In India, there have been many examples of startups that sprang out of nowhere and disappeared into obscurity. Their failures could be assigned to various reasons like bad timing, funding, or product-market fit. We look at how some of these entrepreneurs turned their fortunes around.
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Guruji.com received a great opening in the Indian startup sphere. A great idea in theory, it ran for 5-6 years after its initial launch in 2008. After raising more than $7 million it abruptly shut down. Founder Anurag Dod continued to persevere and launched AdIquity, which is now growing fast and is in the right market-timing fit, publishing 15 billion ads a month worldwide.
Even India’s startup darling, Ritesh Aggarwal of OYO Rooms faced many problems when starting off his first venture Oravel Stays. It was designed to be a marketplace for bed and breakfast, but failed due to poor management and a market fit. Customers didn’t trust Oraval and Ritesh realized the importance of building a good team from his first failure. After winning the Theil fellowship, Ritesh gained perspective about entrepreneurship and startups. In his own words, Ritesh bounced back by differentiating his services and offering a better service in the market.
“We realized that the problem was unpredictability and to ensure guests the premium experience. Hence, we decided to solve that. I picked up a hotel and spent 10 months just on that, branding and enabling a great experience. Globally, none of the hotels enable entire process of checking in and checking out through a mobile app. Every check that happens at OYO, happens via a tablet and is very similar to what Ola drivers use.”
The reality of the importance of offering a better customer experience was nurtured from Indiaplaza.com, one of the first e-commerce platforms in India. While the demise of the brand didn’t end up in another startup for Kothandaraman Vaitheeswaran, its founder, it did provide him with a bountiful experiences which took him to bigger names such as Tata and Deloitte.
Indiaplaza.com started before Y2K was a thing in India. It had a basic website where it offered products to customers with the click of a button and ran on until late 2013. By the time he shut shop his operations, 95% of his staff had quit and he was deep in debt. In his time running Indiaplaza, he learnt that logistics were to be blamed for poor quality of goods delivery, poor customer service, etc and not the offering itself which was revolutionary. Kothandaraman Vaitheeswaran has been appropriately titled “The Father of E-commerce in India”.
Ankit Warikoo was previously the head of Groupon India, when the company was focusing aggressively on building customer base and staff expansion. His failed attempts are a great addition to the startup failure-bounce back conversations. As CEO of Groupon, he was tasked with expanding the company on all corners and even managed to create significant growth in a price-sensitive country like India. However, when Groupon was shutting down operations after dissatisfied shareholders, Ankit conducted a management buy-out and transformed the company into the now fledging Nearbuy.com.
His success mantra is – “Risk and failure are a mindset that you’ve conditioned yourself to. It's not an absolute. Don’t let anyone’s opinion of you become your reality.”
Brilliant stuff from all our entrepreneurs in India. This year has been a great for budding entrepreneurship and startup pivots. Don’t let failure weigh you down and in the words of Ratan Tata – “Build a product that your customers will actually want to invest in.”