BENGALURU: The young and the restless with the urge to kick off something big are fuelling India’s startup ecosystem. But if the idea takes off, such ventures need more experienced hands to nurture dreams into businesses with respectable valuations.
Corporate executives typically come to the rescue of such infant companies with domain knowledge, managerial expertise and networks, along with experience of scale, structure, systems and processes from large companies which they apply to accelerate the growth curve of startups.
Mitesh Shah is one of them. A chartered accountant with 12 years of post-qualification experience in corporate finance and strategic management, he joined Ola as chief financial officer a year ago.
He’s well versed in areas ranging from fundraising and financial management to going public and corporate governance practices.
“What I was doing in my later years there (previous jobs), I bring to Ola in its early years now as my expertise,” he said. Ola has also hired professionals for corporate affairs, public policy, marketing and category management among others.
“We look for people who have a shared vision in shaping something futuristic and have done it in their own,” said Bhavish Aggarwal, co-founder and CEO, Ola Cabs.
How do startups find the right senior manager. Look for the right spark, suggested Krishna Tanuku, executive director, Indian School of Business, Hyderabad.
“Indian entrepreneurs should look at someone who has aspirations of becoming an entrepreneur,” he said. Shah, for instance, said Ola gave him the opportunity to build something from the ground up.
“Execution is key in startup environments. The time taken from ideation to implementation is little and there’s a lot of learning in being able to do multiple things at that speed,” he said.Online real estate portalCommonFloor.com brought in the older guys last year after expanding to 18 cities in India, raising significant funding and reaching an employee base of 500 since its launch in 2007.
“The scope of the problem was growing and part of a founder’s job is to ensure people are aligned to the same vision.
When you become big, you can’t afford to make too many mistakes, so you need people who know more about particular aspects and so you can then put their expertise in a particular area,” said Sumit Jain, co-founder and CEO, CommonFloor.com.
Property portal Housing.com, founded by 12 IIT Bombay graduates in June 2012, needed handholding in some areas, even basic ones such as registering a company. After raising the first round of funding, they felt the need for supervision.
“We suddenly realised that a great product is the first step to create a great company. There are many more parts that have to be put in place to build a company that lasts for hundreds of years,” said Advitiya Sharma, co-founder and board member, Housing.com.
“While our investors and advisors have helped us take key decisions (like buying the Housing. com domain etc.), we have always believed in getting people better than us to do work that makes everyone in the company feel proud.”
The key is getting the balance right said Tanuku of ISB.
“Young entrepreneurs have energy, enthusiasm, personal commitment but less experience in dynamics of industry impacting business,” said Tanuku.
“Companies that start with great ideas need to be mixed with practical experience and exposure–no single individual can bring it altogether.
It’s important for entrepreneurs to lean on professional expertise as early in the journey.”
The benefits of such experience are evident at Delhi-based Wingify. It has doubled its annual revenue run rate to $8 million in the last year since hiring Tejaswi Chawla as vice president of global sales.
Chawla expanded the sales team from two to 16 and brought in people with relevant experience at established companies.
“She was responsible for changing our sales culture from reactive to proactive selling,” said Paras Chopra, founder and CEO of Wingify, realising that even the best product need to be marketed.
The company now sells in geographies such as Japan, Australia, and Singapore.
“If I had to do this without hiring a VP sales with a good network it would have been difficult. With Tejaswi on board, people took it as proof that the startup has potential,” said Chopra. Investors are often involved in hiring senior talent.