7 things startups can learn from the Bihar elections

7 things startups can learn from the Bihar elections

Friday November 13, 2015,

7 min Read

One can always expect high-drama from elections in Bihar,and this time was no exception. The stakes were even higher than before. For someone, it was about their pride;for another, it was about comeback; and some saw it as making a mark of survival. Themonth-long electoral festival had all the excitement of the 'Kumbh Mela'. During this time, I was excited to see the rapidly changing strategies and outcomes. It was truly a nail-biting election and no one actually knewwhat was really going to happen on the day of result. Everyone had a different report on what to expect. Now, that the dust has settled, and we have final verdict,the time for speculation has ended and it’s time for introspection and lessons learnt. Here are 7 things that startups can take away as learnings from this poll.


Image credit "ShutterStock"

Dream big… you can achieve it. 

This is first step towards any goal. If you want to achieve something visualise it first. Dreaming and then believing in it will help you to get there. Although just dreaming is not enough,it will definitely help you to get mentally prepared for the bigger challenges that lie ahead. The Mahagatbandhan alliance showedthat they really believed in their dreams. Even before the counting started, Lalu Yadav has announced that they were going to get around 190 seats. No one believed him and the opinion pollsand exit polls showedno such results. But, it was they who were proven wrong. If you work hard and have big dreams, you will be guaranteed success.

Be on the ground… not in the headlines.

Everyone likes to be in the headlines. Our lovely startup world is no different. Nowadays, we as founders always look for opportunities to be in the limelight,get featured in blogs, newspapers and shine in the media world. This is not wrong. But it starts becoming a problem when our basics are not strong. We start overestimating our value just to remain in the headlines. This media limelight will not solve our problems. We have seen this very clearly in this election of Bihar. The NDA was all over the media, they were on every hoarding in every area, they had a star campaignerin the PM, but the result was a significant defeat. Why? One thing that seemed very obvious was their lack of basics. You need to understand your market better than anyone else. You need to figure out the right factor that influences your customer. Be in their pocket. This is what Lalu and Nitish did.

No one is invincible.

Fear of bigger competition has always been there. Fear has never solved anybody’s problem. After a resounding landslide victory in 2014’s general election,the BJP became the biggest thing in Indian politics. They were way ahead of any competition – they had more charisma than anyone else,had more money andpower, a rockstar leader in Modiji, a ninja strategist in Amitji, a great fan following…and all this made them feel invincible. But Delhi and Bihar clearly showed what was happening on the ground, and that everything else was just smoke.

Stick with basics first.

So much hasbeen said about basics, but what are they really?The basics may seemlike aesthetic products such as a marketing budget, a team to catch sales and a larger audience of probable customers. But I believe that this is not the case. In the Bihar election, every element described above was very much present with the NDA. A great leader, who is articulate, tons of posters, a huge base of die-hard fans, well-managed digital and social ad campaign and burgeoning crowdsat rallies. But we have the results now. We need to understand the basics,which means taking a deeper look at our customers. We need to understand the market segment, know the customer’s persona, understand consumer behavior, haveproducts for their problems, and not just good-looking products. This is what the Mahagatbandan achieved as they knew their voters inside out. Understanding their behavior, and things which affect them as Bihari vs Bahari really clicked in thevoters’ minds. Puttingthe right product forward as a local development leader and collaboratingwill strengthen you.

You are never out of game.

Everyone knows starting something is difficult,but it becomes even more difficult when you are thrashed very hard. But a real winner don't let himself or herself get buried. They put themselves out of their comfort zone. They create better strategy every time they restart. They grab opportunitiesbetter than others because they understand what made them fail. You just need to get your groundwork and basic economics right to be successful. This is what Lalu Yadav has shown us. Despite adecade where everyone declared the end of his regime and there was only negativity around him, he proved every one wrong and now has the maximum number of seat in assembly marking beginning of another regime.So, be a smart and insightful leader who always looks for greater goods.

Play positive.

We understand that being positive helps us to do better, but we forget this side when we come into the battle field. Your perception of your competitors will start being negative and you only start to look for loopholes in their offerings. You start ignoring their strengths. The focus of your strategywill only be on their negatives,and you ignore your own strengths and the problem you had set out to solve. The Bihar election was no different. Parties were becoming increasingly mean in trying to show each other in a poor light. The real problems weresidelined. Development and growth were absent from the agenda. Everyone seems to be crying for beef, reservation, casteism and communal politics. Negative campaigning hurts you more than your competitors. When you start showing your strength in comparison to your competitors, you play fearlessly. You have to just play positive. Your competitors have no answers to this, thus giving you a lead in consumers’ minds.

Work more on your strength.

Everyone has its own strength and weakness. Everyone likes to talk about strength. But talking about strength is not enough; you have to act upon it. You have to work harder to make it even stronger and separate you from others. This is where your value proposition exists. Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar understood that fact very well this time. They focussed on their caste-based votes. They made sure that these votes were not going anywhere. Nitish Kumar projected his image as a local-development-delivering Bihari leader. He connected with people on the basis of his past image of 'Sushasan Babu'. Lalu Yadav focussed on his ground hold. He reached to more people and acted very actively in connecting with people through his funny speeches. Laluji knew well that people listen to him for his unique and simple speech, which connectswith their basic problems. The RJD was not active on social media as BJP or JDU,but still managed to get a higher tally. This is because they played to their strengths and worked hard.

Everything in life is like a startup business;it’s not just tech companies for the younger generation. The basic principle remains the same and the winner takes it all. I learn a lot of things from people and events around meand try to incorporate what I learn into my next decision making. Ultimately, all of us are here to learn first and earn second. Isn't it?

About the author:

Lalit Vijay: I'm passionate about learning new things. I love to explore new ideas, connecting with people and building things which matters. Currently, am busy with building a new team for a second startup journey. You can follow me @lalitvijay.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory)