I guess Jaya has been supplying everybody with a steady dose of what is happening with our startup and all the ups and downs. If not, head over to her blog to read all about it.
The only thing I might want to add is that all this is so much fun and it would be even more so if making all these mistakes wouldn't mean losing money, something which is always in short supply in a startup (yes, even when you have landed VC funding ( which we have not )). But it is okay I guess.
However this makes me ponder about the issue at a more general level, about what kind of policies and attitude from government can really help out those who are entering this new and strange world of CAs, Company Secretaries, Lawyers. I am sure the things have changed a lot in past few years and more and more processes have been streamlined. Incorporating a company can be as fast as 20 days for somebody reasonably familiar with the system and with small support. But still there remain so many small things that can pinch you at the wrong time and so make the whole experience rather intimidating. You always find yourself worrying about some tax or some form that might have skipped you during the process. After incorporating also, there are a whole slew of things that need to be done periodically like filing various kinds of taxes, having board meetings at regular intervals etc. and if you slip on one of them, there would be some penalty for that.
Now consider that for incorporating the company, you pay govt a lot of money (it depends on how much is your authorized capital but for large authorized capital ( the range of VC investments), it easily runs in lakhs). And you pay it as if you are paying a ransom to the govt so that it will allow you to start the business. This is where I think a little change in the attitude from the authorities can make a lot of difference. For a second imagine that instead of acting like the owner of the country, the govt treats you like a customer who has come to purchase the rights for doing business in the country. Wouldn't it be nice if:
1. Somewhere you can find a nice package with a simple English description of the process, a check list of the things you need to do, all the forms or their web-address and all the other information just like a university sends to its potential students.
2. Fantasizing some more, what if when you register a company, you get a complementary personalized calender which marks all the deadlines you have to follow? Or may be you can get a reminder of some sort before the deadline?
3. There are rules and then there are penalties for breaking them. But given that there are so many rules and given that somebody is new in the field, wouldn't it be a nice gesture if you can get a first time waiver for missing some tax deadline or forgetting to file some paper on time especially in the absence of 1 and 2?
There can be thousand other things that can be done to improve the overall experience, only thing needed is a attitude change.
However, looking from the other side, I would say this is an excellent opportunity for a startup. And in-fact there are consulting firms that will take care of these things for you for a price (reasonable or not is for you to decide) but our experience till now has been that there is no very serious effort in any of them to improve the user experience. Our consulting company did send us a pack of chocolates but no check list, no calender, no reminders of deadlines. Perhaps making the process too transparent is not in their interests but I will give them the benefit of doubt and say that this all goes back to the way our govt works and that affects how those who deal with govt on your behalf behave.
But the situation and availability of information is increasing. We will do our part in that by putting up the detailed information and pointers online once we are done. So with the hopes of a better tomorrow... :-)
(Disclaimer: None of this is not based on personal experiences i.e. we did not have to pay any fines or such. The experience with consulting firm ,however, is true.)