NetCore: Reflections

In November, it will be 10 years since I sold my Internet portals business to Sify. It has been a long journey. Even as I have spent a significant time in NetCore, I have made about 15 investments in early-stage companies as part of what I call the Emergic Ecosystem.

One of the disappointments at a macro level is the lack of scale that Indian companies have achieved in the digital space. That needs to change. And for that to happen, the thinking needs to be different.

In NetCore, we have both enterprise and consumer businesses. For a typical venture capitalist or external investor, this would be anathema. (Maybe, that is why I still don’t have an external investor!) But given the realities of India, it is very important to build multiple related revenue streams. The enterprise business creates a cash cushion and also creates business openings. It allows a company to go and talk to potential customers across other forthcoming streams. It also ensures that the management is not isolated from the market.

Over time, it will be the consumer-centric business which will create the large value. But for that to happen, it needs a technology, customer and cash base on which it can allowed to nurture through the years that it takes for it to achieve scale.

In NetCore, while we have had some clear long-term goals, we have had to adapt our interim strategies on multiple times. We have reversed business decisions because of feedback we got from the market. We have tried to make sure that we continue to focus on revenues and costs to ensure the gap between them is minimal ensuring business longevity. And as long as one is there in business, the new ideas and opportunities will keep coming. At those points, one needs to make bets on the path to take – which is not always easy.

The journey through the years has had many ups and downs – probably more downs, than ups. But that is the life of entrepreneurs and early-stage companies. I have always focused more on blue-ocean opportunities (“uncontested marketspaces”) than entering in existing businesses. Many a time, these decisions don’t pay off because one may be too early. With the coming Digital Services Operator business, I am hoping we are at the right time and place!

Tomorrow: A Brief History of NetCore