Sam White is co-founder of Promethean Power Systems. It is a thermal battery technology start-up that enables cold-storage of perishable foods where power supply is erratic such as villages in India. This revolutionary battery eliminates the need for a diesel generator when chilling milk at the village level. In communication with Solution Innovation Review (SIR) Sam says that hiring is our biggest challenge.
This is not an isolated case and entrepreneurs in India are facing several challenges. In this backdrop, Solution Innovation Review (SIR) identified challenges after talking to several entrepreneurs and experts. Some of them are funding, hiring, legal issues and lack of infrastructure.
Starting a company is simultaneously the most thrilling, motivating and rewarding thing one could do as well as the most exhausting, stressful and painful thing. On can say that the rewards are many and the challenges are many.
Speaking to SIR, Valerie R Wagoner Founder & CEO, ZipDial told, “The biggest challenge any entrepreneur has to growing a company to be a big success is in scaling and always staying ahead of the curve. Early on, we kind of worked on an incentive model for sales people, where in they could earn more of incentives and less of fixed pay. That did not work out. We now have sales people with good amount of fixed pay topped up with better incentives.”
ZipDial is a mobile engagement and analytics platform, especially embracing the needs and behaviors of emerging market consumers and advertisers.
“Second, we had a tough time in hiring our company secretary. Since we failed to do the due diligence, we ended up trying and testing many a firms, finally zeroing down on one. Even in basic compliance matters, one should always remember that you get what you pay for. Don’t be cheap because you’ll get cheap quality.”
“Regarding India specifically, there are challenges in any market, but there are not any unsurmountable hurdles in growing our business from India. In fact, we are proud that ZipDial is truly a “from India” start-up “going global”. India has been a fantastic market to prove out the model as we continue expanding in to Southeast Asia and eventually other regions. Overall, this is an exciting time to do business in India.”
Shedding light on entrepreneurial ecosystem in India, Amit Grover, founder of Nurture Talent Academy told SIR, “Right at the beginning, challenge for startups is to come up with correct product and on time. Knowing customer preferences in a country like India is very difficult – here people drive a BMW and eats Vada Pav on roadside!”
Grover said, “Besides, there are no advanced or reliable information, studies, and statistics available on various issues. So that entrepreneurs have to rely on gut feeling. Once a product is made, the next challenge arises in marketing it – TV and newspaper are having maximum reach but are out of reach for a startup. People do not like trying new things as customers and similarly dealers/channel partners, so it takes time to establish in market. After this comes funding challenge, where angel investors act like devils during negotiations! As the startup grows, talent and hiring becomes a challenge as candidates want more money without understanding startup’s business or culture.”
Grover further added, “Most MBA and engineering students are trained on ‘personality’, ‘interviewing skills’, ‘resume writing skills’ which is completely stupid way of training and distorts thinking process of young students towards jobs and placements. So, overall startup challenges keep changing from time to time as per stages of growth.”
Echoing a similar view, Digbijoy Shukla, an entrepreneurship evangelist told Solution Innovation Review (SIR), “There are several challenges for startups in India: Raising early stage financing – especially when you do not have a proof of concept or very early revenues. Also collateral free debt financing is a major challenge for companies in the scale up stage. Going to Market – getting customers in a competitive environment is very challenging. As a startup you have very limited budgets and hence it becomes challenging. Hiring – Quality team is a challenge and to attract and retain talent as a start-up is a big issue since they can’t offer competitive salaries or have the brand. Legal- Lot of ambiguity around taxation and licensing, a lot of startups in the food business, financial inclusion etc is more sensitive to regulatory issues.”
On being asked about challenges towards startups, Manika Premsingh Founder of Orbis Economics said, “In terms of my experience as an entrepreneur, the challenges have been thankfully small, partly because of the nature of the business and partly because of the business model itself.
Orbis Economics provides content and research to clients across countries, customised to their requirements. We have so far not felt the need to raise funding, and given the services oriented nature of the business, there are hardly any legal/regulatory issues. We typically hire on a project basis, though we are increasing the number of permanent hires too, thankfully, we do find good resources available. And, incidentally, good telecom/IT developments have helped us immensely.”
Manika added, “I think challenges to the entrepreneurial eco system are softer in nature – like having a community or hub of entrepreneurs who you can share and discuss with, or the place we are in in the business cycle, where demand is less than it would be during boom years, and hence entrepreneurs have to strive harder. My sense is that there are more issues faced around legal or infrastructure for small manufacturing companies.”
Riti M D founder of a corporate training firm – RMG Learning told Solution Innovation Review (SIR), “I have not looked for funding so far. Investing myself in what I believe in. There is enough and more skilled talent for us to hire. We don’t need infrastructure. We are a corporate training firm.”
To sum up, one can say that challenges towards entrepreneurs and startups are changing from one sector to another sector. In some sectors, entrepreneurs are unable to find an appropriate talent. But it’s not an issue of others. Similarly, funding is not an issue for all. Many entrepreneurs are starting their ventures from their own capital. But one can say that getting customers in a competitive environment is really a challenging task.