Every startup in India wants to grow fast — Get more users, sell more orders, set up new offices, hire more people, advertise more, acquire companies, get more capital. Startups want to disrupt established businesses. Government today has launched a platform for startups to compete on an even keel with the rest. The media loves the underdog story and there is no better way to be noticed than to deliver fast growth.

When things go on in full swing, the need to maintain a harmony between growth expectations (external) and efforts that deliver growth (internal) become more important. Having lofty expectations without the right enablers can demotivate the team. Here are 3 things to bear in mind

  1. Innovate @ Core — This stems from a rich understanding of why our customers (esp early adopters) love us and continue innovating in those areas to drive a significant wedge with the next guy in town. In an era where startup technology is lapped up by GenY, the established firms are fighting back with retrofitting technology to their core and adding manpower to provide a seamless experience. Startups lack the brand power of established business and so would do well to understand & act even as they focus on building newer businesses. Answers are not easy but who pays us for solving the simple questions? This demands a lot of creative thinking and imagination — An area where the captains of startups need to spend more time even as they execute at a frenetic pace. To save some time, One could hack their way here by understanding how businesses (having similar drivers) operate and succeed — Spend more time studying the market and experiencing similar products or services. A strategy team should be seen as an asset rather than an add-on with a clear mandate to establish what will make the core business tick.
  2. Make Talent Count — Where startups can’t compete with established firms on manpower, they need to compensate by enabling workforce with the right training and tools. The startups workforce is no longer factory labour — it’s a knowledge workforce whose brainpower matters more. So Activities that can be automated must be automated to free up time & mindspace for the small workforce to chase higher order priorities. A majority of workforce entering startups are freshers — full of energy and enthusiasm. When channeled in the right way, the output can easily be 2X of the norm. And Training the workforce is not a one-time effort — it’s as continuous as making money. To complement the training efforts, startups need to align their best people with the leaders. Good leaders set high standards and expect their team to live upto them. One of the common fallacies is to give simple, mundane tasks to teams in highly complex business situations and emphasize or seek repetition of the same tasks more efficiently. The idea should be to automate repetitive tasks and demand the team to focus on solving the really hard problems. Good Leaders do a great job in translating complexity & business value for the team. Teams needs to know what they are goaling towards and why the job assigned to them is critical for the company. Teams should feel challenged by the enormity of the goals — This is especially true of engineering teams who constantly seek challenging problems to solve.
  3. Communicate & Reinforce — Many startups over-communicate externally while hardly communicate internally. Many startups do a great job defining the corporate mission and vision but lack precision on two critical things
  • Communicating and reinforcing the mission and vision among the internal audience
  • Translating the vision/mission into actionable goals and further break it down into operational tasks for daily consumption

Positive behaviors that better align with corporate goals need to be constantly reinforced to enable the staff make the right choices in their daily actions. Employees does not have a proper view of how their daily actions roll up into corporate objectives (Growth, Revenues, Retention, Customer Satisfaction). These objectives should percolate across levels and results should be discussed through town halls and team meetings. This is not easy by any means but defining the task list keeping the end goals in mind will go a long way to driving focus and outcomes. The staff should be encouraged to ask the really tough questions of the management and they, in turn, should be willing to answer than deflect these.

Startups are particularly deficient in written or visual communication on vision, mission, business goals and strategy. We do live in a twitter world and unfortunately, people are not mentally geared to read & absorb beyond 140 characters. Having said that, People would do well to spend 30 mins each day reviewing their actions in the context of corporate goals and reflecting back on what they can do better individually and as a team to achieve those. This can only happen if management reinforces this culture among the group. Amazon’s Leadership Principles reflect this cultural need.

To sum up, Indian startups have a long way to establish their true potential. Delivering on the 3 key levers (Innovation @ Core, Talent Management & Internal Communication) would help them realize that sooner than later.

I, Arvind Shastry, have over 9 years of industry experience across multiple sectors and functions. Presently, I lead growth & monetization at ClearTax, India’s largest tax filing portal. I am interested to write about strategy, growth, sustainability, design, product, Leadership. This is my first post on Medium so look forward to your valuable feedback. Check out this space for more.