The bigger the risk, the higher the rewards. This is very true, even more so in the case of startups. Startups don’t guarantee success. In fact, statistics say that more than 90% startups fail.
So, entrepreneurs who risk everything to pursue a startup idea are a rare breed. It helps to know about them and their startups. Regardless of their successes or failures, it is important we learn from such entrepreneurs.
There is no better education than learning from their experiences. After all, continuous learning is what helps one succeed.
Over the last decade or so, I’ve had the privilege to converse with several entrepreneurs. I say it is a privilege because there is a lot one could learn from these risk takers irrespective of their venture’s outcome and not every one gets an opportunity to do so. Thanks to all those who made it possible.
In almost all cases, I noticed one key attribute which all successful entrepreneurs shared, i.e., appetence. You read that right, it is not competence but an appetite and a strong desire to be an outlier, to be different, to do something which others can only dream of and perhaps change the world in the process. Competence and other things might provide an unfair advantage but you can always balance the lack of it by finding a team that complements you.
What you cannot substitute is appetency and I’ve been trying to feature such entrepreneurs and promote their startups here @ Startups.
- What does it take to become an entrepreneur?
- What does one do when things don’t scale?
- How does one figure out the right business model?
- What is the biggest challenge facing offline/brick & mortar businesses?
- How big of a problem is this and how to overcome it?
- How do you grow your customer base?
- What can an entrepreneur do to stay motivated?
When you are past 30 and have a family with a kid, it would take a lot of drive and zeal to venture into entrepreneurship. Having worked cross geographies in management positions and comfortably settling in with nothing to complain for seemed like a bane to me whereas my mom still thinks that I would have been better off with a job. It has been more than 1.5 years with multiple pivots and we are still surviving.
I was near Sydney when I posted the attached snap on my Facebook wall. There were a bunch of likes which is when I got a call from my wife who said two things – (a) I have to remember that I have a family & (b) May be its time we consider entrepreneurship which we were debating for a while.
Things worked out and I started my venture. We initially started with dine-in ordering for restaurants where you can view the restaurant info, check the menu card and place the order. But it did not scale up fast enough and then we moved onto pre-orders. After gaining some traction, we focused on a changing our business model where we could be sure of consumer growth and solve a real world problem. The current model of MeDine is all about this.
The idea behind this initiative and source of inspiration is – how knowing and understanding a simple everyday activity like eating or a weekly activity of visiting a mall can be so much more powerful in driving consumer experience and also help businesses target consumers with a context instead of spamming them with meaningless offers. Being from an analytics and data sciences background, this problem of mapping offline consumer behavior excited us and thus MeDine was born.
MeDine in its current form is a free mobile app that rewards you for checking in at places! Every time you walk into our partner’s place, the app’s “intelligent assist” feature automatically recognizes your location and alerts you to collect reward points. Interestingly, this technology works even without your GPS being on or even when your 4G/3G is switched off.
The single biggest problem for any offline business is to get foot-falls. If that’s so, then why not reward people for just walking into your store? They would definitely love to if only they knew who walked in. That’s where we come in.
Think about us like us a digital interface to a physical location in real world. The business can distinguish between a new and an existing customer, recommend dishes to eat in a restaurant or show them things to explore which are very relevant to them in a retail store. We are more like an offline cookie for consumer behavior bridging the online-offline worlds.
The market is quite big, estimated at over a $100 Billion in India alone and our target market is offline businesses such as restaurants/retail stores that have a physical presence and need foot traffic.
One of the major problems in a business such as ours is that you need to capture both ends of the chain simultaneously. That is, we need merchants on-board to get users, and users on-board to involve merchants. What we have learnt from our experience is that managing the merchant side or seller side is most critical in our business. You need to sell to a few guys without anything and then start consumer acquisition. Slowly the tempo builds on both sides as you grow up. Today we have about 3400+ partner places where people can get rewarded for just walking in, about 12K users and 40+ gift voucher options ranging from flipkart, amazon, bookmyshow, mobile recharge etc.
The other big lesson we learnt was that mobile marketing is very different from web app marketing and we learnt it the hard way. In our current business model, we really did not promote the app. Having a drop dead proposition for consumers and making sure service is outstanding has helped us. We took customer feedback seriously to make sure referrals are easy too. That’s the way we have been growing. However to achieve better scale, we plan to make use of online channels including Facebook, Search Engine Marketing etc. The only hurdle we see is marketing budget as we scale.
All this did not come without hardships, we are yet to see 1000 days but personally I have gone through countless hardships and even a personal loss. When the chips are down, I keep telling myself that probably every successful entrepreneur goes through this stage & it makes me stronger.
Forget about the “toothbrush” test for mobile apps/startups, we see our consumers checking in multiple times a day. Can we call this as a “coffee/tea test”?!! We have been growing week over week ever since this model and strongly believe that if your consumers love you, you are always going to be in business.
If there is one thing that keeps us moving forward, it is the consumers who use our app everyday (perhaps multiple times) and love us for what we do!
Passion, sincerity and perseverance will take you a long way. Entrepreneurship is quite tough and enjoy your moment being a stoic – success and failure both happen but keep going at it .
[Edited by Publisher]
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(If you are an amazing Indian startup founder or enabler of startup eco-system in India and would like to be interviewed or featured on Startups.in then I’d be happy to talk to you. Contact me right away.)
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