Sanjay Anandaram is one of India’s most sought-after startup mentors, with more than 30 years of experience in mentoring and nurturing industries. His most recent involvement has been with companies like redBus and InstaHealth Solutions, and has been involved with early stage funds such as Seed Fund, Ideaspring Capital and Endiya. He’s now distilled his essential rules for startups in Startup Mantras, what T.V. Mohandas Pai has called ‘a guide for taking the right decisions’ for any startup:
‘Startup India’. ‘Startup Nation’. ‘Silicon Valley of India’…the list of monikers for what’s happening in the ‘entrepreneurial ecosystem’ of India is becoming repetitive. That’s not a bad thing, especially when compared with no moniker at all for what young, bright, aware, innovative folks are doing to solve problems. Using money investors are keen to part with. Using technology. Inventing new ways of doing business that make cautious Indian customers part with their money.
And that’s a good thing. It creates jobs. It creates wealth, money circulates in the system. More young bright aware innovative folks decide to then do their own innovative thing. The cycle continues.
Except when it doesn’t. Like now, when last year’s excesses caught up. When it becomes hard for Indian customers and therefore investors to part with their money. That’s when another set of terms come into vogue (they should not have been out of vogue in the first place). Terms like ‘Back to Basics’ and ‘Path to Profitability’ suddenly come cloaked in a deep resounding ominous onomatopoeic ‘OMG! I should have done this earlier!’
This is also then the opportune time for dusty fables to be brought out and read, before they’re forgotten again in the next boom. The Panchatantra — distilled for these entrepreneurial times — without the talking animals — is Startup Mantras. Having closely observed these times for close to 20 years, I have realised that everyone has attention deficit disorder. So why add (gettit?) to the problem? Hence the short maxims that hopefully are helpful.
But helpful for what?
India needs to create 100 million jobs in the next 10 years, else we’ll have a huge problem to deal with. We have huge challenges in healthcare, travel and transportation, financial services, education, retail, etc. The cost of technology is falling every day. Enabling infrastructure — necessary to make things happen — is rolling out fast. Laws and procedures are changing. Money is increasingly available. Experts, mentors, service providers and media have all awakened to this need for entrepreneurial energy. Customers are more than happy to engage on their terms and price.
It’s now time for entrepreneurs to do things the old-fashioned way. That can happen only if there’s the realisation that a business has to make money. That customer needs have to be satisfied profitably. That technology is but the means to an end. That investors seek returns and that must be respected. That employees and other stakeholders have to be taken care of. That culture is critical in a company. That believing in your hagiography can be dangerous.
Forgetting these facts can be very detrimental. But both the problems, and the opportunities, are ahead of us.
For those willing to make a difference to themselves and to the world around them, startup! It won’t be easy. But it will be one helluva ride. Let Startup Mantras be your guide!