What Covid-19 lockdown has taught Indian Startups
‘Every calamity is to be overcome by endurance’ – Virgil (Roman Poet)
‘Calamity is the test of integrity’ – Samuel Richardson (English Writer)
‘Calamity is the perfect glass wherein we truly see and know ourselves’ - William Davenant (English Playwright)
‘Suffering becomes beautiful when anyone bear great calamities with cheerfulness, not through insensibility but through greatness of mind’ – Aristotle (Greek Philosopher)
There is a lot in common between how great writers, philosophers, and entrepreneurs in our country think and tackle calamities. Since the lockdown, it’s safe to say, not only have the deck of cards we were playing with shuffled, but we have dealt with a completely new deck.
Sitting in the midst as an entrepreneur and startup enabler, managing investors and startups as an incubator, these quotes stand as true as ever during this lockdown.
Through the wisdom of the great minds mentioned above, here is what startups have learned during the lockdown.
Endurance has become the universal goal. Endurance means one point and one point only; maintain cashflows. The only trick is to spend less, while revenues have reduced beyond the worst-case scenarios, and soon those who first recognised each other as competitors became companions. In truth, the startup universe is one large huddle.
In the past couple of weeks, ventures have started providing their capability to solve for shortcomings of other ventures. Startups in the new-age retail space like ‘The New Shop’ began providing their access to riders beyond their own product categories as a means of distributing essential products for other brands, at costs that wouldn’t result in burning a hole for these startups.
We’ve seen founders lending a hand to their competitors to be able to use their factories, and even raw materials in order to maintain their supply. Companies like Wellversed Health have utilised their know-how of maintaining a seamless production unit to support younger startups with access to material and expertise, and immediately there is hope and reinstatement that great founders look out for each other.
Samuel Richardson’s viewpoint
Your team is all you have at the start, the middle, and the end, therefore integrity trumps anything. Founders have stepped forward, taking pay cuts down to 0 for the past and current month. From public and well-known ventures to early-stage startups, everyone is doing their bit.
Founders of Hyderabad-based EV venturehave chosen not to take salaries until they get a clearer picture of the times ahead, in order to assist their teams whose salaries are in the lower brackets from taking minimal to no cuts. Moreover, I’ve heard from Gurugram-headquartered Liquii beverages that not only founders, but mid and entry level team members took a unanimous decision to cut their salaries to a sum that is suitable for everyone’s sustainability in order to ensure business doesn’t come to a standstill.
It is through these times, when team members without ESOP, and at a time when the value of shares take a hit, where the long-term vision of all members comes together to shine hope on a brighter future. After all, what better test of integrity then a calamity?
William Davenant’s viewpoint
Who we are is truly seen with how we respond at a time of unease. This is a time of opportunity for many but at what cost? Luckily, the governments’ intervention of controlling the unfair rise in prices of preventive measures like masks curbed the unfair opportunity being capitalised on. But then, there are ventures that have been tackling measures that seem to be made for the present and future.
Atron, a Mumbai-based venture in the deep sanitisation space, has been sanitising public areas like hotels and health sector providers for a few years, through means of less than 98 percent water and up to 100 percent sanitisation. At this time, one would imagine their pricing to surge, but in fact the venture has taken this time to showcase their true reason of starting, which is to save the environment, and has reduced prices and even providing free sanitisation service to impacted areas.
Adapting to a calamity with calm, cheer, and sensibility has enabled the drastic change of consumer behaviour to be tended to with sheer brilliance. As smartphone usage increased where data is being used at 100 percent capacity, and newer age groups of students and adults find themselves relying on their smartphone to pass time, companies have realised smart ways to win mind (and data) share.
It is important to keep your sales target close, but more important to keep your customers closer. Retaining customers for venture is more important than finding new ones, but what if you can do both wisely? From Cult Fit providing free online classes to motivate the country to stay fit and positive, to social media ventures like GoSocial ensuring that artists and creators earn while they share content, pictures, and post on social media, through gamified engagement like streaks, and having influencers on their platform, suddenly being on the phone is a productive activity.
At a time like this, when markets are dry, venture world re-evaluates valuations, and founders their ventures values, there is more than just capital that can support us through this.
None of us signed for this calamity, but then we all did sign up for a road that isn’t easy by going into the world of entrepreneurship. So, to all my friends, founders, investors, mentors, and the entire startup ecosystem, I hope this time has helped us settle down, tie our laces, and brace ourselves to make the most from our learnings.
All we have is our internal response to every external factor, and it is now when we truly get to evaluate the power of endurance, adaptability, integrity and ourselves.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)