[Editorial Notes: Entrepreneurship is tough, but very few share* the real side of the story. Read on, a guest piece by Aditya Gupta. Aditya, cofounder of SocialSamosa (and earlier started iGenero) shares a few lessons building a ‘small company’.]
Bootstrapping is fun but not always and is a challenge but not always! In 5 years, what we at iGenero realized is not something new, not something that other startup founders didn’t. The journey, from getting a new client to setting up your first office to getting the “big” client, is intense and filled with unmatchable highs. The lows, well, while not forgotten, are not usually dwelled upon. However, let’s talk about the lows for a change.
When we started the journey at iGenero, we always believed in being transparent, playing fair & being true to our clients and ourselves. We were very clear that we were here to do some good work and the money would follow. Today, we have worked with over 100 clients across the globe and produced quality stuff. Not a lot to complain about, right? However, I can’t help but comment about how unprofessional most companies in India are.
Yes, I’m talking about both the companies with as many employees as the capacity of Eden Gardens as well as companies which have less than ten employees and all those who fall somewhere in the middle.
Couple of years down our own startup journey, a few opportunities to get funded or acquired came our way. We didn’t jump at these, because we felt we had to first figure out the space and the opportunities that lay before us. An advertising company offered to acquire us during our very first meeting.
Their reasoning for the offer was “You guys are too small a brand for my company, but we like your work & hence the only way we can work together is when you work for our company directly.” Back then, we did not take such offers seriously. We missed that boat and even today, we don’t know if we did the right thing or not. Later, a couple of clients who also happen to angel investors brought up the funding topic which seemed insincere and a way for them to convince us to bring down our pricing.
The client side is always been painful. We were approached by one of the biggest ecomm companies in India and they made us chase them for over six months. After six months of mails, calls and meetings, the dude higher up decided that they would only work with a company based in same city they were in. The parochial attitude of an e comm company -the irony was priceless!
Another memorably ironic experience was when we were told by one of the top b-schools in India that we were too young to work on a top b-school project! The reality was the other company competing for the project told the client that they needed a 40 member team to work on the project and iGenero wouldn’t be able to do that since our team size was 12 back then.
The irony? That a top business school didn’t support entrepreneurship and lean business practices.
The industry folks have, every now and then, dismissed us as just another company. Maybe we are just another company when it comes to the scope of services that we offer but we definitely aren’t like the others when it come to quality of our work, our ethics, morality & purpose in life. There have been many occasions where people told us that we needed to do whatever it took to get the ball rolling – “wink, wink”.
Obviously, it majorly meant lying & cheating in all aspects of business. From the team size to revenue to the duration of project to cut-copy-paste to probably your gender too, they covered it all and how! Not just that, we were also told if we want to survive in the startup scenario in India, the earlier mentioned tactics were the only way to go!
I’m reading about India becoming a product nation. There’s a lot happening already. I hope it happens. More than anything else, I hope professionalism seeps into companies & individuals quickly. The startup community is booming in India right now and while we are all hopeful it will only get better, I’m also skeptical about how it’ll all pan out in the coming years. At the end of the day, only we will be responsible for making it or breaking it.
Professionalism, ethical practices, good faith, recognition of quality – these are the cornerstones of a good, robust business economy. Sadly, at the moment, our experience has shown us that these cornerstones are missing. A nurturing environment, where start ups and young entrepreneurs are nourished and cultivated, where ethical practices are not optional, but mandatory, where cheating someone is not considered an accomplishment but an offence – this is what India needs. Only then, we will see long term sustainable growth and progress.
And now, I need to go chase a Social Samosa client for payment that’s been over due for a over a year!
[*Note: If you want to share your experience/insights as a guest author, simply drop us an email : firstname.lastname@example.org]