“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 and as someone has said rightly 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.
Warren buffett'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 that you build wealth when people work for you. With this entrepreneurial mindset and spirit, I started my first startup TechSrajan Technology with 3 school time friend when I was doing MBA. TechSrajan was a web designing firm also providing SMS like digital communication services as Re-seller. It was the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey.
After initial market research, we did a few competitor offering analysis by visiting other web design firms 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 service, we even contracted with an existing web designing firm for subcontracting.
After initial struggle, we got half a dozen website contracts but we failed deliver to 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 received 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 started with a friend in the same industry. 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 big mistakes that is common with startup entrepreneurs, we were moving too quickly, 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.
We failed. 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 I 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 doing anything else, you can find 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 these years, I spent time in learning technology.
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, blogging etc, I learned with this blogging platform.
It was based on advertising revenue sharing model from Google AdSense. I had even 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, later focused on personal development niche. Some of my blog posts even were ranking on Google first page, but that was not sufficient to generate ad revenue.
Now I was focusing on a single niche, But I was not an expert in it. I realized it and decided to focus on digital marketing skills. As I had done everything from platform development to blog writing to social media marketing practically. I had working knowledge of digital marketing.
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 didn't got sufficient time to update Apnatarika, my priority changed to become digital marketing expert and start digital marketing blog so I decided to close it 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 start it once I build my audience.
While 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 artist 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 artist for silk thread jewellery, 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% 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 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 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 other businesses success working as a digital marketing strategist.
There are N number of things that can go wrong with business/startup, I can assist you decide to do or not to do based on my experience.
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“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”