Coming from a marwadi family where everybody is running their own business, small or big, getting a degree in business was a natural course. After completing BBM, I worked (first in my family to have worked outside family business) with a health care start up in 2011. We were a small team of 3 members including the founder. That’s where I realised that there is no job description in start-ups. From data entry to marketing to sales, everybody was doing everything to make things work. It was a great opportunity to learn everything, however I couldn’t resist an offer from Google. I “moved on” to Google to learn how bigger organisations function. I would love to replicate the Google’s culture in my future venture where everybody around you is smarter and is urging you to better yourself from time to time.
My core job was helping businesses advertising with Google get better ROI on their spend on AdWords. Work was good but abundance of opportunities to learn outside your core work excited me to most! With great people, opportunities & perks (read massage, gym, Nutella!), leaving Google wasn’t an easy call but Starting Up and creating value seemed more challenging. If I could change one thing about my past, I would have loved to start up earlier. I quit Google in 2013 & “moved on” to start up.
Shreya Siroya has been a great friend since college & being a very passionate, energetic personality, it was easy for me to see a co-founder in her. We started Retale.in with an eventual goal of bringing the concept of “re-marketing” to the physical world. Imagine a platform where physical stores could target their digital ads to their previous visitors (not only buyers).
From conceptualising the idea to building a team for execution, it was a great learning experience. We had outsourced the product as both of us didn’t have engineers in our network. This was our first learning and we would never repeat that. However, I would like to mention that our tech partners were great and helped us hire tech talent.
Good things first, we managed to build a strong enthusiastic team who couldn’t care less about the pay day & were at it, every day to make Retale.in a success. We managed to rope in 350+ stores within Bangalore in span of 8 months. From national brands to home run boutiques, we had them all. Not knowing what CSS & HTML is to managing the complete product being non techies, we have come a long way. I now take the responsibilities of a product manager (who doesn’t code).
After running the product for little more than a year, we started to notice the gaps in the whole system. Building a platform for users to view inventory of physical stores online had its own challenges. Today, a lot of national brands don’t have 100% visibility into their own stores inventory. Believe it or not, not all the stores are even connected with internet. Along with this, gaps in tracking sales at the stores & extremely low margins stores will willing to part with flawed the whole business model. We were wise enough to notice this and shut down Retale.in at the beginning of 2016. Happy new year eh?!
Shutting it down wasn’t easy. It was our first step towards building something of value. Needless to say, it was our baby! Before shutting it down, we were trying to make things work as we had put in 2+ years. From trying to leverage the user base, the brands connect, industry insights, possible acquisitions, we tried whatever we could think of to keep it alive. We spent another 6 months doing this. Running a start up is very similar to being in a relationship. Even if things aren’t working, you don’t want to end it as it seems to be a bad thing to do but we all know what good comes out of being hooked to your ex.
Move on, it’s better!
Pointing out our learnings knowing you aren’t going to listen & still make these mistakes:
- Don’t fool yourself by saying, let me outsource the MVP & I will work on finding a co-founder along the way. Delay product launch if required.
- Validate your solution by running an MVP. Get real consumers feedback, don’t talk to family and friends.
- Never assume. Assumptions kill opportunities.
- Avoid incentivising users, create something of value and charge premium!
- I’ve been told & I agree, don’t run behind valuation. Work on a good business model, investors are looking for profitability in 2016 😛
- The co-founders should have the skills to be able to build out the MVP & get validation. Work with interns at max. Don’t hire full time employees, outsource product development or even register a company.
- Talk to the industry you are trying to solve a problem for and ask if the problem even exists?
- Don’t worry about money. Worst case, you will land a job. Best case, you could create something of value. Start up!
Taking the cue from last point, I am looking to start up again & searching for tech founders who are looking for a business co-founder. Ping me if “you” are reading this!