From Subroto Bagchi: Six ways to scale


Growth is unidimensional, scale is multidimensional. This is something that is vital for entrepreneurs to understand, according to Subroto Bagchi, entrepreneur extraordinaire, best known for co-founding MindTree and writing illuminating books on various aspects of business.

In the beginning, it was technology that was important. Then it was the platform. And now, it is all about applications. The big one is in the application space. Gun for niche, super-specialised applications -- that is his word of advice to startups aiming to make it big in the cloud, mobility, big data and social networking spaces."Unknown customer, unstated need -- that is bleeding edge of innovation," he says.

He gives six multidimensional ways in which startups can scale up.

1: Build comfort with scale: The first fundamental to scaling is to be comfortable with the idea of scaling. Be it in mobility space or consumer goods, all startups who managed to scale are only those who were okay with it. Being open to competition is important. If there is no competition, you are only growing not scaling.

2: Change visibly and perceptibly every five years: To create change at inflection points should be part of the inherent nature of every startup, which wants to scale. The Japanese believe that every five years companies die. So it becomes imperative that you reinvent yourself visibly and perceptibly every five years. You have to find new customers. You have to be in love with the idea of business not just your product. Adapt to the needs of the customers.

3: Scale your intellect: If you have to scale on ground, it first has to happen inside your mind. Only if intellectually scaling happens, will it reflect in the real world. And how can you do that? Have a board of advisors. Not friends and family, but experts for diverse perspectives. And listen to them carefully. They are outsiders. That way you will see the big picture. And so they will give you a broader perspective which you can't see from inside the organisation. By engaging with a diverse set of people, you will grow intellectually.

You need consultants. Whatever may be the area of work, you see specialisation is happening there. There will be consultants who will augment your intellect.

4: Pay attention to scaling reputation: Today, reputation is the newest form of currency, it is essential capital. It is no longer just a fuzzy, warm thing. It is easy to grow. But if the growth doesn't come up an emphasis on reputation, you cannot scale. For instance, Ranbaxy messed up with reputation and paid a huge price for it despite being a pioneer in the mass scale drug business.

5: Scale people in your team: Most often, an entrepreneur is like the rockstar of the startup. Like nothing grows under a banyan tree, unless the entrepreneur focuses on scaling other people in her team, the business cannot scale.

6: Scale adversity: The key to scale is mostly a sheer ability to hang in there, to persevere in the face of adversity. One has to realise that the biggest adversities are not business-related but personal problems. Entrepreneurs who scale up have to scale adversity.

Where is the big opportunity?

That the technology space is transforming, at breakneck speed, is common knowledge. But according to Subrato, what the world needs most is love, food and security. If startups can figure out ways to relate this to the products or services they deal in, they have a definite winner. "Needs of customers can be divided into stated needs and unstated needs. If you address the stated need, you are here and now. And if you are able to decipher the unstated need, and meet it, you will have made the quantum leap. Unknown customer, unstated need - that is bleeding edge of innovation. Like how, Apple did with iPod," Subroto says.

Subroto was speaking at Mobile Sparks 2013, in a packed hall of enthusiastic entrepreneurs, industry experts and others working in the mobile ecosystem.

Thanks to Samsung Electronics, Qualcomm Ventures and Windows Azure for partnering with us on MobileSparks 2013.


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