Amidst the pandemic, two Mumbai-based 19-year-olds recently quit a prestigious US college to launch an ambitious start-up. Here’s a guidebook of key considerations to follow before starting a new venture
A strong core team is pivotal in the success of a start-up. Representation pic
In the midst of looming clouds of economic uncertainty that saw many businesses shutter during the pandemic, news of a pair of 19-year-olds raising $60 million for an initial funding round for their grocery delivery start-up is especially heartening. The co-founding duo, Aadit Palicha and Kaivalya Vohra, who dropped out of Stanford University to pursue their entrepreneurial dream, will inspire many to cast their apprehensions aside and follow suit. The question that emerges now isn’t whether they will or won’t as much as it is if they should. Is pursuing an ambitious start-up idea prudent at this point? How much risk can be considered prudent? Further, what lessons has the pandemic taught us about starting something new and ambitious?
Aadit Palicha and Kaivalya Vohra
Rigour, not idea
“A common myth about start-ups is that their success is about serendipity, a great idea or stroke of genius, when it is, in fact, the structure, process and rigour that are the true determinants of success. Looking in from the outside, that isn’t always evident. While you should get attracted by the lure of the idea, always remember that success is 1 per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration. In that, there are established steps and models that one must go through, in order to see that their idea reaches its true potential,” says business coach Brajesh Bajpai. While environmental circumstances can lay waste to established processes and models, it’s important to master and adhere to these. When things change, as they did during the pandemic, you can then change the rules as necessary.
Rishi Piparaiya and Brajesh Bajpai
Focus on the basics
Follow the three Fs that form the foundation of successful start-ups.
. Fire: “Over several business cycles, I’ve seen entrepreneurship booms where people are eager to quit their jobs and get on the bandwagon. This enthusiasm can die out, unless you are truly passionate,” Rishi Piparaiya, a business coach explains.
. Founder: The second and most crucial factor, Piparaiya says, is the right founders. “It’s important for the founders to have a good working relationship and complementary skills. Starting an enterprise can be a very lonely process with many ups and downs. Having the right team can make a significant difference,” he says. Bajpai adds that in addition to the founder(s), the core team can make or break the success of a start-up. “While the praise is often accorded to a few in the enterprise, the truth is that in today’s world, it’s impossible to succeed alone. Most of the businesses that folded during the pandemic did not have the right team in place,” he clarifies.
. Funding: Piparaiya points out that even if you don’t have huge funding, you should at least have enough to get through the first year or two, until you reach your next milestone. This, he says, allows you to focus on your business instead of worrying about basics, such as making rent or paying employee salaries. In uncertain times such as the present, having the necessary funds in place can give you some buffer against unexpected complications.
“Be careful when generalising pandemic learnings as the pandemic is a once-in-a-century event. No one can prepare us for this. However, certain volatilities can be predicted and anticipated. For instance, we cannot lose sight of the economic cycle — every seven to 10 years, the cycle will repeat itself with downturns and booms. People often forget that these exist. You must make sure to risk-proof your business accordingly,” Bajpai points out.
To do so, always keep your fixed costs low, make sure that variability in built into your business model so that your scaling capacity matches market demands, and anticipate what comes after the curve — for instance, after the first Series A or Series B funding, your organisation will become bigger, and a slowdown will occur. Yet, he points out that for start-ups, it’s also important to not be bogged down by too much caution — you must put your energy into making it big; else, it takes away from the passion of entrepreneurship.