It is often said that,
Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.
Powerful as these words may be, their depth is rarely fathomed accurately. When talking of living a few years like most people won’t, one often forgets to spell out what exactly this means. Besides toiling for long hours, sacrificing sleep, ‘me time’, ‘family time’ and often paying salaries out of one’s pocket, there is also a generous dose of that much-feared feeling of “rejection” in an entrepreneur’s life. In fact, the true mark of a successful entrepreneur is his/her ability to take rejection head-on and even turn it into an impetus to push harder and convert it into opportunity!
As the founder of MartJack, I have been facing rejection from the very onset of my journey. In fact, I attribute much of my present-day success to these denunciations. Being an early-to-market player, customers rarely showed any faith in the beginning in the two new industries that we created in India: SaaS and Omni-channel Commerce. We started way back in 2007 when smartphones were mere jargon and the internet was for the privileged lot. Those were the days when companies felt “great” to have static websites and got “wowed” with Facebook pages. Having an ecommerce store was not even on the horizon for retailers. As for SaaS, less than 5% of the audience we met had heard about Software as a Service. CIOs and CTOs were obsessed with owning their servers and were afraid of data security and privacy on the cloud.
At this juncture and in this sticky double whammy situation, we had two options. One was to stop dreaming of building a world-class product company from India and do something else or to hold on and win the battle! We chose the latter and the rest is history. We peeled off the multi-layered challenge (being early mover in SaaS and ecommerce platform) and tried to solve one problem at a time. We constantly tried to put ourselves into the shoes of our prospective clients and this helped us understand the core challenges of the retailers.
But this wasn’t all! There was also the rejection from Venture Capitalists. As the market was very early-stage, even VCs were wary about investing in a SaaS-based ecommerce platform. Globally, Demandware was doing exceptionally well in this space and it even went for a successful IPO in 2012 but this didn’t really result in any more faith in us. We spoke to about a 100 VCs and got a big ‘NO’ in response from everyone. Today, when venture capital has becoming increasingly accessible, this story might seem hard to believe but it is the harsh truth. Yet, none of this deterred us from building a future-proof, world-class product.
We spent endless hours, resources and effort to educate retailers about the opportunity, future, and the power of digital. We published blog posts, educative mailers and even a book to make people understand how consumers are embracing digital, the importance of digital commerce and its impact for the overall ecosystem of retail. And the breakthrough finally came when we started seeing traction with Future Group, India’s largest retail group believing in our product way back in 2011-2012! The market picked up in an exponential way thereafter and started attaining the tipping point when multi-billion dollar investments were lining up for the Indian ecommerce story.
The 5-point Success Mantra for Entrepreneurs
After having learnt the power of rejection the hard way, I have devised my own 5-point mantra for dealing with dismissal and emerging successful by tapping the potential of this phenomenon.
- The first of these mantras is to stay super positive and not get deterred no matter how many times people say no or tell you that your idea is infeasible. Every rejection will teach you a lesson and make you humble.
- The second advice I have got is to hold on to your team. Be the force for the team and help them to never get bogged down by rejections. Be the shield that they need to block out the negatives and stay firmly on the path of success.
- The third of the 5 points is to be empathetic. Wear the hat of your prospective client and try to shadow him/her. This will fundamentally change your perspective.
- Fourth amongst these secret tips is that you should never “sell”. Try, instead, to solve your customers’ problems. We have spoken to thousands of retailers who are our potential prospects. A lot of them come back to us because we never pitched a solution to them but told them how we will solve their real problems.
- Last but not the least is the fact that persistence is the ultimate sophistication. For an entrepreneur, persistence should be in your DNA. It helps you to stay calm and bullish on the future and lets you unleash the true potential of your idea, your team and yourself!