It takes guts, commitment, hard work and planning to turn entrepreneur Closing it down takes a different sort of courage. Entrepreneurs at times hang on to their dream projects for too long, failing to realise that one failure opens up another opportunity to take on the next challenge better prepared
By Shridhar Bhagwat
Indeed one has to be brave to decide to end/pause after finding that the dream project in which one has invested a lot of effort, money and time is not working. Lot of people fail to take the tough call and go on flogging a dead horse, ultimately ending up frustrated and leaving their families and friends agonising.
Sivakumar Anirudhan recently took the hard decision to close down his dream project VBuy.in, considered by many as India’s only online site for local shopping and a service platform exclusively for local brick and mortar stores and small business owners.
In an exclusive interview with Stars of Startups, Sivakumar talks about his journey as an entrepreneur, the lessons he learnt at VBuy.in and his future plans. Excerpts:
What is your dream project and what made you decide to go Entrepreneur?
My dream has been to build an Rs 1000 crore company that through its technology can benefit Indians in the daily life. Though born in an entrepreneurial family (my father has a logistic business), it was my father’s friend who encouraged him to send me to study engineering. After completing engineering, I got a job but the entrepreneurial streak in me was goading me and with two near-attempts it burgeoned. A lot of analysis and favourable conditions in the current market scenario made me decide to turn entrepreneur. It is my belief that the technology of ‘partner stores’ on an e-commerce site in the future of e-commerce industry and this is what makes me go on despite failures.
How was the response of your immediate family and friends on your decision on your start-ups?
The immediate family and friends were supportive, though they had certain inhibitions of the risk involved about the entrepreneurial plunge. My mom’s dream for me was to be an engineer and work as one and she was not so keen for me to be part of the logistics industry.
As we understand, you initially decided to bootstrap and build your traction before looking for investors. In hindsight how would you evaluate that decision? Would you do it different if given a chance?
Bootstrap was a necessity and I was a one-man army managing the show. In hindsight, I should have looked for an investor or financial co-founder that would have eased up the process. Getting investment at later stage is a time consuming process and it needed good six months to get the required investments.
What challenges did you face during your journey? Any specific constrains?
The challenges were technical at the beginning and it took time to develop the product. At the later stage, management of the marketing team did pose a challenge. I am pleased to say that we did overcome all these challenges effectively.
What was your experience with investors? How did you find their approach towards start-ups without pedigree and big names?
Having no pedigree and big names to show does affect the impression you create on investors. The process of getting investors is varied and I was completely at sea when I started doing rounds for investment. The challenges were varied like for instance I learned that there were some investors who provided investments only if a startup had seed funding. You need to spend a lot of money to get funding and I am still trying to figure out this paradox. My product/service was considered me-too by some investors. My tactic was different. I approached owners of software companies to invest and even now it makes me optimistic that in this manner I will get investment.
What was your state of mind when you decided to close/pause your startup?
It was a difficult phase for me when my third attempt failed. I was prolonging the closure process and waiting for a miracle to happen and in a small way it did. We got an order from the app at the same time and the customer’s feedback about my app helped me to understand its shortcomings and build a better engine the next time around. It also motivated me to not give up on turning an entrepreneur.
What prompted you to make this hard decision?
The hard decision of closing shop was due to financial crunch and low cash flow. I would have not been able to run the business for the next three months.
How would you sum-up your journey as an entrepreneur? What would be your suggestions to those eager to join the startup world.
Interesting and exhilarating will be how I would describe my journey as an entrepreneur. Even with the business going dud, I enjoyed the journey and I believe the success story is very individualistic and its definition differs with each individual startup. Self analysis at every step will help entrepreneurs to review and correct themselves to move to a possible win than failure.
What are your plans for the future?
My future plan is to utilise my VBuy platform to be a technical partner in a hyper-local startup. I am already a tech partner for two different start-ups outside India. Though there are financial constraints in this setup, I believe this is the future and I am currently in talks for a possible merger with a software company.
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