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Uhooroo.com Founders – Vinay & Bharath

1 December 2008 2 Comments

Hi All,

Its my pleasure to introduce you all to the Uhooroo.com founders Vinay & Bharath in this edition of Coffee With Sundar.

Coffee With Vinay & Bharath – Founders of Uhooroo
Me: Sundar Rajan G S
UF: Uhooroo founders

Me: What is Uhooroo all about? What is the business model? who are your target audience?
UF: Uhooroo provides a platform for Indian Musicians to showcase their talent, get feedback from the community, collaborate with other independent musicians and find an audience that is interested in their art form.

Our target audience falls into two categories:
(1) Indian musicians
(2) Listeners who are interested in exploring the emerging Indian Music scene.
For musicians, Uhooroo provides opportunities to develop collaborative relationships and feedback from a knowledgeable audience.
With a huge and diverse talent pool, we have plenty to offer to the Indian Music lover as well.

Now, coming to your question on business model. As a rule of thumb for web services, it is hard to achieve monetization in any meaningful sense unless you achieve scale. Having said that, at this time, we are focused on scaling to the next order of magnitude of user-base and engineering the feature-set that is going to help us get there.
This could potentially take a year or more. That’s when we will roll-out our monetization plans. What we can share is our opinion on what would not work for Uhooroo. Incidentally, our previous stint was into music services and selling indie-music. It was DoA.
We had pitched the idea to several indie musicians, and also to a few investors, and it was clear that paid mp3 downloads were not the primary need/focus of indie-musicians. Likewise, it should be clear from the Indian startup ecosystem that consumers don’t pay for non-essential services (essential services would be property sales, matrimony, etc)

Me: What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture? How did it all begin? What are some of issues you faced, the progress you made etc during your early days?
UF: We come from a systems engineering background. One of the needs we felt as engineers on a day to day basis is being able to come up with an invention that had an immediate and recognizable impact.
For most intents and purposes, enterprise products tend to be pretty stable and driven into maintenance mode by the customers need for something that “just works”. The work we do as systems people more often than not is analogous to making a light bulb burn just a little brighter (in other words, systems engineering represents continuous innovation).
A well engineered and properly targeted web-based product on the other hand can be seriously disruptive.

Building an enterprise product from scratch usually requires a sizable team and VC investment as a prerequisite (neither of which we have any real shot at). On the other hand, a web based product could be built by a couple of dedicated engineers in a few months’ time.
These contrasts between enterprise and Web products are what led us to leave our systems background behind & a give web-dev a shot.

The inspiration for Uhooroo came from Vinay’s experience as an amateur musician. He wanted to get feedback on his vocals and electronica mixes and could not find a web-based community that offered the kind of feedback and cultural identity that he was looking for as an Indian musician. Additionally it was increasingly clear that it was difficult for musicians to compete for attention on existing platforms (YouTube, MySpace, etc). If one spends any amount of time on MySpace for example, it becomes immediately clear that it has become too crowded to be useful in any sense to any musician.

As with any entrepreneurial experience, ours was (and we admit, still is!) fraught with self-doubt. Keeping each other motivated as we struggled to release and gain traction was a challenge. The ability to spend a significant portion of one’s life working on something that may never pan out requires a certain amount of foolishness (in a good way).

Me: How do you find people to bring into your team? How big is the team?

UF: Apart from the two co-founders (Vinay & Bharath), and our designer (Nikita), we have an intern, and 2 part-time developers who have started helping out on the development front. All team members are people who we know personally or have worked with in the past.

Me: What is your typical work day like..? How many hours do you spend on Uhooroo?

UF: Work cycles have been quite bursty. Back when it was just the 2 of us, we remember times when we spent 70-80 hour weeks (including our day jobs), and even took “vacations” to meet self-imposed deadlines. Now that the team has expanded, and each of us has a core expertise area, and enough breadth to help out on other areas as well, we have time to think about strategies finally.

Me: How do you define success? Both in personal life and in terms of Uhooroo

UF: Our metric for success was defined at the outset – create something that a large number of users find useful. Each time a user writes to us saying we have done precisely that, it represents a quantum of success.

Me: Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most in this domain?

UF: Amie Street. They figured out how to price Indie music and their answer was simple – let the market price it.

Me: If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?

UF: Vinod Khosla – arguably the greatest venture capitalist of all time for his proven ability to answer the all important question –
“What’s next?” You don’t have to be dead to be of historical importance πŸ™‚ Mr. Khosla had a ringside view to the role the Internet played in the history of the 1990s.

Me: Is there any thing else you would like to share with CWS readers?
Bharath: If entrepreneurship is what you dream of, then snap out of it and get down to business! Don’t wait for the perfect idea since ideas tend to change over time anyway. Write your first 1000 lines of code – you never know what you may end up with!

Vinay: Figure out what your key take-away is from any venture (money, fame, passion, innovation, community service, or some weighted combination of these or other parameters). It’s easy to “stay foolish” if money is not your top goal.

Me: Thank you very much Vinay & Bharath for sparing your time and sharing your experience with CWS Readers

Comments

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2 Comments »

  • saif said:

    Some more clarity is needed on distinction from other such sites like Muziboo for instance,which describes itself in pretty much the same way.What is the USP of this site .
    Still the UI and layout is impressive and better than others.

  • Ram said:

    It is quite interesting. If one gets into the music industry, it would be evident what the frenzy there is like. If all goes well, Uhooroo could become a self-publishing site for music. With a strong community and digg like features, they can quite well compete with established labels. Lets wait and watch.