Run your business with these apps

With clients across the world and in different time zones, Delhi-based chartered accountant Shitij Bahl, who runs his own taxing and accounting firm, needs to keep a lot of information handy on his phone when he’s travelling.

“You never know when I will get an urgent request from a client to see all their documents. The whole 30 MB of it,” says the 33-year-old. He relies on mobile apps to respond quickly and efficiently—Google Suite to organize team schedules and track projects; Zoho Invoice to send GST-integrated invoices quickly; and Dropbox, where he keeps all client data so it can be shared efficiently with just a link. If, like Bahl, you tend to travel on work, here are a few essential apps to keep handy.

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Ready to ride the startup wave?

If you want to start a company, this may be a good time to do it. For venture capital (VC) funding for Indian start-ups has increased by a whopping 261% in one year, according to a November analysis by PrivCo, a financial data platform that analyses business trends. Several factors are pushing this growth: India is now the world’s second largest mobile market, with over 900 million smartphones, and half of its 1.25 billion population is under 25.

“For everyone, from anywhere, with whatever background, it is the right time to start a company. The goodwill has never been this high, even from parents, who are no longer worried about who will marry their child,” says Harsh Shah, co-founder of Shopsense, a Mumbai-based company which works with retailers to help them enhance the shopping experience with technology.

“More and more start-ups are getting created by younger and younger people,” says New Delhi-based Varun Chawla, co-founder of 91springboard, an incubator and an early-level funder for start-ups. “The market is hot, there’s early-stage financing and increased capital.”

But there are some rules, some must-dos before you get set to ride the start-up wave.

Find a big problem

All sound businesses are based on someone trying to solve a problem. Zomato solved the perennial issue of “Where do I find a place eat around here?” Uber found that people had trouble finding taxis on the street and made it spectacularly easy to call one to wherever they were. “You need to ask yourself what is the problem you’re solving,” says New Delhi-based Suchi Mukherjee, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of, a social e-commerce platform for women. “Whose life will get better by the product you’ll create, are there enough people with this problem, and are you truly passionate about solving their problem?” The last point, the one about passion will help you get through the lows (and there will be many), she adds.

Other than passion, you need to be sure that the problem you’re solving is big enough to attract funders. “Nobody wants to place small bets,” says Sachin Gupta, CEO of HackerEarth, a platform where companies and programmers can connect. “Entrepreneurs who want to raise VC money must understand that they have to go after big markets.”

A lot of people are reading publications, articles, books, trying to understand what’s cool in the market and copying ideas from international markets. That may not be the best way to go about it. “You need to build value for your business rather than build a business for valuation,” says Chawla.

Be thorough with research

The idea might be spectacularly creative, but if someone has already worked on it, there is no point in going after it unless you can add to what is already being offered, or the market is large enough to absorb two players. Research and fine-tune your idea. If some aspects of your business are already covered by the market, outsource these and focus on other aspects. “It’s your magic sauce that will make a difference,” says Chawla.

“Before we fund a start-up, we always see how much clarity and focus they have on a real problem,” says Sasha Mirchandani, founder and managing director, Kae Capital, a funding company based in Mumbai which has invested in start-ups such as GreenDust and Myntra. “What unfair advantages do you possess? How determined are you? Is the problem you’re trying to solve real, does it have a potential for a large market opportunity? Why is ‘now’ the best time to for this particular business?”

Mirchandani, who has been in the start-up industry since 2000, tends to stay away from funding start-ups that are “US-clones”. He believes such start-ups are attracted by the ecosystem rather than driven by an idea, and may not be aimed at providing the answers to a compelling business problem which they are passionate about.

Devise a new plan

Business strategy, plan, road map, call it what you will, it’s the essential difference between success and failure. Devise a plan, deal with teething issues and continue to validate it till your product fits the market. “Until you get to a product-market fit, don’t waste your time trying to hire too many people or raise too much money, for once you do, going back and making changes becomes that much harder,” says Krishna Mehra, co-founder, Capillary Technologies, a Silicon Valley, US, based start-up that builds customized customer-driven marketing platforms.

Test your product

Ironically, one essential element that most start-ups forget about is talking to customers. “Once you have a problem worth solving, go and talk to a hundred people to validate and refine it,” says Amit Somani, managing partner, Prime Venture Partners, a VC firm in Bengaluru. It is this feedback, this refining of the problem, that will shape your idea, giving a unique touch to your business and making it harder for anyone else to copy.  The product needs to be validated by early users. “Launch a minimalist version of your idea in the market, experiment with a small group of users at a very low cost,” says Rutvik Doshi, director, Inventus Capital, which invests in early-stage start-ups.

Build a team

Most start-ups that fail are those which have one person trying to do everything. Dedicate yourself full time and build a team of full-time people who are committed for the right reasons. “Great talent is scarce and not having a great, growing team is one of the single biggest reasons for a start-up not achieving its potential,” says Shah.

Your team should have the right combination of skill and can-do attitude. “If you surround yourself with great people, you can go through the insane amount of belief, commitment, hard work and luck you need to succeed,” says Somani.

Take advice but follow your gut

Founders looking for advice and expertise can now find an active ecosystem in cities like Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai. “One of the reasons for the success of Silicon Valley is the ecosystem of people who have been around the block a few times and are now available as advisers, mentors, investors and senior employees,” says Mehra. Mehra sees this pool developing in India, and suggests that founders should make use of it.

Find advisers whose opinions you trust but, at the end of it all, listen to your instincts. “Sometimes you might get swayed too much by what investors or influencers have to say, but it’s you who runs the company and it’s you who should run it,” says Gupta.

Get the business in place

Most start-ups spend all their time and energy in building the product, finding customers and raising money, but forget to comply with government rules or set up the infrastructure. Take the time to sort things as basic as office space, reliable Internet, getting all the permissions and hiring an accountant, says Mukherjee.

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Meeting cheat-sheet: Apps to help take notes

Too lazy to take notes in a meeting? Switch on these apps and let your mind wander

If you feel it’s becoming more and more difficult to focus on that presentation and somebody might notice, press a button and rest. One of these apps will do the recording for you.


If you want an app with a simple design that is clutter-free and lets you do that one thing well, head to Dictadroid. It turns your Android device into a dictation machine. You can quietly let it work to record, take dictation and notes during a PowerPoint-heavy meeting. The app has the ability to record in the background or even while the screen is off. It automatically detects voice, gives you uninterrupted recording, and adds the date and time to the filename.; available on Google Play for $2.99 (around Rs.180)

The Sound Recorder

Meant for Windows Phones, this app can record in both stereo and mono modes. You can set it to skip the silences while recording, pause and then resume and copy the files into either the media library of your phone or upload to SkyDrive. The app works even when the screen is locked and indicates what decibel level it’s recording on, so that the audio is clear. If your battery is running out, the app automatically saves the recording done till then, before the phone shuts down. Windows Phone Store; free

Parrot Voice Recorder Pro

BlackBerry 10 users can opt for the Parrot voice recorder to record audio. The app is designed to record audio tracks and allows you to stop, pause or restart. You can also copy, modify or share your tracks through BlackBerry Messenger, email, Bluetooth, near field communication (NFC) and more. You can insert notes, photographs, contacts and GPS locations into the app, while the recording is happening. The Pro version ($2.99) gives you the ability to record phone calls, add password protection for recordings to protect your track lists, and import tracks into the app to manage them. BlackBerry 10; free
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Apps that mean business

Travelling for work? Download these apps to keep you on track

Are you the incessant air-mile collector like George Clooney in the 2009 Hollywood film Up In The Air? The kind of business traveller who’s more at home at airports across the world rather than back at home? If yes, these apps might help you reduce your stress and get some more work done on the go.


Want to chat and video chat on the go with your team? Head to HipChat, a group chat platform for teams. Other than allowing voice and video chats in groups, it also lets you screen-share, share files through a simple drag-and-drop interface and share code and ideas with your teams. You can have a one-to-one with a co-worker from the team at any point. If there’s a meeting on HipChat that you weren’t able to attend, you can see the chat history and continue conversations right where you left them. All communication through HipChat is encrypted so it’s safe for meetings. The best part? It runs on almost every platform.; free on iTunes, Google Play, Linux, Windows, Mac and the Web. In-app (or additional) purchase of the video-calling service costs $2 (or around Rs.120) a month


Mynd is a smart calendar which manages your time efficiently. Updated in July, the app syncs your existing calendars and then uses its adaptive machine learning to help you like a virtual assistant, getting smarter with every choice you make. The aim is to save you time, manage your goals, prepare you for meetings and get you from point A to B. You can dial-in to conference calls with one click; the calendar also coordinates a group’s meeting by proposing multiple meeting times. Every morning it will warn you of how long it will take you to reach work. It also syncs with your LinkedIn account and automatically discovers and displays information about the people you’re going to meet.; free on iPhone


Want someone to make an itinerary for you? Head to WorldMate. All you have to do is forward your flight and hotel confirmation emails to and the app converts it into an itinerary. Once your itinerary is made, the app will send flight alerts and if it perceives you’re going to miss it, WorldMate sends details of alternative flights to the same destination. You can share the itinerary, add more to the schedule and get a map view of your travels. Updated in July, the app also recommends hotels based on your past trips and personal preferences. The best feature is its LinkedIn integration, which alerts you if any of your colleagues are nearby for an impromptu meeting or dinner.; free on Google Play, iTunes and Windows Phone


Meant for managers who don’t want to keep decisions pending while they’re travelling, DocuSign lets you sign documents electronically and send them in just minutes to your team. Built on digital transaction management technology, which is a category of secure cloud-based software to digitally manage business transactions, DocuSign electronic signatures are valid and legally binding across the world…


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Supercharge for office

More and more people are using their cellphones as computers, and if you’re carrying a “computer” in your pocket, why not put it to work? A phone isn’t always a good replacement for a computer—good luck filling in giant Excel sheets on a 4-inch screen—but there are some ways in which phones can really simplify your work life, or just take a little of the stress away. We look at new apps that can bust work stress.



If you’ve ever had a day where you go in with 10 items on your agenda and end with all 10 untouched, then you need to look at this free app. RescueTime helps you track how you’re using your phone, and can be used to identify the major distractions that keep you from getting work done. RescueTime is a popular app on Google play, with over 700,000 downloads, and its iOS version is expected to launch in February. The app is simple—all you have to do is install it and it will run in the background. You go about your daily usage without having to check the app, and whenever you want to analyse your phone usage, just open RescueTime and you can see an efficiency score that helps you easily track your progress in cutting down on distractions. RescueTime will tell you which apps you’ve been using, how much time you spend on each, and will also track phone calls, so you know exactly how you’ve been spending your time—it even lists your top distractions. There’s also a handy stopwatch to use in meetings or during exercise.

RescueTime is free with some paid features at $9 (around Rs.550) a month, on Android and browser. The iOS app will launch in February.

Talygen Business Intelligence

Location awareness and being online all the time make phones a great way for employees on the road to check in with their office. Talygen is a paid app that helps employees manage all the paperwork without any paper, so they can focus on the important parts of their job. This tool is useful for small business owners who want to keep track of on-the-road employees or time spent in a client’s office. You can track billable time, work on customer relationship management, expense accounting, manage leave and many other administrative issues.

The app, launched last month, makes it really easy for your employee to check in on the go so that you, as the manager, save time tracking. Everything is organized on the cloud and the data can be accessed through the app. The data can also generate an advanced report which can then be exported into a PDF or an Excel file.

Talygen, $20 a month onwards, on iTunes, Google play, Windows Phone and BlackBerry.


Is your smartphone’s battery always dying on you? Install this personal Agent, a smartphone app which does little things to make your phone, well, smarter. The app runs in the background and saves the battery by automatically dimming the screen when your battery signals low, automatically silences your phone during meetings, remembers where you parked your car and puts your phone to auto-respond when you’re driving. It also allows only urgent calls or messages when you’re sleeping. The app is triggered by Bluetooth and it can also read your SMSes aloud or send automatic responses, or reply to a select list of contacts only. It was launched in November, and the makers are adding more features. “In 2014, the app will be able to call you a cab right before your next meeting,” says Kulveer Taggar, CEO and co-founder, “or pay for your coffee before you get to work.”

Agent, free on Google play.



Limitless is meant for anyone who wants to manage their time on devices better. The productivity tool, which works on Google Chrome, gives an update on how much time of the day was spent productively and how much of it on Facebook and Twitter. “We are a behavioural science company that helps users get work done,” says Anup Gosavi, co-founder, Limitless. “If the person has the desire to become more efficient in how they use their devices, Limitless can be the right productivity companion.” The tool categorizes the various websites you visited on your Chrome browser and differentiates with tags like work, social and other learning. At the end of the day, it shows you the percentage you spent in each of those sections. It also has nudges, albeit gentle, to get you back to work. Launched in December, the tool is still in its early stages, releasing updates and building up Limitless for Safari, Firefox and mobiles.

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