“In January 1848, James Wilson Marshall discovered gold while constructing a sawmill along the American River northeast of present-day Sacramento. The discovery was reported in the San Francisco newspapers in March but caused little stir, as most did not believe the account.
The spark that ignited the gold rush occurred in May 1848 when Sam Brannan, a storekeeper in Sutter's Creek, brandished a bottle filled with gold dust around San Francisco shouting 'Gold! Gold! Gold from American River!' The residents of the city now had proof of the discovery and the stampede to the gold fields was on. San Francisco's harbor was soon cluttered with derelict ships deserted by their crews. Workers abandoned their jobs - San Francisco's two newspapers were forced to close their doors as their staffs were struck by gold fever. The populations of many of the coastal towns were depleted as prospective prospectors headed to the gold fields. The New York Herald printed news of the discovery in August 1848 and the rush for gold accelerated into a stampede.” #1
The story surrounding the Californian Gold Rush of the mid 1800s has been well documented. Many fables of overnight millionaires and billionaires still float around. A mass migration of that magnitude in that era must have been a site to behold. The stories that interest us are not of the Gold Diggers or the Gold Miners. The killing was actually made by men who supplied the spades, the people, the equipment and the cargo. In short, the guys who created the support system.
As companies upon companies line up to start their tech ventures in the guise of Startups, at the swanky startup incubation hubs of Bengaluru, Gurgaon, Hyderabad, Mumbai and elsewhere, the most unrepresented industry is the ancillary industry, which helps startups thrive. Our attention is mostly drawn by media houses towards unicorns, deal sizes, investments by PE firms, $ valuations sliced across various categories. A few harp on the next big things and the latest trends followed by VC firms.
We are forced to acknowledge and celebrate the success of entities based on funds raised by ventures across categories. We talk incessantly about the top 10 VC funded entities and progressively lesser and lesser about the companies in the bottom quadrant. We appear so blinded by who raised what that we have chosen to acknowledge the importance of the Ancillary businesses, which support our Startup Industry.
While we have every right to celebrate this thriving trade and position ourselves as a Startup destination to the world, lets also spare a thought to what happens behind the scene.
Think about the number of apartments and floor spaces around Koramangla opening their doors to meet the ambitions of a visionary who strongly believes his idea is the next big game changer.
Think about the Solutions architect who supplies critical communications platforms who sees his scope of work document change by the hour. The owner of the HR consulting firm who has just been briefed about the extremely demanding qualities and traits young Startups look for. The law firm, which has to scan the ecosystem to offer the best suggestions.
I represent an industry, which has worked extensively with Startups. Having had the privilege of working with large entities in the outsourcing space for years, the lure of catering to the extremely challenging requirements of Startups was a challenge none of us going to say no to. It required us completely transform our organization by making it nimble footed, lean and agile.
For years we had worked with Telecom firms, banks, insurance companies and the government to create customer engagement and ticketing solutions, which would help us, communicate with their customers.
We knew what we were getting into. It meant that we had to unlearn everything that we did in our formative years and start afresh. Having had the opportunity to work across various sectors servicing the needs of large Indian enterprises, there was always that option and temptation of floating a Startup. But given our strong services background we chose to be the spade suppliers rather than the diggers.
There is an inherent joy in working with plenty of startups. You get a worldview and first-hand perspective of various trends. You thrive on the opportunity of interacting with starry-eyed entrepreneurs with nothing but their dreams to move forward. Yes, it is a challenge convincing them initially as they prefer keeping their core processes close to their chest but once you decide to work hand in hand with them and treat their success as your own, the thrill quotient is extremely high and satisfying.
Startup entrepreneurs dare to dream and they dare to try out newer and innovative methods to engage and interact with their customers. For them, the voice of the customer is sacrosanct and helps fine-tune their strategy. Unlike their predecessors, they feel a constant need to know what customers feel about their product/service on a real time basis.
For Startups, their ride is nothing short of being on a Roller coaster. The ups are quick and so are the turns and the twists. To meander through this exciting journey, the Startups need to bank on the right support systems. While most of the initial energy would go in creating the right product, raising funds and getting the product/service to the target audience the team also needs to give due credit to choosing the right entities to partner with. A partner who would walk in hand, no matter what. A partner who understand the vagaries and dynamism of your business.
After all, when the Gold Digger finally gets to shout “Gold, Gold, Gold”; he would feel the need to thank tons of people who have worked as hard as him, over the years, to turn his venture into an overnight success!