India houses one of the largest startup ecosystems in the world. The government has recognised 41,061 startups as of December 2020, according to the Economic Survey 2020-21.
Furthermore, 17 new startups entered the ‘unicorn’ club in the first seven months of 2021, bringing the total number of unicorn startups to 59 as of August 2021.
These numbers are growing at an exponential rate. As an outcome, various industries are getting disrupted by startups, and new value chains are emerging, especially in the technology domain.
However, while starting a company is simple, converting it into an actual ‘company’ and making it a ‘brand’ is a huge undertaking. It takes resilience, determination, and business know-how.
Though some of it can be learned through business education, a lot of it comes from experience. Furthermore, the economic climate can add challenges, irrespective of the industry vertical.
The challenges mainly begin after the inception of the startup. Yes, the idea is the more straightforward part.
For a growing business, the everyday experience can be as daunting as launching it. And just when everything looks okay, the real question arises – “Can this be sustained?”
Below are five tips that can be applied by entrepreneurs who aim for sustainable growth for their startups.
1. Develop a solid plan
All successful businesses always start with a solid plan. Many startups fail because they start with a great concept, but do not consider growing it or having a robust revenue model.
Having a unique product or service is good, but this alone isn’t sufficient. It is essential to have short and long-term growth strategies along with financial projections of the business. Startups and even established companies must have a plan for any emergency that might occur.
If a startup is new to writing a business plan, it is advisable to ask someone in the industry for help to review the plan.
2. Know your customers
Another crucial factor in ensuring success is knowing customer’s needs and wants, and gaps in services. For this, startups need to first narrow down on who their target audience will be – both primary and secondary. It is essential to know why and how the product and services meet the specific audience’s needs.
If the entrepreneurs are not clear about their customers during the planning stage of their business, they will have to face the repercussions later.
3. Positioning and marketing
Startups should focus on marketing to position their brand correctly. Brand positioning often decides the success of the startup if not influencing it to a considerable extent.
Though the budget is less in the early stages, it is critical to start marketing early. Entrepreneurs need to identify the best marketing channel to reach their target audience.
While digital marketing is helpful for many startups, a B2B startup will have to go beyond digital media. For example, vertical-specific trade shows and conferences will be great places to reach out to potential customers.
4. Hire the right people
While starting, entrepreneurs need to surround themselves with the right kind of talent. People who believe in the startup’s vision and can add value to the team should be a priority in hiring. The initial squad is as important as the idea itself. By forming the right team, startups can accomplish their targets at a much faster pace.
It is also crucial to have the right mentors and business partners who can advise in times of need. They also greatly help with networking and finding the right connections.
5. Get into an incubator / accelerator
Joining an incubator in the initial phases of growth can greatly benefit startups. As in the initial stages, startups need many resources, which is even more challenging given they have limited capital. Incubators/accelerators can not only help save on operational costs but also provide mentorship.
Such ecosystems help entrepreneurs build strong connections with peer startups, which is beneficial in the long run. Furthermore, accelerators often offer startups initial funding and support the startups convert business ideas into prototypes and products.
Bonus: strategic corporate partners
In addition to working with incubators and VCs, it is essential for B2B-focused startups on reaching out to customers for early validation of product-market fit. Early market validation is even more important for startups focused on the deep-tech space, as deep-tech space is capital intensive, with long development cycles and complicated business models.
Corporate partnerships can provide the right environment for startups to conduct their R&D, secure investments, and evolve business models.
Some startup initiatives started by corporates are focused explicitly on onboarding innovation from startups through partnerships. Such organisations can be a single window to the global conglomerates.
Growth is an essential factor for any company, irrespective of its size. Guiding a company at any growth phase is not an easy task. Having the right strategy is very crucial in the initial stages.
Moreover, early product-market fit validation is critical for a deep-tech startup before spending extensive time and money on product development. Having strategic corporate partners can help startups to make more informed decisions and develop more fine-tuned products.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)