Unless you are thinking big and aiming for the stars, the probability of having a great business journey that will keep you and your team motivated is fairly less
I come from a family with a very old services background. However, my first job was in a start-up and I think that is where the seeds of entrepreneurship were sown in my mind. The energy of the place, the innovation in products, the culture that they were trying to promote in the organization and the belief that whatever they were doing would change the world in a small way, was a huge motivator. Even though I left that organization in due course, the idea of starting something of my own remained. I made a personal goal of starting a company before I turned 30. I kept trying until I succeeded in this.
To be honest, the fact that we were starting the company during a recession has never really crossed our mind. While the recession was indeed on everybody’s mind in 2009, we felt our business idea addressed a strong need and that if we didn’t make our move, some international brand or the other would, and fill up the space. That has happened to other ideas in the past.
At Mettl, our ambition from the beginning has been to become an organization that is on the top globally. Unless you are thinking big, and aiming for the stars, the probability of having a great journey that will keep you and your team motivated is fairly less.
I think the optimal mix for a startup is a three-people team: one for business, another for the product and the third for the technology. When we started out, we were a two-people team who focused on the product and business. We got our third musketeer a little later and he has been heading our technology wing ever since.
Our idea behind hiring a person is to find the best candidate globally. We mainly choose a person based on attitude and aptitude. Aptitude is about the competency of the person in the present, his abilities and his skills. Attitude incorporates a smart and hard-working approach and whether he needs constant guidance and supervision.
In our team, hard work is the defining factor. It does not matter if a person is from an IIT or IIM, as any level of aptitude can be lost if the person lacks the will to work hard. An individual from a humble background can become a force to reckon with if he is hard working. So, for us, hard work trumps credentials, aptitude or capability. We also have a lot of entrepreneurs in the company. Even if they fail or do not achieve the desired success in their venture, it gives them the right attitude and we welcome more such people in our midst.
Every entrepreneurial venture makes mistakes, learns from them and moves on. The following are some of the things which we as a company could have done differently.
• Generalists help take the company off the ground, managing different portfolios simultaneously. However, in the journey of a startup, there comes a time when you have to focus on hiring specialists as opposed to generalists. In the graph of any company, it becomes imperative to hire specialists in every function, be it marketing, technical or any other. And I think that is something we could have done sooner in our own journey.
• The other point I have in mind relates to the psyche and DNA of the founders. It depends on them to decide both their focus on being a product company and the time when one should start ramping up sales. However, this is a decision which companies take down the line. In our case, we could have decided to do this three or six months earlier than when we did. It is only now that we have ramped up our sales and got the right team together.
It is difficult for companies to move to a data and analytics-driven culture, but these days taking decisions based on them is necessary. For smaller companies, HR is a make-or-break situation. A good hire at the right time can alter the trajectory of your company and make shoot up, whereas a bad hire can really set you back in time. There are so many things that every company wants to do. It is about choosing your battles wisely.
(As told to People Matters)