“If you don’t try at anything, you can’t fail… it takes back bone to lead the life you want”
This story is focused on my personal learning from my startup failures. Someone has rightly said, we learn the best from our mistakes.
Since my early college days, I had a deep interest in share market; I had heard that share market is the place where you can make a fortune in short period of time.
But after getting into share market details and burning a few hundred dollars in trading, I realized that share market is a game of expectation and you should not burn money on guessing public expectations.
Benjamin Graham's book reconfirmed my hypothesis and clarified that only a good businessman can become a good investor and vice versa. The real money is not in trading stocks but it is in selling your own companies share into the share market.
Robert Kiyosaki' s book 'Rich Dad, Poor Dad' instilled the concept of Entrepreneurship. With this entrepreneurial mindset and spirit, I started my first startup TechSrajan Technology with 3 school time friends--Shyam, Abhilash & bharat--when I was pursuing MBA. TechSrajan was a web designing firm and we also tried our hands at SMS Marketing as reseller. We made a deal of subcontracting with an existing web designing firm for subcontracting. It was the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey.
After initial market research, we did a few competitor offering analysis by visiting other web designing companies as customers; today when I think about it, I smile on what we thought and did. Any way, we came direct into the market with our web designing and SMS Marketing services.,
After initial struggle, we got half a dozen website contracts but we failed to deliver some due to lack of technical expertise. Additionally, as a college graduate, we didn't have sufficient capital to invest into venture and decided to close it.
Although we couldn't run it long, I continued to receive inquiries for logo designing, SMS marketing and other services for almost a year after our close down.
Life had decided a different path for me, and took me into pharmaceutical industry where I spent almost 5 years and started my second venture. It was a pharmaceutical marketing firm named "ADOBE OKHAD", which I had started with a friend cum colleague.
We had 8 pharmaceutical products manufactured under our own brand names through third party manufacturing. It was a successful venture, which we started with only one nutritional brand Ginsing Plus, the sales rapidly expanded and we were making some good profit. I was responsible for designing the marketing strategy, marketing communication material, recruitment and accounts management.
But we committed a blunder that is common with startup entrepreneurs, we were expanding product line faster than we had budget to support. Rather than focusing our efforts on expanding sales for popular products, we were investing all our profit and capital in expanding the product basket.
Over the period of 18 months, we expanded the product line into gastrointestinal, antibiotic, diabetic and anti-hypertensive segment. Some product range were successful others not. So basically we were investing our good money into launching new products with an aim to expand overall sale.
Despite increasing sales, we were unable to manage the working capital to run the firm. All our employees left one after another and at last we had to close it. Later when I heard Al Ries, the marketing guru, I realized that I was not alone who has made this mistake on unsustainable diversification. Fujitsu, general motors, Dell, Motorola, Sony like big names have all burnt their hands when they didn't focus.
Since my childhood, I have a deep interest in books; if I am not at work or with friends & family, you can be sure that me reading. I read fiction, business books, blogs, newspaper, hoardings, advertisements or anything that comes in front, an omnivorous reader you can say.
Like every reader I had a deep desire to become a writer someday. I even wrote a half complete horror novel based on a psychiatrist haunting story. Techie spirit was in me all along and during all these years, I had spent time in learning web technologies.
I later combined my writing skills with WordPress technical know-how and created a multi author blogging platform-Apnatarika.com in 2015. It was also a bilingual platform available both in English and Hindi. Many of digital
marketing skills like Social media, content marketing, SEO etc, I had learned with this blogging platform.
It was based on advertising revenue sharing model from Google AdSense. I got support from my old friends and they contributed a few blog posts as guest authors. I had started Apnatarika as a informational sharing blog with many categories, but later focused on personal development niche. Some of my blog posts were ranking on Google first page, but that was not sufficient to generate ad revenue.
I had focused down on a single niche but I was not a personal development expert. But in the course of building this blog and promoting it across online platforms, I acquired practical knowledge of Digital Marketing domain.
Later I presented my multi author blog as a case study and got a job as Digital Marketing Manager in a leading Digital Marketing Agency. After Joining agency I was not getting sufficient time to update Apnatarika, my priorities had changed. I was now in the mainstream digital marketing domain and had to prove my capabilities. It was the decision and I decided to move ahead with Digital marketing and close Apnatarika in 2017.
Apnatarika failed as a startup but it got me ahead in digital marketing niche with practical experience and lots of business learnings. I still have the domain rights for Apnatarika and intend to restart it in future.
I my entrepreneurial spirit doesn't let me stay quiet. Working at the agency, I had an idea to contribute towards the rich cultural heritage of Chhattisgarh and it's handicraft art. One major problem I saw artists were suffering was to promote their products in national and international market. Digital Marketing was a good option but handicraft manufacturers had neither the technical expertise nor the marketing budget to pay agency fee for digital marketing.
I proposed a revenue sharing model with a few artists for silk thread jewelry, oil paintings, pencil sketches and handicraft goods which they agreed. I built a WooCommerce product catalog and marketplace for their product promotion with an understanding to keep 30% revenue for digital marketing promotion.
Amazon and Flipkart like marketplaces sustain on low margins only because of massive sales volume. But for a budding startup without venture capital funding, sustaining on low volume low margins in the initial stage was impossible.
So despite potential market, my E-Commerce startup failed in the test phase. It's failure taught me about relationship of business and volume, and many aspect of E-commerce Marketing.
All my ventures failed due to lack of funds and unsurprisingly that it is among the biggest cause of startup failures all over the world. But each failure has taught me about different aspect of business strategy and discussing them all here is not feasible.
As Napoleon Hill said, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”
My failures have sharpened my business acumen and my marketing strategies which I applied for success for my clients working as a digital marketing manager.
There are N number of things that can go wrong with business/startup, I can assist you to decide what to do or what not to do based on my experience.
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“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”