It is now 3.5 years since I started my first real “start-up” journey. I have been very entrepreneurial in my professional life but looking back in time, I feel I could have started one much earlier.
Whenever I meet-up with my friends, ex-colleagues or acquaintances, the discussion eventually veers towards these last 3.5 years. Everyone wants to know the story, things to do, things to avoid, lessons learnt and other juicy stuff.
Contrary to what people believe and say, India has always been an entrepreneurial country. There are entrepreneurs everywhere around us – local kirana store, vada pav & tea stalls, paper-wallas etc.
I thought of penning down some of the key takeaways with a hope that it will give a perspective about the journey:
- First survive and then thrive – It is very important to focus on survival from day 1. The first 24 to 30 months are very critical in the start-up journey and it is very important that everyone is focused on one thing – “Survival”. About 90% of start-ups cease to exist in 3 years.
- Don’t give up soon – First 24 months of our journey were very hard. It took toll on us both physically and emotionally. Experience can be very draining especially if there are regular rejections from clients and that too for things which are just outside your control. The key here is to keep working harder than anyone else and trust your instinct.
- Be the CPO (Chief People Officer) – I think the most important role in start-up is CPO (Chief People Officer). This journey needs inspiring people to join company at lower salaries (than market), convincing girl-friends or parents about viability of company, motivating team at every failure or success and have them focus/work harder than they have ever before. This requires power of persuasion and personal, believable commitment.
- Sample to ample – Which means give a sample of your services in order to get ample of customers. This was very relevant mainly because we were new and also for customers to get a flavour of differentiated service that we were able to offer to niche skills, expertise and innovative delivery approach.
- Give a customer more than they asked for – This is a perfect way to garner a customer’s loyalty. Do not just solve the only issue being presented but look beyond the scope, see bigger picture and offer a cohesive solution that includes the problem that have remained ignored as well. A tremendous amount of trust gets established and you become the go-to-organization for customer.
- 365 X 24 X 7 – Time was when companies used to put up an integrated 360 degree plan to reach customers. Now the ability to be on, 365 * 24 * 7 determines the customer connect. There have been numerous instances where our customers have actually asked us – what is your work week? They always saw us responding to their requirements, queries or call requests within the least possible time frame. Our availability and responsiveness became our strength!!!
- Always look for solutions – “Impossible” only has to sound as “I m possible”. This cannot be done is not a phrase for start-up. Everything has a solution. If you do not have that attitude it is better to stick to regular job.
- Things are not permanent – This is most important lesson I learnt in these last 3.5 years. Success and failure, happiness and sadness, will come and go. Nothing is permanent. Learn to live with it. Don’t get upset by failures or overjoyed with success. Enjoy the moment and stay humble.
I am sure there are few more things that can be mentioned here but would like to wrap-up with the 4 most important DNA in a start-up: Hunger, speed, innovation and agility.
In my next blog, I will speak about some of the inspiring moments that I have experienced in last 35 years. Can’t believe I am 35 now!!! Time is flying!!!