Back in 2005-oin India, entrepreneurship was not a buzzword like it is today and even thought of starting a company, when no one in your family had ever thought about same, was sufficient enough to create earthquake kind of a situation.
All three founders of Webkul (Vinay (me), Vipin, Prakash) come from same background. Our parents worked in government organisation and have had similar backgrounds. Starting a company without any experience and then scale it to cover 150+ countries, 7+ platform, 40,000+ customers, 700+ plugins, 150+ headcount in just 5 years, is really a remarkable journey.
Brands like Intel, Harvard, Princeton university, HealthKart, Digiweb being our clients is one big achievement for us.
In this process, we became major contributors for platforms like Magento/Prestashop/Opencart/Odoo and we even partnered with Paypal (For seamless payment integration) & Amazon AWS.
Let me share few important things which worked for us and made all this possible.
Finding Area of Working
The very important thing you need to figure out is domain before figuring out idea. In Today, getting basic knowledge about any field is a lot easier than it was 5 years or a decade back. You can simply Google and know the basics. Having awareness or knowing little about any field is not a big deal anymore. If you want to do something big in any field, you need expertise. Be 100% sure that you are completely passionate about what you are doing. Don’t start because you read or heard that it is profitable/easy.
Idea is Over-Rated
Knowledge and capability is something that can actually make or break idea. In our case, we all three have no doubt about what we were heading towards, but we were passionate about the web and open-source. We were 100% sure that we want to do something in this domain. An interesting thing that we observed was that in web development no one is developing web application (whether sites or ecommerce store) from scratch. 90% of ecommerce development was happening on certain pre-build open-source platforms like Magento /Prestashop /Opencart etc. Although, these platforms significantly decreased the efforts of launching ecommerce site but they lacked in many generic features. We started with filling these gaps. Instead of giving direct service to customer who want to open an ecommerce store, we started targeting platforms with missing features. These platforms are actually backend engine for almost 90% of ecommerce stores. So, don’t rush for an idea, be passionate, focus and stay updated about your domain.
One of the most important ingredient of startup success is the team working behind it. If you do a close study on startups that have failed, you will find that most of the startups don’t fail because of lack of money/idea etc., but they failed due to differences between co-founder. Finding right co-founder is much more important than finding the right idea/investors etc.
But how to find co-founder is not that easy as it appears. I believe first principal of finding co-founder is “Don’t chase co-founder/Don’t try to find”. It is very important that your co-founder must be excited about your idea/Vision/Ethics etc. In case of Webkul, neither Vipin convinced me nor I convinced Vipin to work on this idea. We both were roommates in college and very close to each other. We both were passionate about computing/logics/open-source/startup culture. After first year of our college, I decided that I would start a company in computing domain and I was very open about it. This is second most important principle to find co-founder, “must not be secretive about your idea, be very open and talkative about it”. I was always open about my ideas and failed at 3-4 startups in different domains and with different teams. The experience gave me good knowledge about technology and the startup culture. So when Vipin decided that even he wants to startup, it almost became obvious that we would do it together because we had immense belief on each other’s capability and vision. This is third most important principle “You must have believe in each other capability and you must share same vision”. As Jeff Bezos has rightly said, “We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details….”. if you have conflict in vision , if co-founder have different goals and expectation, it is going to create mess at longer run, so fix it on day one.”
Don’t fall in the trap of starting after gaining some experience and earning revenues. This is another thing that worked for us. We used our college life as a nursery for entrepreneurship. College time give unique benefits:
- No Monthly earning pressure
- Lots of time to learn new things around your idea
- You can fail and startup again
- You can build your team very easily
- Easy to find right cofounder
- Less Liability and family
Build Team of Ironmen
That is next but most important part, if you want to build a bigger company. Building a product is easier but making a company around it, is totally a different story. If you want to become self employed or solopreneur, then you don’t need to worry about this part but I don’t consider that as entrepreneurship or as startup. Because I think entrepreneurship is all about creating bigger impact on the world and touching more & more people/lifes. This is not possible as an solopreneur. Now building a team of Ironmen is really very complex especially when you are bootstrapped. This is the time when you have no money, no brand, no good infrastructure but you really need smart people. In this case, you can only sell vision or dream.
There is nothing bad in selling dream or vision but you should not fake it. Try hard to make that dream come to reality. Don’t compromise with talent, either hire best talent or make them best by exhaustive training. From day one at Webkul, we understood importance of great team and intrapreneur, we were also aware that in this industry that people hardly have intrapreneur mindset. So we decided to hire fresh raw talent and provided them training to become intrapreneur. It worked well for us, and are successful in this approach and one of the major reason that we are able to become only company in the world which has more than 700+ plugins on more than 7 platforms, is due to our team of intrapreneurs. Webkul is now 5 years old but many of our initial employees are still with us. We are able to manage 700+ plugin only because of these intrapreneurs.
Whatever your product is, your competitor is going to copy it and create exact mimic of it but what your competitor can’t copy is your culture. So give priority to culture from day one.
Keep Planting New Seeds
Frankly speaking this advice may not be good fit for all, but it worked great in our case. From the very beginning, we didn’t zero down ourself to single idea. We kept adding new platforms in our basket, and eventually became only one company in world which develop plugins for so many platforms. Even our mission statement don’t restrict us to try any new things. Our Mission is to keep developing problem solving apps. Our model is simple, if there is any problem which we can solve by our technical approach, we can build solution around it. For example, recently, we launched a complete open-source platform for hotel booking & reservation site. Whole ecommerce industry is accelerated by open-source platforms like Magento/Prestashop/Opencart because they significantly decreased the cost of developing ecommerce site both in term of money and time. But still this revolution didn’t happened in hotel industry due to lack of such robust open-source solution for hotel industry. We launched Qlo to fill this gap. Similarly, we did same for the mobile domain. As the world is moving towards mobile era, so it is necessary for every ecommerce site to have their own apps. Developing a mobile app for it is still costly and is time taking process. We launched Mobikul, a standard module, using that any ecommerce site can easily launch own native mobile app too.
World is changing faster than our expectations, especially in the technology segment. Now you need to be agile. But even if you are a single idea-based company you need to be fast enough in improving your product every day. You need to surprise your competitor by your speed of launching new and advanced version of your product.
Traditional Marketing is Dead
Whatever your Idea is, please don’t waste any single penny or time on door to door marketing/pamphlet distribution, etc. Try to build your brand around internet and first win online market then go for traditional marketing not vice-versa. Now people do scroll over internet before buying anything, thus, it is important to build your online presence. It take good amount of time to build online audience/keyword ranking, etc. and is worth doing. So, think your online channel as primary channel, be completely aware about all the new digital marketing trends.
My most valuable advice is “Be bottleneck breaker”. Many a times aspiring entrepreneurs ask me this question, “What is the most important characteristic that an entrepreneur must have?” I always suggest them that you need to very smart in finding out the real bottleneck and break it.
First rule of entrepreneurship/innovation is follow no rules. Whatever advice I have given in this blog based on mt perceptions, you need not to be disheartened if it doesn’t match with your perception.
Follow your heart, chase your dream, Make your own story.