Articulating Hidden Opportunities
By Shanuka Kadupitiyage
Finding a need and making a thriving business that not only functions as a thriving enterprise but also provides a service for people to use and benefit from is every entrepreneur’s dream. For Enosh Praveen, that aspiration has become a reality.
Today, Enosh and his company, Arteculate Asia works with startups throughout the region, unearthing their stories and sharing them with the world, becoming a voice for companies that are worth talking about but don’t have a voice of their own.
Ceylon Today reached out to Enosh to learn more about the work he does and to get an insider opinion of the country’s tech startup community.
Could you tell us more about yourself and the work you do?
I’m your average guy next door, who happened to stumble into the world of tech and startups through my passion for storytelling. I’ve always been fascinated by how a good story can change the world around it, but I’ve also noticed that while some are naturally gifted to narrate it better, there are others who struggle with it. I soon realised that this was a burning problem within the tech and startup community, as there are a lot of new ideas and innovations happening around, but many of them go unnoticed due to the lack of a convincing story behind them.
What convinced you to launch Arteculate Asia?
If I put it bluntly, it’s ‘better late than never’. This realisation came late as we aged, being in the media space of the local tech and startup space. You begin to realise you’re in a very tiny pond with only a few hundred tadpoles. Yes, there might be a bunch of active startups here, but when you know almost everyone by name, it tends to feel like a very small and lonely place. This begged the question, ‘What do startups actually need?’, and ‘How can we make a bigger impact?’
Even though we were heavily involved with tech and startup stories within Sri Lanka, we gradually realised that we have capped our audience for this niche here. The trigger point for that realisation was when we stepped out of the country to meet some startup change-makers in neighbouring countries like Malaysia and Cambodia. We realised that there’s a lot of exciting activity happening in the region, and to them, the Sri Lankan startup ecosystem is almost unheard of. This in a way was heartbreaking for us, after our years of unearthing startup stories within the island. This is when we switched our perspective from showcasing local startups to a local audience, to showcasing local startups to a regional audience.
Why is storytelling important for startups and founders? What role can the media play in helping startups get their stories across?
We believe that a story well told is half the marketing campaign already done. In this day and age of accelerated innovation and disruption, we need more founders and tech personalities to act as figureheads for their revolutionary solutions. Think of Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. This in turn takes root for more transparency and credibility, and users can build deeper connections with their brands. That’s exactly what we do at Arteculate Asia. We meticulously bridge the gap between the two, for impactful tech and startup narratives.
What are your thoughts about the Sri Lankan startup ecosystem compared to our South Asian and South East Asian counterparts?
This question requires a nuanced answer, but from a bird›s eye perspective, I think locally we’re doing fairly well, even with our challenges and unique circumstances. I’ve had the privilege of seeing how it all evolved from a front-row seat for almost a decade, and certainly, it has picked up a lot of mainstream interest. I think the pandemic gave it a shot of steroids and literally, everyone you meet is armed with a startup idea now. However, comparing this with our neighbours from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and India, it’s vastly different. They’re years ahead in many ways, mainly due to their developments in infrastructure, education system, and governmental support. In Sri Lanka, we might have these facilities in spurts or fragments, but we will certainly need a more holistic approach to make much more meaningful progress.
How would you describe the Sri Lankan startup community?
It’s a resilient bunch. I have seen countless examples of how determined some of our local entrepreneurs are. I think it comes with our cultural upbringing or maybe the sum of events that we’ve faced as a nation. It is hard to ignore the great work startups are doing locally. Take for example PayHere, which has been working towards simplifying digital payments for businesses, and SenzAgro, which is tackling the issue of world hunger by leveraging technology to empower farmers to produce more food with fewer resources.
Adding to that, we have some great support systems like investors, accelerators, and incubators like ICTA driven Spiralation Programme, HatchX Fintech, and the Good Life X accelerator, Kickass programme for women entrepreneurs, and the Lankan Angel Network. There’s also a string of new co-working spaces cropping up like Elegance, Grand Space, and WORX which are facilitating more entrepreneurial ideas and startups to thrive.
We also have a handful of programmes and initiatives taking place in various parts of the island, such as the Yarl IT Hub, a startup accelerator originating from Jaffna, facilitating startup ideas in the north, Startup Weekend Events organised in various districts spanning from Trincomalee, Vanni, to Galle and Negombo, and Hackadev by UNDP, which is empowering youth across Sri Lanka with skills required to seize entrepreneurial opportunities.
How has COVID-19 become a catalyst to the evolution of technopreneurship?
In many ways, the pandemic served as an accelerant to digital innovation and adoption. The most prominent of them all was the concept of ‘Working from Home’ which was an alien idea for many businesses and corporates, who’ve had to adopt new platforms like Zoom, Teams, and Hangouts. With more people relying on digitally enabled solutions, there was an immediate surge in eCommerce platforms and online services. This also paved the way for disruptive thinking with technology, with multiple industries such as education and entertainment forced to take massive leaps and advancements to stay relevant globally.
What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?
Try to solve a problem that people are willing to pay for. It’s as simple as that. We see too many aspiring entrepreneurs lately who have no goal in mind but see it as a glamorous alternative to being employed. I would say it would be just the opposite if you’re not in it for the right reasons.
For those who have the right reasons, and an undying determination alongside, please remember that ‘uncertainty’ is the bedrock of any entrepreneurial journey. Most often than not, founders and startup teams that can live and thrive in uncertainty are the ones who reach the end of the pipeline to create meaningful products and companies.
What are Arteculate’s future plans?
We have quite a handful now with our regional focus, with immediate expansions into Cambodia with some regional partners and a possible expansion into Pakistan slated for later this year.
Right now we’re eagerly looking forward to joining as Media Partner for Asia’s trendiest startup conference RISE, taking place in Malaysia in March 2022, and then go along to join Seedstars Global Summit 2022 in Lausanne, Switzerland.
In a nutshell, though our sole mission on this journey is to help startups and tech companies articulate their stories for wider reach and publicity across Asia.
(Pix by Ashan Gamage)