India is well on its way to becoming a thriving haven for startups. With the Prime Minister’s focus on boosting entrepreneurship in the nation, to several silicon valley biggies now focussing their hunts for the next big thing in India the country is brimming with the enterprise.
However, over the past few years, this growth has largely been restricted to Tier 1 metro cities. This is about to change and fast. There’s building an even spread of startup ventures across smaller and lesser known Indian cities. Be it the rapid public infrastructure development, enterprise incentivization or a digitized economy, entrepreneurs are surely realizing the perks of starting up in non-metro locations. Even in Tier 4 towns and remote Himalayan locations.
4Play is one such startup that is leading the bandwagon for starting up in an off-beat location. Co-founded by Anuj, Kshitij, and Sukrit, 4Play operates from Manali – a quaint hill station in the upper reaches of Himachal Pradesh. The team had initially set up shop in Delhi but soon realized the prohibitive cost of real estate and day to day operations, in the nation’s capital. Not wanting to put money into sunk costs and rather utilize it in getting better talent and refining their product, the trio decided to move to Manali. And it has proven to be a blessing in disguise ever since.
Savings on Real Estate
In Manali, the company’s operations are held out of a 15 room facility set in an apple orchard. Space is divided between living and office space and the entire team is housed in the complex. The Hoffice, as it is called, also offers a common kitchen and dining area, and an open workout space fitted with a rock climbing wall and other training tools. This the founders divulge, is easily at one-sixth of the cost it would’ve been in Delhi for a similar sized facility. And even then they wouldn’t have the views and weather as they have it here.
Affordable Cost of Living
Just like real estate, the overall cost of living is also quite low when compared to metros. The entire town of Manali is not more than 1 km in radius. Hence most places are within walking distance. This saves a lot of time and money spent on the commute. Similarly, with a host of international food options due to the incoming foreign tourists, eating out is still not very expensive. It’s no surprise that even eating out at one of the finest places is no more than INR 800 for 2 people.
Sound Business Infrastructure
For a digital content platform as 4Play, it is quite important that certain infrastructural needs are met. The Internet is one of the most basic. As against cities, Manali has limited options in terms of ISPs available. The startup settled on a private ISP vis-a-vis state-run BSNL just for the sake of reliability. Although this has come at premium savings on other fronts has allowed them this splurge. Another major requirement was connectivity with major cities for sales and marketing push. For this, they negotiated a deal with a Volvo bus service provider and incurred huge savings. Moreover, the town is also in proximity to an airport. In addition, the electric power and other necessities are also available at subsidized rates.
Hiring the right people is something that 4Play has mastered. And their strategic location has only helped them in their cause. With a focus on experienced and skilled people with the established interest in the outdoors, 4Play was able to provide the right work opportunity to able marketers and filmmakers to make a career while pursuing a dream lifestyle.
Since long-term retention of good talent is of utmost importance to any organization, 4Play is ever so keen on providing the right work-life balance to its various stakeholders. It is for this reason the startup strategically saves for its people, time and resources spent on activities like commuting or cooking nutritious meals or managing housing units, by taking responsibility for all of these basics. Additionally, everyone is encouraged to pursue a sport/outdoor activity. Which not only leads to more job satisfaction, healthier disposition but also, greater work-related skill building and awareness.
Organised community support is often quite critical to a startup’s success or failure. 4play found this support at IIT Mandi’s Catalyst Incubation Program. The program provided the desired know-how and connects in areas where the young organization was lacking. Besides quality mentoring, the incubation has also helped 4Play access a variety of government grants, investor networks and PR opportunities at some of the best events in the country; as Startup Jalsa and the India International Trade Fair.
Creating Social Impact
Moving to the hills has not only created value for the startup but also for the community that it is surrounded with. In an economy heavily dependent on tourism and agriculture, 4play has provided an alternative employment avenue for some locals that it has hired. Moreover, the company also generates indirect revenue in terms of goods and services it buys from the village it is set in. On a macro level, moving a team of 15 people out of the cityscape has also helped in easing the load off the backs of our overburdened cities.
For a sports content producer as 4Play, moving to Manali has only been about the strategic advantage. With easy accessibility to most outdoor sports, athletes, and infrastructure, it was only logical for the company to move base in order to speed up operations. However, 4Play is not a rare case scenario. Moving to offbeat locations can bring in special advantages for several businesses. What advantages exactly, are for the entrepreneur to figure out. For starters cost savings may be a huge incentive.
If you’re looking for more examples, ace digital media company WittyFeed operates from Indore in Madhya Pradesh and Career advice platform Life page is invested in Dehradun. Even billionaire investor Warren Buffet has operated from his home in Omaha, Nebraska for the most part of his life. Far from the bustle of New York.