Thought I would try and write my little startup struggle story which might be interesting to someone out there reading.
My background: a middle class boy in my last months of internship as a dentist .
Was always excited about starting up something always itching to find if certain process,product could be optimized and if an opportunity existed that could lead me into creating something that might be of genuine value to customers/users.
So i jumped in and decided to venture into creating a marketing,sales & distribution company in the field of healthcare. To start with for some reason I thought it might be challenging to learn this field by entering this through becoming a marketeer&distributor or as they are called a PCD company (propaganda cum distribution company) in pharmaceuticals.
Took some time in obtaining registrations from various government departments and ended up creating a propreitorship firm to avoid compliance costs as a pvt. Ltd company as I decided I would be bootstrapping it to quite an extent.
Now that i have ventured into it I realized its funny enough nobody discusses the reality of operational expenses as fact aboutbuilding a business.
Vat registrations (13k) vat filing charges/cst, service tax registrations, bbmp trade license registrations,shop and estabilishment act registrations etc (in my case drug licenses to trade in pharmaceuticals) not to mention extra "service charges" by officials inspecting and granting licenses.
Went upto (30k)
Starting from acquiring an office (in my case thankfully my family owns the space so I was able to cut down rental costs) probably in a city like bangalore (i am based here) it would come upto 25k to 30,000 rupees atleast per month and to add maintenance charges and deposit (2-3 lakhs[variable])for people renting a basic office
Then costs of basic furnishing upto atleast 50k - 70k
Printers,laptops,wifi ,electrical works,maid to clean the office list goes on of petty expenses.
Sorry for boring you through the nitty gritty details , now moving on to recruitment and HR I realized this ended up being a cash burner as linkedin,naukri.com extra charge around 1700 to 2k per month for ad postings, not to mention agencies spamming me everyday asking if interested for staffing solutions stating their fees of 8% of CTC of the position.
Finally candidates not interested to work for a startup (as mine isnt some trendy tech startup funded by investors that has bean bags,tennis tables,coffee machine snack bars, colleagues calling themselves Digital marketers/SEO social media experts etc promting products/services Surfing through fb all day)
Executives with experience expect higher pays, freshers want to work for reputable orgnisations or freshers wo are not qualified enough and require extensive product training and those simply who want to learn and fly away quickly to the next organisation for a pay hike.
Finally skipping through the boring ordeal and after giring 2 sales executives I enter the market with products to find myself caught up with the fact I am a new company and entering a fiercely competitive pharma market.
Margin Pricing issues ensue. Chemists requests more discounts on margins to be willing to replace other company products with ours.
Doctors question why shoud we prescribe or support your company unless there might be a possibility of favour exchanges.
Leads me to remember what peter thiel wrote in his book zero to one, if a company is not technologically innovative and if there is no significant improvement of product or service over others you see yourselves getting caught in price wars.ultimately drives down profits/revenues.
However at offering discounted rates and trading at thin margins business is starting to click and is helping me acquire customers , now i am starting to view the initial losses as customer acquisition costs hoping that it will definitely be recovered,at the same time fortunately with many customers I am able to trade at good profit margins.
Since my operational costs are kept too low (after reading eric ries the lean startup and treating business as an experiment and validating results before proceeding) like a cockroach startup I can break even in few months very easily and touch profitability soon forecated based on current trend.
However the problem is currently I am unable to feel like I am actually building any product of value or something that is innovative for this to be called a startup in any way and the way I see it I appear to be just another trader at the mercy of the market trends,demands,customer wish and wills.
Although the fact that I can scale the operations too and replicate the growth but I fail to have formulated a long term vision that could ensure longevity of the business.
However I am interested to explore other options and enter contract manifacturing with pharma manufacturers and launch it in my name and market and build a brand out of it, but for some reason I feel there is market consolidation on the rise already as big names buying out divisions that perform really well in the case of generic pharmaceuticals.
Also call it pivoting the idea or whatever this maybe I somehow started out that I wanted to build a company involved in healthcare that would be comparable with HENRY SCHEIN of USA(Google it if you might be unaware of its operations) in mode of operations but currently stuck with this and at crossroads if I should continue to dig in deeper in pharmaceuticals and explore opportunities or estabilish it as a self sustaining business and let it create revenues for me to feed my other original interests of building something similar to henry schein and diversify quickly in the fear that price wars would end up eating my business someday and convert myself into a customer centered company where competition could be considerably lesser and have more room for innovation and experimenting but would take long months to generate revenues and longer months to break even and attain profits.
Now the problem is until now I havent been able to find mentors in the field due to lack of contacts or connections nor do I have any cofounders as I didnt find any suitable ones who would be passionate enough about working hard towards a goal and progressing rapidly and with the fear I do not want to end up with "sleeping partners" leading to conflicts and shutting down as i believed autonomy offers more control also I didnt find anybody interested to invest both their time and money equally into the venture.
So if you have read this boring little story all the way down here feel free to get back at me with all your criticism/opinions/suggestions and advices as I am interested in reading them out.