Start-up Founders 2.0 – 15 Lessons from entrepreneurs – Phani Bhushan and Girish Baranda
On May 27, 2016, we hosted Phani Bhushan and Girish Baranda, are entrepreneurs, innovators, and the Founders of PLANiN innovation, at the Startup Founders 2.0. Both shared their experience, taking the founders present through the thrilling roller coaster like ride as an entrepreneur. Phani, a passionate and a natural innovator hails for a small industrial town of Bokaro in Jharkhand that has one of the largest Steel Plant of the country. Girish hails from Ahmedabad, Gujrat.
The piggy in the above video made 17 attempts to reach the cookies in the jar, and yet could not get to grab even a single one,This summarised their journey as entrepreneurs. Just when you are finally about to get a cookie after the nth attempt, something will block your mouth! The video communicated that only the rare of the lot get to reach the cookie-jar in the first attempt.
“Entrepreneurship bug bit me well in time, I filed my first patent during my college days and always thought of starting an innovation company. I started an innovation company in 14th March 2012 ( Pie Day) and had been on a rollercoaster ride ever since. Some of the lessons I learnt the hard way, but on my own money. Hope you avoid the mistakes I made after hearing our experiences.
Naming your company, it starts with a Noun!
“I wanted to work on innovations, creating innovative/inventive products and solutions, .. more like a lab which can produce rapid innovations and earn through royalty. Naming my innovation lab at the IIT incubator was least important for me, so when it I was asked what are you doing, I answered “I am Planning innovation” as that’s what I was doing. My accountant took Planing Innovations for name and I never questioned it. It was unimportant for me .The name was however denied by the MCA Babu. “The name has to start with a noun as per the new rule!”, he said. , I was quick to strike the last syllable of the word ‘Planning” from the verb to make it “Plannin Innovation”. That’s how I got the name approved by MCA. Later I realized that ‘name” is an important function of your brand and you need not be in a hurry like I was.
Hiring a Co-founder, you should know and trust him before getting him on board
As I said earlier, I was in a great hurry to start and was least interested in understanding the surrounding legal and financial environment before getting to the stage where I would need to. My CA told me I needed a minimum of two directors to start a company. My family members were in government jobs, so I could not have them as directors, I had no one whom I could convince to join immediately so I convinced my accountant to join me as a co-founder. The relationship didn’t work out well and with obvious share of problems, I had hard time to getting another co founder.
Look at contributing in a big way
Not everything I listed here is a mistake! After registering my company, I started thinking seriously about the way forward. I reached out to Dr Anoop Chawla, Prof Mechanical Engineering, IIT Delhi. And under his mentorship I got my lab incubated in IIT Delhi.
I started thinking of my first product. It was a cooling solution for accelerated frames. Sounds fancy!! For trucks and vehicles. My target market was goods vehicles or trucks. While creating my presentation, I could sense the bigger picture; that the truck drivers have a huge role to play in the economy, their health and well-being directly affects the last mile delivery. Truck drivers struggle with the heated environment for around 7-8 months in a year. A realization of this simple connection in my mind helped me get to the IIT incubation.
Don’t pay upfront in a manufacturing contract; Neither give an exclusive contract
The first product I created was a simple dust cleaning solution for screens like Mobile, Tablets, PCs, TVs, etc. I was so excited to launch it that I gave an exclusive contract to a manufacturer whom I met just once during a Delhi Metro ride. My naïve-ness didn’t do any good to me and I couldn’t complete the orders, couldn’t control the quality of the product as well. I am sure my inexperience has to do everything with it.
Get expert helps in the domains you don’t have experience and expertise
Later, I signed up a marketing contract with a big e-commerce company for my dust cleaning product even when I was not sure of my manufacturer’s ability to produce. As it turned out, the exercise was an absolute fail; a balme game started between the marketer and the manufacturere with us suffering in the middle of it. Opportunity wizzed past us.
Avoid legal hassles at any cost – but remain prepared for it.. it will be there sooner or later
Despite all this, I decided to avoid the legal hassle. This was my personal call in the interest of my start-up and the future prospect it was holding for me. Had I been in a legal battle with him, it could have eaten all my time and energy which I am investing in creating the next big thing.
Understand your customer and market condition before creating a solution-
Despite being a great innovation, my cooling system is yet to become a mass product for transport vehicles. The product is designed to be installed on the rooftop of a truck, and a commercial truck has to have a sealed rooftop to get a commercial clearing from the transport department.
Next, I created a parking solution mobile app. With a difference. I test marketed the concept in certain south Delhi parking lot. But once I gauged the landscape of how parking auctions are conducted I found my app to be completely unfit for conducting business
Don’t reveal the trade secrets before money reaches your account –
For manufacturing contract of the cooling system, I demanded an upfront royalty from my manufacturer. He agreed to pay by post-dated cheques. The moment I transferred the complete prototype and designs, the cheques started bouncing. I am yet to get my money and likely to get into a legal battle with him since the amount in question is high.
Market conditions impact you more than your competition
The real risk is not from your competition, rather from changing market conditions or operational issues that can kill your business in entirety. Ola and Flipkart are bigger stories because their founders were able to come out of the initial struggle without being broken. Here are some of the incidents from my life to draw this point –
- I created a grocery delivery app: only to realise that the model we had adopted was bringing us too close to the customer and adding risks at every people to people contact. All the risk of products being delivered was on our company.
- My two innovations are yet to see the market daylight because I chose wrong manufacturers.
- My wrong choice of co-founder had almost killed my business even before it could take off.
Product launch does not happen in fancy parties
Real product launch starts much before the fancy party which gets you press coverage. The customer should be able to get the product at the retail store next to him. The moment he comes to know about its non-availability at the retails, you have lost your customers and efforts of hype and attention that you created through ads, media etc.. I learnt this the hard way when, despite getting thousands of upfront order; I could hardly make a delivery as the product was still in pre-manufacturing phase.
Innovation is simple –
Innovation is the simple solution to complex problems which affect masses. Two problems which I identified with the most were ‘Heat’ and ‘Dust’. Both are global problems, if I can solve them well, I will be able to scale very fast. Great product sells on their own; marketing is just the business of creating awareness.
Treat your team members well –
There can’t be any two ways around it….
There is no hurry as such
Most founders, including me, are in a rush to launch the product and get a large market share. The real product which can sustain growth requires an entrepreneur’s homework well before getting to the market. Launch small and launch well. Operational issues kill more start-ups than competition or the lack of it.
Money, you need it all the time –
While we were courting all these failures, we were creating success as well, we could sell our innovation which could Bank of America optimise and utilise its corporate workspace better. Simple thing but it brought home some dollars. Our traffic interchange solution also brought us some money to sustain our long lists of failures
Nothing can stop you except your way of being
It might look like we are a bunch of fools, and may be we are. We don’t mind being fools. We take the rough way out , the road less travelled, at least you cant say you have heard the same things before. And we are thoroughly enjoying this ride and we have not made any one loose their money. It all our experiments and we have learnt a great deal from it. Remained cash positive till this day despite loosing money left right and centre.
I keep moving despite all struggles. You evolve everyday when you are on a start-up journey. There is no looking back.
So the NEXT BIG THING
All our failures and experiences inspired us to engineer a new online platform “ iGLIMPS” . Facebook, twitter, linked. All are great products serving a certain need of the society. But freindships never happen on Facebook, a conversation doesn’t happen on twitter, a network is not built on Linkedin. These are real things which happen in real world. We believe in bringing people together and technology to serve only as a leverage. So if you can see someone you can talk to that person ( offcourse the other person has to agree to it), but you wont need to know his/her name , phone number profile name etc for that. All very real. No false profiles nothing phony.
You would definitely not need this platform, only if your eyes could shout or you have an active telepathy subscriptiuon. Our core belief is Life is beautiful. TOGETHER.
Hence we are out once more on a journey, this time to help us all
Do. Different. Together
Dream. Different. Together
Risk. Different. Together
Colloborate. Different. Together
Think. Different. Together
Make. Different. Together…………….
SO JOIN US ON iGLIMPS.com
Written by Girdharee based on the discussion during founders 2.0 and follow-up inputs from Phani.
About Founders 2.0
Founders 2.0 is the space for founders, entrepreneurs and start-ups. The purpose is to create a unique platform where ideas can flow freely, people can network openly and problems can be discussed, shared and mutual solutions can be applied. Every week we get 20 founders to meet and greet each other. I look forward to welcome you at the next meetup.