Harking back to essentials: How to keep yourself and your team motivated

Why it is essential to shift from a mindset of ‘3X ballooning’ to the ‘top 3 basics’ to survive and thrive in the current times
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In some ways, 2019 was the year of the Indian startup. We saw over 50,000 startups being registered across the country, and over $14 billion in funding alone. Indian startups were being hailed as the driver of the $5 trillion GDP economic dream. CEOs were akin to Bollywood celebrities. Well, almost!

And then the calendar moved to 2020.

Right in the beginning of the year, we at Kristal.AI secured our Series A funding. Plans for the next twelve months were notched up and we focused on growth and expansion. The aim for the year was to consolidate our presence in the APAC as much as we could, and move on to the Middle East. This would have been the springboard to our plans to global ascension. Come March, and we had to put all of these on the backburner; much like most Indian early-stage startups.

I’ve talked about having to pivot and change business plans and the role your team plays in it. But this is different. As an entrepreneur itching to break your reins, it is not easy to ask your entire team to take a breather - right in the middle of what you have already underlined to be your year. When the whole world is harking back to essentials though, there is no other way.

So, how does a growing startup aiming for the stars go back to its roots?

While I don’t particularly espouse navel gazing among CXOs, a healthy amount of inward retrospection is not a bad thing.

When you think of growth, you’re not always thinking ‘essentials’. You’re thinking experimentation and innovation and throwing things on the wall to see what sticks. You earmark a certain bandwidth and financials to improve what you have already built, but the majority of your team works on new ways to beat the competition. Growth hacking, right?

Shifting to essentials involves shifting from a mindset of ‘3X ballooning’ to the ‘top 3 basics’. You might want to add a few more to this list as it befits your brand, but I believe I have the crux distilled down. Allow me to share:

1.Look at your core

During the lockdown, I’ve been watching a lot of home fitness videos and I realise that crunches are good for your core; as well as your business. So crunch those numbers. Ask yourself where your core clientele is and what it wants from you. At Kristal.AI, for instance, we offer investment products for both retail and mass affluent clients. But our core has always been customisation with the help of algorithmic investing. This caters better to the mass affluent section and hence a general consensus was to double down on our customised offerings for mass affluent and private wealth clients across the three geographies we are operational in — India, Hong Kong, Singapore.

By focusing on one core segment - which is also the genesis of our company - we have conserved our bandwidth and offered more niche products to a segment we know very well.

2.Conserve your breath

Another lesson learnt from home fitness videos: Breathing right is key. Slow inhales when you relax, and explosive exhales when you need power, strength, and energy.

Right now, we are in conservation mode. Slow inhlaes, if you may. When stability comes, and the floodgates open, customers will look for the best option available. Your brand needs to be that. Explosive exhales will come handy then.

In the financial world, this need for conservation translates to investors holding on to dry powder and waiting for stability before they invest. Our analysts and product team are clued in to the current markets and ensure that we send out tactical trade ideas to our clients on the daily. But they, too, have an eye on the future and have been curating offerings which make sense for the post-pandemic reality.

3.Don’t forget your support system

Often repeated; much forgotten - don’t forget to keep the morale up for your team that is working from home in between the ‘jhadoo pocha’ to ensure your company survives this crisis. Teams like AirBnB and Swiggy have set goals in empathy and company culture by handling an unfortunate incident with humanity and heart. The rest of us must follow.

I’ve heard many say that the companies that make it to the post-COVID world will be the ones who innovate and shape shift as per market demands. I’d like to add one more caveat to that - the companies that survive will also be the ones that show the most heart. Resilience is not muscle memory; it is the ability to overcome barriers. It is the emotional equivalent of physical strength; and one even the most ardent investor would term ‘essential’.

I hope this helped you…

When I started writing this series, I looked at it as a way to document Kristal’s growth in India over the course of the year (we had just announced our Series A). We thought of creating a candid journal of a startup’s growth struggles and learnings. The learnings have been many indeed; fuelled by a struggle none of us anticipated. I believe I’m a better entrepreneur and leader because of it. I believe the team at Kristal has grown by leaps and bounds because of these challenges and through overcoming each of these. And I hope this helps you, dear reader, learn a bit about how you can keep yourself and your team sane during these trying times.

Until the next insight! Stay safe.

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