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Aspiring entrepreneurs will find real-life stories and practical frameworks for their journey in this new book, Dream Founder: Building a Successful Startup, By Dhruva Nath.
See this review for related books Startup Compass, win central india, startup launchpad, From startup to exit, fail-safe startup, messy middle, And Venture capital investment.
Dhruva Nath A Professor at Management Development Institute, Gurgaon. An IIT Delhi graduate, he is an angel investor and a director of Lead Angels. He was earlier SVP at NIIT. He is its co-author Fund your startup (See my book review here).
Also check out our picks of the ’10 Best Books of the Year for Entrepreneurs’ from the last 10 years: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012.
Here are some takeaways from this compelling 240-page book, summarized in the table below. Case studies include big startups and smaller players and are infused with Dhruva’s signature humor. Lessons are shared from successful as well as failed startups.
“You must be prepared to do everything. Lead by example. Get your hands dirty,” Dhruva advises early-stage founders.
Co-founders should share vision about the destination and journey, ie. Whether scale and speed are desirable at any cost (even if it means burning a lot of cash), or whether pivoting is an option.
When hiring employees, care should be taken to assess their passion for the opportunity and to see how well the resume is prepared. Salary expectations should be commensurate with existing levels. Exemplary founder traits are punctuality, articulateness, commitment, transparency and resilience.
Dhruva advises founders to empower employees and give them opportunities to learn and execute. Employees can be taken out for snacks or drinks to discuss personal matters openly, and additional support should be offered during times of crisis.
Such concern and empathy can unite groups like families. At the same time, founders should not be held hostage to unreasonable claims. Unethical practices should be immediately confronted and corrected.
In terms of operations, founders should have a clear understanding of unit economics and different types of marketing (eg, fixed/variable costs, influencers, commissions, referrals). A brand is built over time, and is not just a name, but constant clarity.
Marketing communication should clearly capture the key message in short concise phrases, eg. Two minute noodles (Maggie). The offering should address a clearly defined pain point. The founder is also the startup’s chief salesperson.
When it comes to fundraising, Dhruva advises founders to be clear about what investors are looking for and what they can bring to the table, e.g. Friends and family (total around Rs 20 lakhs), Angels (50 lakhs to Rs 4 crores), VCs (over Rs 4 crores). Strategic investors are not for exit but for business expansion.
The book is full of examples of startups, big and small, successes as well as failures (some names have been changed in those cases).
Funded by CSR grants, i dream Launched with pre-loaded tablet-based e-learning solutions for grantee schools Content was prepared in Hindi and English, and the founders came up with clever solutions such as using locked cabinets to charge tablets while outside the school.
Quick repair was supported by back up tablets. Their learning management system (LMS) has become a barrier to entry for competitors. People were hired for their passion, not just their skills (assessed at Share your life Questionnaire).
During the pandemic, iDream made the app available not only in schools but also at home; They have also developed an app for teachers.
instamojo Launched as a payment mechanism and then expanded to launch an eCommerce storefront for businesses. They acquired another startup (GetMeAShop) in their journey. Companies hire team players and free-wheeling expression is encouraged at town hall meetings.
Vinay Kothari was launched by Vinay Kothari, inspired by locally made candies while trekking the Western Ghats in Karnataka. go native He first tested the products at a flea market in Bangalore. He connected with farmers who would make the candy themselves, according to standardized processes and innovations.
During the pandemic, he used his rural bases in Karnataka and resisted the lockdown. Vinay has also created interesting online content on yoga, health and nutrition.
Garima Jain found and established an opportunity for quality and healthy beauty care at home Belita Bookings were done through apps and websites and products were delivered in disposable jars. Garima also expanded into the wedding market and later merged with the Enrich chain of physical parlors as a strategic fit.
Pan-Asian street food restaurant Auntie Fung’s Pivoted to cloud kitchen model during pandemic. They have paid special attention to ensure healthy food for customers as well as livelihood of employees. They even launched another brand called Crazy Bao.
Smartphone repair company Gadget recovery Focused on selling refurbished phones to low-income families during the pandemic. They were branded as GREST and came with a one-year warranty This was followed by refurbished laptops.
Planetspark Launched high-quality technology-enabled learning centers for children, tied up with Oyo for rooms in residential areas. Influenced by the pandemic, they moved to online courses in public speaking and also expanded into the international market.
Other constant profiles Startups that didn’t succeed, Such as an employee consultation platform (which can be easily copied by existing players), a rural artisan aggregator (which has faced barriers to scaling), and a low-cost air purifier manufacturer (inadequate focus on branding and maintenance).
A founder had to lay off some developers during a slow market patch; By actively helping them find jobs elsewhere, he has secured their admiration and loyalty.
Dhruv also advised a delivery startup to explore options like B2B2C marketing approach to deliver food to factories on the outskirts of the city.
The book also features short interviews with outstanding entrepreneurs, sharing hard-earned lessons from their long journeys.
Founder of MakeMyTrip Deep Kalra Warns entrepreneurs against ‘founderitis’ – believing in knowing everything and wanting to micromanage. But for team members to develop, they must have independence and the ability to learn from mistakes.
“Building a great company is a lifelong commitment,” affirms Sanjeev Bikhchandani, Founder of Naukri.com. Founders should be close to customer pain points and be a magnet for employee talent. They should combine thinking at the big picture and small detail levels.
“You must be willing to challenge your beliefs,” advises Deepinder Goel, Zomato’s founder recalls the company’s decision to switch from restaurant reviews to food delivery.
“An arrogant attitude, where you believe you can’t be wrong, can kill a business,” warns Meena Ganesh, Founder of Portia Medical. Founders must be willing to look at alternatives.
“When the chips are down you have a lot of situations, like the Covid pandemic. It’s your passion that will get you through these tough times,” Lead Angels founder Sushant Mitra Make sure founders are motivated as well as humble.
In summary, the book provides an inspiring and insightful mix of founder stories and direct discussions, and will be a valuable companion for entrepreneurs starting their creative journey.
YourStory has also published PocketBook ‘Proverbs and Sayings for Entrepreneurs: A World of Inspiration for Startups’ As a creative and inspirational guide for innovators (downloadable as an app here: apple, Android)