You Have to Be Your Own Cheerleader - Arnab Pandey

Don’t be distracted with fancy titles, instead focus on your idea day in and day out. Shine that idea and get the best out of it. Start small, scale fast. Hire for quality and not for quantity. Lean in the way to go!

1. Tell us more about your company and your journey.

We now have a group of companies that we started. Although some of those ideas are my brainchild, all of the businesses are handled and operated by my father, as I live and work in the US and I can’t do both. The entrepreneurial journey for any businessperson is exciting as well as difficult.

At the time we started our businesses, the entrepreneurial landscape was not that friendly in India, but now obviously things have changed and have become more business-friendly. I personally like the new change.

It was an uphill battle for me when I started my first company because it was during my second year of engineering, and I had no network or funding to start my media company. My mom lent me money as the seed funding. Once that took place, I earned my dad’s attention.

Then eventually my dad and I started other companies encompassing, data analytics, real estate, and mental health services.

2. How did you come up with this idea and go about executing it?

Most of the ideas I came up with was due to the fact that I am really analytical in nature. I analyze almost everything in extreme detail. I believe I got this nature because of my love for physics. So, I try to find out the physics behind things. I keep asking myself as to how can we do things more easily, and more efficiently, and by investing less money.

Ideas are there already in front of you. You just have to find the gap behind a service which is provided, and the dynamics behind that product/service. I figured pretty early on that a lot of the services that are provided to businesses are centred towards bigger organizations, so the question is what will the small and medium-sized businesses do?

They should not be deprived of the power of data analytics and algorithmic decision making for example. That led to the rise of the data analytics company. Similarly, all other ideas were generated by understanding consumer pain and lack of resources in the marketplace.

3. What has been your biggest challenge that you faced and how did you overcome that?

I think the biggest challenge I still see in India is the mindset among people and the red tapes. So, let’s say you want to start a company and you want to get the paperwork done. You go to the authorized places to get things done, but they won’t take you seriously.

They will take 15 days to complete simple paperwork which can literally be done in 1 day. You have to keep going to their offices as if you are begging them to get your work done. Not that they are doing anything for free. I personally faced this problem. But I was persistent, so my dad and I literally had to go the offices every day to get things done.

The second problem which is a big hurdle to any entrepreneurial adventure is the family pressure. India as a country is more focused towards perceiving getting a job in an MNC as more successful than starting up something. We have to be more risk-taking as a society. We as a society need to understand that good thing come to people who take risks and sacrifices things in life.

The third challenge that I faced, and I feel we need to solve it sooner than later is the fact that our education system is designed to create workers and managers. It is not created to make entrepreneurs. We don’t reward people who want to start a business.

In universities, we talk about placements in MNCs, we never talk about people who started a business and didn’t opt for campus placement. This needs to change. I am hopeful about this because the new education policy has the capability to solve some of these issues.

4. What do you think are the most important qualities of a successful entrepreneur?

I think the first and foremost quality that you need to become an entrepreneur is to see the future. If you don’t foresee what it is going to be like 5 years down the line, you will never be able to scale your business. One must be able to analyze and assimilate the demand and supply curve for service in the future, consumer sentiments, ease of access, etc.

The next quality one should have is to be brave and sometimes unapologetically bold. You have to have thick skin to take in all the criticism and not break down due to the stress and risk. You have to be your own cheerleader.

Persistence is another quality without which an entrepreneur will get frustrated if he/she is in India. Above all, If you want to be an entrepreneur you have to see the bigger picture, be honest with yourself and your clients, and be a problem solver.

5. What are some of the most important factors for running a successful business?

Your business is essentially your customers. They always come first. So, analyzing their needs and assessing their sentiments is the most important factor to run a business. Your products and your services come second. A business can only be successful when you stop thinking that your clients are foolish.

In this world of globalization, information is free, so being honest about your services and delivering outstanding customer service is the only way to go. Other than these factors, a good word of mouth marketing can work wonders. Patience and persistence are the keys to achieve better and bigger goals.

Starting small and lean is very important. The leaner the team is in the start, the easier it is to make changes and take decisions. It creates more accountability within the team and makes communication transparent. And yes! You have to have thick skin. You can’t yell at your customers. They are always a priority.

6. What are your tips for the first time and aspiring entrepreneurs? 

Apart from the qualities I talked about earlier, I think for anyone who wants to start up a few things that they need to understand is that people, solutions, and services are all replaceable. So, anyone who wants to survive in the market has to know that they have to evolve with time.

If you don’t evolve you will be replaced – that’s the basic nature of business. Other than that, I would really request budding entrepreneurs to know that when you start up something, you are everything for that company – you are the CEO, CMO, CFO, Janitor, Office Boy, everything.

Until and unless you think that you have too much in your plate and you can’t do any more work please don’t hire people. The reason why I say this is because I go and interact with a lot of entrepreneurs and business students in India and globally, and one thing that I have noticed in aspiring Indian entrepreneurs is that they want to have a team before they even have an idea. Which is strange to me.

So, don’t be distracted with fancy titles, instead focus on your idea day in and day out. Shine that idea and get the best out of it. Start small, scale fast. Hire for quality and not for quantity. Lean in the way to go! Have smaller quality teams, because it will help you make decisions faster, change things faster, and evolve with the need of the market.

7. How can one overcome a hurdle of lack of funds when starting up? 

According to me, the best way to cope up with this is to think about ideas which you yourself are capable to start without any secondary help. What I mean by this is that, if you are a mechanical engineer and you don’t know anything about coding, app development, or beta testing and you don’t have funding, don’t focus on this domain for your primary ideation.

Because you will need to hire coders and developers and pay them money to design you the prototype. Then you will need money to release the product in the market and promote it. So, if you don’t have funds how will you do all this? Instead come up with an idea which resides in your domain, which you can design from the scratch without anybody’s help.

At that point, you are going to save a lot of money and time. You might still need money to acquire raw materials, but for that, you can try borrowing from family and friends. Try to rely on yourself as much as possible, but if you think you still need the money and your idea is something which needs to hire people outside your expertise, then you can reach out to local e-cells, or incubators.

In India, access to incubators has become easy nowadays. They will need a business plan and other related documentation, but it is not impossible to get funding for a really good idea. Remember something, a business becomes successful because of the idea and not because of the funding.

So first think about the idea, test that idea and try to play the devil’s advocate with that idea. Once you are very certain about the idea, reach out to the incubators or your family/friends in case you need money.

Interview By - Shruti Kaval