[TechSparks 2020] Why founders should keep brand thinking in mind while starting a company

At the 11th edition of YourStory’s flagship startup-tech event TechSparks, Kiran Khalap, Co-founder of Chlorophyll Brand Consultancy, explained the significance of branding behind building a successful company.
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Building a startup is not uncommon. Thousands of people want to be entrepreneurs, however, what most don’t get right is the branding.

At the 11th edition of TechSparks, Kiran Khalap, Co-founder, Chlorophyll Brand Consultancy, expanded on the need for branding, and explained the benefits and the formulation of brands for companies.

He began by referring to a report by Failory.com which states that a startup is characterised by its growth/scalability and innovation. However, a startup is, in essence, a business experiment that has potential.

“This means that real startups are prone to failure by definition. They are testing assumptions and these assumptions are likely wrong. When you put this new kind of risk on top of the traditional risks of starting a business, it’s no surprise most startups fail. What you want here is not money but time to get the branding right,” Kiran said.

Globally, the success rate of startups is 1:10. While the reasons for failure can be many, the report showed that the three major factors were attributed to the lack of product-market fit, marketing problems, and lack of proper team culture.

“This is where a brand comes to action. Brand thinking can de-risk these problems,” Kiran added.

Influence of intangible assets

About a decade or two ago, tangible factors were highly influential in starting a company. However, over the years, the trend started to reverse.

Kiran said, “Digital technology has transformed the intangible into tangible influences that can be measured and monitored.”

As per a report by Ocean Tomo, the contribution of tangible influences to the market capital have decreased. From 1975 to 2020, there has been a total reversal of the contribution of intangible assets.

This means that firms that have tremendous market capital are those with a lot of intangible, ideational, and intellectual property claims.

“For example, Apple has a brand value of $200 billion because it has 75,000 patents. Simply put, the brand is an intangible idea. It is an idea that guides how we run the organisation and do business,” he explained.

Identifying the mindset

According to Kiran, identifying the right product-market fit is another aspect of building a successful business.

“If the brand is defined well, it allows it to enter multiple businesses with lower investments. A well-defined brand is one that is not tied down to a category but is anchored in a mindset. This is the starting point of brand thinking. Brand thinking begins by understanding the mindset common to multiple segments — that your brand can connect. This is also called social context,” he explained.

A social context is a mindset that can be either geographically, demographically or categorically agnostic. This allows the brand to connect to more people than just those who are using the product at that point.

Kiran also highlighted an emerging individualistic mindset whereby people started considering self needs as important as the family needs.

“Thus whatever startup that you have, you will have to find out what is the mindset that is relevant to your startup. These mindsets are expressed in multiple behaviours. It’s a startup’s job to find out what that mindset is,” he said.

“It is thus important to do secondary research on global trends as well as primary research to understand the local expression. What you need is continuously talking and understanding to find out what the intended user has as their mindset,” he added.

This step prevents an entrepreneur from falling in love with their own idea. Instead, it builds the primary quality that your offering needs – relevance.

Kiran Khalap at TechSparks 2020

Finding the core idea

The second step in brand thinking, according to Kiran, is finding the core idea that drives your business.

But how do you do that? Find the brand beyond category, archetype and values, and find what is common.

Kiran gives the example of Amul. It creates prosperity for all stakeholders – including customers and farmers – who provide them with milk. They are caregivers and democratise the market. Amul was one of the few brands to increase the pay to the farmers during COVID-19 crisis. Their motto is value for money and value for many.

“When you find the brand core which is beyond the product category, it prevents from error two – which is the inability to pivot. Once the first two steps are done, then what is critical is the alignment. Everything including the brand name, identity, and experience then come into alignment with the brand,” Kiran added.

Building an internal culture

‘Hire for values and train for skills.’

Kiran urges the companies to follow this motto. He explained that the first step as part of building an organisational culture is the right hiring and induction. This is followed by the second aspect, which is how the leader behaves. This then leads to rewards and deterrents, which is crucial in creating culture.

Kiran concluded by saying “If your values are clear, you need to make sure that everybody – big or small lives up to those value. Align values and behaviour to create your own culture- so you attract the right people.”


TechSparks - YourStory's annual flagship event - has been India's largest and most important technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship summit for over a decade, bringing together entrepreneurs, policymakers, technologists, investors, mentors, and business leaders for stories, conversations, collaborations, and connections that matter. As TechSparks 2020 goes all virtual and global in its 11th edition, we want to thank you for the tremendous support we've received from all of you throughout our journey and give a huge shoutout to our sponsors of TechSparks 2020.

Edited by Kanishk Singh