[Guest article by Zomato team-they share some of the key learning the team had since starting up. If you are an entrepreneur willing to go UnPluggd, do share your insights/experience with us]
Zomato today is one of the leading restaurant and food portals in the country. So we must have done some things right, and I really hope that we continue to do these things in the future. While I do not really know what these things are that went our way, we have certainly learnt a lot during our journey. And we learnt most of these lessons the hard way – by getting things wrong (yeah, like obstinate kids).
Thought it might be valuable to share some of these ‘early-stage’ lessons with everyone else. Some of these things may sound cliche, but they are very relevant. And the fact that we got these trivial things wrong make them so much more important to take care of. So here we go:
It’s not about ideas. It’s about making them happen
I know you have heard this from a lot of people. But still, I repeat. It is all about execution. And this could not be more true than in the case of Zomato. What we are doing is not at all path breaking. It is certainly not new. But what we have done is better than most others have done (we get this from our customers). I often go pitch to potential clients and I get this question from a lot of them – ‘How are you different from XYZ?’. I could go about telling them that we have this and that on our website, but I choose a very short answer – ‘We’re not different. We are better. And we have a million customers every month to speak for us”. This answer always hits the right spot with everyone.
Listen to others… and don’t.
Choose the right people to listen to. A lot of people give advice to entrepreneurs. Most of them tend to think that they know how to run your business better than you do. They try to put themselves in your shoes and start telling you how they would run your business. All in the name of advice. Entrepreneurs should be very careful to pick up the right advice and discard the ones which doesn’t feel right. At the end of the day, you have to do what you believe in. Not something someone else believes in.
And eventually, it all comes down to focus. Rely on your instincts and keep pushing on what you are doing. Listen to others. Tweak, don’t change. Keep pushing.
Take a few steps back
In a startup, things move at a breakneck speed. A month in a startup is in my opinion equal to a year of work in a big setup. In this scenario, it becomes very important for the founding team to pause once every few months and look at how the company is doing. In consulting jargon, we call it ‘taking a step back’. Every time we have taken a step back, we ended up preparing our team to take big leaps into the future. Such breaks help re-prioritize business objectives and also bring fresh thinking into a startup. We are currently in the middle of a break. We are not getting much work done, but are quite happy sketching the future of Zomato.
Choose the right people to work with
The amount of work needed to be done in a startup quickly grows beyond what just the founding team can do. It therefore, becomes super important to build a rock solid team. Getting good people to work with you is extremely difficult. You have to hire people by looking them in the eye, ask them to quit their current jobs, join you for a lesser salary, for a big amount of risk, for equity which does not yet exist and for a product which does not ‘yet’ have a large customer base.
You have to find and grow people who can think like owners. People who believe that this is the last job that they will ever do. We have a group of 60 people who love doing what they do and love working with the people they work with. Getting this right sets the stage for a startup.
Money solves only a single problem
And that’s money. Everything else remains the same. Before we had our first round of funding, we were literally running the show on a shoestring budget. We often used to think that funding would solve most of problems – hiring, marketing, selling. It didn’t. . A lot of our first few hires didn’t work out well – We hired some for the wrong reasons. Some joined us for the wrong reasons.
On that note, bootstrapping works. In my opinion, that is the only way to build robust companies. And luckily, we have investors who believe in the same. We now hire someone only when we cannot find a reason not to hire that person and when we also absolutely need that person. We diligently track the ROI on all our marketing spend. And we train the shit out of our sales team.
We started making more mistakes after we had some money. Luckily, we had everything back under control in a few months and are now back to a bootstrapping culture. And we are doing much better.
Say and do what you believe in
As a startup, we all believe what we are building. And to keep up the spirits, we get a lot of emails from our customers everyday thanking us for what we are doing. As a group, we do what we believe in and stay away from everything that does not appeal to our conscience.
Over the last 3 years, we have never cheated our customers and have never lied to our clients or investors. We intend to keep it that way. We have certainly had some short term losses for sticking to our guns, but are sure that this will pay off in the longer term.
On that note, it is very important to align everyone in your organization to the same goals and beliefs, if they don’t, you need to train your team better!
Care for your team
9 in 10 startups fail. Our startup might just be one of them. And our team is what we will end up with.
Caring for your people will ensure something very important – that everybody puts in their best. And that’s the best anyone can do for anything at all.
Have a great support system
I meet a lot of people who start-up without the close support of their friends and family. That is my opinion, a time bomb. It builds a lot of pressure for an individual and eventually leads to a breakdown. Luckily, we had a great support system behind us. Families who supported us to give up our cushy jobs and go after what we wanted. Friends who believed in us and lent us their savings without asking us too many questions. It would have been impossible to build whatever little we have so far without them.
Always take the high-road
There have been a lot of instances when we have had to confront not only new, but highly established competition on social media. We have always believed in taking the high road and have never thrown dirt at competition unless there is a big enough reason to do so.
If you believe any publicity is good publicity and that your competitor talking about you will get you more eyeballs, you are wrong. What your customers think of your brand is more important than what you competition says about you.
What’s your take?
[Reproduced from Zomato’s blog.]