From Novice To Jedi – Journey Of A Startup Entrepreneur
“Being an entrepreneur is sexy… for those who haven’t done it. In reality, it’s gritty, tough work where you will be filled with self doubt. Entrepreneurs are survivors.”
-Mark Suster, American entrepreneur, angel investor and investment partner
Oh yeah….launching a startup is sexy and in vogue these days. The question is how many startup aspirants actually survive the journey that is full of hurdles and puddles. Not many, actually. But, then there are a few who have exhibited winning traits required to weather the storm and transform from a novice to the Jedi.
Fueled by Vision
At the age of 20, Shashank ND, an engineering student went through a personal struggle to address a medical emergency in his family. This incident inspired him to launch Practo in 2008, an online health service platform that connects patients to doctors.
Right from day one, Shashank had a clear vision – he wanted to build a great product that made the lives of people better and healthier. However, the journey was fraught with challenges – it was not easy to visit doctors door to door, convince them to try a new software, gain initial market traction and investor backing. In fact, in 2009, Practo hardly had any cash to run even day to day operations. But, he made his vision his guide, determined to seek support from others to see, share and invest in his vision.
Today, Practo is valued at over $500 million, has Yuri Milner as one of its investors; and has a network of 2 lakh doctors, 10,000 hospitals and 5,000 diagnostic centres across 35 cities and 6 countries, including India. A true visionary, indeed!
Related Article: Key Steps For Successful Startup Funding
Ditched the Word ‘Give Up’
It is for a reason that Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the founder of Paytm, India’s largest mobile e-commerce website is called an Ironman. A class topper turned a college backbencher owing to a lack of English language proficiency. But, instead of saying ‘quit’, he chose the road never travelled. He mastered (self-taught) the trends in internet and coding, before deciding to launch his first startup Xs! Corporation which he eventually sold off and spent the money on family expenditures. Left with no money and surviving on 2 cups of tea, Vijay was not the one to give up.
Later, he co-founded One97 Communications (now the parent company of Paytm), which went through its own set of troubles. He started Paytm, which failed to gain investor backing due to lack of a non-existent market. He invested $ 2 million of his own. The rest is history.
Today, Paytm’s valuation is pegged at $1.5 billion. Vijay still believes that he is one of the most hardworking persons on the earth. Amen to his fighting spirit!
Destined to Take Risks
“My humble request to all who find risk taking funny is to take better risks in their own life and show how it’s done instead. Pretty sure most of these guys don’t take risks,” reads a post on the facebook wall of Kunal Shah, the co- founder of FreeCharge, the online mobile recharge company. Though Snapdeal acquired FreeCharge in 2015 for $400 million, Kunal had a tough time reaching this stage.
Kunal risked entering ‘couponing and recharge’ business which wasn’t respected by investors. However, a risk-taker by nature, he went ahead to set up a business model that didn’t exist in the industry that time. Troubles were on the way for Kunal in the initial years. The technology platform collapsed, leading to failed transactions; the first CTO quit; there was no money to run operations; the senior leader (Deap Ubhi who scaled Freecharge’s business successfully) decided to move on; and Kunal had to voluntary step aside as the CEO to bring in Alok Goel, an ex-Googler on board. But, Kunal continued taking risks at every juncture by making smart decisions.
Today, Kunal Shah still holds the position of Chairman of the company and oversees strategy and M&A, apart from mentoring entrepreneurs and making angel investments. Salute to his daredevilry!
Related Article: 11 Things A Startup Must Know To Avoid Failure In 2016
Unashamed to Exploit an Opportunity
In a country where women are hush-hush about their innerwear, was not afraid to exploit it as a business opportunity. That’s how Zivame, an online lingerie shop came into existence. But, was an idea for women by a woman easy to sell? Nah.
From disapproving opinions to funny reactions, Richa took them all in her stride because she knew she had a unique, never explored before opportunity to bank upon. Her most difficult challenge was her customers, who were shy talking about their lingerie preferences, let alone shopping for them. Gradually, Richa started offering facilities like ‘Try at home, ‘Discrete packing’, ‘Fit consultant’, etc. to educate them and shed their inhibitions. Richa also has had her share of troubles in terms of scaling up, funding and hiring, but she has survived.
Zivame has witnessed a fivefold jump in sales since its launch and is poised for 300% YoY growth. Take a bow, lady!
Prepared to be Learners for Life
A startup needs to evolve continuously, even if it calls for learning new ways of doing old things, unlearning old things or learning from mistakes. Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal of Flipkart have been doing exactly that.
When they entered e-commerce space in India, they were criticized for copying Amazon’s model. But, they wanted to implement this business smartly in the local market. After they learned that the Indian customers were not comfortable doing online transactions, they introduced Cash on Delivery (COD), a first of its kind payment mode. Over the years, Flipkart has been facing stiff competition from Snapdeal and Amazon, but the founders refuse to be deterred. Now, when the Indian startup ecosystem is standing at the point of consolidation and Flipkart has witnessed devaluation, both Sachin and Binny are not afraid to meet the challenges. The pioneers of the startup wave in India, now the two Bansals have interchanged their roles, are taking cost efficient steps and repositioning themselves to be a long term player in the market.
We hope these stories have inspired you enough!
Also Read: Small Towns, Big Ideas
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