If you look at the pandemic and its aftermath on the startup industry in the country from the perspectives of some of the great thinkers of the past, you will realize that there is plenty that the event taught us.
If there is one point of commonality between the writers, entrepreneurs, and philosophers of the country; it has to be their way of thinking and braving hard times. After all, as Virgil said, ‘Every calamity is to be overcome by endurance’. And speaking in specific about this lockdown, it would be safe to state that not only the deck of cards that we were playing with got shuffled, rather the deck in itself was completely changed. But there is some lesson to every hardship, and if one manages to be brave and look deeply, some of the other good can be derived from any and every situation.
Here is what the startups of the country can learn in these testing times, through the perspectives of some of the greatest minds that the world has seen.
Virgil’s thoughts and opinions about endurance have become a universal lesson now. Through this viewpoint, one can learn and appreciate the importance of maintaining cash flows. The magical trick here is to spend less, and those who managed to recognize each other as companions instead of competitors have also managed to sail through these rough times of reduced or no revenues. If truth is seen, the entire startup industry is one large and integrated group. And in the weeks that have gone by, the industry has proven its ability to solve the shortcomings of other ventures. Startups have gone out of the way to distribute essential products for other brands, of course at costs that would not burn a hole in their own pockets. Entrepreneurs have helped out other entrepreneurs, lending them their factories and even raw materials to maintain their supply. Reputed companies like Wellversed Health used their knowledge of maintaining seamless production to help out younger startups and gave them access to both material and expertise.
The famous English writer, Samuel Richardson, stated that ‘Calamity is the test of integrity’. Truly, one’s team is all that one has in the beginning, the middle and the end. And through a strong and balanced team, one can trump over everything. And integrity plays a really important role in this scene. A lot of founders of startups across the country have stepped forward, and have taken pay cuts to even zero for these tough months. Everyone from recent start-ups to well-known ventures has volunteered to do their bit. Founders of the venture RacEnergy of Hyderabad decided to not take any salaries till they have some hope of better times ahead. They even decided to assist their teams and members whose salaries are on the lower end. Similarly, members of the Liquid beverages team in Gurugram, including founders and employees, decided to cut their salaries and take only what was needed, lest the company come to a standstill. In tough times like these, when team members are without an ESOP, and when the value of shares has been badly hit; the long term vision of the team is helping to create a pathway for a better and brighter future for everyone.
William Davenant, the famous English playwright, quoted that ‘Calamity is the perfect glass wherein we truly see and know ourselves’. After all, it is only in times of calamity that we can unleash our true potential, and realize who we are. Who we are at our core can be evaluated only in times like these, when we are forced to react to uneasy times. Thankfully, the government intervened right in time to prevent the unfair rises in prices of a lot of essentials and preventive measures. Ventures, too, have been tackling measures to ease things out for everyone. Take the case of Atron, a venture based in Mumbai. Atron works in the deep sanitization space, and has been sanitizing public areas such as health care areas and hotels for a few years now, and has been providing 100 percent sanitization through means less than 98 percent water! In times like this, once would have fathomed that the company would increase its prices and take advantage of the situation. Atron, on the other hand, reduced its prices and even provided free sanitization services to affected areas. This truly shows how their intent of starting up was to do their bit to conserve the environment.
Who has not heard of the great Greek philosopher Aristotle and his philosophies? Aristotle quotes that ‘Suffering becomes beautiful when anyone bears great calamities with cheerfulness, not through insensibility but the greatness of mind’. If one thinks from his viewpoint, adapting to a difficult situation with calm and cheer is the only way to approach a calamity. In the times of the lockdown, smartphone usage has increased tremendously. Data usage is at a hundred percent these days, with a majority of the population relying on their smartphones to pass time. In such a scenario, companies are looking at smarter ways to win their consumers over. Though meeting sales targets is very important, keeping and retaining consumers is the more important task here. CultFit has started providing free classes to motivate people to stay fit and positive at home, and social media is venturing to encourage artists and creators to keep sharing their content and pictures. Suddenly now, being on the phone has become a productive activity. People are sharing recipes and hosting bake-along so that everyone can have a good time at their home. The new age beverage brand, Jade Forest, is now helping people make delicious cocktails from the comfort of their homes.
At times like this when the market is dry, there is more than just capital which is needed to support us through times like these. The truth is that none of us had signed up for this, but now that we are in this situation, we are all in it together. All we can do in this unpredictable and depressing external situation is to take care of our internal responses and evaluate our strength of endurance, integrity, and adaptability.