3 everlasting tips for startup success from Deep Kalra

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Deep Kalra has built one of most successful internet companies in India (see his journey before MakeMyTrip) and at the Delhi Edition of TechSparks 2013, Deep gave an amazing speech which held everyone (more than 350 people) in rapt attention.

Amongst many things, Deep gave three gems of advice which hold a lot of value for entrepreneurs and is captured here:

1)     Focus on growth

At regular intervals, you need to look at your business in a very dispassionate manner and look at growth. Now, what is growth? If you’re in the internet business, the key metric is conversion. You don’t need to look at a month wise absolute numbers, what’s important is the conversion. How many more people from the people you’re reaching out to are converting? For MMT, conversion is a sale of a ticket but for others it’ll be different. For instance, if in July you’re spending INR 1000 on outreach and the same amount in August, the percent conversion should increase. Look at analytics very granularly and if that is working, you’re onto something.

At one point, the money being pumped in (red line) has to intersect with the upward moving line of cash coming in. The point till they intersect, you’d need funding and to make that period smaller, analytics will help.

2)     Giving enough importance to gut

Contradictory to the first point but Deep gives a very explanation for why gut is not completely a fluke. “Your gut is a function of many small things, which are fortunately scientific,” says Deep. It is very important to follow your gut and it develops b talking to your customer. Sit with someone you don’t know for an hour and if you’re building a product, ask them to give an honest opinion on what they feel about the product. If there are 3 co-founders, each one should spend 25 hours, an hour each with different people and take in their feeling about the product. And then do what the gut tells you.

3)     Hire people smarter than you and solve the fitment puzzle

If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.

-         David Ogilvy

Deep says that this philosophy might not work in a corporate because politics exist and that is how things work but for an entrepreneur, there is no reason why s/he shouldn’t hire people who are smarter. “The whole premise of setting up the business was to build something great and it is only possible when you hire great people,” says Deep.

The other area with hiring is the fitment puzzle. “The A-listers, the best of the IITians, IIM guys don’t necessarily fit into your company. They might be brilliant working alone but the system breaks down when they’re put into teams and as an entrepreneur, you need to be cognizant about these things,” says Deep. Some of the smartest people are not team players and this doesn’t work in the longer run. You need to play soccer, not tennis (in the working life).

And your best friend at work is the person who irritates you the most. Don’t hire people who agree with you.

These were some of the key takeaways from Deep's speech.

Stick around for more articles and videos from TechSparks 2013. Apply to become a TechSpark here! (website) And the next event is in Chennai!

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