The onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic has upset so many aspects of our daily lives and startups are no exception. Once hailed as a bright spot in the economy, today many of them are at the end of their runway. Delayed deals, paused investments and falling consumer spends are becoming common during this time, dampening the sentiments of optimistic and young startup founders.
One of the biggest fallouts of the pandemic for startups is the drying up of investment funds. 2019 was a great year for Indian startups with B2C startups closing over 425 deals worth $6.23 billion in funding. Carrying the same trend in the first two months of 2020, VC investment in Indian startups was even higher than the same period during last year. However, once the pandemic started tightening its grips, VCs too chose to pull the strings of their purses. Research firm ‘Venture Intelligence’ found that several investments made since March were by VCs investing in existing portfolios and in May, the amount invested was about one-fourth of that invested in May 2019. Meanwhile, millennial buyers are struggling with uncertain job prospects and as a result, they have become more conscious of where they’re putting their money.
However, crises can be handled and sometimes even used as springboards to build thriving and successful businesses. In fact, the global recession of 2008 gave birth to some of the ground-breaking businesses (Uber, WhatsApp, Slack) that we can’t do without today. Here are a few pillars for young startup founders to use as a foundation to build their business through any crisis.
Have a purpose behind your business
Having a purpose, other than revenues and profit, can be a huge motivator during this time. Once you have this in place, you immediately become flexible in everything else as long as this purpose is met. For instance, at ‘The Better Home’, our purpose is to empower citizens across the country to make better consumption decisions and be kinder to the planet. Now this purpose can give rise to multiple business models, product categories and formats. That is something that will keep evolving but the heart and core of your business will always be the same. Having a purpose also helps in developing more meaningful relationships with your customers. In this case, they do not purchase your product but they become a partner in your journey and the bricks that make your venture economically sustainable.
Use this time to build your offering
If your sales have dipped during this period or your operations have shut down due to the lockdown, use this time to speak to your customers, brainstorm with your team and improve your offering. During the nationwide lockdown, we reached out to our early customers for feedback and received some very valid and practical suggestions on how to improve our user journey and we took the 45 days of lockdown to focus on implementing the feedback. This way, when the lockdown lifts and when business is back to normal, you hit the ground running.
Focus on what you can control
During a time like this, it may feel like there are so many things that are out of your control. While that might be true, especially when there is so much uncertainty around us but there are definitely some things that are within our control. Strip down all the regular processes to the fundamentals and look at how you can revisit them in the current context, and how it will help make your business more sustainable. For instance, are all your current expenses necessary? Can you cut advertising spends and look at more organic ways to spread the message about your brand? Do you really need all the tools you are spending money now or is there a simpler way to work around it?
Take charge and act fast
The ability to make quick decisions is an underrated skill and is something that makes or breaks a company. Responding swiftly to feedback, making a decision and seeing it through execution, is what sets business apart from the rest. In this case, look at the current market and user base for feedback. Are people uncomfortable stepping out to buy your products? Go online quickly. Are customers looking for alternatives that are lighter on the pocket? Release a lower cost SKU. At our brand, some of our users wanted larger quantities of products, to avoid contact with our delivery persons on a monthly basis, we immediately created a 5-litre can for these customers and they’re happy with it.
Frugality is key
Treat this cash crunch as a blessing in disguise and allow it to steer you towards smart and efficient use of your funds, keeping frugality at the heart of your operations. In my experience, frugal startups, more often than not, have the edge over most funded companies because they are always seeking a more efficient route to the same goal. Frugality gives way to innovation and sustained growth. The ability to flow, adapt and persist through tough times is one of the greatest advantages that startups have over large corporations and what better time to harness this advantage and reroute to cater to the new world.
The writer is the founder and CEO of The Better India and The Better Home.
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When Anil Kapoor gave ‘jhakkas’ twist to dandiya
Actor Anil Kapoor extended heartfelt Navratri greetings to everyone in a filmy way. Taking to Instagram, Anil posted a particular sequence from his 1988 film Tezaab in which he is seen performing dandiya.
Recalling how the particular sequence was filmed “smoothly and effortlessly” in just one night, he wrote, “Happy Navratri to one and all! This time of year always takes me back to this scene from Tezaab, conceptualised so beautifully by N. Chandra. I’ll never forget how smoothly and effortlessly we shot this entire dandiya scene in one night. One of my favourite memories of this happy festival. “
Tezaab featured Anil Kapoor in the lead role alongside Madhuri Dixit.
Reacting to Anil’s video of performing dandiya, filmmaker and choreographer Farah Khan commented, “Papaji tussi great ho.”
“Ekdum jhakkas,” a social media user wrote.
Meanwhile, on the work front, Anil recently wrapped up his shoot for the much-awaited Indian remake of ‘The Night Manager’, which is an espionage thriller that has a tense cat-and-mouse chase between a covert agent and a secret arms dealer.
The 2016 series features Tom Hiddleston in the lead role. In the remake, Anil will essay the role that was originally played by Hugh Laurie. It will also feature Aditya Roy Kapur and Sobhita Dhulipala in lead roles. The original British series became a massive hit across the globe and earned several awards at the 74th Golden Globe Awards.
Anil will also be seen sharing screen space with Hrithik Roshan and Deepika Padukone in the action-packed ‘Fighter’.
Research says Family ties give animals reasons to ‘help or harm’ as they age
New research shows that the structure of family groups gives animals an incentive to help or harm their social group as they age.
A team of scientists from 17 institutions in six countries, led by the University of Exeter, examined how “relatedness” (strength of genetic links to members of a social group) changes over a lifetime in seven mammal species. This varies from species to species, depending on whether male or female offspring (or both) leave the group into which they are born.
For example, male and female killer whales both stay in the same group as their mother, so females have a growing number of close relatives (their children and grandchildren) around them as they age.
Other animals, such as female spotted hyenas, usually live among fewer close relatives as time passes.
Given that all animals have evolved to ensure their genes-and those of close relatives-survive, these long-term changes in relatedness to the family group give animals different incentives to engage in “helping and harming behaviour across the lifespan”.
“We wanted to know how an individual’s relatedness to their group changes as they age, and what consequences this might have for behaviour,” said lead author Dr Sam Ellis, from Exeter’s Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour.
“We made a model to predict these changes and then tested it using data on banded mongooses, chimpanzees, badgers, killer whales, spotted hyenas, rhesus macaques, and yellow baboons. Our model fitted the real data. This is exciting because it allows us to predict how and why social behaviours can change with age.”
The “ultimate payoff” of behaviour for animals depends on how each behaviour affects an individual and her relatives. When living in a group of close genetic relatives, it might be in an animal’s interest to behave in a way that helps the whole group.
However, when living among less related or unrelated individuals, the best strategy could be selfish or even harmful behaviour.
“Our findings suggest that incentives to help or harm the group change with age, depending on the social structure of each species,” Dr Ellis said.
Professor Darren Croft said: “Across a wide range of species, we see age-related changes in helping and harming behaviour, which can also differ between males and females. Our new work shows that understanding how relatedness to the family group changes with age is key in understanding how the incentives to help or harm the group change across the lifespan, which can potentially explain these differences across species and between the sexes. This research opens the door for future studies by providing testable predictions for how patterns of helping and harming will change across the lifespan, and we eagerly anticipate new work testing these predictions.”
Among the species included in the study, male spotted hyenas, rhesus macaques, and yellow baboons usually leave their birth group once they reach maturity.
In chimpanzees, female offspring leave the group, while in killer whales and mongooses, both sexes usually stay in the group into which they were born.
Silicon Durga idol depicting lives of sex workers created
Furthering a tradition of presenting new themes during the Durga Puja in Kolkata, pandals and idols depicting the lives of sex workers under the ‘Parichai’ (identity) theme have been created for the celebrations during this year’s festival. The pandal has been brought up by the Nawpara Dadabhai Sangh Puja Committee in the city, which was inaugurated by Lok Sabha MP and actor Shatrughan Sinha on Monday.
The preparations for the puja in West Bengal are in full swing, with new and innovative themes on display. The sculptors in Kolkata present various themes while preparing the Durga idols.
One such pandal showing the lives of the sex workers has been brought up, which also shows the society they live in and the way people see them, and the manner in which they remain anonymous in a different world without an identity.
In a first for the city, a silicon idol of Maa Durga has been installed in the pandal, which has never been seen before. The idol has been given the form of a mother, through which an attempt has been made to show that even a sex worker has the form of a mother.
Sinha said, “It is a boon by Maa Durga. The entire state of West Bengal is drenched in the colours of the festival. I have been coming to Durga Puja for years, but it is a matter of fortune for me that I am inaugurating this pandal. I am grateful to Saugata ji and Mamata Banerjee.”
The concept and theme designer, Sandip Mukherjee, expressed his perspective on the work of the sex workers and said that there is a need to bring about a change in the perspective of people.
“Prostitution is a profession, but for the common people, is it a profession? We can say which profession we are in, but can they say so? Because we see them from a different perspective. We should change this perspective. Our project is to bring about change in society. We corner them because of what they do. We do not let them enter society. Why can’t they come when they are also doing their job?” he said.
“We have attached the ambience of a mother in the idol which depicts the sex workers. We gave them the silicon form to make it attractive and touching to the people. This is for the first time that an idol of Maa Durga has been made of silicon,” Mukherjee added.
Describing the essence behind the pandal, he said that the sex workers’ lives have been displayed, which seems like a film when a visitor visits the place.
“If we see the pandal from the front, it will seem like a movie. The lives of sex workers have been displayed in the theme. I had this concept for many years, and presented it before other organisers, but they could not show the courage to give it a nod until this time,” he said.
Madan Mitra, TMC MLA, said, “The celebration is showing not only the pride of Bengal but also the magic of Mamata Banerjee.”
Anjan Paul, Organiser and Councillor Baranagar, said, “It was challenging for me to represent the theme. A lot of people are coming to see the pandal. I hope people in lakhs will throng the place in the coming days. I have made this pandal to give a message that they should be included in society. I do not collect money. Our target is to invest Rs 30 lakh in the making of the pandal. However, the exact number will be known only after the completion of the puja.”
Asha Parekh to become 52nd recipient of Dadasaheb Phalke Award
The 68th national film awards will be presented on September 30 in accordance with the more than 60-year-old tradition by President Droupadi Murmu and Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur, two years after the Covid-19 outbreak put the coveted event on hold.
As the recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke award for 2020, veteran actress Asha Parekh becomes the 52nd recipient of the honour. The previous Dadasaheb Phalke award was given to the star of southern cinema Rajinikanth.
“Honoured to announce that the Dadasaheb Phalke selection jury has decided to recognise and award Asha Parekh ji for her exemplary lifetime contribution to Indian cinema,” Thakur said.
Industry icons Asha Bhosle, Hema Malini, Udit Narayan, Poonam Dhillon, and TS Nagabharana are members of the Dadasaheb Phalke committee.
She worked in more than 95 films and was the chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification from 1998-2001,” Thakur added. Parekh was also conferred with Padma Shri in 1992.
The National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), which was founded in 1954, is now in charge of organising the awards, which fall under the purview of the I&B ministry, for the first time.
The government consolidated four film organisations in March of this year, giving the NFDC full authority over all matters relating to the production of documentaries and short films, the management of film festivals, and the preservation of films.
In keeping with tradition, Hon’ble President Draupadi Murmu will be conferring the National Film awards this year,” NFDC MD Ravinder Bhakar said. “It is an honour for the winners and I congratulate them.”
Eminent leaders and figures from the film industry make up the national awards jury, which is chaired by Vipul Shah and includes Dharam Gulati, Sreelekha Mukherjee, GS Bhaskar, S Thangadurai, Sanjeev Rattan, Karthik Raja, VN Aditya, Viji Thampi, Thangadura, and Nishigandha as members.
The ceremony is taking place four years after President Ram Nath Kovind only delivered 11 of the 137 awards, breaking with convention, which saw more than 50 award recipients skip the 65th National Film Awards ceremony in protest.
The remaining prizes were given out by former information and communication minister Smriti Irani and minister of state Rajyavardhan Rathore.
In 2018, 70 award recipients had expressed their intention to boycott the event in an open letter to protest the cancellation of the award presentation. However, a number of the letter’s signatories, including the singer KJ Yesudas and the filmmaker Prasad Oak, later turned up. The honorees clarified in their letter that their action was not a “boycott,” but rather a demonstration of their displeasure with the President’s choice.
Supreme Court live-streaming hearings for first time today
The Supreme Court went live for the first time on Tuesday when the cases’ hearings, which were planned to be livestreamed during the day, could be viewed online. One of the three cases slated for live streaming was from Maharashtra and pitted Team Uddhav Thackeray against Team Eknath Shinde over a dispute over the Shiv Sena’s symbol, with the Election Commission already involved. This was the second live hearing where the attorney, Kapil Sibal, could be seen arguing.
Live broadcasting was recommended by the Supreme Court around four years ago.
The former chief justice of India, Dipak Misra, had passed the landmark ruling on September 27 on the live telecast of important proceedings, saying “sunlight is the best disinfectant”.
Following discussion on the issue by the whole top court on September 20, it was decided to begin live-streaming constitutional bench hearings this week. Chief Justice of India (CJI) Uday Umesh Lalit presided over the whole court meeting, and all the judges agreed that constitutional matters should be the first to be streamed live on a regular basis.
A bold plan to integrate the use of information and technology with India’s judiciary, the e-courts project’s third phase included the proposal to have an exclusive platform for live-streaming Supreme Court sessions.
The high courts in Gujarat, Orissa, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Patna, and Madhya Pradesh are some of the high courts that broadcast hearings live as well.
Some Royal staff used to call Meghan Markle ‘narcissistic sociopath’
Author Valentine Low has written a book about the staff who work for the royal families called ‘Courtiers: The Hidden Power Behind the Crown’. In the book, she quoted many staff who worked for Meghan Markle and Prince Harry during their term as senior royals in the UK.
According to the New York Post, the book details the alleged bad behaviour by Meghan and her husband, Prince Harry, towards their staff. In the book, the author even quoted a royal staffer calling Meghan, a “narcissistic sociopath”
Staff members coined the epithet for the Duchess of Sussex, according to a report in The Sun citing excerpts from the explosive tome, according to the New York Post.
According to Page Six, “There were a lot of broken people,” an insider claimed to author Valentine Low.
“Young women were broken by their behaviour,” the palace source added.
Valentine Low cites one alleged occasion in her book in which Markle scolded a young female coworker in front of other co-workers.
“Don’t worry. If there was literally anyone else I could ask to do this, I would be asking them instead of you,” Markle allegedly told the staffer, with whom she had been working to execute a plan of sorts.
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