Ever since the corona pandemic hit our shores, life has changed in a multitude of ways. Work From Home (WFH) is the new normal. Online is the new mantra. While companies have realised that work need not suffer with employees opting to work from home, many are also realising that their infrastructural expenses like office maintenance has come down drastically. Many people who have discovered the freedom of balancing professional and personal lives have also realised that their creative juices are working overtime and that there are several more opportunities out there to make a fast buck and compensate for the shortage in incomes.
Start-ups is the name of the game in the emerging new normal that is sweeping the entrepreneurship landscape. App developers are working overtime with almost any and everything fast becoming available from the comfort of one’s home through the ubiquitous smart phone.
Suresh Menon, film maker (Dragonfly Films) and management consultant, informed, “It’s an accepted fact that the coronavirus is going to change the way of life forever. People will be forced to embrace digital technologies for almost everything, including their daily chores. It is inevitable and is a sort of forced transformation being thrust upon mankind. This has actually thrown up several business opportunities to the tech sector. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are no more the domain of the whiz kids. Further, the economy has forced several thousands to be thrown out of employment, whether they were self-employed or employed with firms. The tech-savvy among these have naturally seen the business opportunity that this phase has thrown up and this has resulted in hundreds of start-ups being formed in the country today. However, it is yet to be seen how many of these start-ups will be able to last beyond a certain period.”
Chai Kings is a start-up chain of unique outlets serving tea and snacks and have been steadily establishing their brand. However, the pandemic has halted their growth plans. Jahabar Sadique, Co-Founder & CEO, Chai Kings, informed BE, “We haven’t changed the business model as such. There is more emphasis on making the place safer for all our stakeholders, customers and staff without impacting the experience and the product quality. There are a lot of changes to the menu as well to maximise revenue per square feet.”
Funding is the key to any start-up. While the promoter and his co-promoters, if any, would normally put up the seed capital and kickstart the venture, the eye is always on the lookout for investors and venture capitalists for the envisaged exponential growth and future prospects. But, is that easy to come by? Or, does it work on ‘connections’ and ‘relationships’?
Suresh Menon feels that start-ups are generally driven by concepts that address a solution. He added, “It is necessary for the VC to share the same practical concern as the product seeks to address, and this is a big problem. The VC never ever understands the need for the product and is always focussed on the business part of the product. Further, the technical competence of the start-up team is always a question. To my knowledge less than one start-up manages to find a VC from among a block of 150 start-ups. However, being associated with technical institutions like IITs and IIMs does help to build up investor confidence, especially when they are backed up by an academician. The chances of getting funded are extremely high in this case.”
Another new trend that is fast catching up is the app culture. Developing mobile applications for any and everything is in itself a ‘start-up’ activity. In the current scenario, when it has become mandatory to use digital technology and wireless technology to live our daily lives, developers are furiously coming up with mobile apps to enable every need and requirement of an individual. According to Suresh, “In the light of the forced adoption of technology for everyday needs, the mobile phone is the easiest accessible device for any individual. It is thus obvious that they are all looking for specialised apps across all domains. We do have apps for almost everything today - from hiring a maid servant to shopping for veggies, to check the news, to even communicate with your spouse in privacy. The app culture is definitely set to grow and the demand will increase. But how many of them actually survive the competition is yet to be seen.”
According to Sadique, “We have enabled contact-less ordering and payment for the walk-in customers so that they feel safe and the number of physical touch points are reduced. Also, there is work happening on getting our own application for orders and for organising our delivery fleet to deliver those orders. This should help us cut down on cost spent on commission to third party apps, have control over our customer data and be more flexible in managing the menu online.”
Start-ups are using every trick in the book to get that first-in advantage even as the lockdown continues to restrict economic growth for conventional businesses. Digitally doing business is the way forward and right from classrooms to construction activities, start-ups will rule the roost in the new normal.