This too shall pass but startups need a strategy to emerge stronger: Rajan Anandan, Sequoia India
Global pandemic coronavirus has literally turned the world upside down, something that the world has not witnessed in the past 100 years. Bewildering as it is, there is also hope that people may get past this if there is some action taken.
This is all the more true for startups in the country as there is an economic freeze leading to life and death situation for many.
In such an environment, Rajan Anandan, Managing Director, Sequoia India, is very well qualified to answer many of the troubling questions of startup founders, having gone through numerous ups and down while running businesses across companies such as Google, Microsoft and Dell. Though he admits that what we are witnessing today is unprecedented.
In a conversation with YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma, Rajan says, “We haven't seen anything like this, at least in a 100 years and we have so many uncertainties.” He goes on to add that it is unlikely to be one or two month phenomena and will last for quite a while.
The topmost question on the mind of every founder is, how do they navigate through this crisis. Rajan boils it down to a few practical steps that every founder should take as a priority where the safety of the employee comes first.
“This is a very different crisis to a normal financial downturn or even a global financial downturn. At the core of it, it's about the safety of human beings; it's about being alive,” says Rajan.
Secondly, it is equally important for the founder to have strong employee engagement which is to just “communicate, communicate, and communicate.”
Watch the full interview here:
Keeping in mind the human element of dealing with the coronavirus crisis, the critical part is for all founders to have a very hard and dispassionate look at their businesses.
“We're trying to get all our founders, startups, and leadership teams to really think through the various scenarios,” says Rajan.
“We tell our founders that hope is not a strategy.”
Though, it is very difficult to predict what the future will be, startup founders will need to think through it very thoroughly and build different kinds of probable models.
Rajan says, “If you are a startup with only three or four months of runway, you need to act now. You need to be very decisive about how you are going to get yourself more runway.”
This would be the time where founders need to look at how much cash they have. “If you run out of cash, you are not going to be in business. Cash is always king,” says Rajan.
Added to this, is the focus on cost reduction. In the present day context, the concept of fixed cost literally goes out of the window. It would mean a renegotiation of everything whether it is rentals or payments.
However, this zeal for cost reduction does not mean the startup loses its focus on the market or customers.
“Get a realistic view of the demand. Then really think about how you're going to optimise revenue to the extent that you're going to have revenue,” says Rajan.
Rajan places great importance on the customers. “This is the time to engage them, not by trying to sell them more things, but by actually showing that you care. And great brands care about the consumers and their customers.”
Rajan is very confident that this too shall pass. “A startup that makes it through, is literally going to be 10X stronger because they lived through the hardest period not seen in a 100 years,” he says.
Sequoia will continue with its Surge programme which focuses on accelerating early-stage startups with a new batch coming in.
“In a couple of weeks, we will be able to tell you the incredibly exciting new cohort that we are going to start,” he says.
(Edited by Dipti Nair)