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Recession: Tips to start on your own
Atul Khekade, CEO, Airnetz Charter Inc.

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February 02, 2009

Atul Khekade, who began his entrepreneurial journey with Innovation Trip and with just $2,000 in his pocket, is the chief executive officer of Airnetz Charter Inc., a private aviation service scheduler that currently clocks a turnover of Rs 5 crore annually. Of course like all start-ups with stars in their eyes Atul too had his share of failures and challenges.

Here, drawing from his own personal experience, he emphasises that start-ups that began operations recently and employees who have been laid off still have hope if they want to become an entrepreneur.

The global recession has meant that large corporates worldwide are downsizing their staff, production and expenses. Even some of India's biggest companies have laid off several employees and might continue doing so in the coming months.

Agreed the economy is in bad shape. But remember great opportunities exist even if an economy is in bad shape. It is those who capitalise on these opportunities and sustain themselves even through tough times who will rule the economy in the coming years.

Folks looking to start a new business, Indian startups, small and medium enterprises, SMEs, need to look at the market in a positive way and find their way towards a great future.

Young entrepreneurs, start-ups as well as employees who have got laid off, should consider recession as nature's plan to bring fresh perspective and new motivation to the world. Future leaders are current individuals who believe in change, globalisation, new strategies and innovations.

The trick to survive is...

The problem we all face is that, when the economy is making very fast progress, the basics are forgotten. When it is the recession, it is about getting back to the basics.

1. Serving the basic needs

Imagine every individual has some basic needs like food, shelter, clothes, healthcare, travel, electricity and water. When market is cutting down their spending, basic spending is always going to stay the same; it just needs more cost effective solutions. 

Hence the opportunities coming out of the recession shall be: cheaper food, cost effective housing, cheaper clothes, cheaper travel and so on...

2. Using technology to scale

Technology is the way to scale. It is the technology that enables us to keep in touch with our friends. It is technology that lets us connect to millions of individuals, know and share information that would otherwise take years to reach -- with the cost that every common person can afford. Businesses not just need to consume technology, but also use it to reach broader audience.

3. Staying global, thinking local

Recession puts business models at test. Recession is going to demand reaching maximum audience for the same investment in production happening in the local market. Anywhere in the world, basic needs of people remain the same. The trick is serving global audience with the product designed for local audience.

4. Cost control with bootstrapping

Venture capital is going to be hard to find, one needs to bootstrap the business with very less resources and still be able to provide the best service quality.

5. Less liability, more utilisation

Trick will be to lessen the fixed costs of the business, so even if the sales get affected for some time, it does not put burden on the company's accounts.

India's core strengths

India has witnessed impressive economic growth in the last decade allowing India's youth to be equipped to take the recession head on. We have availability of all possible resources that shall help us to stay basic and simple and at the same time produce service and products of global quality at the lowest cost like:

1. Internet's reach to remotest areas

India's Internet infrastructure is a revolution. India has over 50 million internet users and increasing every year. Aggressive Wi-max expansion from companies like BSNL can quadruple the users in the next 10 years. This means that even the individuals from India's remotest regions can now showcase and offer their businesses to customers based anywhere globally.

2. Mobile telephony services

India has over 246 million cell phone subscribers. This number is only second to China. It is said that all you need to run your business is an Internet and a cell phone. India has both of that in abundance. Some cell phone carriers allow calling US and Canada [Images] at just Rs 1.99 per minute! Even if you stayed in US and bought a prepaid cell phone, it will cost you Rs 5 per minute for an incoming and outgoing phone call.

3. World class infrastructure IS THAT SO? I THINK NOT?

India has experienced the world's finest infrastructures. Malls, multiplexes, corporate parks, residential areas built in India are some of the best by global standards. Indians have already seen global infrastructure locally.

4. Global exposure of youth

Indian youth is travelling worldwide and serving customers already aware of the best global service standards.

Business opportunities in recession

In India: Food, power, water, education, local transportation

The Indian economy is not supposed to enter recession for the next 20 years at least. If one travels just a few kilometers away from our metro cities, you will find that people still don't have basic facilities like electricity for 24 hours, water and education. Businesses that produce green energy, water storage and supply basic education shall have a healthy future.

Globally: Cost effective travel, food, legal services, healthcare

India is still one of the low-cost places worldwide, which puts us in great advantage to be direct solution providers for countries with stronger currency and less qualified manpower. Companies that just used to work as contractors for outsourced work can now become direct service providers, giving the solutions at an even cheaper rate. Legal services and healthcare is a great opportunity.

A self example

Some examples below to show how the above strategies are given best shot (take from my company internally).

The bottom line is that India's youth does not need to get affected by the whole media hype about global recession.

The best opportunities are out there in the market right now and all one needs to do is find them.

The author is a co-founder & CEO of Airnetz Charter Inc, a pioneer in private aviation and online marketplace and GDS for the upcoming market of private aircrafts globally.

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