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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LIFE SKILLS COLLABORATIVE LAUNCHED TO CHAMPION SKILLS FOR INDIA’S YOUTH
Eighteen organisations have come together to announce the launch of the Life Skills Collaborative (LSC) with the aim to support government agencies and education institutions by building a life skills platform that can aid in the transformation of India’s learning ecosystem. In the first phase, the LSC will work in tandem with state governments across Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, and Mizoram to bring contextual, social and cultural inputs to the development of life skills among the young people of India.
The Collaborative comprises organisations with diverse and global expertise in education, skill development, health and gender with a commitment to collaborate in deepening the understanding of life skills, designing learning tools that nurture life skills, and developing context-relevant assessments to measure progress, share learnings and inform system change India. The current collaborators include Breakthrough, Centre for Science of Student Learning, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Dream A Dream, Echidna Giving, Gnothi Seauton, ICRW, Kaivalya Education Foundation, Magic Bus, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Omidyar Network India, Porticus, Pratham, Quest Alliance, Room To Read, Sattva Consulting, Shantilal Muttha Foundation and The Teacher Foundation. Speaking about the launch, Vishal Talreja, an LSC Collaborator and Co-founder of Dream A Dream, said, “One in three children in India live in extreme poverty and have stunted and/or wasted growth. Children from vulnerable backgrounds are exposed to a combination of adverse experiences causing an irrefutable impact on their physical and mental health. Empathy-based transformative pedagogy, experiential learning, and mentoring can help young people immensely.”
The Life Skills Collaborative will focus on three core areas:
1. Voices, a nationwide engagement with youth, parents, and teachers to capture their voices and translate them to insights that can drive the integration of life skills within public education systems.
2. Glossary, a set of definitions that serves as the vocabulary to discuss life skills in India and establish the foundation for discussing and aligning on outcomes, designing assessments across community, practitioners, and government.
3. Assessments, will focus on creation, establishment, and dissemination of an assessment repository for adolescents, teachers, and the system. At the adolescent level, this will assess student’s capacities and strengths in the age groups 11-14 years and 15-18 years; at the teacher level, it will assess the ability of the teacher to foster life skills in an adolescent; at the system level, it will assess the readiness of the system to deliver life skills.
Rathish Balakrishnan, an LSC Collaborator and Co-founder and Managing Partner at Sattva Consulting, said, “Young people often struggle to access education and employment opportunities, limiting their engagement in society and stunting their potential to live a full life. Equipping them with life skills can change this immensely. While there is a lot of interest in life skills, there is a lack of a common vocabulary and effective assessments, which limits its potential. By building credible and system-ready public goods, the Life Skills Collaborative can accelerate the effective adoption of life skills across the ecosystem.”
In recent times, the need for developing stronger life skills has become more acute. Focusing on building life skills in the next generation is imperative in enabling them to handle different situations capably. In a country like India, where a vast majority of the population is young, life skill development enables young people to direct and manage their lives positively.
Geeta Goel, an LSC Collaborator and Country Director, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation (MSDF, India), added, “The Life Skills Collaborative is an innovative attempt to solve a wicked problem – the development of life skills among the young people of India. To achieve this goal, it is essential to support organisations, institutions and government agencies in building a more inclusive learning environment suited towards promoting life skills.”
RED FM launches World Cup campaign ‘Totka Chalao India Ko Jeetao’
93.5 RED FM has kick-started its World Cup campaign ‘Totka Chalao, India ko Jeetao’. Capturing the passion and craze of fans, RED FM will celebrate the ‘totkas’ and will have RJs follow some of these tricks shared by listeners as part of the campaign.
Witness the best of entertainment with ‘Nand Kishore Bairagi’ aka RJ Kisna taking a spin on the ‘totkas’ in his unique style. The campaign will also have Bauaa aka RJ Raunac calling up opponent teams as part of his prank calls series. Keeping the passion of the World Cup alive, RED FM will also launch the anthem, ‘Totka Wala Gana’ capturing the craze of cricket fans across the country. Speaking on the campaign, Nisha Narayanan, Director & COO, RED FM and Magic FM, said, “Cricket generates a kind of excitement that cuts across all sections of the society in India. Fans have been eagerly waiting for the mega tournament to start after the Covid-19 pandemic put a stop to all sporting activities. Over the years, cricket has united fans and radio has been a crucial part in bringing them together. There’s no denying that luck and superstitions go hand in hand with a cricket fan and this year we are bringing some of those practices the fans have subconsciously picked up over the years and now cannot let go. Our campaign, ‘Totka Chalao, India ko Jeetao’ will highlight some of the crazy ‘totkas’ that cricket fans follow across the country. We hope that you will share your favourite ‘totkas’ with us and cheer for team India with RED FM.”
MICHAEL KORS TO LAUNCH MK MY WAY IN-STORE POP-UPS THROUGHOUT INDIA
Michael Kors has announced the launch of an exciting new pop-up store activation throughout India to celebrate MK My Way—the popular interactive experience that immerses customers in the luxe world of Michael Kors and lets them customise their Signature logo print handbags with their initials.
The MK My Way activation will take place in stores with a colourful pop-up kiosk. Equal parts elevated and high-energy, the pop-up’s countertop and facade are splashed with metallic hues and punctuated by oversized, graphic takes on the brand’s signature print. After selecting their Signature print handbag, customers have the chance to have their bags hand-painted by Bangalore-based artist and illustrator Srishti Guptaroy (@srillustrator) with either their English/Hindi initials or with one of four unique motifs designed specifically for Diwali.
As an extension of the in-store program, the motifs will also be made into gify stickers available for all Instagram users. Supplies are provided by Angelus Paints, a California paint company and world leader in luxury customisation. To celebrate the launch, the brand has also created a digital campaign starring Bollywood actress Janhvi Kapoor (@janhvikapoor).
The pop-up store activations will take place in several cities throughout India, including:
Jio World Drive in Mumbai (from 8 to 31 October)
DLF Emporio in Delhi (from 11 to 31 October)
UB City in Bangalore (from 23 to 30 October)
Tatacliq Luxury (online) (from 18 to 31 October)
Civilian killings in J&K are not random, but part of deliberate plan: Defence expert
Defence expert Dhruv Katoch, while raising concerns over the recent killing of civilians by terrorists in the valley, on Monday said that the killings in Jammu and Kashmir are a deliberate attempt on the part of the Pakistani intelligence agency where they have made a detailed plan to create disturbance in India especially within the union territory.
Pointing out that these incidents are not “random”, Katoch said, “These are not isolated incidences. Everything is planned. They are targeting the poorer sections working there. The consolidated impact of the act is the cause of concern.” “It is a deliberate attempt on the part of the Pakistani intelligence agency where they have made a detailed plan to create disturbance in India especially within Jammu and Kashmir,” Katoch told ANI.
The defence expert said that it is important to hand this over to these incidents to National Investigation Agency (NIA) to determine the linkages within India, but more importantly to determine the linkages outside India.
Reacting to the ongoing counter-terrorist operation in J-K’s Poonch, he said, “We have already lost nine bravehearts and the operation is still on for nine days.”
He further said that the visit of Chief of Army Staff General MM Naravane to forward areas along the Line of Control in Jammu is simply to convey his support to the troops.
Amid the heightened counter-terrorist operations in the Poonch-Rajouri sector, Army chief Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane is on a two-day visit to the Jammu region to review the overall security situation on the ground.
The Poonch sector has seen heightened military activities in the last fortnight as nine Army soldiers have lost their lives there and operations are still on in the 16 Corps area to neutralise the terrorists. After a lull of six months, terrorist activities have gone up in the hinterland and ceasefire violations attempts are also on the rise in the Jammu area.
PAKISTAN PLAYING ‘DOUBLE GAME’ IN AFGHANISTAN, TERROR ACTIVITIES MAY AGGRAVATE: THINK TANK
The fall of Kabul and the conversion of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan on 15 August this year has boosted the morale of terrorist outfits, as per an analysis by a Canada-based think tank.
In view of “strong ties” between the Afghan Taliban and the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), violence is expected to increase in the “pro-democracy” countries and even in Pakistan, according to the think tank, international think tank based in Canada, International Forum for Rights and Security (IFFRAS). In recent developments in the South-Asian region, particularly in Pakistan, 52 people died in 35 terror attacks in August indicating the growing instability in the region, according to the international think tank based in Canada, IFFRAS.
The killing of seven Pakistani soldiers by the TTP in Waziristan in September followed by the killing of the Pakistan Army’s Captain in the district bordering Afghanistan are the latest instances of the rising violence in the region including Pakistan.
According to IFFRAS, the role of Pakistan is being studied by the experts and they have been “suspicious” about Pakistan’s “double games”.
The Taliban after capturing power has assured no propagation of terror activities on Afghan soil.
“However, the Taliban has the reputation of saying one thing and then doing quite the opposite,” IFFRAS quoted a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Aqil Shah as saying.
More than 6,000 terrorists had made their hideout in Afghanistan till 2020 even in the presence of the US military, IFFRAS reported citing a report by the United Nations.
“The total number of Pakistani foreign terrorist fighters in Afghanistan, posing a threat to both countries, is estimated at between 6,000 and 6,500, most of them with TTP,” the international think tank quoted the report as saying.
According to a rights advocacy group, Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Pakistani military and civil societies have garnished their relations with the Taliban for smuggling and terror training to counter India’s rising influence in South Asia, according to IFFRAS.
With the Taliban back in power in Afghanistan, Pakistan is staring at the problem of aggravation of Islamic radicalisation on its soil, furthering its image as a terror state.
“The government will be under greater pressure to make the state more sharia-compliant if Taliban next door is doing that,” IFFRAS quoted a researcher at the University of London, Ayesha Siddiqa as saying.
As pressure mounts on the Imran Khan government in Pakistan to recognise the Taliban government, the chief of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI) called for a revolution to “pull down” the government, according to the IFFRAS.
Following such calls for revolution, the terror outfits in Pakistan may get a boost which may lead to “bloodshed”, according to the think tank.
“With the Taliban taking over, anti-Pakistan terrorist groups will be emboldened, but it doesn’t end there. There could be an emergence of a new war of narratives in the country, which will transform ongoing debates about state and society and the role that religion plays,” IFFRAS quoted the director of the Pakistani Institute for Peace Studies in Islamabad, Muhammad Amir Rana.
Former US National Security Advisor, Lt Gen HR McMaster called Pakistan an enemy nation and said that the country uses “Jihadist terrorists” as an arm of their foreign policy.
“We have to stop pretending that Pakistan is a partner. Pakistan has been acting as an enemy nation against us by organising, training and equipping these forces and by continuing to use jihadist terrorist organisations as an arm of their foreign policy,” reported IFFRAS quoting Lt Gen HR McMaster.
The total number of Pakistani foreign terrorist fighters in Afghanistan, posing a threat to both countries, is estimated at between 6,000 and 6,500, most of them with TTP.
Since lockdown, I felt a surge of people on social media just looking for content: Tarini Shah
She is a Gen-Z content creator and her relatable content is popular with the youth. Tarini Shah already has an enormous Instagram followers count of 248k, and it is growing with each passing day. We hosted Tarini for a frank conversation for our latest series, NewsX Influencer A-List. Below are the excerpts from the interview:
We began the interview by asking Tarini about her journey down the path of content creation. Tarini replied, “I started creating content around two years ago but I really started focusing on content during the pandemic and since lockdown, I felt a surge of people on social media just looking for content.” She added, “I was lucky enough to be there at that time creating content on the other side of it and that’s actually what kickstarted my career.” This was the point when Tarini realized that the creative field was her calling.
On being asked about how she juggles between her college life and her influencer life, Tarini told us, “Sometimes, it does get really, really overwhelming because assignments have deadlines and collaborations have deadlines and managing these two deadlines does get a little stressful,” said Tarini when we asked Tarini appreciated the efforts of her professional team who help her in keeping up with the tight deadlines. She also expressed gratitude towards her sisters from whom Tarini learnt the valuable skill of time management. Ms Shah further said, “It requires a good to-do list to make sure that both the things go on properly because they are equally important to me. Education is important and content creation is something I really love doing and it’s kind of like my job.”
We then asked Tarini if she thinks content creation can be taught as part of a course and if she plans on taking up the craft as her full-time profession. “I am studying Bachelor in Management Studies and I’m doing marketing, and content creation does turn out to be digital marketing in one way when we start doing brand collaborations, so we do have this tiny thread that connects them both but I feel I’m more inclined towards creating content,” said Tarini. She believes that content creation teaches a plethora of different skills which can be applied in various fields. She concluded the thought by saying, “…content creation can definitely end up being a course because the monetary aspect is there and this is just the start. There are so many content creators who are coming up in the pandemic, so the future of it looks massive to me. The brands are coming to lots of influencers with various campaigns because there is a direct connection between the people and the influencer.”
Our next question to Tarini was about how she maintains her mental health in the middle of a demanding lifestyle. Tarini answered, “I feel talking to people does definitely help- my family, my sisters, my mentor, and my friends.” She continued, “Just talking to them about what’s going on in my life and because of this I feel like I am actually living my life like I’m living my dream life, but I also lowkey want to do those 19-year-old teenager things that sometimes I miss out on, but just by talking to people around me helps me live my life through them a little bit.” This, according to Tarini, helps her keep a calm mental state amid a healthy work-life balance.
For our last question, we asked Tarini about how she deals with body image issues on social media platforms, to which stated, “…it takes a while to put those insecurities out in the public with so many eyes watching you and you are worried about the opinions of people which is also very natural to do so but seeing other people on social media doing it encourages you as a person as well.” She continued by saying, “That’s what I am trying to do, slowly and steadily one step at a time trying to put myself out there, just the way I am.”
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