By Deep Kalra
My first fling with entrepreneurship or rather intrapreneurship gave me a ton of learning but it was quite a disaster in financial terms. After spending the next few years in a corporate job, I was consumed by the power of the internet and realized I still had the itch to build something of my own. As I set off to build MakeMyTrip, I knew that I was onto something huge.
The MakeMyTrip story began with a backing of $2 million from eVentures. However, between 2001 and 2003, both the euphoria and funding proved short-lived as we soon found ourselves in the middle of dotcom bust. The second promised tranche did not come through as our fund shut shop.
Funding was anyway hard to come by, and at one point we were advised to shut down. We managed the money through our own savings, family and friends and became management-cum-angel owned company. This baptism by fire made us learn what being a scrappy start-up means. It is about the commitment, most when chips are down.
As someone who spends a lot of time with young entrepreneurs, there are a few questions I get asked often and I am happy to share some of these ‘first principles’ which have guided my decisions and have been my true North Star.
Focus on building: An entrepreneur needs to focus on building–a better product that solves a real pain-point, better experience that will be universally loved. It is usually how an entrepreneur handles the first five to six years that determines the success and growth of the company. Some of the best businesses might not have seen the light of the day because some entrepreneur gave up too early.
Hire people better than yourself: As an entrepreneur if you lack self-awareness of your strengths and more importantly your weaknesses, you are likely going to disappoint yourself big time. I have leaned on many talented people in my journey especially knowing that they do certain things better than me and complement my skills very meaningfully.
Execution trumps strategy: People tend to believe that you just need a great idea and the rest will fall in place. But in my view – execution eats strategy for breakfast. Competence to execute is an underrated quality and one that matters just as much, if not more than your big entrepreneurial idea. So, don’t lose sight of the small executional details – that make good ideas great!
Value, not valuation: Lose sleep on creating value, not valuation. In this unicorn obsessed start up era, there is nothing wrong with billion dollar dreams and moon-shot ambitions but the lack of appreciation for $100 million success stories is just hype-driven cynicism. Channelize your energy on creating value for your customer, everything else will flow from there.
Entrepreneurship is a journey and I hope you find some of these guiding principles useful on good days as well as the bad ones.