Let me not start with some inspiring quote of some famous personality who talks about how important it is taste sour failure in order the savour sweet success. I will not sugarcoat it for you; we all know failure sucks and given a chance, we will steer clear of it for eternity. I remember the time when I failed a puny school test; it completely screwed me over. I can only imagine what the ballsy entrepreneurs must have to go through when they fail at a venture.
These entrepreneurs invest not just their money, but their blood sweat, tears, time and energy to conceive an idea into reality and then nurture it into a healthy venture. Seeing their venture fail can definitely send most entrepreneurs to a very dark place (read: their office cubicles :)). However, here is where their entrepreneurial spirit is truly tested – their ability to swing back from the dark side of the moon and play their second innings.
However, there are certain entrepreneurs who start all over again, even though their previous ventures were highly successful. They keep their entrepreneurial spirit burning and are always looking to start something new; when others would have turned complacent. After a successful debut, they enter their second innings and prove themselves all over again.
One of the sessions during the upcoming TiE SmashUp! 2016 (February 5, 2016) will be on Biting the Dust & Resurrection / Second Innings, weighed in by successful entrepreneurs such as Sachin Bhatia, CEO & Co-Founder, TrulyMadly, Sandeep Aggarwal, founder of Droom and ShopClues, Raghav Verma, cofounder of Chaayos and Sundeep Sahi, cofounder and CTO at Indifi. All these entrepreneurs are in their successful second innings; some failed and entered their innings, while others wanted a change and are striving to sustain their track record in their second phase.
Sachin Bhatia: He Truly Madly Loves Entrepreneurial Backpacking
Sachin Bhatia is the cofounder of MakeMyTrip – a NASDAQ – listed company that went public in 2010. It generated revenue of $82 Mn in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 – an increase of 8.3% (an increase of 15.6% in constant currency) over revenue of $75.7 Mn in the quarter ended December 31, 2014. Being a part of such a company would make most entrepreneurs complacent, but not Sachin.
He left MakeMyTrip in 2010. “I spent 10 years at MMT and I felt I had done all that I could. I was part of the team that saw us list on Nasdaq and was therefore time to move on,” said Sachin.
Two years later, he co-founded TrulyMadly – his second successful inning. On being asked how he managed to ward off complacency, he quoted Einstein, who once famously said, “I have no special talents, I am just passionately curious”. “This is what really defines me and keeps me trying new things and ideas. Startups, young teams and new technologies are what drives me and keeps the fire burning within,” stated Sachin.
He believes it’s absolutely imperative for any entrepreneur to keep the spirit alive because this spirit is what keeps them excited and motivates them to keep going on in the face of adversities.
Sachin is also an active angel investor and has invested in companies like Catch That Bus, CrudeArea, LocalOye, WeAreHolidays and Little Black Book Delhi.
He began his career at Nuchem-Weir – a joint venture with equity participation between the Nuchem Group of India and Weir Westgarth of Scotland. Subsequently, Sachin was with Grey Advertising in New Delhi and Mumbai. He then managed the marketing initiatives for AMF Bowling Inc – a UK-based tenpin bowling operator – with a focus on India and South Asia, before founding MakeMyTrip.
Sachin holds a bachelors degree in commerce from DU. He is a keen white water rafter and has navigated most of the rivers in India.
Sandeep Aggarwal: From Shopping To Vrooming
Sandeep Aggarwal is an active angel investor, philanthropist and Internet visionary. His impeccable business acumen, strong domain knowledge and an undying passion to never give up has helped him grow from being an associate with Kotak Securities to becoming the founder of Shopclues and Droom. He is currently the founder and CEO of Droom – a marketplace for automobiles. He founded ShopClues in 2011 and stepped down as its CEO in October 2013.
This MBA graduate from Washington University in St. Louis – Olin Business School started his career as an associate with Kotak Securities back in 1995 and then steadily climbed the professional ladder; working with companies like Charles Schwab, Microsoft, Citigroup and Caris & Company, before embarking upon his entrepreneurial journey.
Sandeep was arrested in July 2013 by FBI in San Jose for insider trading charges. He later pleaded guilty for the same saying that he did this to improve his standing as an analyst and to increase revenue for his firm. “I know what I did was wrong and I’m very sorry for my conduct,” he said. As a result of this fiasco, he stepped down as the CEO of Shopclues.
However, despite this major setback, he vroomed back with Droom. The company has grown by over 501 times since its commercial launch and consistently generates $60 Mn in annualised GMV.
His learnings from Shopclues helped him create Droom. In an exclusive conversation with Inc42, Sandeep mentioned that his experience with ShopClues was pivotal in Droom’s creation.
“ShopClues was incepted as an online managed marketplace when all the other ecommerce companies in India were still following the inventory-led models. Having pioneered the approach in the Indian market, there were many learning experiences to glean from the venture. First was the impact of SME merchants and non-standard categories could have on the business; nearly 95 percent of offline retailers today belong to the SME segment, and as such provide a potentially huge market to tap into. Another insight that I gained during my association with ShopClues was the role a disruptive market approach and advanced technology-driven business solutions could have on a startup business. I also learnt the value of a unique brand proposition that appeals to both buyers and sellers during my time with ShopClues,” said Sandeep.
Sundeep Sahi: The Entrepreneurial Spirit Burns Indefinitely In Him
Sundeep is a technology and product development expert with over 16 years of experience in his area. He has deep domain knowledge on a wide range of businesses, products, mobile, online marketing, big data analytics and lean yet mature technology stacks. He was the chief product officer of IgniteWorld – a JV between Yahoo Japan, Bharti & SoftBank. He was the venture’s key member of the executive team and played a pivotal role in defining vision, strategy and operating plans of the company. His is currently the cofounder and CTO of Indifi – his second inning. Indifi is a tech startup that enables quick access to debt financing to the various small and medium enterprises in the country.
This alumnus of Kurukshetra University started his career as an entrepreneur and cofounded a startup called eLiveBooks in 1999. He then moved to Talisma Corporation as its technical lead and was responsible for leading and developing Talisma Web Client and Collaborative Browsing from scratch. Later on, he joined Microsoft as a Sr. Software Design Lead in 2005 and worked with the company for about three years.
He then moved to the US-based marketing and advertising firm, Clickable, as senior director of technology and was posted in Gurgaon. He built the Gurgaon team that was driving Product, Engineering, Data Analytics, Support and Ad Operations for Clickable.
Related Article: Life Is Short. Get Set Startup.
He grew along with the company and ended up being its Managing Director (India) and Vice President, Engineering in 2011. Post the acquisition of Clickable by Syncapse in 2012, he became Syncapse’s Sr. Vice President, Product & Engineering in 2012. He later on became the CTO of Clickable in August 2013 and remained with the company till November 2013. Sundeep has full product lifecycle experience at Microsoft, Aditi & Talisma and holds 3 patents in Distributed Systems.
Failed Startup? Stand Up, Walk It Off & Start Up Again
Here Are A Few Cases Of Entrepreneurs Who Started Their Second Innings After Failed Entrepreneurial Ventures.
Raghav Verma: Prepping For A Cuppa Chai
Raghav Verma is the cofounder of the Tiger Global funded tea cafe chain, Chaayos. It has 16 outlets across Delhi NCR and Mumbai. Chaayos has been operationally profitable at each of its outlets, within 3 months of opening up and the unit economics have been positive. However, his success with Chaayos is fuelled by a failed entrepreneurial venture.
Back in 2012, he cofounded an online education startup called PrepSquare. The startup was however shut down in 2013. “There was a certain sense of naiveté with which we approached things back then. We believed that building a product would be enough, and students would come automatically. We believed the price point of INR 2000 would be a no brainer, given people paid as much as INR 2 lakh for classroom coaching. But we underestimated the time and money it would take to build a brand and get customers onboard. We realized that we were probably too early in this space,” said Raghav.
This, however, did not budge him from co-founding Chaayos with Nitin Saluja. The idea was Nitin’s. “It was a simple idea; in a chai drinking country, there should be a place to step outside your home and get a freshly made cup of chai to your liking. It was not the first time that someone had tried to start a chain with chai at the centre, but I think what we did right was to stay true to the way chai is consumed in the country. The initial response was fantastic and we have just built on it from there,” said Raghav.
His learnings from PrepSquare helped him build Chaayos – distribution of responsibilities within the team, definition of long term vision and being very clear about positive unit economics. One other major learning was to talk to many people, not only within the food space, but across categories and startups. We tried to operate in stealth mode in PrepSquare, but realized later that learning from people’s mistakes made more sense than reinventing the wheel each time. So we reached out to many people in the industry and were mentored by many of the senior people,” he added.
Nikhil Wason: Playing The Trump Card
Nikhil Wason is the cofounder of Cardback, a payment recommendation platform that suggests people the best possible way to use debit/credit cards or mobile wallets. However, he had two failed entrepreneurial attempts before starting Cardback – Orangut and Happiness Mill. “I could have teamed up with a more “apt” founding and core team (same for both startups),” Nikhil reminisces.
This failure did not bring him down; he returned back with Cardback. “My co-founder (Nidhi Gurnani) and I, have always been very card savvy, and used to face the problem of not being able to maximize the rewards and benefits on our cards to the fullest due to the lack of properly-curated information in one single place.” So, the duo set out to build a solution for it, and ended up taking it to the next level by creating Cardback.
Based on the learnings from the journey of his two failed ventures, Cardback’s founding team has the right temperament to build a startup from scratch, and deal with and endure all the ups and downs encountered along the way. This, according to Nikhil, is one of the most important ingredients in any startup’s success.
Divyashish Jindal: Houston, We Have Lift Off
IIT Delhi alumnus, Divyashish Jindal, embarked upon his entrepreneurial journey, in 2009, with skills development startup called WiseStep Employability. The startup’s journey ended pretty soon as it was shut down in November 2010. Divyashish’s entrepreneurial journey, however, didn’t end; he came up with another startup called AppyTab. This too shut shop within a year.
According to Divyashish, the things that went wrong with both his startups are:
- Ideas were much ahead of time and the market was not ready at that time.
- We bootstrapped for longer period and then could not raise funds well in time. Eventually, we ran out of funds and in fact we went in debts.
- Appytab was a “Good to Have” product instead of “Must to Have” product.
- Demotivated Team
However, instead of wrapping up his journey, Divyashish went full steam ahead and came up with an EdTech statup called TestRocket in December 2014; which has been running smoothly. It is an online test preparation platform which helps students to practice unlimited number of tests, analyze their test performance and improve their scores by devising the best test taking strategy with the help of experienced mentors.
“It’s been almost a year we started TestRocket and today we are a team of 6 motivated content experts, coders and marketers. We are doing good in terms of positive revenue and user acquisitions so far and are very positive of making it a successful venture which will be adding value to the society at large,” explained Divyashish.
After Wisestep, Divyashish started teaching Chemistry to students who aspire for IITs and AIIMS. After two years, he started Appytab. He returned back to teaching again after AppyTab shut shop. “I have this inherent nature of identifying problems in a system and start building solutions to plug loopholes in the system. In these long breaks from startups, I realised that I have a passion for “learning” and therefore decided to solve problems in Education space,” he said.
“But this time, I had sufficient funds to bootstrap for a long time, a solid team, better industry know-how and better understanding of customer. So, I didn’t waste time in thinking too much and took the plunge,” he added.
Prayaag Kasundra: From Outdoor Ads To Interior Designs
Prayaag Kasundra started BookAdSpace, a platform for physical media, back in 2012. It was part of The Morpheus and raised funding from prolific angel investors like Miten Sampat and Aakrit Vaish. Despite all the backing, the startup shut shop in May 2013.
“We were trying to build a marketplace or platform for two kinds of businesses, neither of which wanted it. Outdoor media owners and Agencies didn’t want the transparency this tech platform would have bought. So it just didn’t work out,” explained Prayaag.
Some independent media owners and small brands might have required such a platform but scalability was an issue as it’s those large-scale media owners and big agencies who own a large chunk of overall outdoor and offline advertising transactions volume.
Prayaag learned a big lesson of how product shouldn’t be built. “Essentially, how entrepreneur shouldn’t follow their idea in product building and how every small idea/feature should be hard-validated before adding to product. I learned B2B sales, as BookAdSpace was the first time I did such sales. I was part of The Morpheus, which was best startup accelerator at that time. I learned lot with that experience; escpecially in connecting with important people in the ecosystem.”
However, four months later, Prayaag was back with Decora Systems; which builds software solutions for visualization of decorative materials and interior design for consumers, brands, showrooms and professionals.
Why Decora Systems
“Well, I always wanted to run tech product startup. I had this idea long back. I hail from town Morbi, which is world’s 3rd largest ceramic production hub. So, it struck me how difficult it would be for people to purchase tiles without being able to visualize it on the walls.”
After BookAdSpace, he worked on a software service company that he had previously founded. It was during that time that Prayaag started working on the new product for Decora System.
Prasoon Gupta’s Sattvik Approach To Entrepreneurship
Prasoon Gupta started a edtech company called Tech-Buddy Consulting in November 2008. The startup, however, shut shop in February 2013. Prasoon believes that the concept was ahead of its time and attributes absence of right mentors for its failure.
This did not deter the IIT Roorkee alumnus, who then moved on to creating Sattviko – a food chain which specialises in modern vedic vegetarian food & natural wellness products – in December 2013. Prasoon states that it was his love for India, Indianness and great vegetarian food that instigated him to start Sattviko.
These are the three key learnings that Prasoon gained from Tech-Buddy’s journey:
- Networking is the most important ingredient of an entrepreneur’s success. We have won very difficult battles at Sattviko just by being connected with the right people.
- Have time for everyone who needs it from you. Help those who need it. I am a huge fan of karma.
- Spend time with fellow entrepreneurs. They are the most resourceful people on the planet. Also, they will talk about you the most.
How To Deal With A Failed Startup
We reached out to a number of entrepreneurs to understand how they dealt with their failed attempts and gain some words of wisdom for young entrepreneurs who fear failing.
Raghav Verma (Chaayos)
How he dealt with his failure: It was definitely a tough decision to make. To be honest, it was a decision that happened over a period of time, and not a one day realization. We realized there were shortcomings in the model that we had tried, and that persisting with our product was not going to work. And we did explore some other areas that we found interesting, but nothing really excited us as much. So each one of the 4 of us decided to move on to other ventures or start something new.
His advice to deal with failure: I think failure is part and parcel of the game. Any first time entrepreneur needs to be cognizant of this. A large number of startups don’t see it through the early stages. Others make it to a certain size and then stop growing. It might sound pessimistic, but it is a ground reality which everyone should consciously keep in mind when starting up. Knowing when to take a call on moving on or pivoting is key.
Nikhil Wason (Cardback)
How he dealt with his failure: I continued working with startups in other non-fulltime capacities, such as consultancy roles.
His advice to deal with failure: The best way is to not look at such events as a “failure”, but as a learning experience. The positive aspects will automatically come to the forefront after that.
Divyashish Jindal (TestRocket)
How he dealt with his failure: First time, it was a major setback to me and I took good amount of time to absorb the shock. In this period, I contemplated reasons for the failure and realised that “sufficient funds” and a “motivated team” are two major factors which were responsible for the failure. Second time, I ensured none of this happen but I was bound to learn a new lesson which was that people spend money on a product/service if and only if it is “must to have” and not “good to have”. I made mistakes, learnt lessons, improved and prepared myself for the next battle and today, here I am in the battlefield again.
Also, in my childhood I read the story of Thomas Edison and could never forget his lifetime inspirational quote that “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that do not work”. This has inspired me always to look upon failures as a new learning outcome.
His advice to deal with failure: Most of us fail many a times in our life. We failed more than hundred times before we could even learn to stand and walk properly when we were kid. What we need to understand is that failures are the unavoidable steps in the path to success. I would suggest that we should take risks, make mistakes and learn from them as much as we can. Moreover, we should do it as fast as we can.
We, as entrepreneurs, must understand one thing that Entrepreneurship is not a race, it’s a journey and one must enjoy it till the end irrespective of the result. I believe that happiness or sadness of our success or failure is short-lived. However, the joyfulness of doing what you love to do is timeless. I have always enjoyed what I did and I believe “living passionately is worth living”. This belief made me enjoy the process of building startup from scratch and solve real problems around me without being worried about results.
Prayaag (Decora Systems)
How he dealt with his failure: Well, I consider myself to be very perseverant. I understood very well that market isn’t ready for what we are trying to build. It was a bit difficult to communicate and convince investors. But ultimately it had to be done.
His advice to deal with failure: It’s all about positivity. The startup or idea might have failed, but you have learned lot about product development and management, market and sales as well as some common entrepreneurial challenges like talent acquisition or management or culture bulding etc. You learn about your own weaknesses and strengths. You build relationships that help in the long run. If you count all of these, failure of a startup is not that catastrophic event that it is perceived to be.
Prasoon Gupta (Sattviko)
How he dealt with his failure: By starting up again. 🙂
His advice to deal with failure: Startups fail; entrepreneurs do not. Everything that I am able to do better today is because of the learnings from my past. Entrepreneurs just need to remain entrepreneurs, even if their startups fail. Good times or bad times, both change and remaining an entrepreneur will help them deal with both.
Despair and complacency are two great adversaries of true-spirited entrepreneurs. In case your venture failed, know that it’s the idea that failed and not you as an entrepreneur. Whereas, if you have a successful venture, don’t gloat over your triumph. Keep the spirit alive, stay curious and always keep preparing for your next innings.
Register now for TiE SmashUp! 2016 (February 5, 2016)!