In the B2B recruitment space with well entrenched players, ours has been a David Vs Goliath journey. As we clocked our first Rs 1 million of revenue, it has been a scintillating journey so far.
The key lessons learnt were
1) A startup has to solve a real problem and only then will people be willing to listen. It needs to have a compelling value proposition for stakeholders to even consider switiching. In our case, the positioning was that we were India’s first for CAs and MBAs, that we, as recruitment consultants, could talk IFRS, Forex, Derivatives, Valuation and Cenvat Rules, rather than merely the cliched Current CTC, Expected CTC and notice period that most recruitment consultants would do. This helped us get an entry into 35+ marquee Indian companies hitherto being serviced by Micahel Page, Mafoi Ranstad and ABCs of the world
2) If you are sincere and honest, and especially have a pedigree in terms of professional and educational background, most people are willing to give you that ONE chance to prove yourself. Just like the proverbial Alchemist story, if you are destined to be successful, you will find strangers along the way to keep you moving. None of our known friends, relatives and acquaintances helped us bag even a single client but strangers we met randomly on IIMA campus, finance conferences and online did
4) Keep fixed costs low if you are bootstrapping. The initial period will be full of shock-waves; say in our case, suddenly candidates backed out after being selected and since the entire model is based on ‘success fee’ , we were paid nothing. It was disastrous. Our first payment came in June; 6 months after we started. Having a lean structure always helped. We didn’t and even still don’t have an office. All our employees work from home , collaborating on a cloud based application
5) Entrepreneurship isn’t that cool a journey as one would imagine from the fringes or reading about startups being valued at crazy numbers. No newspaper generally covers the ones one fail miserably. So entrepreneurship cannot be a panacea for a frustrated employee who has started hating corporate life. if you can’t manage one boss, here you will need to manage hundreds. Every client is a boss in his/her own right
A lot of sweat and blood gets into it. Its a bitter, lonely journey ; bereft of any glamour. People won’t listen to you at all, there is so much inertia, people just don’t want a new vendor . Why should they take the headache of dealing with an additional vendor. Less than 1% people open e-mails. Receptionists just don’t transfer calls. You will find it so difficult to hire your first full-time employee as you have no brand.
It’s your dream , not theirs. So don’t expect to barge into a sales call and expect that the client will instantly give you business just because you are from a premiere school.Yet, if you persist over a period of time, they slowly melt. Be prepared to start small, give a free trial.
6) People will pay only if they have a pain; else they simply won’t. There are no ‘low hanging fruits’ for sure
Anurag & Sonia