CHENNAI: I had an good interaction with Ronnie Screwvala, the Indian entrepreneur and philanthropist last week at T-Hub at IIIT Hyderabad. He had interesting insights on what he looks for in founders when investing or mentoring. The most critical thing is flexibility, he said. While the founder’s background and their passion for the idea is important, flexibility too has its own place. Founders need to be aggressively open to ‘listening’ and adapting.
Listening to the markets and reading into all the field inputs is important. Not just listening, making the needed course corrections is also vital. Whether it is a marketing outreach, a sales call, or even deal-closure discussions, they all are loaded with field insights. And each insight allows for a change in course, even if minor, that increases effectiveness in the market. In business parlance, they are called pivots. Their significance cannot be underestimated.
Every customer who refuses to respond to an email or other communication methods, implies in the least that the message is not clear enough and on other end the solution itself is probably not compelling. In the first meeting, if the customer doesn’t look keen enough, it is a big problem to address. For example, the customer was initially interested when given the concept, but during the meeting, something different was shown. There is a need to critically assess this and reconcile the gap to be able to effectively convert the initial interest into a closed deal. Post-initial meeting and demo, if the deal doesn’t close then there maybe either a product completeness issue/quality issue or pricing disconnect. Every customer who says yes provides insights on what is working.
Founders need to be extremely glued in to the market and look for the minutest of signals. And make amends aggressively. Sooner the learning, adjusting, and adaptability happens, better for the startup. And growth will follow suit, eventually.
(The writer is MD and VP - Products and Progress Software and an advisor to Incubator at IIIT Hyderabad)