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Bootstrapping My Way Amongst Fund raising Unicorns !

I am an Entrepreneur & started Nurturing Green in 2010 when a friend of mine Gifted me a Zodiac Plant in Austria & I thought of how kool it will be to create a business model in India where Gifting is an inherent behaviour & flowers category is seeing de-growth across the world. Shifted back to India in 2009 where I saw myself juggling to start my journey without Parent’s money & no savings at all. Somehow, with the help of friends, family & fools, I was able to crawl the first few milestones of my startup journey. We raised a small Angel round in 2011 beyond which we bootstrapped & grew through customer money ever after.

Today, after 6 years we are a 100+ organisation bootstrapping to become India’s biggest Gifting Company along with helping our customers create Green Spaces Indoor through Live Plants & related products , bringing Fresh Air inside & even creating world class Landscaping for cities/govts . Along with Presence in 11 cities & being omnichannel , we are also showcased in Harvard Business Review twice & have won many national awards including ET-Power of Ideas .And yes we are healthy EBIDTA Positive & growing Y-O-Y at 3 digits . Such long eventful entrepreneurial journey has taught us few lessons which I would like to share :

  1. GMV etc etc is crap, Unit Economics is the only nirvana : Post Flipkart era, i.e, 2011–12 it was all about GMV. You give out Investor’s money into exorbitant Salaries & crazy Discounts thinking customer behaviour will change which might reverse back after removing extra non sustainable incentives. While we went out to raise money too to expand in 2012–13, we have been tagged as ‘Lifestyle’ business & non sexy to be touched by prolific investors as they couldn’t have cash out easily (Well they didn’t in Ecom case too yet ! ).Today when I look back, I am thankful to all the rejections (more than 30+ BTW :( ) as they made us learn the basic principles of business . How to make world class products & how to drive higher growth rates with minimal costs.
  2. Topline is sexy to have, Bottomline is Sexier & Cash Flow Positive is Orgasm : I have learnt this after 5 years of my journey. I always thought of increasing topline by burning cash & thinking I will be able to bring the bottomline to required nos & cash flow + post burn. I was wrong !!!! & I learnt it early.We made this a basic pillar of every expansion we did in terms of hiring to geographic growth to increasing more retail presence. Today more than 80+% retail points make money & 20% will do in next 6 months max or we close it.
  3. Understanding why you need Money : In 2013–15, it was fancy to say to people that we raised $ X million or become a me too brand & raise easy money w/o a correct business model. Things have taken a U-turn & again in 2016 , investors are talking about Unit Economics or why you need money for—Expansion or burning into discounts etc ?No real business can work w/o knowing these basic sustainable practices or a foreseeable sustainable business maths . One should know if he/she needs money to grow & is the unit maths making business sense before raising money.
  4. Customer Money is the best Money : Ohh we have been so blessed to bootstrapped this whole time. Last 4 yrs have been really tough & we were always tempted to raise money through equity (Not that we were getting it in 2013–14 !!!! ) . But somehow we managed to gain more traction, get repeat customers , make real net money & BOOM ! Our cash flow today is positive.Even as base has increased, we are budgeting to reach 2–2.5X growth coming fiscal without external equity money . Thanks to the future inflows we can predict from our lovely customers !

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  1. Adversity makes you Innovate : Pre 2011 was a very tough phase in my life. I had to live for a year in my Girlfriends apartment to save living costs. I begged for even 10,000/- for many months from my siblings to give our only gardener salary. But that made me a stronger person & made me learn how to live & survive in bare minimum costs. In 2013–14 when we were not able to raise money & our growth couldn’t be survived with the cash flows coming in, hence we had some real BAD days.I cried, I failed, I gave up & re-started, Again next day failed & again started , Finally I survived !
    Image 2annu-groverBut in this phase, I learnt to innovate in everything we did ! Right from saving costs (We worked from an Apartment with 8k rental only to getting 2nd furniture for office ) to making better Retail deals. Now innovation has got into our blood & as we expand is getting into our culture.

[About The Author: Annu Grover: #Entrepreneur #GreenEvangelist #Storyteller #Founder #StartupGuy #NurturingGreen.]