"In a startup, nothing will ever happen unless you do it or make it happen".
This year started on a sick note for me, literally! I have spent most of the last eight weeks, that have passed this year, switching from a combination of medication to another. I don't remember the last time I was sick for nearly two months.
However, I made the most of my situation by reading and completing some of the half-read books. And, the most significant takeaway was one particular book that touched upon the emotional roller coaster life of entrepreneurs - Failing to Succeed - The story of India's first e-commerce company.
K Vaitheeswaran, the author of this book, is widely hailed as the father of e-commerce in India. In 1999, he co-founded India's first e-commerce company Fabmart.com which was later rebranded as Indiaplaza.com. In 2001, he co-founded the Fabmall supermarket chain, which was subsequently acquired by the Aditya Birla Group and re-branded 'More' supermarket chain.
All this was happening when Flipkart, Snapdeal and AmazonIndia, the e-commerce giants, were yet to be born.Entrepreneurial journey is full of uncertainties, and this is the prime reason for the emotional rollercoaster ride entrepreneurs experience on a regular basis. Vaitheeswaran brings out entrepreneurs’ predicament in a candid manner by sharing interesting anecdotes, fears and anxiety he and his team encountered during their journey.
Here are the five lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs from Vaitheeswaran:
1. Be 'Brupid': "Any professional-turned-entrepreneur has to be a 'brupid.'' a word coined by combining 'brave' and 'stupid', says Vaitheeswaran.
2. Several things rolled into one: At least in the early stage of a startup "there are no set roles and responsibilities. Everyone has to do anything, and everything says Vaitheeswaran. Due to lack of resources and fluid nature of startup business founders are several things rolled into one- so if you are mentally prepared to cope with it only then begin this journey.
3. Do it yourself: According to the author, "in a startup, nothing will ever happen unless you do it or make it happen" and "this is the quintessential difference between a corporation and a start-up.'
Like in a corporate, in the military too most work is guided by Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) or a Red Book, and everyone in the chain knows their roles and responsibilities. Thus, when I was involved during my first startup, it took a while to understand that there are no ready to use SOPs for startups and that one must build them as you go.
4. Entrepreneurs should develop the habit of writing down their trials and errors and the experience gained from them should be incorporated in preparing a customised SOPs that meets their startup's requirements.
5. Fundraising, not a part-time job. The author warns not to treat fundraising as a "part-time job" to be undertaken up by a co-founder in spare time as this can seriously impact her/his "function" or “funding will go off the tracks." Fundraising requires “full-time attention from a founder or co-founder who has a good grasp of the business, and is willing to spend the required time patiently with investors," according to Vaitheeswaran.
(The author is the founder and chief executive officer of AskMentor)