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Fun / RodinStar / Startup

Startup Goofs – tell us silly goof-ups you made early on!

All of us have made silly bloopers. Crazy mistakes out of naivety & ignorance – the kind we can now laugh at now that we are older and wiser!!

 

Early on, we all are over enthusiastic and blind with passion. Sometimes we don’t have the patience to ask someone more experienced – or we just don’t know whom to ping!

 

 

Image source

 

I often ask rodinhooders to share one silly mistake they made while starting up. And the answers are so darn funny – yet they reveal an invaluable insight for each one of us!

 

So yeah, the idea is to laugh and learn at the same time…! Some Rodinhooders have already shared their goofs with me. Do read and do share at least one silly startup mistake you made – let’s make this the GOOFY PAGE on trh!!

 

[While sharing do use the hashtag #StartupGoofs :)) ]

 

 

 

Location cum Ops Goof!

 

Rituraj  Chaturmohta (co-founder of Paratha Post which got acquired)

 

“This was right before we started our delivery only restaurant, Paratha Post. We were looking for a place to start our manufacturing and delivery operations from a single location. As we were bootstrapping, cost was the major factor and the places which we checked out in our target area were a bit beyond our budget. It had been close to a month since we quit our jobs and we did not have a place to start our BILLION dollar business. WTH! 

 

With annoyance at its peak, we chanced upon a site which perfectly suited our budget and square footage requirements. We immediately booked the place and built the kitchen and delivery unit infrastructure in a week. 

 

A few weeks into operations, we realized what a stupid mistake we had made. The place was on the first floor of the building and to top it all, the stairs were those spiral ones, made with iron, giving a feel of an earthquake every time one used them. As a result, delivery boys were slow, were getting tired after a few trips and thus impacted the delivery times, our most important marketing plank (29 minutes or FREE). Getting any big, heavy kitchen equipment into the kitchen was another challenge, equivalent to an Olympic level weight lifting competition. When we look back, it appears to be one of the most stupid mistakes we made, proving how naive we had become, driven by our passion to “Just Get On With It”.

 

The lessons we learnt were: 

 

 1. Identify all your requirements properly. Budget consideration is important while making decision, but equally important is the operational hassles any decision would bring in.

 

 2. You should be very considerate of your employees’ comfort. Their ease of doing their job would ultimately translate into their attitude towards you and your customers.

 

 3. Once you identify a mistake, course correct immediately. We realized this mistake quickly, but still hung on as we thought the place was LUCKY for us. In the long run, the problems that we faced were too many to cover up for the LUCK factor. Remember, it’s business that brings success. Luck might be a supporting factor, not the most important one.”

 

@riturajcm 

 

 

 

Signup Goof!

 

Natwar Maheshwari, Founder at Around.io

 

“In the early days of Around.io, we never really paid attention to type of users we were getting. We are a social media productivity tool for online sellers, and we were letting anyone and everyone signup for the app. So, we were constantly getting feature requests and were buried in support requests, all from non-target customers/people. We realized our conversion from free to paid was pretty bad, that was pretty depressing, in fact a lot of people recommended that we should shut shop…after like 5 months or so, we pushed one update where we only let people with active online shops signup for the app..and since that day we look back and laugh at ourselves as how this should have been the first thing we should have thought of, but we didn’t. It all makes perfect sense in retrospect. Silly mistakes and their fixes have a thing about them, they always make a lot of sense in retrospect 🙂 

 

I hope someone will learn from this and put a check in place where you make sure right kind of customers are coming in..wrong customers can kill your business in no time :)” 

 

@natwar86

 

 

 

Packaging Goof

 

Perzen Patel, Chief Tasting Officer, Bawi Bride

 

“When we first started our daily meal service we didn’t test the plastic containers in which we send our food and thought it would be okay to send them in cake boxes like we used to. Thanks to this we had food spillages on epic levels

 

– bake dishes where the bake dish was out of the foil it had been baked in

 

– curry that had seeped into the custard

 

– some poor clients whose food box was empty as the entire curry had spilt into the cardboard box.

 

I guess our biggest mistake was trusting that delivery guys would take care of our boxes just like we do without realising that they simply don’t care in their rush to get food delivered on time. One year on, we now fill our boxes with water and take them on a road trip as well as in a train before we start using any of them for actual food delivery!”

 

@BawiBride

 

[A pic of our new packaging we use now. A far cry from a year ago! Now we actually get testimonials on how great our packaging is and how everything comes to them so neatly.]

 

 

 

Another Packaging Goof!

 

Saswata De, Co-founder, The First Meal

 

“We made, and continue to make, many mistakes. Off the top of my head – we initially got 750 ml boxes for serving 3 idlis (ideally, you would want to pack a full plate of biryani into them)…most of the boxes are still lying around with us!”

 

 

@thefirstmeal

 

 

 

Logistics Goof

 

Sudeepta Sanyal, Co-Founder | Chief Curator, The Blueberry Trails

 

“As a travel company, we face smaller logistical goof ups at times. Like one example – we sent this group of 6 senior citizens to a trip to Kashmir, they all had an army background, and were very particular about things. They had told us they were non vegetarians but didn’t stress that they wanted Non-Veg meals all the time; and the Boutique Stay that we had put them up, was strictly vegetarian. They were quite upset, despite the Stay being gorgeous. So we got non veg food from outside the first day. The second day onwards they were so enamored by the Stay + the team on location + the food too, despite being vegetarian that they didn’t want outside food anymore, and they wrote rave reviews about us and the stay. All’s well that ends well! :)”

 

@sudeeptasanyal

 

 

 

Product tie-up Goof

 

Puneet Aggarwal, Founder, Nirogam

 

“At Nirogam, earlier known as HerbsCanCure.com, we were selling Ayurvedic products. Our bestseller in 2007 was a Diabetes product and thinking that we could market any product to the same audience, we tried to spread ourselves too thin. We picked up a consignment of Dr Morepen’s Blood Glucose Monitor and tried to club it with our diabetes product. While we got a good purchase price, the product was not lapped up by our customers, because the device’s glucose strips were not easily available in the market. That consignment is still lying with us as dead stock. Today, when I come to think of it, I realise that we should stick to what we do best and apply 80-20 to everything that we do. Only 20% of things done well, would make us 80% of the money.”

 

@AyurvedaGuy

 

 

 

Painting Goof
Anamika & Tarun (Co-founders, Utpatang)
 

 

“All the goof-ups that we could think of were generally the result of our over- excited reaction to any idea that we came up with. We still make those goof-ups though :).

 

When we launched Utpatang, our key product was metal signage which had many layers of processing. Like the sheets had to be bought, cut, buffed, sprayed with colors, screen printed, framed behind with hooks and pasted. As the first piece of metal was sprayed, we became so excited by the result that we got 400 such sheets sprayed in yellow. What we missed out on the fact was that we couldn’t stock the metal sheets by placing them one above the other which made them stick to each other due to the paint getting sticky after some time. As a result while most of the sheets were wasted, we had to stock the right ones separately and with extra care using butter papers – all which took most of our office space and time.  

 

Though today, we have come out with an alternative solution to it which is working great for us, but those sheets are still with us – a reminder of the wastage and ignorance that we had at that time. Over procuring of raw materials, investing in an idea that involves too many layers of processing and a small team to handle it all, made the decision back fire in many ways other than just wastage of money. Today, we work on JIT (Just In Time) model and ensure that we don’t stock anything more than what is required at a given point of time!”

 

@Ut_patang

 

 

 

Credit Card Goof!

 

Akshay Chhugani, Head Product Marketing, ixigo

 

“I wanted to purchase indianbackpackers.com (with the S) as the preferred domain but sadly my credit card had some problems on the day I was trying to buy it.

 

Next day evening it was sold with the registration date of the day before to someone else 🙁 ……I had to wait almost 1 and a half year to buy it back when the owner failed/forgot to renew it at his end.

 

P.S. I was offered to buy it from the same owner for 1500$ the very next month of registration and as a startup that was my entire budget at that time.”

 

@backpackerindia

 

 

 

Branding Goof

 

Lakshmi Ananthamurthy,  Founder & CEO at SiyaWoman 

 

“We had quite a few faux pas, but the funniest one was our tag lines. We kept revisiting and revising it almost every 2nd week, with each time being ‘this is it!’ We then got around to making our stationery, visiting cards and all our logos, videos with our logo on the top etc, etc with the new tag line. Finally, our website developer would groan when he saw us because it meant we had a new tag line and had to update all the messages linked to it.

 

This is when we found ‘mother’ is a bad word for our brand :).”

 

@SiyaWoman

 

 

***

 

Do share your goofs in the comments section. The most interesting ones will be featured on the main post! 

 

Stay Goofy 🙂

 

******

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5 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Venkat Srinivasan

    When I started off five years ago, I did so through consulting, which is the easiest business to get going when you don’t have capital but do possess a recognized skill set. I was fresh out of corporate life, with no prior business experience in the family. Nor did I know anybody back then who could mentor me.

    I was (un?)lucky enough to win my first consulting contract within the very first week! Which I quickly converted to a long-term contract, after completing the first mini consulting project successfully.

    So I come back home from that triumphant customer visit with the long-term contract in my hand, and the wifey and I are over the moon! A long-term contract that addressed any financial concerns we may have felt, and that too for just two days of work a week.

    Now, please note the work load – two days of work a week. The very ‘corporatized’ me, after due celebrations, said in all serious to my wife: “You know, these consulting contracts are sometimes hard to gauge. They say 2 days a week, but at times to get the work done, I may have to put in just a bit extra. I need to ensure I don’t over-commit myself. So, for now, I’m not going to look for any new customers until I can ensure I’m able to deliver.” A viewpoint that my equally naive wife (please don’t tell her I called her that) readily endorsed.

    And so I sat tight, executing a consulting contract that filled only 40% of my capacity without bothering to go behind further customer development. And I did that for a whole five months!

    At which point I felt confident about hunting down my second customer. As bad luck would have it, my very first sales call converted into a contract again! Which only served to strengthen my silly viewpoint of sitting on my thumbs and not going customer-fishing.

    I started off with a 100% sales conversion ratio (with clients who knew me from my corporate career) for the first 2+ years of my consulting career, which taught me absolutely NOTHING about how tough it is to win unknown customers.

    Looking back now, I can’t help but laugh at the thought process of that time, and how I would like to (very violently) shake that guy awake, and kick his a** out to customer street. Doubtlessly, if I had some of the learnings I do today, I would have grown faster. But that’s the price of the learning curve I guess!

  2. Profile photo of asha chaudhry

    venkat – you should really start penning your experiences from corp to startup! seriously… i think you have some wonderful stories to share!!!

    🙂

  3. Profile photo of Venkat Srinivasan

    Heh heh, thanks Asha. Would love to write more, but have my head stuck far too deep in the running-my-startup sand most of the time. Will definitely push myself to contribute more, though. 

  4. Profile photo of Alok Rodinhood Kejriwal

    *****

    In the summer of 1985, just after my ICSE exams, I started working for my Nana’s (Mom’s Dad) transport business in Mumbai. 

    Someone had suggested to him that he accept the contract of supplying ‘potable water’ to ONGC rigs off Mumbai High and without much contemplation, he accepted.

    It was a disastrous business. ONGC was a tough client and the water came from BMC and private well owners in and around the docks; both of whom were unpredictable suppliers – so we got squeezed from both sides. 

    Added to the pain was that our tankers had to move in and out of the Mumbai docks – because ONGC had its base inside the docks. And The Mumbai Port Trust is a deadly animal to deal with.

    But, this blog is not about the lessons I learnt from that business.

    This is about the admiration I have for Shashi Ruia – a person who impacted me very early on in my life and to whom I owe a lot because of this incident.

    True Story

    ****

    The ONGC receiving base for potable water was located in Victoria Docks in South Mumbai (I think it was 12 VD). 

    In the first few days after we began supplies, I went along with one of my tankers to unload it at the ONGC station.

    There was a rather strict ONGC inspector ( I just can’t remember his name – it was either a Malhotra or a Tandon) with a thick mustache who climbed on top of the tanker (on that slim vertical ladder meant to walk on on the top) to inspect the supply via opening the lid and checking if the tanker was full or not. 

    I can’t remember what happened exactly on top of that Tanker, (it was 27 years ago) but I said ‘YAAR’ to him in a comment. 

    Yaar is a very casual and informal greeting that Indian youth exchange between themselves. It’s not spoken ever in business exchange.

    When Mr. Inspector heard this, HE FREAKED OUT.

    He began screaming and shouting and said, “who the hell do you think you are – you bloody water supplier to call me Yaar”. 

    Imagine me – a 16 year old trembling with fear on what I had done.

    No apology worked for him.

    Post that incident, that man made life difficult. He would not co-operate with us and the business became miserable. 

    I tried to explain and apologize to my Nana, but my Nana is a living GOD – he just smiled and said ‘doesn’t matter’. He is one of the rarest of rare people I have met in my life who is ready to sacrifice anything and everything for his family members’ happiness. 

    However, I was feeling wretched and told my Mom about this incident in a passing conversation. 

    What I did not know at that time was that my Mom was very friendly to Shashi Ruia’s wife and they were in regular touch. Shashi Ruia is the Chairman of the ESSAR group.

    SHASHI RUIA

    A couple of days later, my mom called me and told me. “Alok, I have spoken to X and she has just asked you to call Shashi Uncle and explain the problem.” 

    Now, what’s the connection between ESSAR and ONGC?

    A major one. Most of the ESSAR Offshore Supply Vessels (OSV’s) were servicing ONCG rigs at that time  and ESSAR was (and probably is) one of ONGC’s biggest drilling support partners. In fact that water I used to unload at the ONGC receiving station was directly unloaded into an ESSAR offshore vessel docked at the station.

    I was very nervous but gathered the courage, called up Shashi Ruia and arranged to meet him in his huge and elegant office in Nariman Point (again it was one of the Maker Chambers).

    I explained to him what happened.

    He laughed. 

    And then, he picked up his landline and said something in Tamil. I did hear that name of that ONGC Inspector in that conversation.

    A few minutes later, the landline rang. 

    This was the conversation – starting with Shashi Ruia speaking:

    “Hello Mr. Inspector?” 

    “Yes. Who is this?”

    “This is Shashi Ruia of ESSAR”.

    Gulp. 

    “Sir, what can I do for you? What made you call me?” 

    “ARREY YAAR – I have this Bacha (kid) in front of me and he tells me that you don’t like him being called Yaar and you are punishing him for his mistake. Please let him be, YAAR”. 

    Shashi Ruia called him YAAR twice.

    You can imagine what happened after that. ONGC treated me as if I was a Ruia myself.

    This incident impacted me deeply: 

    – It taught me that mistakes are made by the young, but the mature should forgive.

    – Even the biggest and the busiest people like to help others if approached.

    – It takes guts to go to the Gods to ask for help, but what’s the harm? 

    Thank you Shashi Ruia. You made me learn a very important lesson early on in my life, and I am indebted to you for that.

    *****

    UPDATE:

    The ESSAR Team showed Shashi Ruia the blog!!

    Check this out

    ********

  5. Profile photo of asha chaudhry

    alok – you still call people yaar. of course only people in your realm :)))))

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