Sachin Agarwal - The Advice That I Have for Startup Founders Will Be to Have Tremendous Amount of Patience (Co-Founder & COO, Bizongo, Series C Company)

Sachin Agarwal
I was inspired by the Alibaba story, then all those things made me very interested and curious about how someone can make a lot of difference to the business ecosystem by bringing more and more technology and different solutions to the business.

Tell us about your background, upbringing, and journey.

I come from a very small town, Sikar in Rajasthan. My father is a retired professor, and my mom is a house maker. I did all my schooling in Sikar in Hindi medium and I loved all those languages, Hindi, Sanskrit and English and all that. And after 11, I spent up to three years in Kota preparing for competitive exams and fortunately got into IIT Bombay. At IIT Bombay, I spent four years as a chemical engineer. I learned a lot and made great friends and nurtured the entrepreneurship field at college. This made me found Bizongo in 2015.



When & how did you get clarity on what you wanted to do and how did this idea come to you?

When I was in my first job, just after IIT as a part of the job, I got a chance to learn a lot about various businesses, not only in India but outside India as well. I used to do market analysis work for a few of the hedge fund managers. So naturally knowing about various businesses in different geographies, why one business is superior to another, how Business really contributes to the growth of a particular country or economy and that made me more interested in looking at Indian businesses and what they are doing, what they were doing good and what they were not doing good.

I was inspired by the Alibaba story, then all those things made me very interested and curious about how someone can make a lot of difference to the business ecosystem by bringing more and more technology and different solutions to the business. That was the benefit of an important idea and if you think more about it, you realize that you could add something to Indian businesses and enterprises with more and more technology and physical solutions. We can make a lot of difference to those businesses as well as to the entire economy of the country.


What have been your biggest challenges as a Founder CEO & what advice would you give to others to avoid them?

In terms of the biggest challenges as a founder have been around first building the right product with the right market fit. So you have to see what you started building or doing was very unique and very few people or businesses or companies or startups that tried that before.

So that journey will of course be a very challenging one and a tough times, but having that perseverance in terms of continuously trying to identify real problems and making a solution or a product with aggressive real business and real marketing. I think it's one of the biggest learnings we have had.


Also, another challenge has been in terms of how do you without much experience of leading people, how do you transform yourself from an excited entrepreneur to a good leader who can motivate people and inspire people, build a trusting team who can work with you to build something outstanding and extraordinary. I think those two pieces have been the biggest challenges and also the creative learning that I had.

The advice that I have for any startup founder for the first piece around creating the right product for market fit would be to have a tremendous amount of patience and perseverance. This is because if you are solving something complex and tough problems, it is bound to take time but if you are doing that then it's going to create enormous value.

Second, is to always think in terms of what are core values supposition and what is the difference that it will make for the customers. Similarly, what is the value that you are creating, what problems you are solving and having a very dedicated approach towards solving some problems is very very real and from building a team and nurturing talent. I think a lot of that depends upon how you invest your time in actually managing your people in a way that enables them and empowers them.

How you bring the last out of them is by developing an environment that is full of trust and transparency. These are the things once you start focusing upon starting the journey of turning into a true leader.

What is your advice to an early-stage founder looking to build an ESOP program today?

ESOP program is the first piece that you have to allocate a good parallel portion of equity. You should have at least two to three years of time spared in terms of strategy and talent that you think you will hire or you want to hire to lead the business functions out there. And if you are willing to work out a program there will be 5 to 6 people, to whom you’ll allot anywhere between point one to a certain level of ESOP and then that will be for everybody else out there that is part of your incentives team including special bonus and stuff.

It will help you realize the true potential of ESOP. So how can you make it a tool which can work as an incentive feed every 6 months or 12 months, for people who are extraordinary performers and who are more critical to your business growth will be the way to go.

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What is your view on implementing ESOP buybacks and liquidity programs in startups?

It is something very critical. We at Bizongo even have done great justice to. But by learning it tells me how early one should start thinking about that and start having conversations with your existing investors, as well as incoming investors which are very important because in case you have to create a liquidity program that completely depends on incoming investors and most of them, do a pen-paper ESOP and liquidity expert people.

Earlier it used to happen beyond series B. In the recent past, founders have taken secular terms with series C level or before and they are able to get liquidity funds.

So the earlier the better and more focus and more relevance that you can drive with your investors about this will probably help you design it and have it early in your challenge vs later as a startup.

When should one consider raising funds, what according to you is the right time?

In terms of the timing of the fundraising, I think probably it's difficult to time it as it is pretty much the same as New York cult investing. Obviously, you should not try to time the event. Founders should always be fundraising and always be speaking to investors.

You will speak to ten investors and maybe you'll find only two of them who are like-minded and will be equally passionate about what you are building. As you make it a regular exercise and not a time-bound activity you’ll probably give yourself the best chance to identify or have investors who’ll go much beyond vs someone who just brings capital.

What does your typical day look like and how do you handle setbacks?

I think there is probably no definition of a typical day. Every day comes with its own new challenges and interaction with people and it looks probabilistic from what you have done in the past. I like to plan my upcoming two days well in advance by setting up interactions and meetings with people and in the daytime, I will see my personal and individual works, then I will mark it in my calendar so that I have dedicated that time for the work assigned. So that's pretty much how I've been managing it.

Planning slightly in advance helps you a lot in terms of organizing it. I have my meetings starting at 10 A.M. and I reach an hour before my meetings start for the day so that I can clear all my unread emails, messages on LinkedIn or WhatsApp and respond to them.

Once I get into the meetings, I find it very difficult. That’s about the typical day. The best way to handle setbacks has been to talk to my co-founders who understand me the best. I can share anything and everything with them as part of a relationship. On top of that friends, family and partners play a very important part in making you handle the setbacks and enjoy the journey.

Which is your favourite book and why?

I'm not a great book reader, I read very few books but one of them is “A House that Jack Ma Built”, the Alibaba story. I think I read it 5-6 years back but the story is vividly stuck in my mind and my heart that's about a company that was built two decades back with a focus on the internet. It made a lot of difference in large scale business and to a huge economy like China, with a billion people and how it played a very important part in the economic development of that country.

Interviewed by - Bhavana N

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