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Taking the entrepreneurial plunge can be exciting and challenging at the same time as a business founder. One of the most important traits for a business to be successful is for the founder to be confident about the business model and persevere for growth, against all odds – easier said than done. The pandemic which tested the resilience of business enterprises was an eye-opener for many entrepreneurs, who realized the importance of business continuity planning as well as the necessity to build a robust digital business model. But for many, it was a matter of business survival.
Growing entrepreneurial spirit
In 2020, business performance across sectors was a mixed bag, especially in the start-up ecosystem. An estimated 15 per cent of 40000 start-ups were forced to close their business owing to the pandemic-triggered economic crisis. On the other hand, 11 digitally-enabled start-ups achieved a valuation of over USD 1 Bn and won the coveted unicorn status in 2020, as against 9 unicorns in 2019. Certain segments namely digital payments, online health, and e-commerce witnessed hyper-growth. For other entrepreneurs, 2020 was a difficult year that saw steep declines in revenues with business going in the red in certain cases. For all entrepreneurs – those that tasted success during the pandemic and those who managed to stay afloat, the pandemic offered valuable lessons for business survival. We shall look at some of the time-tested tips recommended by experts for entrepreneurs that might help in navigating today’s highly competitive business environment.
1. Continuous innovation
Gone are the days when a one-time, initial research and development initiative for a new product launch was enough to realize a constant stream of revenues and stay ahead of the curve. In current times, entrepreneurs need to adopt constant innovation to meet changing customer expectations, along with a focus on incremental value-add.
@Simpl, we take product innovation very seriously. We started as a digital transformation of the age-old Khata system prevalent in India. Subsequently, we leveraged upon the power of the internet and cutting-edge technology namely cloud, AI, and ML to offer a cost-effective, credit-based, digital payment product that was easily accessible on one’s mobile phone. Further, we have extended into biller payment services with a Simpl BillBox extension i.e. pay later option for utility bills with an Autopay variant. As our next milestone in our product roadmap, we plan to open our issuing platform to third-party providers of capital, thereby enabling seamless flow of capital from the cheapest cost of funding to the point of sale.
2. Quality is non-negotiable
Entrepreneurs need to focus on product quality, especially at the initial growth phase, when the founder is looking to scale the product. Quality is a sine qua non to build a loyal customer base. Superior quality would contribute to customer retention and attract new customers. Quality can be an effective differentiation strategy in the long-run.
@Simpl: At Simpl, product quality including related features namely robust credit underwriting secure transactions is accorded the highest priority. With Simpl, the payment process is seamless and frictionless and completed with a 1-click checkout at the point of sale. All of our credit decisions are managed 100% by machine intelligence, eliminating any scope of human error or bias. We adhere to the highest standards of security and anti-fraud protocols. Being a product rooted in trust, we ensure absolute buyer protection.
3. Leverage upon the sheer power of technology
Industry dynamics witness constant flux in terms of innovation on products, emerging trends, new technologies, the impact of contemporary events etc. For an entrepreneur, it can be overwhelming to keep track of all the latest happenings in one’s sector of operations. However, technology is the secret sauce that can help bridge this gap in an effective and efficient manner. Cutting-edge technology namely AI, ML, cloud, data analytics can aid in deriving economies of scale and building brand equity. Entrepreneurs, especially founders of tech product start-ups need to constantly upgrade their tech stack to offer a superior customer experience. In fact, the edge of fintech over traditional banking and financial services is largely attributable to the technology edge.
@Simpl: We view Simpl as a data and technology company, with technology being our core competence. We use polyglot microsystems, GoLang, Ruby, along with home-grown tools, AWS, and Kafka to ensure 24*7 uninterrupted operations for our customers.
4. Focus on achieving milestones
It would be prudent for entrepreneurs to focus on business goals by setting short-term milestones and achieving the same. One must have in place a business plan as to the funding required and capital needs. Also, the pandemic taught us the importance of the pivot strategy. For example, once a business achieves a certain level of growth in a certain segment, it would be prudent to diversify into related segments in the value chain to prevent oversaturation and offer diversified offerings to customers. This would help a business gradually grow its customer base.
@Simpl, our first merchant was a cloud kitchen merchant called Faasos. Today we have 2500+ category-leading merchants onboarded with Simpl. Our goal is to reimagine payments driven by trust, strong relationships, and loyalty between merchants and their consumers.
5. Get your finances in order
Funds are the lifeline of every business – at the inception stage in the form of capital, in the growth stage for business expansion, either as working capital for operations or towards CAPEX spending on fixed assets. Every business requires a periodic infusion of capital, both in a timely manner as well as of adequate quantum. Prior to raising funds from PE/VC/angel investors, entrepreneurs need to have a viable business model with a latent market and a feasible business plan to achieve growth. To sail through business cycles, entrepreneurs should maintain adequate emergency funds to tide over a monetary shortfall if any. Effective cash management is crucial for every entrepreneur. A healthy cash flow cycle with adequate liquidity is vital for the smooth running of the business. One of the cash conservation strategies is to extend the duration of the payables.
@Simpl: Simpl is funded by leading venture capitalists comprising A-grade Silicon valley-based VCs like Green Visor Capital and IA Ventures. At Simpl, we offer customers an interest-free credit period of 15 days with the facility of a unified, single bill from multiple purchases across 2500+ merchants. This enables improved liquidity, efficient tracking of expenses, and efficient monetary budgeting.
There’s no short cut to success
For an entrepreneur, both growth of the existing business, as well as new revenue channels from business expansion, is crucial. One should build a strong foundation, capitalize on one’s core offering while expanding into related avenues to generate higher ROI through continuous deepening and widening of the business roots. Entrepreneurs also need to be well-prepared to overcome adversities in the future, similar to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In conclusion, an entrepreneur needs to consistently work towards business growth, adapt to change, and incorporate new strategies in the business to remain competitive.