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Gaurav Arora.

The author is Head of Startup Ecosystem, Asia Pacific-Japan, Amazon Web Services

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Helping Startups Navigate The New Normal

By using this time to take stock of their business and the opportunities available to them, startups can move forward with confidence into 2021 and beyond.

There’s no understating COVID-19’s impact on businesses, large and small, across India. For startups, it’s been an especially difficult time. Particularly those still building their customer base and cashflow. It’s certain the year they’ve experienced has been very different to the one they were planning for.

As industries begin to emerge from lockdown, business leaders are reassessing their plans and projections to accommodate the ‘new normal,’ and creating opportunities for startups.

Many startups already possess one of the qualities that could prove most beneficial in the post-pandemic world – business agility. The capacity to change and adapt quickly is a key capability needed in any business’s survival toolkit. By their nature, startups have less overhead and legacy business operations than established businesses, meaning they can respond faster to dynamic landscapes.

Startups that are building their businesses on the cloud can double down on agility, ensuring their IT infrastructure responds as quickly as their employees and customers demand. Having a robust cloud service provider on the backend allows customers to quickly spin up resources as they need them, deploying hundreds or even thousands of servers in minutes, making the cloud the perfect place for startups to experiment with new ideas, while only paying for the compute power they use. This idea of low-cost, agile experimentation is embedded in the DNA of many startups, and is something cloud infrastructure easily enables. 

But being agile is just the beginning. Startups also have to look for opportunities to pull unnecessary costs out of their business, forge new links with partners and customers, and ensure their employees are continually upskilling. With this focus, startups can lay the groundwork to thrive in the new normal.

The Urgent Need for Digital Transformation

During these challenging times, we are seeing companies of every size express their desire to transform quickly into the cloud as a way of breaking free of the legacy on-premises infrastructure that holds them back from experimenting. For example, in India, the fintech and fitness sectors have embraced digital solutions in an unprecedented way.

GAIN Credit, an alternative lending fintech startup, had to close its contact center operations for a brief period due to the lockdown in India. To continue providing its customers with core services, GAIN Credit quickly transformed and implemented AWS services to build a virtual contact center. GAIN Credit’s team developed a cutting-edge chat application that is highly customizable and configurable for its digital lending customer support needs, and using AWS services, quickly built a chatbot and a voice bot, which collectively handled close to 75 percent of incoming customer queries. By using AWS services and building their own tools, GAIN Credit has substantially improved its time-to-market with new and innovative customer service features, helping achieve results in days and sometimes in hours.

Due to the pandemic, Indian health and fitness startup Cure.fit, had to shut its physical gyms, but quickly saw they could stay connected with customers by running virtual workout classes, and creating personalized online programs. The success of this new offering led to a sudden spike in traffic to Cure.fit’s website, which they were able to manage by leveraging AWS services such as a fast content distribution service that securely delivers data, videos, and applications to customers globally.

As consumers continue to embrace digital services, their behaviour change creates opportunities for agile startups that quickly innovate with cloud technology to deliver great experiences online.

Saving Money

Running a startup can be a stressful experience in the best of times, and one of the most critical factors underpinning their success is how well they manage their cash. And that means making sure they are only spending money on things they absolutely need.

The cloud is already well-established as a cost-effective place from which to launch a business, but many startups grow at such a fast pace, they don’t always pause to consider if they are using cloud services in the most efficient way. Our team members are tasked to offer several options for startups to save money on their cloud expenses and reduce their cloud bills. We work with startup customers to ensure they are using the most cost-effective pricing models, and aren’t using more services than they actually need.

For instance, our Savings Plans pricing model provides savings of up to 72 percent on AWS compute usage, while Amazon Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) Spot Instances offer up to a 90 percent reduction compared to On-Demand pricing. Furthermore, the AWS Trusted Advisor online tool helps startup customers reduce costs, increase performance, and improve security by checking their use of AWS services, and making suggestions to help optimize performance. 

Attracting Customers

No startup will survive for long without revenue, of course, and now is a good time to build connections with potential partners and customers. Many startups are planning how they will navigate through the post-COVID-19 world, and many will be eager to adopt new tools and services to help them build their future. This creates a fertile opportunity for startups offering innovative solutions to address their problems.

We know that one of the hardest tasks of bringing a new idea to market is simply making people aware of it, and identifying platforms to facilitate these introductions. Our team works hard to forge connections between startups and potential customers and partners. We regularly connect executives from large organizations with startups to hear about new solutions that might be of interest. These connections often involve ‘reverse pitches,’ where large organizations discuss their challenges and startups propose solutions. 

And finally, while we know that startups rarely have spare time on their hands, it is important to never stop learning. Keeping up to date with the latest products and developing the skills to use them is more critical now than ever. Now is the time for startup leaders to ensure their teams are keeping on top of advancements in the latest technologies by building new skills. There are a variety of free online education and livestreamed or on-demand training events for startups across India at every growth stage. Startup customers and founders should use these events to leverage some of today’s most exciting technologies like machine learning, container solutions, and serverless computing.

The natural agility of startups lends them the capacity to adapt quickly to market changes, and presents a chance to win new customers. By using this time to take stock of their business and the opportunities available to them, startups can move forward with confidence into 2021 and beyond.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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