We are all under a global sledgehammer that has dishevelled life as we have known it. As a result of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have now faced unprecedented changes that have challenged our thus far, familiar frameworks, be it for business operations or our daily lives as well. There is no doubt, we all are coming to terms with the unfolding repercussions of the pandemic on a daily basis and are doing our best to stay afloat.
But is staying afloat the only goal that we as individuals or as businesses aspire towards? Perhaps not! Our ability to explore, aspire and innovate has made us stand out as a species thus far and it has helped us emerge stronger and better. Global economies have weathered life-altering crises in the past and have successfully identified opportunities to be resilient and grow stronger each time.
Restricted circumstances push one to thrive and excel; and as entrepreneurs, they probably know a thing or two about challenges.
Shifting The ‘Values Lens’ Towards Common Sense
Like with any life-changing crisis, this time of unravelling can be a great learning ground if we let it. It can be the right space to dig deeper and introspect in a moment of pause to evaluate what was working and what really wasn’t in the startup space in India. Let me elucidate further.
You see, if we are all the sum total of our values as individuals, aren’t those the very values that are transferred into the businesses we build? After all, businesses like human beings have a distinct value system that is reflective of what is most important and what purpose they’re driven by.
So, what becomes more evident at a time of crisis is really whether the values upon which your business stands, are working for your business or not. Does this sound more philosophical than business-like? Sure, but maybe that’s exactly what we need.
As an entrepreneur and now a fintech incubator, I have had the unique privilege of sitting at both ends of the table and the experience both times has clarified one thing about the current essence of the start-up world – we live in the space of extremes.
Extreme ambitions, speed, drive, valuations and on the other end of the spectrum, extreme crashes, extreme fails and lows are experienced. We tend to oscillate from a sense of euphoria to a sense of gloom as far as startup businesses go. We are either in boom mode or bust. And maybe that’s the part we need to start undoing and unlearning as a tribe of innovative thinkers.
While there certainly is value in passionately chasing goals, one mustn’t forget the tenets of a sustainable business operation that achieves scale and success consistently and weathers the storms head-on. The businesses that have been around forever departed valuables lessons in that sense. These include measured risk-taking, placing value on progressive steady steps towards scale and patience and resilience to watch your business unfold its intended impact for the end consumer.
Gearing Up For The Future
Businesses built with these foundation stones know that “the future is purchased by the present.” This is the right time for fintech ventures, including businesses who have products at beta testing or those who have already raised some existing capital and traction – to offer innovative solutions that can cater to the masses in times of crisis.
Innovators need to use this downtime to focus on their creative thinking for future growth and operations while investing time in research and core knowledge development. This will prepare them to go on a full steam post this phase.
We have had exceptional examples (Microsoft, Netflix and more) from the past where the most successful startups were developed during a recessionary phase and this time it’s no different. Concentrating efforts on product and concept development rather than being in a directionless frenzy and having a reactive approach to the markets will help.
In the world that will follow the pandemic, tech innovations will be welcomed largely as customers and markets will remain receptive for valuable products that enhance living. People are slowly accepting the fact that remote living supported by digital tools is a long-term reality. Although the size of investments might decrease there will be increased interest for new products, ideations and niches by startups that hit the iron when it’s hot and come to aid in time.
Building Newer Models To Support Traditional Platforms
It is essential to review contingency plans and brainstorm with teams on what it is that they would like to develop, produce and focus on in the second innings of 2020. In unusual times like these, traditional credit scores like the CIBIL score for assessing the creditworthiness of salaried class borrowers and SMEs may or may not hold applicable – because it does not take into account their future potential and is more oriented to the present.
With a large section of the working community operating digitally, several traditional SMEs are struggling to keep up and are seeking for reliable support on new business models. Hence, there is immense scope for alternative fintech solutions that can assist customers and businesses to adapt to the new changes as necessary.
Insurance, microfinance and lending are also similar sectors that were largely dependent on physical touchpoints earlier but are now exploring to make a smooth digital transition. Hence, this is more of an opportunity than a loss for fintech players to bridge the gap and meet shifting requirements.
Not Just Surviving But Creating A Better Product For The New Normal
Today, it is about identifying inefficiencies in current business procedures, managing costs and planning (or rather re-planning) ahead of time to strengthen one’s product portfolio. Further, consistent efforts to analyze per unit profitability while partnering with traditional players will create scalability for upcoming demand. If startups can sustain in the coming 12-18 months, their innovative services can stir up productive energy and boost the economy.
Startups need to capitalize on virtual capacities to build systems, processes and workplaces that are not heavily dependent on physical location – in terms of their own operations as well as processes to support the client. They must try to build products that make sense to people in the new normal by considering the impact of the crisis in their lives.
On the other hand, active efforts from startups to contribute towards relevant issues will also assist them to build goodwill for their future plans as potential customers have their eyes on companies acting empathetically and contextually in their initiatives.
Brands are coming up with innovative ideas to support customers in unique ways like offering 0% on card processing fees during the pandemic. This is the right juncture to explore such possibilities and implement ideas while adapting each day.
Capitalizing Opportunities In The Aftermath Of The Crisis
It’s true that startups are at their most vulnerable with insufficient support and back-up but this shouldn’t hinder them from being prepared for the future. Startups need to interact more with customers to know about their needs and expectations, focus more on product engineering and find innovative ways to deliver a seamless customer experience.
It is also important to be involved in ongoing community activities and strengthen ties with fellow businesses that can assist one to create unique services.
The government and innovation giants are partnering to reward and encourage businesses that can find solutions to recover from the pandemic. Businesses involving fintech developments are in it for the long run. So, prepare for a marathon and not just a short sprint.
Explore innovative collaborations across the industry that can provide effective long-term solutions for customers. Knowing the world of technology and its dynamic nature, fintech players need to emerge out of a short term myopic vision and partner with businesses trying to achieve similar goals over the long haul.
The future is collaborative and finding opportunities that create a synergy to deliver value are the ones that will win customer confidence and market attention.
Joint contributions by a large number of early-stage startups can immensely uplift the current situation and lead to the generation of new opportunities – something that can be significantly useful in the near future. It will be sometime before things resume to routine and even if they do, new outbreaks will keep disrupting normalcy.
The important thing is to take the first step towards building the right business values, and then another and another until you have a clear purpose-driven organization in place. The cumulative effect of enough steps in the right direction can be astounding when you look back at this time and will be the litmus test of your grit to build a business worthy of finding its place in the new future.