“It is a time of reset and reflection and it is very important that the startup arena led by founders and CEOs resets faster,” stated Manoj Kohli, Country Head, Softbank India, in his keynote at TechHR India 2020.
Manoj was speaking on what should be a startup’s course of action post-COVID-19. He averred that it is important for founders to have passion and conviction to convert this crisis into opportunity. Many startups have exhibited this in the current crisis by achieving a higher market share and better quality of recovery in the last six months.
So what are those five big planks which Manoj advocates to founders to make their business stronger, sustainable, and more viable in this period of COVID-19 and after?
Study changing consumer behavior
The change in consumer behavior has been a dramatic change. Even less literate consumers in smaller towns of India now have a positive propensity towards digital businesses and ecommerce. This digital revolution of the last 12 weeks has been bigger than the last 12 years. This major advantage should be taken by all startups. The nudge which COVID-19 has given to digital is far greater hence business models have to be modified and customized for the digital era. Hence it has to include end-to-end digitization for scale and speed.
Innovation engine has to be far stronger
Be it new products or services, they have to more powerful. Because consumer expectations from a successful digital business are very high. This means they expect the innovation engine to throw up new products very regularly. Hence a highly competent team for building innovations constantly should be dedicated to this goal.
Frugality aka the middle-class culture
Founders have to bring in a middle-class culture of frugality, cost efficiency, and higher productivity. Founders have to discourage wastage in their startups-so that every penny which is pent is spent on productive, constructive purposes. Startups can experiment and fail but that’s no wastage. Frugality in the way of thinking has to be there. Founders need to initiate a war on waste (WOW) to pull down wasteful overheads that are not giving you additional revenue and are not statutory.
Getting a number of customers without a financial upside is not a great idea. You need to build revenue, healthy models, and healthy cash flows or in other terms, financial fitness. The business model should be a financially viable business model which at the end of the day makes you a financially healthy company. Long term sustainability will come only from financial health.
Inculcate a higher performance work culture
It’s time to inculcate a high performing work culture and a high ethical culture. This means each employee’s productivity, each employee’s output has to be improved dramatically, through tools or automation. No startup can afford to have low productivity employees. Support employees with counseling and training to help them work towards higher performance. Similarly, if you do not nurture the startups with higher ethics or integrity, then the cultural foundation of the startup will not be sustainable. Because ethics are the foundation stone of future business. Hence both high performance and high ethics are important for a startup.