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What COVID-19 lockdown can teach Indian food retailing startups

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There is a lot in common between how great writers, philosophers, and entrepreneurs in our country think about and tackle calamities. Since the , it’s safe to say that not only have the deck of cards we were playing with shuffled, but we’re dealt a completely new deck. As a country that has over the past few years seen a rash of first generation entrepreneurs, startups, investors and incubators, managing this febrile eco-system requires going back and visiting the great minds of history and channeling their wisdom during this .

What COVID-19 lockdown can teach Indian food retailing startups

Here is what startups, including those in the Food Retailing space, can learn from the savants and apply their leanings in these bleak times.

Every calamity is to be overcome by endurance – Virgil (Roman Poet)

The Virgil viewpoint – Endurance has become the universal goal. Endurance means one point and one point only; maintain cashflows. The only trick is to spend less, while revenues have reduced beyond the worst-case scenarios, and soon those who first recognized each other as competitors became companions. In truth, the startup universe is one large huddle. In the past couple of weeks, ventures have begun providing their capability to solve for shortcomings of other ventures. Startups in the new-age retail space like ‘The New Shop’ began providing access to riders beyond their own product categories as a means of distributing essential products for other brands, at costs that wouldn’t result in burning a hole for these startups. We’ve seen founders lending a hand to their competitors to be able to use their factories, and even raw materials in order to maintain their supply. Companies like Wellversed Health have utilized their know-how of maintaining a seamless production unit, to support younger startups with access to material, and expertise, and immediately, there is hope and reinstatement that great founders look out for each other.

‘Calamity is the test of integrity’ – Samuel Richardson (English Writer)

The Samuel Richardson viewpoint – Your team is all you have at the start, the middle and the end, therefore integrity trumps anything. Founders have stepped forward, taking pay cuts, down to 0 for the past and current month. From public and well-known ventures, and earlier stage startup, everyone is doing their bit. Founders of the rising Hyderabad based EV venture RacEnergy, for one have chosen not to take salaries until they get a clearer picture of the times ahead, in order to assist their teams whose salaries are in the lower brackets from taking minimal to no cuts. Moreover, I’ve heard from Gurgaon headquartered Liquii beverages, that not only founders, but mid and entry level team members took a unanimous decision to cut their salaries to a sum that is suitable for everyone’s sustainability in order to ensure business doesn’t come to a standstill. It is through these times, when team members without ESOP, and at a time when the value of shares take a hit, where the long-term vision of all members comes together to shine hope on a brighter future. After all, what better test of integrity then a calamity?

Calamity is the perfect glass wherein we truly see and know ourselves – William Davenant (English Playwright)

The William Davenant viewpoint – Who we are is truly seen with how we respond at a time of unease. This is a time of opportunity for many but at what cost? Luckily, the governments intervention of controlling the unfair rise in prices through preventive measures like masks curbed the unfair opportunity being capitalized on. But then there are ventures that have been tackling measures that seem to be made for the present and future. Atron, a Mumbai based venture in the deep sanitization space, has been sanitizing public areas, like hotels and health sector providers for a few years, through means of less than 98% water and up to 100 percent sanitization. At this time, one would imagine their pricing to surge but in fact the venture has taken this time to showcase their true reason of starting, which is to save the environment, and has reduced prices and even providing free sanitization and service to impacted areas.

Suffering becomes beautiful when anyone bear great calamities with cheerfulness, not through insensibility but through greatness of mind – Aristotle (Greek Philosopher)

The Aristotle viewpoint – Adapting to a calamity with calm, cheer and sensibility has enabled the drastic change of consumer behavior to be tended to with sheer brilliance. As smartphone usage increased where data is being used at 100% capacity, and newer age groups of students and adults find themselves relying on their smartphone to pass time, ventures have realized smart ways to win mind (and data) share. It is important to keep your sales target close but more important to keep your customers closer. Retaining customers for venture is more important than finding new ones but what if you can do both wisely? From Cult Fit providing free online classes to motivate the country to stay fit and positive, to social media ventures like GoSocial ensuring that artists and creators earn while they share content, pictures and post on social media, through gamified engagement like streaks, and having influencers on their platform, suddenly being on the phone is a productive activity. While others are providing an outdoor experience when indoors is all we have by hosting cocktail making classes, and sharing recipes to ensure people stay in and enjoy themselves, such as activities from new-age beverage brand, Jade Forest, that is helping you stir up some delicious cocktails.

At a time like this, when markets are dry, venture world re-evaluates valuations and founders their ventures values, there is more than just capital that can support us through this. None of us signed for this calamity but then we all did sign up for a road that isn’t easy by going into the world of entrepreneurship. So, to all my friends, founders, investors, mentors, and the entire startup ecosystem, I hope this time has helped us settle down, tie our laces, and brace ourselves to make the most from our learnings.

All we have is our internal response to every external factor, and it is now when we truly get to evaluate the power of endurance, adaptability, integrity and ourselves.