No More Prizes for Predicting Rain, Only Prizes for Building Arks.

It’s time for action. My top 10

  1. Stay safe. Keep healthy. You, your family and everyone else around you, including all the associates in your start-up. I think as a country, we are doing great (relatively) so far. So, let’s continue to listen and follow those guidelines and advisory.
  2. Shared sacrifice. There is a huge loss of business for most. Yes, it hurts. It’s time for voluntary shared sacrifice. Rajiv Bajaj in a recent interview echoed this sentiment “If there’s a sacrifice, it’ll start at the top. I will say no salary for me, before 1 person is let
  3. Discover purpose. Find your purpose. Why is purpose important? The world is increasingly becoming purpose-driven and this trend will accelerate now. The inside-out view (I want to solve this huge problem the world has) vs outside-in view (there is a gap in the market & let me address it) is a much stronger alignment for all stakeholders and motivation! The purpose will keep the venture going and innovating at every amidst ups and downs!So, how would you find your purpose? Ask the following questions – What’s important to you and why? What are you good at? How could the world be improved? Find the overlap. You will get it. Or, try answering another question: Assume, you have one billion $ in your bank account today. The stuff that you would do from tomorrow, is your purpose.This would be a good time to re-assess and press the reset button.
  4. Win at the turns. In a car race, the wining driver overtakes at the turns. Much like the metaphor, the winning venture needs to leverage every turn to its advantage. As a start-up, you are in a discovery mode all the time. You are in a continuous search for a business model, whereas a large company is busy operating on a specific business model. At these large turning points, the bigger weight of a car would come at a huge disadvantage. A lighter car can easily find a new way of creating value, delivering value for its customers. So, don’t lose your edge as a sprinter!
  5. Examine Value-chain. Yes, we know the supply chains have been disrupted. An immediate reaction would to restore and make it as fail safe as possible – for your client. Suggest, expand your canvas of thinking. Examine the value chain of your instead. How has that changed or going to change? Where would you like to play and do you have an opportunity to disrupt? It may mean adjacent movements. It would help you stay most relevant to your customers and users, with this mega change.
  6. Think macro. All the changes and your effort to pivot can be examined in the larger frame of reference. A few macro level changes are likely ahead. Care for environment, compassionate capitalism, local supply chains, geo-political new axes, collaborative commons are some of the possible alignment. While these will not have any immediate repercussions, but weaving the essence of a safe planet and circular economy will always pay. As a purpose driven venture, you ought to solve directly or indirectly some problems the world is faced with.
  7. Think technology. A number of tipping points for technology will emerge. The current trends of adoption will only accelerate. Localization of production will be facilitated by 3D printing, Vertical farming, Lab-grown meat, Solar energy and several others. How can we reduce human contact and sanitization through usage of drones, robots, automated vehicles? How can anything that promotes remote working be worked out? Any portfolio of product or services that is COVID-19 specific, will have a pull.
  8. Be globally active. Become part of an increasingly globalized world. It may not be global business expansion, but a shared community of global thinkers and doers. You will get ideas, emerging trends and much more. The only risk is doing nothing about it.
  9. Avoid disputes. There could have been lapses in service delivery and disputes are a possibility. Pro-act and not react. Discuss and possible seek legal help.
  10. Stay invested. Stay invested in your purpose. If you follow the above, you will. All the best and I am sure you will be winning in these difficult turns.

Suman Sasmal
Ambassador, Coach and Consultant- OpenExO

Winning in the turns

We wake up to unpleasant news every morning. It’s a number that we keep tracking through the day, that makes us stay at home and that makes us view the world with a different lens today. No country or individual is spared from the onslaught of COVID-19. Neither is any business or institution. We are grappling with an unprecedented healthcare crisis, and are clueless about the disruptive impact it will have in the near and distant future. My prayer – everybody stays safe and healthy and this virus gets off our planet at the soonest! And I am sure – this too shall pass!

Ok, let’s switch the conversation. If you look at Russia’s military planeloads of medical supplies being sent to European countries and the USA – what do you make of it? At the first level, it Is a great humanitarian gesture and which certainly is. But think hard, think again. It actually exposes the European Union’s failure to provide quick help to a member in crisis and gives President Putin a publicity coup at home and abroad. When Serbian President Vucic says “I sent a letter to President Xi, in which for the first time I officially called him not only a dear friend but also a brother, and not only my personal friend but also a friend and brother of this country”, it only reflects how political entrepreneurs are stepping up their presence and diplomacy at these turning points. They are clearly creating history!

Let’s now visualize the racing tracks of a Grand-Prix. The curvy turns are not only a delight for the eyes, but this is where speeding cars overtake others. This is where winners take on the losers. We don’t see this happen on straight paths! Do we? So, if COVID-19 poses significant and unforeseen turning points before us, why should we let them go waste? As is said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste”!

You can create history too! Because, you are startups! You are fearless! You create value by solving problems that have not been addressed yet or are being uniquely addressed. And there is plenty of problems to choose from today. The playing fields are getting levelled, since everyone is equally impacted and disruption is inevitable. And, it would not be about mere survival but about metamorphosis. Because, the social, economic, political conventions and baselines are being redrawn. The future is therefore largely unknown and will evolve from now on. While these sharp turning points will remain moments in history, a startup will have an opportunity to quickly navigate through these evolutionary steps and come out as winners.

So, what have you been thinking and what are your options? I would say only one – Move on, Fast! There are 2 possible scenarios. One, you were already on-track (pre-COVID), you had a product-market fit and your value proposition continues to stay very relevant. In that case, you need to ask a question “If you were starting the same venture today (post-COVID), how would you design it?” Do those changes and run with it. You would be fine by reconfiguring your business. Second, if the problem you were solving has lost much of the relevance (post-COVID) or the venture had yet not taken off, please re-examine the possible cognitive biases. Examine sunk-cost fallacy or the confirmation bias or the bandwagon effects and any other, as relevant. Then, you may need to move on and it’s a good time to pivot. Align your purpose with a new problem you would like to solve. It’s a fresh beginning with another problem, with a big difference. You have a tail wind and you could be the one ahead of others now!

I believe, resetting the course for a grown-up enterprise will be ten times difficult. That’s a conversation for another day. So, here is your one-in-a-million opportunity to change the world and win in the turns!

Suman Sasmal
Ambassador, Coach and Consultant- OpenExO


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