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Umesh Sachdev

Co-Founder and CEO, Uniphore, a leader in CSA

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Navigating Strategies To Be A Future Proof Start-up

Recent VC funding rounds suggest large amounts of liquidity existed even after the economy took an initial hit at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, it is clear that VCs are actively looking for start-ups that have or will emerge as winners, despite uncertain times.

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Given all the dramatic shifts and changes happening in our world today, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the global business landscape has radically changed – and the impact will likely be felt long after it subsides. Enterprises of every size are reexamining the way they function. The start-up ecosystem is no different and is arguably one of the most impacted. However, the current environment also provides an opportunity – a chance to reevaluate, reinvent, strategize and then execute. 

Recent VC funding rounds suggest large amounts of liquidity existed even after the economy took an initial hit at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, it is clear that VCs are actively looking for start-ups that have or will emerge as winners, despite uncertain times.

A start-up journey can be an exhilarating one if the founder believes in his or her vision and has the gumption to stand by it. Founders and executives need to focus on several things to succeed: a marketable product/service, agility, persistence, a clear road map, and the right connections. These are even more important in the current environment.

After 12 years of running a successful and growing Conversational Service Automation (CSA) start-up alongside my co-founder Ravi Saraogi, I can assure founders that tough times like these are always an opportunity in disguise. They present a chance to learn and hone business strategies, and come out stronger on the other side. Today, Uniphore is aggressively expanding operations globally – something that is possible only because we learnt, held onto and applied important nuances along the way. 

These nuances remain a mainstay for us, even during a crisis. Here are few that stand out that we believe can help start-ups successfully navigate their businesses toward the future: 

Break out of the comfort zone: Startup life starts at the end of an entrepreneur’s comfort zone. It is more of a lifestyle choice and less of a career one. From identifying the needed service/solution to building that solution to bringing it to market, a founder needs to be ready to step outside of his or her comfort zone. Founders should ask themselves if what they are offering will still be needed 10 to 15 years from now. They must do their research, create a brilliant offering and lead their teams with conviction. 

Remain focused and be optimistic: John Chambers, Chairman Emeritus of Cisco and Founder of JC2 Ventures, once stated, “As a leader, you don't get too high on the highs or let the bumps balance down. Every leader over time has probably an equal amount of good luck or bad luck - or, you could argue, has good opportunities or challenges.” That is why the key is to stay positive, agile and never forget the business objective. 

Empower employees and communicate incessantly: While a founder’s investment is a given, it is imperative to promote ownership amongst employees. Founders should constantly encourage teams to acknowledge what they know and to accept what they do not know. Empowerment of employees through frequent communication will build leaders who can play to each other’s strengths. At Uniphore, we often talk about “One Team, One Vision, One Result”. This approach produces dynamic teams and a stronger company. 

Be nimble and prudent with finances: The finances of a company are always the first to take a blow in times of crisis. Immediate budget revisions and segregation of funds for future emergencies are of paramount importance. One should monitor situations and draft new plans of action based on several possible scenarios. Agility and swiftness to act with funds are key to staying afloat. 

A mentor is an invaluable asset. Have one and be one! An often overlooked but crucial element in a start-up journey is mentorship. Successful, proven leaders are invaluable for the wisdom they can impart. Every start-up should have at least one industry veteran as a mentor who can provide opinions on the choices being made or even just to be a sounding board during critical moments. This will help with strategic direction or course correction.  Beyond having a mentor, no matter the stage a company is in, the leaders and executives have valuable experience that someone who is coming along your path would benefit from mentorship.  Be that mentor.

Technology is a key enabler: Today’s global scenario has brought the benefits of technology into sharp focus. There is a wealth of technology in existence, and if chosen wisely, it can greatly boost a company’s growth. From enabling employee communication to marketing efforts, technology is a startup’s best friend. As people work remotely, technology also ensures sensitive company, customer, and employee data is protected. 

The pandemic has driven enterprises to consider new ways of doing business and rightly so. Regardless of how long the crisis lasts, COVID-19 is changing the business and consumer landscapes. Companies cannot go back to their old playbooks. Messaging, marketing, and even product strategy may need to evolve to match the realities of the new world significantly. While it is essential to recognize uncertainties at a time like this, it is also important not to lose hope or motivation. The fact that Uniphore, a B2B global Indian company, was established during the economic downturn of 2008, demonstrates how lessons learned in tough times can make enterprises strong enough to handle anything the future might bring. 

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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