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Building bridges over troubled waters for startups: A musical journey of making a difference!

March 23: Sharing his insights on diving through the storms of risks Sanjay Sarda enlightens how a Start Up can achieve its milestones and navigate efficiently through rough waters of the Startup Ecosystem.

With each passing day Sanjay Sarda is shining more and more as an Iconic personality in an evolving corporate world. We decided to touch base with Sanjay Sarda who was last seen in the Forbes India Article of Sept 21, to find what milestone he has reached in his journey which recently completed 62 years.

To no surprise, he is still the embodiment of energetic and passionate demeanor. While informing us that he is mostly devoting time for mentoring some Startups on a pro bono basis, he was happy to add that he is continuing his musical and sports activities. Leveraging his experience of many years in the Corporate world he is now trying to give back to the Start Up Ecosystem. His last assignment as the Director of an Incubator & Accelerator has given him a good idea of the Start Up Ecosystem and its uniqueness of being an Ecosystem where the theory of Zero Sum Game does not apply. Here, everyone loses or everyone wins. His effort is to help the Startups to win.

The troubled waters of uncertainty, high risk, very low rate of survival etc are treacherous and tricky – he is trying to build bridges over these troubled waters for the Startups to develop commercially viable, technology enabled, long term sustainable and exponentially scalable business ventures.

Considering the impact that his views might have on all the young entrepreneurs or all those who are seriously thinking of becoming Startups themselves we tried to gather his view points in some rhetorical arenas. The rhetorical arena is a theory of crisis communication emphasizing the complex and dynamic nature of organizational crises. Among the many questions that we asked him, was the obvious question – What are the common pitfalls that the Startups do? What according to him are the Do’s & Don’ts?

~Firstly, this journey is only for those with junoon and passion. It should never be considered as a fall back option or a stop gap measure.

“Considering that someone has this passion, he/she needs to identify a problem that he/she is trying to solve. And then develop a solution that can help the customer in one or more of the outcomes – better quality product/service, improving customer ease of convenience or better health/safety or reduced cost. The idea should not be a “Me-Too” and needs to have some level of uniqueness.

The Idea and its implementation must have the basic criteria to meet the fundamentals of the business venture being planned – commercial viability, technology driven, long term sustainability and scalability. Many Startups fall so much in love with their Ideas that they fail to realize that all the above “must -haves” are not possible to be met by their ideas.

Once the above stage is reached a company can be formed. Private Limited Company is mostly the chosen vehicle. The Start Up must have funds to create the runway and reach the MVP Stage. Own money, family & friends, Seed Investors all can be done but care needs to be taken that Equity is not diluted unnecessarily. Startups will need Equity to raise funds and at a Pre Series A position, the Equity with the Founders should be at least 80%. Debt should also be considered as an alternate funding. An efficient Cap Structure is a basic requirement.

Next is the Team! As the business venture is going to be tech driven, one Founder should be a Techie looking after the Product and the other looking after the Market. A lean team needs to be built around these two with clearly defined responsibilities and one CEO for unity of command. The Business Plan should now be implemented with close monitoring. The burn rate every month should be closely watched and each rupee should be stretched to the fullest.

Once the MVP is successful, it is time to scale up. To get required traction from the selected target group, there will be many iterations, many versions that will need to be considered before hitting on the right combination. Quick responsiveness, flexibility and adaptability are required for pivoting as and when required.

The other pitfalls that most Startups overlook and which have consequences later during Due Diligence exercise in Fundraise are the essentials of Corporate Governance, Statutory Compliances, Proper Accounting practices and good hygiene. Investors will have zero tolerance for non-compliance in these.

It is great to have Mentors who can remove the blinkers (blind-spots), raise red-flags and advise course corrections. There are many such experts willing to offer their advisory services pro bono. Those Mentors who offer their services in lieu of Equity, as they want their skin-in-the-game may do better to have their souls in the game and play a Partner Role with clear cut deliverables rather than Advisory. After all, nothing needs reforming so much as other people’s habits.

Finally, the journey is going to be tough with long hours and tightness of funds and very demanding market conditions and there will be some very stressful phases. It is imperative that in these phases the Startups remain optimistic, positive and determined. This calls for a high level of EQ & SQ.”

It was great to know that to help in motivating the Startups in these stressful times, Sanjay has a YouTube Channel which is called the Positivity Zone and through meaningful content, presented musically, he tries to give the message of hope.

Seeing the above, I remembered the song of the Simon & Garfunkel American Rock Group of the sixties.

When you’re weary, feeling small, when tears are in your eyes
I’ll dry them all, I’m on your side, Oh, when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found, like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down, like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down.

Thank you Sanjay for being there and building bridges over troubled waters.