Lateral Sparks: The Business Creativity Quiz, Edition 1
The days of traditional management thinking based solely on productivity and set targets are numbered. Business leaders also need to be adept at lateral thinking – they need to learn how to do new things, and not just be efficient in the same old things.
In this inaugural edition of the quiz, we present 10 questions faced by real-life entrepreneurs in their startup journeys. What would you do if you were in their shoes? At the end of the quiz, you will find out what the entrepreneurs themselves actually did. Would you do things differently?
Q1: International expansion
Scale-stage companies are eyeing expansion into overseas markets. Traditional approaches include setting up an office in the new country, recruiting teams, and localising products and services. But there’s another faster method, though with its own challenges. What would you do, for example, if you are an education company wanting to expand to another country?
Q2: Unusual dolls
Some of this company’s dolls have only nine fingers and a radial club hand (shorter in length). Some dolls with female names even enjoy playing football. This company does not just sell such dolls – it also conducts workshops and conversations about these dolls. These dialogues involve adults as well. What is the advantage of such practices involving unusual or ‘deformed’ dolls?
Q3: Virtual event fatigue
In an increasingly WFH environment, most events have moved online. But the ease of physical networking is hard to replicate, as well as the energy of the event – which can lead to fatigue with virtual events. So what would you do to improve matchmaking between participants, while also ensuring they do not miss out on sessions which you think would be important for them?
Q4: Traditional handicrafts
India has a wealth of heritage in art, artisan, and crafts communities. But many forms are under-appreciated or even in danger of dying out, such as the art of terracotta. Government schemes and NGO funding certainly help here – but how would you build a sustainable model that also increases creativity of the artisans?
Q5: Livestock farming
The livestock farming sector in India includes poultry, cattle, aquaculture, and more. However, Indian farmers face challenges in getting quality inputs, and improving performance and yield. Training from local institutes and government procurement could be some solutions. But what other kinds of scalable solutions would provide end-to-end services?
Q6: Risk assessment
Successful entrepreneurs have systematic approaches to understanding and assessing risk. One dimension is the outcome, or fallout of the decision. What are the gains, but what is the damage that can be done? That’s one dimension. But there’s another key dimension – famously described by mega-entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos. What is this other dimension?
Q7: Launching a food business
Food is an enduring category for business and creativity, with many options for different cuisines, price points, and delivery methods. Typical launch approaches are cloud kitchens, food trucks, or pop-up stalls in public spaces. But one of the most creative launches took place in this food entrepreneur’s own home! How can this be possible? How can it be scaled?
Q8: Managing traffic jams
Skills, platforms, and procedures for handling traffic are key in domains as varied as urban settings, airplane corridors, and sea lanes. Vehicles need to be aware of where they are, and such information needs to be shared and updated so that collective movement is safe and predictable. But what is the latest frontier of traffic management – beyond land, sea and air? Would investors be interested in such a domain?
Q9: Spinning a yarn
You have a company which initially made toothpicks and cotton buds. You improve production and quality so that you become one of the largest cotton bud exporters in Asia. Then along comes the COVID-19 pandemic, with its lockdowns and disruptions of international and domestic supply chains. What do you do, when many other companies are forced to shut down or to just hold out till things improve?
Q10: Ambulance access
Getting an ambulance can be quite an ordeal in Indian cities. Many people save phone numbers of some ambulance companies, or of nearby hospitals. But this savvy startup found a new solution to improve citizen access to ambulance services. Tragically, one of the founders himself had experienced the problem of inability to get proper emergency service in time. What business solution would work in this case?
If you’ve gotten this far, congratulations! But there’s more to come – answers to these ten questions (below), as well as links to articles with more details on the entrepreneurs’ solutions. We have also included some advice from ecosystem experts like venture capitalists.
Happy reading, happy learning – and happy creating!
A1: International expansion
Acquisition! For example, BYJU’S recently acquired US-based edtech startup Epic for $500 million, in one of the largest international acquisitions in this sector. This will help expand BYJU’S US footprint by providing access to more than two million teachers and 50 million children who are part of Epic’s user base. Read more here.
A2: Unusual dolls
The aim of selling and discussing ‘unusual’ dolls can be to provoke discussion about disabilities in children, and go beyond a ‘perfect’ world. That’s the aim of Shweta Verma and Jamal Siddique, founders of Ginny’s Planet, a social enterprise. They want to amplify empathy as well as awareness about diversity and disability. Dolls, storybooks, and workshops for both children and adults are part of this inspiring organisation’s mission. Read more here.
A3: Virtual event fatigue
Use AI! If you have good data on participant profiles and highlights of sessions and speakers, you can use AI to improve matching-making, personalised recommendations, and automated alerts. You can leverage these insights before, during and after the event as well. That is what event technology company ibentos is working on. Read more here.
A4: Traditional handicrafts
Try ecommerce! That’s what the startup Mittihub has done – it sources handcrafted terracotta goods from artisans and sells them online to consumers. It works with artisans to try their hand at new kinds of products as well. The websites and channels can also be leveraged in B2B mode, with retailers and corporates for gift offerings. Read more here.
A5: Livestock farming
Tech-enabled services can greatly help the livestock farming sector. They can help direct delivery of required inputs, and IoT-based solutions can monitor day-to-day operations as well, delivering real-time visibility and better decision-making capability. This is part of the vision of startups like Aqgromalin, via its one-stop end-to-end solutions platform. Read more here.
A6: Risk assessment
The second dimension of risk assessment is reversibility. "Risk is best understood as a combination of two factors – how reversible is the decision and how controllable the outcome," explains Shripati Acharya, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Prime Venture Partners. He offers a useful 2X2 matrix explaining possible courses of action, such as 'take the plunge' or 'proceed with care.' Read more here.
A7: Launching a food business
Munaf Kapadia, ‘Chief Eating Officer’ of The Bohri Kitchen (TBK), launched his foodtech venture from his Cuffe Parade home in South Mumbai. The home dining experience delivered authenticity through its community setting with traditional décor, and his family’s hospitality. TBK was promoted extensively on social media, and word spread virally. Thanks to investor support, he later set up a delivery kitchen in Worli, and did sales of Rs 35 lakh per month in 2019. The cuisine was distinct but also had mass-appeal items like biryani and samosas.
A8: Managing traffic jams
The ‘final frontier’ for managing traffic jams is – space! A startup called Digantara is working on space surveillance and space situational awareness (SSA). This keeps track of objects in orbit and predict where they may be next. This can help address problems related to space junk and collisions in space. Collision avoidance instructions will be key in this dawn of the new space era. Read more about Digantara here – it has also received funding from Kalaari Capital.
A9: Spinning a yarn
You make swabs for COVID-19 tests! When the pandemic hit India, cotton hygiene products manufacturer Suparshva Swabs converted its cotton processing lines to produce polyester-spun swabs for COVID-19 testing. Till March last year, polyester swabs for COVID-19 testing were not manufactured in India and had to be imported from China or the US. This SMB smartly pivoted to this new market, and began to make millions of swabs each week.
A10: Ambulance access
Build an ‘Uber for ambulances!’ Ravjot Arora and Pranav Bajaj launched Medulance in 2017 as an ambulance and paramedical services aggregator. Based on a model similar to Uber and Ola, it enables customers to book an ambulance via a mobile app. The startup has partnered with Manipal, Columbia Asia, and Fortis, and also offers the MeduAlert programme for corporate employees. During the pandemic, it collaborated with Donate Oxygen India, Quase, and Harmony House India.
YourStory has also published the pocketbook ‘Proverbs and Quotes for Entrepreneurs: A World of Inspiration for Startups’ as a creative and motivational guide for innovators (downloadable as apps here: Apple, Android).