By Ashok Subramanian and Shridhar Bhagwat
Success is a thing to savour; failure is painful. Success allows you to fly high, failure is learning experience and a chance to start afresh.
Utkarsh Srivastava, co-founder, of Zeppery, the app-based food order startup, has gone through these emotions as a startup. Having prematurely closed down his startup, that had last year raised Rs 50 lakh ($77,000) in an angel round of funding, he is currently gearing up for a fresh innings as an entrepreneur.
In an exclusive interview with Stars of Startups, Srivastava talks of his experience and the lessons learnt in his entrepreneurial journey so far. Excerpts:
How do you look at your situation today, is it the end or a fresh start in your entrepreneurial journey?
So far it has been a great learning. I belong to very rich, highly-educated family where others mostly are from IIT/IIM or top positions in government organizations, so it was a pressure on me to be like them. But I wasn’t meant for these tags, had an entrepreneurial dream to create new things and build a world-class startup.
Although this venture could not be pulled off, I think failures are just part of entrepreneurship journey, as it is famous saying by Paypal founder: “I failed a lot, before I hit it big’.
I am again ready for a start fresh, with same passion and energy to build something new because real joy can only and only exists in creating new things.
What was you emotional state on making this decision to close your business?
Nothing emotional. The product was exceptionally good but it was too early for Indian market as we tried to copy Tapingo, a US based food tech startup. The response was slow and unit economics was high, so we decided to move on.
Please share the high and low points during this journey?
I learned that what you might think is the worst thing that ever happened to you in that moment might actually turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to you. There were several ups and down, my battery down moment was when no one from my family was ready to support this cause, especially my mother who was very anxious about my marriage and earnings I would make. I still went against all odds to execute my dream. We know Indian mindset — they can’t think big, they spend their entire life in savings and living a stable life. Today I am enjoying the journey of entrepreneurship and will make it big in coming years.
What constraints you will count responsible for your business outcome?
One and only one thing lacking was the right co-founder. I failed to build a great team to make things happen.
What was your experience with people before and after your business closure?
We are still friends.
What would you advise new entrepreneurs who are about to start their journey?
One advice: be focused. Think less do more, fail-experiment-fail-experiment-success. Never take up entrepreneurship as part time job — make it as your life. Don’t worry about failures, just keep going until you make it big.
It takes lot of patience, tenacity and optimism to build a startup. Don’t chase money, focus your early days on learning, spent most of your time on the ground and talk to your targeted customers. Learn about sales more and more, that is the only thing that actually matters and the last perhaps the most crucial thing ‘Never give up’.
What is your next plan?
We have already started working on a new model which is currently into stealth mode. There has been lot of ground work since two months and we will be launching soon. We are also in the process of building a team.
Do you feel work experience helps you in starting your own business?
Not at all! Corporate experience has nothing to do with startup experience. We need to understand startup mindset is entirely different from what we see in corporate world. I started with a ‘zero’; I jumped into entrepreneurship right after working for two years in a corporate, with time I got to learn everything, right from market research to making business deck and financials. Even today, I can take up any topic on startups to educate MBA guys. Startup is more about passion and perseverance rather than focusing on degree or credentials.
How is the overall startup environment in India? What are the four biggest challenges that entrepreneurs face?
In recent years, the Indian startup ecosystem has really taken off and come into its own — driven by factors such as massive funding, consolidation activities, evolving technology and a burgeoning domestic market.
The numbers are telling — from 3,100 startups in 2014 to a more than 11,500 by 2020, this is certainly not a passing trend. It’s a revolution. And it’s going to change the way the markets are working today in India.
Four biggest challenges for starting up:
- Parental pressure
- Lack of funds
- Building a great team
- Fast-paced market