a lot of people with whom I worked with, I went to my school with and went to my college with to informal chats about the idea, during lunch, dinner etc..I wasn’t asking if they would join. I was just getting their inputs. You kind of involve people, they also evaluate your idea, and you also get comfortable with them. So this is kind of how we evolved.
As I said everyone has an aspiration to be a part of something exciting, It is just a question of finding the match. So more you can talk and more you kind of work with people, the more chances that you hit the right people . That’s exactly what we did.
MandE: Fine, That’s one part of it the puzzle, So the next one is the money part it. I understand that your business is an extremely different kind of business - in terms of it being extremely innovative, So I see that money would be a challenge. So how did you go about fixing the money aspect of it?
Nithin: Money… humm…I have a belief that early stage business in India, the early stage finance ecosystem in India is not very well developed.
I think it’s got be the interest rate arbitrage. In the US, it’s a 4% reign, or it’s really a 0% reign and in India it’s a 10% reign. All these banks and VCs etc have access to capital from the developed nation, where the expectation of returns is very low. When it comes to India, even if you put the capital in a risk free bond you get 10%. So what happens here is that you have access to alternate lower risk investments, where the VC industry can actually make money from. So the money that actually trickles down to early stage start ups, which are really high risk high returns kind of a game, is very low. So there are very few players around. It is more or less the incubation centers in the IIMs, IITs etc and some small funds that are around. So we are kind of working with a few people right now. I don’t think the change will happen immediately in India, it will take some time.
MandE: With the Money aspect taken care of let me get to the consumer aspect of it. Could you talk about the end consumer of your platform and the intermediary that comes in your business? How did you about acquiring in that?
Nithin: That I think we had much less problem here because the need was there. When you are travelling you are really stressed out and really wanted do something.
But in our business, you will have to build partnership in multiple places. But that it was much simpler than what we thought it would be. You go and tell a story, the value proportion, in a simple crisp manner.
But the real deal in this start up is not getting the one customer, it is really getting the entire partnership going together. You go and sell to one guy one story, to another guy another story and third guy another story. But the only person who knows the entire story is you and you got to put it together in a manner that everyone is happy, that is when the value is created.
MandE: Ok, So that covers the 3 portions of any of business you can think off – the money, the people and the paying customer. Let’s get to saying what the biggest challenge is that you faced in the way you formed the business. Being around 10 months old what are the big challenges you have faced?
Nithin: The first thing is that the wind blows in some direction right? Currently the wind is connectivity. You are on the Internet – everything is connected. Our business is kind of disconnecting it! Our business is to disconnect it and make it cheaper. Disconnect the content purely from a delivery point of view and make it cheaper.
The technology is not really not going with wind per say. We are challenging lot of thing. It will take a lot of time for people in the ecosystem to omprehend. It’s the same thing for everybody. When Flipkart started, people said that ... e-commerce is dead etc, noone saw the larger story of what they were trying to do. There is a certain amount of conviction that you need, in your idea, in the thing you are doing.. Its also imp not be bogged by someone telling you that the story is not right. Because he/she is not supposed to understand the story, only you are, the complete story atleast. And if the story is that obvious people would’ve done it already .It is a nice dichotomy actually: “if there is an obvious business around, I don’t think there is business there, because someone has done it already.” and if there is no obvious business around, then lot people will oppose you. So the very fact that a lot of people are telling you and opposing you means that you see something that they don’t. And if you see it, that’s where the value is. That is where the challenge really is, You have to be that convinced, you have to be head strong sometime, that stubborn sometimes, and tell that ‘NO’ this is there - kind of thing. You will finally find the partners it will just take time.
MandE: How are you going about the vision that created for your company? What is the vision, If may I ask you that way?
Nithin: The vision is really is, we simply started with a need and vision is really not the technology. Our vision is still the need, that – “go and engage the travelling customers” that’s it. A person, who was travelling now is doing nothing - engage him. That will reduce the stress and it will make travel all the more comfortable and it’ll increase the quality of living. It will make money for everybody. That is the real value we are trying to create. In Technology we are doing multiple things. And I am pretty sure that technology will change. We cannot stick to one technology. We say stick to the customer and do whatever possible to engage the customer that’s it. That’s our motto.
MandE: That is pretty interesting. If I may ask you, what is your biggest inspiration to start off that way?
Nithin: I really don’t think that’s hard! It’s Money really... You know finally everyone wants to make a lots of money and retire early and all those things. that is always there. But then also things like working for your own. There is lot of fun in doing something, that actually challenges you that much. It is extremely challenging and mentally exhausting – this start ups. You are fire fighting everywhere and at the same time fighting a lot of people… There is a natural high there.
MandE: What would you like to tell to any aspiring entrepreneurs?
Nithin: “Stop aspiring start doing” that is the only way of starting anything - People can you tell you hundred different things. The fundamental thing about a start up is that you need to do something different. The moment you are following somebody you are doing something wrong. You are not doing justice to entrepreneurship. Just start and figure things along the way, its good fun.
MandE: Thank you Nithin for taking time for the interview thank a lot.