Few Entrepreneurial Ventures that Spell Pure Romance.

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[Guest post by Sameer, co-founder of Ziva Software. He walks us through certain ventures that are purely driven by the love of what these guys want to do, not bothered about the venture money, market cap etc etc. Just pure romance, you see!]

There are businesses, and there are businesses. Some become big brands, some get into franchising, some are huge enterprise-driven cash cows.
My favourite kind of business is a little more romantic though – the kind where the passion of it rules – its size is almost guaranteed to be single-store or small otherwise because the energy and keenness it needs pretty much cannot be replicated. Its rarely the most profitable (in cash terms) but usually extremely loved and respected, and sustains. The brand is huge in its own niche, and its amazingly satisfying in its own way.
I’d place some of these in that category:

BOTS : Bums On The Saddle

Nikhil and Rohan are regular software guys who are passionate about bicycles, and dared to try and change the cycling scene in Bangalore on their own! They rented “space” on the terrace and built (by hand!) their showroom. They’ve got a lot many customers over the few hours every weekend that BOTS opens, and even more friends because of the amazing community they’re helping create. They participate in biking forums as riders, enthusiasts and also as people who sell Treks if you need those. The DIY workshops at BOTS, the biker-movie-nights, the wiki/FAQ for rentals, what bike etc, and the readiness and enthusiasm with which every question – even from non-Trek owners such as myself – is answered – is what differentiates their approach to business as compared to the Firefox Stations which also carry Treks. I would not say they know everything about bikes (though the fundaes collected and worked upon has grown to a formidable volume over time) – but they’re the most willing to learn quickly and even better, share widely.

GettOffUrAss
Santosh is more of a traveller and dreamer, but unlike the rest of us, has had the conviction and guts to follow up on these, and over the years, have seen him establish himself as a specialized, niche player in the travel space. He probably has more repeat customers (and even repeat non-customers like yours truly ;)) that most travel portals. He’s also having lots of fun, probably making decent money and growing business while keeping it really really close to his vision of what it should be. I would be surprised if any large travel outfit can even come close. You need to be a traveller/biker/dreamer to get this far, and the average cometravelwithus.com just does not cut it! No VC, no IPO plans, no projections. Just does what he loves, and that’s to get people off their asses and out there 🙂

Rainwater Club
This is now part of Biome – which includes Chitra Vishwanath’s efforts towards energy friendly, yet aesthetic architecture and construction.
I had interacted with Vishwanath about 6-7 years ago when we were considering implementing RWH for our apartment complex. Recently have  gotten to know more about him and the others who’re part of this when my wife started working with the Rainwater Club. His determination to  make a difference one little bit at a time, and the perseverance which has sustained the effort over years amazes me. Its not a not-for-profit venture, yet its focus is not profit. The impact, organizing the sector and its players, and defining a path for better water management is their agenda and given how critical water and energy management will become, its a great business to be in without being all “business-like” about it – if you know what I mean 🙂

Auto Service
Venkat Shyam’s love for all things mechanical, especially bikes, and his never-say-die attitude when it comes to analyzing issues makes him a pleasant surprise in the otherwise murky two wheeler service space. Add to that his willingness to help anyone and everyone on the fora he’s a member of, and his amazing innovativeness in running the service station be it customer friendly initiatives, employee benefits, or even helping out the parent brand with field level R&D, and to me he’s a great case study for biz schools – how to think like a world class org even at a small family owned business level.
He’s probably got more brand value than most big Auto Sales/Service chains in Bangalore or perhaps across India, and people have sometimes ridden down from Pune to get a decent job done 🙂

MapUnity
Ashwin has a very very different approach to startups. While I will not claim to understand it, its probably not about VC funding in the classical sense, 10x returns and exit options. He’s dared to create a very different model, build brand equity amongst the players that matter in the mapping space, learned how to work with governments and large organization without monetary transactions alone driving the relationship.

I cannot imagine how large orgs – an Oracle or a Reliance or an AirTel could ever hope to do anything like this. This is surely a beautiful form of entrepreneurship, and I hope to keep running into more of these examples. Keeps the enthusiasm going like little else.
Their passion, their dive-into-it attitudes and their honesty is very refreshing. Its not unsurprising that bums and ass are part of the names of two of the businesses I’ve covered 🙂 These guys are serious about what they do, but not everything is immediate RoI alone.

Or perhaps their definition of “Returns” encompasses more than what shows up in the next quarter’s balance sheets, and therein lies the “differentiator”!

What’s your opinion?

[Reproduced from Sameer’s blog.]

If you know of more such ventures, do let us know [editor at NextBigWhat.com]

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