YourStory is the outreach partner for SheLeadsTech from Facebook.
It’s a tough market out there for entrepreneurs, especially as they scale and move up the growth chart – from funding, to innovative technology solutions, and the push towards acquiring customers. So how does one negotiate the challenges, scale up, and thrive? These are the questions that a set of women CEOs and leaders answered recently at the SheLeadsTech event in Mumbai.
One of the highlights of the was a panel discussion – Putting your best foot forward: Scale and grow your brand – where Shikha Uberoi, Co-Founder, Indi.com; Naiyya Saggi, CEO and Founder, BabyChakra; and Debadutta Upadhyaya, Co-founder and CEO of Timesaverz.com were the participants. Manisha Raisinghani, Founder and CTO at Loginext Solutions held a Masterclass that focused on “Growth hacks for women in the male-dominated tech startup space”.
It was a very informative session and the key takeaways were:
Fundraising is not an easy task, but if you need to grow exponentially, you may need the extra push that funds can provide. And the question that many in the audience had was: How does one know if one is ready to raise funds? How many people did you meet before you got funded? How many months do you need to be ready resources wise before you go fundraising?
Speaking from her own experience Debdutta said, “Fundraising is a full-time job. Timesaverz was doing well in Mumbai and after eight months, we thought of Pune as a satellite market and decided we could do more. But to do that we needed funds. You need to access the amount you need and then first reach out to friends, family, ex-bosses and then the angel support.”
She says it took them 25 pitches, but they knew instinctively which one would click – her meeting with Ronnie Screwvala. She signed the papers the next day.
“To move fast, it is essential that you are prepared. One of the important thing there is to have your compliance. In the initial stages, you need to get a lawyer and have your compliances in order. That is something you can’t ever compromise on,” said Debdutta.
Naiyya said, “Create a list of the people who you think can participate in that round. People believe when they understand what you are doing. So you should be able to clearly tell them what they need.”
The panel emphasised that the customer was the fulcrum of the business. Shikha said, “When you scale, the customer has to be your utmost priority, and it needs to be conveyed to everyone who comes on board.”
From the tech perspective, Manisha emphasised that when building a product or technology, one should understand the needs of the user. She said, “While building a product, you have to envisage the product as a user. Unless you do that, you won’t understand what you are really building.”
During her Masterclass, Manisha said, “Don’t over think or over engineer. Keep things simple. It is something that I have learnt the hard way.”
When starting small and moving gears into the scale mode, Manisha’s suggested that was okay to not have a tech team and outsource things to vendors. “As soon as the product or feature is ready you need to go to market with it. Outsource and get things done from vendors just make sure you have one person who can speak tech and understand the needs of the company and convey the same to the vendors.”
As a company grows bigger, hiring the right employees, setting down company values and building a culture is a challenge and responsibility that rests primarily on the CEO or the Founder. According to Debdutta, it’s important to make the hiring process as transparent as possible. “Don’t make lofty promises, while hiring and let people know what is it they are getting into.”
Naiyya pointed out how there are no employees at BabyChakra, only team mates. “We are building a team, and not employees, and that is a distinction you need to keep in mind,” said Naiyya.
She also pointed out that one has to let people leave with dignity. If there is a mismatch with the employee, then Founder should let go of the person immediately.”
As the company grows, it becomes all the more important for the leader to be more mindful about the team and the customers. According to Shikha, “Kill them with kindness. Deal with everyone with kindness. Have a little patience and they will respond to your kindness. Also, it’s pertinent to remember that in the word entrepreneurship - E is for empathy.”
The women leaders and entrepreneurs signed off with a few key takeaways.
Manisha said, “Fail fast and learn fast; that is the best way to succeed.”
Debdutta emphasised not chasing the investor and pointed out that entrepreneurship is a way of life, and you need to be ready for it.
Shikha said not to keep the investor on a pedestal, but look at them as friends and people with whom you need to engage the entire year round.
Naiyya said, “Entrepreneurship will take you to the darkest depths of despair. It is gut wrenching but remember that you signed up for it so go ahead and enjoy it. Stop being serious, enjoy the moments and highs and the lows. When the dark days come, smile through those as well.”
So, if you are a woman founder/co-founder, and have a tech-enabled startup or app, the SheLeadsTech programme is exactly what you need in order to grow. Be a part of this programme. Find out how to apply here.