Monday, November 03, 2008

The Startup Village

I initially thought I would live in Calcutta when I first came to India. A guy a friend met on elance met me at the airport and booked me into a hotel with paan stains in the halls (which I thought was dried blood) and a whole coven of crows picking thru a massive pile of garbage outside. It was a hard landing, but when I found Sutter street and the Blue Sky cafe things turned around.

In my initial hardcore backbacker tour I experimented with how cheap could survive. In calcutta I got a room in a hotel for 100 rps / night and found several food places where I could get a meal of subji and roti for under 15 rps. Including internet time I figured I could live on $100 / month which validated the $200 my friend was paying developers over here which seemed absurdly low.

Downtown Calcutta was great, the people I met there were smart and passionate - "Calcutta is the heart of India" they would say. I still believe if you multiply the two functions of educated work force and low cost of living they may have their minimum in Calcutta.

But I got sick. To be fair it wasn't entirely Calcutta's fault. Traveling by Tuk Tuk thru Bangkok probably got me started. But after a few weeks with a chronic cough that would rack my lungs for several hours before I could sleep, I decided that no amount of professional ambition merited destroying my health.

I added 'nice lifestyle' to the equation and found my way to Pune which when seen from the tree canopied lanes of Koregoan Park seemed to have the best life style - high tech professional opportunity - low cost of living. Its undeniably an awesome place to live - especially for the urban jet set that can take advantage of the 5 designer bars offering 400 rps martini's that have sprung up less than 1 km from my apartment in the last few years.

But, it maybe alittle too Manhattan now for the average Indian bootstrapping startup.
A 2 bhk is now in the 25 - 30k range, and worse than just the price is simply that they are hard to find.

With the dream of getting underway, and some other conversations I'm having about 2bhk training I'm looking around again for where those curves come together but with one more parameter - capacity. As I picture my ideal scenario its a massively over built housing society on the edge of town a few km past Koregoan Park where rent is cheap and there is 20% vacancies in a society of 300 units.

Some very new construction fits this description like Sun City and Margapata with rents around 8k, I'm guessing we can find something slightly older at 8k. Assuming we shared a cook I estimate for a startup working from home would cost
rent 8k
food 8k
electricity 1k
internet 1k
misc. 2k
~ 20k / month or 1 lakh ($2000) for a startup of 4 guys to operate for 5 months.
How hard would it be for even a very junior team of 4 guys to pull in 20k / mo just bottom feeding on rentacoder ? The exciting thing about this for me isn't that its possible to pull off once, its that if there's a model here that works, if a team of 4 junior engineers earning $500 a month is easy, then I maintain there are an almost infinite number of 4 man teams available, and the 2 bhks to house them, in one medium large housing society on outskirts.

The possible drawback to making this move for me is the lack of culture and more importantly Il Fungo Magico green salads that exist further down Nagar Rd. But, if we can make a movement, and coordinate a decent number of cool startup kids all moving together, we can quickly create a new tech center, with a high density of interesting people to support each other and at least one cook who really knows how to make a good salad.


Sheel said...

isn't the question how do you keep them together? My sense is that people always try to go on to the new bright shiny object in India.

Avibhasha said...

Hey Freeman, great to see you are trying to start up your project in the vicinity of Koregaon Park.

I lived there for a year and some months and looove the much so thinking of returning.

Have a friend in Pune who may be able to help you with projecting cost-efficient ways to do business there

Interested in your project and would like to find out more...

email me please its

you can find out more on

hope you get in touch



Ekagra said...

This is exciting. Very exciting and this can be done. We can do this.

-AG (Heardmabout you from Soumya)