Are there not too many start-ups? Where do you think this is heading?
Agree completely, there are start-ups mushrooming everywhere. But let me tell you this is a fabulous trend. They are the only ones who can take care of the multitude of seemingly small and localized problems that all of us face every day.
Take for example, Sujith Wilson who died recently after falling into a borewell in Tamil Nadu, India. He could have been saved with a Robotic invention, and these are done only by start-ups.
The catch here is that a large organization will not find it a viable business option to invest in a robotic device as they are into volume business. But a start-up rolling out a robotic device will be happy selling just 10 robots initially. So, do you see the difference? Start-ups address niche problems. And they look to address so many of the daily problems that are always ignored.
It was only a start-up that explored and commercialized the electrical vehicle space, an automobile industry behemoth did not. How do you think an OLA, UBER and OYO came into the picture? It was the start-up concept of stay hungry, stay nimble method that allowed them to be flexible and focused. So, coming back to where we started, start-ups are the need of the hour and are the only solution to the common problems that cannot be addressed by large conglomerates.
What do you think about start-ups chasing the same goal?
True, there are similar start-ups in the same business. For example, Swiggy, Zomato are all delivering food and replica start-ups are many as well. But again, who can question that, each person is unique and each of them can come up with so many ways of looking at a problem. So even this is a good trend, I would say. From a start-up aspect of-course they need to know that they are entering a crowded market but if they have a defining USP and a new approach who is to stop them.
The start-up world by and large is a “survival of the fittest” world. So, unless you are able to differentiate and build a strong business model, you can’t sustain and grow.
How can start-ups survive in the long run?
Frankly I am figuring that out practically every day and can’t claim to be a serial entrepreneur. But I am happy to share my learnings with anyone who will benefit from this.
⦁ Passion is utmost and foremost
⦁ Don’t start a venture for the fancy title of an `entrepreneur’
⦁ Grit needs to be there as problems will bog you down
⦁ Get the right team in place who share your passion
⦁ Love the problem that you are solving and not the solution
⦁ Get your basics right
⦁ Do religiously the due diligence
⦁ Don’t succumb to false metrics
Just because you believe there is a problem and a few other say so – this does not guarantee the existence for a start-up.
You need to ask yourself four questions:
1. How many are facing this problem?
2. How many are willing to pay for a solution to the problem?
3. How much are your users willing to pay?
4. Can you build a business from solving the problem?
Let’s say someone wants to read their morning newspaper at 5:00 am every day and can become pretty anxious when he/she does not get on time. So, you think you can come up with brilliant start up that delivers newspaper to all at 5:00 am. But the reality is if you sell this as a service very unlikely, he or she will pay for it. They will back down and suddenly find themselves being okay with reading it at 6:00 am. 😊 This is REALITY.
Every start-up needs to be a business, but it is not necessary that every business should be a start-up.
What were your compelling reasons to go for a start-up?
In my case it was a combination of reasons. I have had a long tenure with a prominent IT player and I am proud of that stint. But during that time the software I created reached the customer of course, but I never got a chance to interact and find out the customer experience feedback. This is very common working in a large firm, no complaints at all. But I wanted to be directly involved with the customer and be more connected.
The Tsunami, Chennai floods and Vardha rains left Chennai in a bedraggled state and when I saw the losses around, I wanted to do something in the space of insurance. Infact in my corporate tenure I was in the Insurance industry. Chennai lost 50 lakh jobs, 25000 SMBs were wiped out and almost all of them did not have insurance. So, while I was exploring through this scenario, I was travelling often, meeting people, talking to entrepreneurs and did not have an office and did not have a place to use while on-the-go. That was how GoFloaters was born.
What are your quick tips for budding entrepreneurs?
- Validate the problem by conducting in depth due diligence
- Apply for Incubator that nurtures start up ideas if it makes sense
- Attend as many start-up meet-ups to gain contemporary knowledge
- Get mentoring support
- Start small
- Hire the right people
- Network with a lot of fellow entrepreneurs
What was your marketing plan?
Know what? We did a very low-profile marketing. We did not go for paid marketing services initially. We obsessed over our offering and went on bettering it so that it was flawless and in perfect order. We worked very hard to provide value for our customer’s money and best customer experience. Word-of-mouth marketing worked for us. We took part in several events, wherever we felt a gap we orchestrated and hosted events ourselves. Of course, we were active on social media but that’s about it. Now we have started to do some ads on Google and social media channels.
How do you hire?
We are particular about hiring. First thing of-course is getting the right Co-Founder. This is not a process to be rushed, but it must happen naturally. I was on the lookout and I should say I was led to my Co-Founder. So, when you are seeking don’t make the first person you see or like as your Co-Founder, it needs a different skillset completely. Like a marriage several components come into play and they should be the absolute, right fit.
On creating a team – I go by references, passion and talent. I am stickler when it comes to hiring the right people, and for a start-up you need to sell your vision as you don’t have much in terms of compensation and titles.
How have you handled failures?
Well, I got easily carried away by technology, I thought if I knew technology, I could figure out everything. And when other problems came up, I was busy working the technology part that I ignored the others. So, what I learnt was every department in a start-up needs independent and focused attention.
Assumption based beliefs, when you as an entrepreneur is focused on a problem you get attached to it. You see it all around you and start believing in the problem so sincerely that you lose objectivity. I fell a prey to that also.
What are the defining moments in your life or books that have changed you.
My stint at Carnegie Mellon through the Fulbright scholarship was an out of the world experience. This is where the seed of entrepreneurship in my mind was born. I met several talented individuals and entrepreneurs who inspired me to a great extent.
About the books, Purple Cow and 0 to 1 by Seth Golden are remarkable ones.
SHYAM SUNDAR N
Founder & CEO,
Shyam co-founded the first of its kind on-demand work, meeting and event space start-up in India that helps thousands of early-stage start-ups, freelancers, SMB’s, independent professionals, solopreneurs, digital nomads, remote workers, media professionals, YouTubers, mompreneurs, sales and enterprise teams to find affordable plug-and-play work, meeting & event spaces though GoFloaters app – Android & iOS.
‘In the thick of things’ is how we would describe Shyam Sundar N, whose phone rings continuously as we connect with him. But he was attentive enough to give us a patient hearing and answered our questions from the heart. His sincerity of job is endearing, and he comes across as a young man brimming with ideas, hacks, novelties, gizmos and grit of course. Read on to know what his thoughts are on entrepreneurship, business development and tips for start-up owners.