Buddies Who Launched A Company And Stuck Together
You all must remember the famous song “Yeh dosti hum nahi todenge” from the epic Bollywood blockbuster Sholay. According to a recent survey, 40% of founding teams include people who were friends socially before building their startups. But, mixing friendship and business together can be a bit precarious too. According to a study by Naom Wasserman, Harvard Business School Professor, each friendship in a founding team increased the rate of founder turnover by 28.6 percent.
Friendship is based on trust, communication, and respect. All these are important elements for business as well. However, the business also involves money, and money comes with its own bag of emotions. So, while working together might strengthen the bond, it might break it as well. It all depends on the maturity and commitment level of your relationship.
Here are few examples of some of the buddies who started the company and stuck together through the ups and downs of their business:
RedBus is India’s no. 1 bus ticket and hotel room booking portal, now taken over by Ibibo. It was founded in 2005 by three friends – Phanindra Sama, Sudhakar Pasupunuri, and Charan Padmaraju. They became friends while studying together in BITS Pilani and their friendship blossomed when they shared an apartment during their professional stint in Bengaluru.
The story behind the creation of RedBus goes like this – Phanindra Sama needed to travel to his hometown on the occasion of Diwali. He failed to make advance bookings and could not find any tickets at the last minute. That’s when the idea of creating an interface germinated for bus travelers where they can book their tickets online. He shared his thoughts with the other friends who also liked the idea and started working on its implementation.
With more than 1500 bus operators and covering 80,000 routes in the whole country, tickets can be booked at RedBus with no booking charges.
Phanindra feels that though it’s believed that co-founders should have complementary skills, but in their case, they were the same – electronics engineers, belonged to the same state and spoke the same language. But it worked for them. As a co-founding team, you need a soulmate and a shoulder to cry on.
Snapdeal is one of the biggest India’s e-commerce website founded by Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal. In 2010, they started their online couponing website “Money saver” when the internet was just emerging in India. 15,000 coupons were sold in three months, and that’s when they decided to take a bigger leap. And, they launched Snapdeal in 2010, which was initially a couponing and deal website. The major breakthrough came in 2011 when the founders got inspired by the business of Alibaba that is an online marketplace and thought of replicating the same. It was a risky decision since Snapdeal was doing great in deals business.
But, the two friends stuck together. They shared the same vision and worked hard to give shape to the present Snapdeal which is a prime e-commerce site in India today. It has more than 50,000 sellers selling around 5 million products on this online marketplace with a year on year growth of almost 600%.
UrbanClap is an online marketplace to provide local services. It helps the customer to find suitable professional services for their various requirements. From finding a plumber to a yoga instructor, interior decorator, tutor or a photographer, you can just find anyone through this mobile application.
It was founded by Varun Khaitan, Abhiraj Singh Bahl, and Raghav Chandra. Varun and Abhiraj studied together at IIT, Kanpur and knew each other for 11 years. Later, Varun started working in the US while Abhiraj was in Jakarta. But, they kept in constant touch. They planned their vacation together and frequently met each other. Both friends were keen on coming back to India and launching their own venture. They met the third founder on Twitter with the help of mutual friends and clicked instantly.
For Khaitan, trust and belief feature large on the attribute list of a business partner. He says, “I have always had complete trust in Abhiraj to do the right thing when it comes to personal and business decisions. He is someone I can trust more than myself. That is the foremost decision checkbox. We are comfortable working together, have the same wavelength of thoughts. We consult each other on important things”. While Bahl finds Varun very sorted, methodical, structured and knows what is the right thing to do.
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Razorpay is a payments platform for companies who want to run their online business, which was founded by Harshil Mathur and Shashank Kumar who knew each other since their graduation days in IIT, Roorkee.
The idea germinated when the duo faced difficulties in payment. When they researched the regulations on payment, they found a huge gap. And they thought of filling this gap through their own venture.
Mathur believes what works for them is that they are nonemotional and practical. He says, “A lot of friendships go bust as people are emotional. Our friendship grew in a working atmosphere while at IIT. We are together not to please each other. We know each other’s strengths”. While Kumar says, “Our arguments are practical and we discuss everything without getting personal. Whenever we fight, one of us compromises and then both align to the goal”.
This shows that successful companies can be built on the basis of solid friendships. Wasserman in The Founder’s Dilemmas says, if you do plan to start a company with friends, you need to “proactively analyze the potential consequences”.
Setting boundaries; prioritizing business goals more than personal goals; being honest and transparent, and maintaining a healthy communication are some of the important elements that can help nurture the friendship and flourish the business.
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