Why This Book?
Before we get into what this book is about, it’s important to know the ‘why.’
It was June 2015, and I had decided to leave the US and come back to India. Not because of some higher purpose or because I wanted to change the Indian landscape; it was more circumstantial. The product that I was working on at Shutterstock was shutting down, and my dad had just had
a heart attack.
My brother and I were abroad, and we felt helpless. If you’re an Indian living in the US, you know you get to see your parents only about once a year. So, not being there while my mom was taking care of everything felt inhuman. And if things couldn’t go further wrong, I had been through a tough breakup.
So, I decided to f***k everything, and come back to India.
Before returning, I thought of doing a 3-month trip to South America and Africa. If it meant burning all my savings, so be it. I didn’t care if I was going to start from scratch. So, I took a one-way flight from New York to Ecuador and told myself, “Ani, you’ll figure it out.”
On arriving, I spoke to the local entrepreneurs to better understand what their challenges were and how I could help them. One of those evenings, I organised a small learning session on growth hacking and the latest marketing trends. At the end of it, people loved it. That led to the evolution of longer format workshops, English and Spanish courses as well as lots of free mentorship sessions. Over and above that, while I was in Ecuador, I got
a remote consulting gig with a company in San Francisco.
I had so much fun building stuff, helping people and travelling that 3 months in South America became 7 months. But, eventually, I got tired of being on the move. So, I decided to come back to India to continue on my path of designing workshops, mentoring and helping entrepreneurs.
It was January 2016, and there was so much happening here. The startup scene was booming, coworking spaces were on the rise, accelerators and incubators were being set up; the energy was similar to a New York or San Francisco. Our Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, had launched a 1.5 Billion dollar fund to help entrepreneurs solve India’s problems and create jobs.
It felt like there wasn’t a better time to start something in India. But as I spent more time with the entrepreneurs on the ground, it felt like the focus was on fundraising, rather than creating sustainable businesses. Also, most startups that were being funded were failing within the first 2 years. A lot of the data pointed to the fact that these startups weren’t able to get and retain
customers. Plus, the general consensus was that our Indian ecosystem was so different, and funding was the only way to scale. All this really concerned me.
So, I thought, what if we could access the ‘how’? What if I could interview some of the most successful entrepreneurs in India and ask them what they did to grow their businesses? Real actionable methods and strategies. No bullshit. At least, that way, we could get real marketing tips and insights relevant to our ecosystem. And so it began.
I met Ankur Warikoo, the CEO & Founder of Nearbuy, at a conference. He was kind enough to share Nearbuy’s story and introduce me to other successful founders. In 5 months, I had interviewed the founders of Bharat Matrimony, Freshdesk (now Freshworks), InMobi, Byju’s, SlideShare and 20 other awesome entrepreneurs.
The questions I posed to them were:
1. How did you come up with the idea?
2. What marketing strategies helped you scale?
3. Which channels did you use to scale?
4. What were some of the hacks/strategies per channel?
5. What advice would you give other entrepreneurs?
After going over their recordings and all the notes I had taken, I wondered what the best way to present this data would be in order to make it valuable to these audiences:
1. The Aspiring Entrepreneur who has an idea but doesn’t know what to do next.
2. The Early Stage Entrepreneur who has created a product/service and is looking to get customers.
3. The Entrepreneurs who are looking to scale their businesses across channels.
4. The Head of Marketing responsible for the growth of his/her startup.
I also pondered about which medium would make the most sense and deliver maximal impact, or if I should convert my lessons into blog posts or maybe a course.
It finally made sense to write a book.
This book may be an inspirational piece. And if it inspires you, I’ll love you forever. But I get a feeling it’s more of a handbook, maybe even a manual. It gives you actionable steps from idea to launch to scaling your idea in the digital age. I don’t expect you to read the entire book in one sitting. Instead, I see this book as a guide you can refer to over and over again.
With all the data put together, I can assure you that you’ll find most parts interesting, some parts quite theoretical but overall really helpful. This book may not be relevant 20 years from now when the digital landscape completely changes, but for today, it’s the consultant you need. It’s what you need to succeed in this landscape.
This book will give you:
1. A step by step guide on how to start and scale a company in the digital age
2. How to effectively use each of the 30+ marketing channels (online & offline)
3. How to identify the marketing channels that make the most sense for your business
4. Over 30 examples of different Indian startups (B2B and B2C) that have used each of the marketing channels to scale their business
I hope you enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed talking to each of these entrepreneurs and putting all of this together. Leaving you with a quote that has changed my life forever:
“Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.”
– Robert Allen
With lots of love,
The Startup Growth
Cycle – Idea to Scale
What is a startup?
Simply put, it’s a company that solves a market problem but is focused on only 1 metric: growth.
Whenever people think of a startup, they imagine a group of people working out of a garage, trying to change the world. Well, in today’s day and age, that seems a little over the top. The term ‘startup’ can be used for companies with a product or prototype or a few years old but doing a million dollars in revenue. It’s a stage of high growth, with the ability to run fast and make shit happen.
Life Cycle of a Startup
The stages of a startup can be broken down into 3 main stages:
1. The launch of the idea
2. Reaching product-market fit
But the emotional ride looks more like this.
Paul Graham’s explanation of the startup cycle
(Founder of Y Combinator)
Anyway, for simplification, let’s look at these 3 main stages:
1. The Launch of an Idea
Let’s say you have this awesome idea. An idea that is going to change the world and help millions of people. So, with that initial enthusiasm, you start building a website or a working prototype. You may even set up something more tangible. You then speak to your potential
customers and then…nothing. You realise they not only care about your product, but it wasn’t a problem for them in the first place. Sounds familiar?
Why should anyone spend so much time and money before realising what they created has no value? There should be a way through which you can validate an idea even before having to build it.
For example, Girish Mathrubootham (Founder & CEO of Freshdesk) said, “I was 36 years old, married and with 2 kids before quitting my job at Zoho. I had a great team and the satisfaction of having built several successful products at Zoho. But one day, while I was there, I came across an article on Hacker News. This article was about Zendesk raising their prices 60–300% and how their users were unhappy about it. Customers actually suggested that there was an opportunity for someone to come and take all of Zendesk and eSupport’s customers. That comment was like a slap on my face. That was the exact moment when I decided that I should build something in the customer support market delivered as SAAS.” (Founded in 2010, Freshdesk has raised $150M with over 80,000 customers as of 2017.)
Here is another example of sound idea validation before building the product:
Aneesh Reddy, Founder & CEO of Capillary Technologies (a mobile customer relationship management platform that’s powering over 20,000 retail locations and 500 million transactions every year), decided to create something in the Retail and Mobile space as they were growth sectors. They spent the first 5 months (Nov. 2008–Apr. 2009) speaking to over 50 retailers and mobile development shops,asking about their problems. Almost all of them cited a decline in sales and not being able to get new customers as their #1 problem.
The team brainstormed and decided to launch a mobile CRM which would collect data about their customers and generate simple reports. The reports even consisted of suggestions from customers. Retailers like Indus League and Indian Terrain were intent on buying if Capillary could create a CRM. So, Aneesh and his team hired a few interns from IIT and Dhirubhai college to build a bareboned backend with a simple UI which could be launched within a month. Once
they went live, they had 5 retailers who bought their product right away. Ever since then, Capillary Tech has always had 2 or 3 anchor customers who have been part of their ‘Customer Advisory Board’ from whom they can collect feedback.
2. Reaching Product-Market Fit
What is product-market fit? Well, if you have customers that love your product and are willing to pay for it, you have reached productmarket fit. Most startups go through phases of experimenting or pivoting before they reach product-market fit. They either make tweaks to their product, change their customer focus or maybe even industry focus.
For example, InMobi (one of the world’s largest independent mobile ad platforms, engaging 1.5 billion unique customers in over 200 countries) started as MKhoj, an SMS-based deals discovery
platform, before pivoting into a mobile advertising platform. SlideShare, which is all about discovering and sharing presentations, began as a consulting business called Uzanto before pivoting into a slide hosting service.
Side Note: Other ways of knowing you have reached product-market fit is when you have a few people who absolutely love your product. They jump out of their seats when they hear about you and want to tell the world about you without any incentives.
3. Product-Market Fit to Scale
Once you have reached product-market fit, it’s time to scale; it’s time to get your product in front of your audience. In order to scale, start off with a set of marketing channels that you think can be used to reach your audience, hone or narrow them down to a few channels that perform well and then dominate those channels.
If you have an idea, test it with potential customers before building anything out. Talk to as many people as possible.
But what if you’re still looking for that startup idea? Advice on Finding Your Startup Idea
Paras Chopra (Founder of Wingify, a B2B Indian startup that clocks $12M in annual revenue) always knew he was going to be an entrepreneur. Paras says, “I always knew I had to do a startup. After working for about a year and a half, I made a rational list of my interests and spent about a month or so just listing what I liked to do. One of the top themes that emerged for me was marketing optimisation, which combined my interest in analytics, technology and marketing.
This was the genesis of Wingify.”
Whether you’re forced into entrepreneurship or were born with it in your DNA, it’s important to convert those ideas into something tangible—
(Founder of VWO) on how to find your startup idea:
• Find a Startup Idea That Is Already Making Money for Somebody in a Growing Industry: If there are competitors, then there’s money to be made in the industry. If it’s growing, then there’s a lot of potential for new entrants.
• Interests You: This is where passion comes into play. If you pursue something for the sake of money, you won’t last long when the tough times hit.
• Aligns with Your Skill Sets: If part of your idea uses your core skill sets, then you will create products faster and have better opinions on their feature sets and so on.
• Once You Find This Idea, Carve Out a Niche within the Industry.By addressing the pain points of an underserved segment within that industry, build a product or service that focuses on one key pain point and provides a solution.
|| Make your product easier to use than your competitors and other products. People will pay for products that simplify their work and save time.
|| Or disrupt the market by making your product accessible at a lesser price. If you can create a product that is competitively priced, that’s another reason for customers to switch to your products.
Anirudh Narayan is a growth specialist that has helped over 10,000 aspiring entrepreneurs and 50 startups in US, Latin America, Africa and Asia with launching their idea, reaching product-market fit and scale. His core specialties lie in user acquisition, funnel optimization, growth hacking and business development. Anirudh’s previous experiences involve Growth at Rocket Internet, Shutterstock, Lean Startup Machine as well as mentoring at accelerators like Numa. He has also taught digital marketing with SimpliLearn and UpGrad. He also is the author of the latest high flying book, Scale Smart: How To Get Your First 1,000 Customers In India. Anirudh currently helps entrepreneurs launch and scale their business through bootcamps, courses, consulting services and products with his platform growthspartan.com. He was recently featured among the Top 500 Growth Hackers in the world.