Mebelkart co-founder and CEO, Rahul Agarwal shares his thoughts on what he learnt while building his own startup.
It is important to get basics right.
Life in a startup is synonymous with uncertainty and lack of progress, especially during the early days of starting up. Perseverance is a virtue which allows us to keep going.
During early days of MebelKart, we were certain that our top priority is getting the business model, product and customer experience right and we were sure that only when we achieve that, will we would go ahead and scale up the business.
We were not in the market to raise any funds during three years of our start-up. Although we faced many roadblocks due to financial constraints, we maintained our focus and commitment. The journey was not easy. There were times when we doubted ourselves, but kept going because we had faith in our model. When we were confident, we set out to seek funds and closed the funding round in half an hour of conversation.
Customer is the king, but not always right!
The biggest learning of running a start-up is that your product can be great but if it doesn’t have a market, then it cannot be turned into a profitable venture. It is of paramount importance to keep enhancing the product in terms of customer experience.
However, there is a note of caution in this. The product enhancement process should be well planned and it should take into consideration the feedback of a large number of customers.
The sad truth is that there are customers who are unreasonable and when operating with finite resources, spending disproportionate amount for a handful of unreasonable customers can be harmful.
Perseverance is the key
Roadblocks will be plenty in the initial days, but they need to be converted into opportunities and milestones. There were times, when we doubted ourselves if we can really pull it off.
The trick is to have faith in the model and one another as a team. There is no better motivator than perseverance.
But like everything else, perseverance comes with a disclaimer-One shouldn’t be hesitant to pivot basis the feedback from market!
Leave your comfort zone
Innovation comes from identifying new areas to improve. This makes learning an important part of the process.
Though, my co-founder and I were techies, but to acquaint ourselves well with customer behavior we spent considerable time interacting with our vendors and customers. In fact, to optimize the route for quicker delivery, we ourselves used to deliver the products in the initial days.
Be open to new ideas
Every business is different and every customer need varies. The way customer behaves with respect to one industry is uniquely different from their behavior towards another industry/ product category
As startup founders, we believe that one needs to be open to implementation or even experimentation of new ideas in business function, be it in Marketing, product development, delivery or hiring.
Hire and manage people right
As the old age saying goes, “A world class team and mediocre product can survive, but not a mediocre team and a world class product”. Period.
A startup should always invest in talent and passionate people and also believe in their skills and give them liberty to decide the course of action. This is instrumental in building a stronger sense of passion and ownership towards the brand.
More than analytics, insight is important
Technology startups have an advantage of sitting on huge piles of customer data. Good Analytics, gives one an edge over contemporaries.
However, the game changer is converting analytics into actionable insights because only then you can redefine your approach, basis customer behavior.
Honesty is the best policy (In Branding)!
When you are building your brand, nothing beats setting expectations right to the customer. Tall claims pulls customers in the short term, but doesn’t fetch customer advocates.
When it comes to investment, investors invest in people more than the idea so being genuine will definitely be a positive.
Building relationship is more important than networking
Networking with the fellow entrepreneurs, VCs and community members need to be nurtured into relationships are long term.
This leads to the formation of a community where mutual benefit leads to growth.
As they say, all work and no play makes jack a dull boy. In the process, don’t forget to have fun. Celebrate smallest of achievements and make family, friends a part of all the celebrations.