What is the point of creating great products if you cannot serve the customers properly who want to buy and use those products?
There is this story that many of you have listened to. A tiger started charging at two men who ran. One of them asked the other if the latter really thought he could really run faster than the tiger. The other replied, “I do not have to run faster than the tiger. I must run faster than you.”
With more than three dozen start-ups turning unicorns (valued at more than USD 1 billion) in 2021 alone, there has never been a better time for startups in India. But the fact remains is that not all of them will survive. Not because market does not exist to accommodate them all, but because it is like the two-men-and-the-tiger story cited above. They must burn money and attract more funding. Yes, they must attract customers; they must have revenue. But that is not enough. Because they have to do big spending, to be valued more and more so that their investors can exit sooner. Of course, B2B businesses may not have to do that all the time, but their share of the pie is much smaller.
However, while the good ones will survive, the great ones will successfully establish themselves as sustainable businesses, where listing is the first step, not the goal. And that means they have to continuously balance these two contrasting needs – grow for their investors and grow for their customers.
Technology helps them in both.
While the first objective is very clear and comparatively easier, the second one is much tougher. Companies who want to be in the game for long, realize that they must not just attract customers, make money, and be in the news, they must sustain the growth, the profitability, and the goodwill of their customers.
That requires a different approach. They must realize that what brought them here may not take them there. And that is easier said than done. Technology at a start-up is seen as a tool to play with to create differentiation. A larger company – I will not go by valuation but revenue run rate – must ensure that technology is also managed well. The business runs smoothly, customer is happy. What is the point of creating great products if you cannot serve the customers properly who want to buy and use those products?
Some of it is similar to what large companies do – minus the legacy. They must be humble enough to understand that. Innovation at scale is a different beast than innovation when you start.
But as shown by a few leaders, some companies are willing to learn fast, try fast and fail fast, if required. Technology will have to be used accordingly – not just to create things that excite you, but also to deliver the way customer loves it.