Café Coffee Day – Successful Model with a Lonely Entrepreneur

“It is a lonely job at the top” is a statement that has been spoken for a very long time over the past few decades and we saw one more example of a distressed entrepreneur taking the extreme step. 

Café Coffee Day is a classical example of a successful business model with a high profile and celebrated promoter who was possibly a very lonely human being with no one to share his inner most feelings of distress, loneliness and possibly depression. 

The challenges being faced by the group of companies are not over – by exiting from the scene, Mr Siddhartha has shifted the onus of resolving his challenges to his family and the board of directors of his multiple businesses. He built a very strong brand and created job opportunities for thousands of people. More importantly, he will be remembered by the millions of customers who discovered friendships, relationships, startups, business ventures and the social relationships over a cup of coffee at his stores. 

A lot has been spoken and written about the financial liabilities of the group and the asset base of the business. Allegations have been traded between political parties trying to gain some political advantage out of this tragedy.  

A few businessmen, possibly facing financial pressures in their own businesses, have started making allegations against the Government because of the alleged undue pressures of the Government agencies. Have these individuals thought of their retraction if actual financial irregularities are found? 

Audits and forensic audits will be undertaken. Investigative agencies will have to do their job. The Board of Directors of the various group companies will need to do a lot of introspection and seek answers.  The Private Equity investors who have supported these businesses will have their own perspectives to offer. The answers will emerge in the next few months and it is only after that should our political and business pandits start their pontification and give their opinions. 

Nothing can bring back the individual. The loss to the family and the organisation is final.  

It is important at this time to sit back and think of a much wider malaise that is affecting the entrepreneurial community. Why is it that 9 out of 10 startups fail? How much money do these failed businesses lose? All this money comes from the promoters’ own hard-earned earnings, from friends and family and from Angel investors. A few startups manage to raise money from private equity investors. When businesses fail, all these investors lose their money. 

To the entrepreneurs, failure of their business is a quadruple whammy.  

  • First is the loss of confidence since they have not been able to deliver on their dreams.
  • Second is the loss of all the investment made by each stakeholder.
  • Third is the pressure from creditors, employees, Government agencies and financial institutions who start to demand their money. 
  • Fourth is the negative coverage of a failure by our revered Fourth estate. 

Where does the entrepreneur go? Bankruptcy, though now available for companies, is a very cumbersome process. Personal bankruptcy commonly accepted in the developed economies is not an option to Indian businessmen. This law needs to be made more friendly for entrepreneurs in distress. Individuals need to feel comfortable to reach out for protection under this law rather than “fear the consequences.” 

Entrepreneurial depression is a serious issue that confronts every Startup Promoter. Let us look at some of the reasons why Entrepreneurs reach such a challenging situation. 

1.    Business idea is flawed: Ideas could be well ahead of their time in a market not ready to accept it or ideas could be significantly behind the stage the market is in. If the business itself is suspect, there is really no hope for the Startup. If the customer does not buy your idea, no matter how smart or good it may be, the startup is doomed from the very start.  

2.    Funding is Insufficient: Most startups bootstrap their early months / years till they are able to raise funding. The moment funds are received, it has generally been seen that the expenses of the organisation increase in a ratio completely out of proportion of the business of the company. Once overheads are built up, it is very difficult to pull back. A lot of time is spent trying to keep raising funding to keep the business going. When funding starts to dry up, the business starts to flounder. A common reason given for pulling down shutters is “we never had enough money in the bank!”  

3.    Diversion of Funds into areas not intended: This is a very common reason for businesses running out of money. No one is questioning promoters where all the funds taken from banks as loans has been used. If loans are taken and they are meant for growth of the business, why do businesses reach a situation where they cannot even pay the interest? If there is strong evidence to establish that an entrepreneur has misused, diverted or embezzled funds, the strongest possible action must be taken against such individuals.   

4.    Burn Rate is too high: Most founders underestimate their “burn” rate. Burn, very simply put is the amount of cash you are spending every month. Once the company starts to earn from its business, burn can be classified as spend minus the earnings. Therefore, if there is a constant burn in the startup, funds need to come from equity to meet cash flow requirements. The longer the period of the burn, the more difficult it is to raise new funding. 

5.    High cost of Acquiring a Customer: Remember that the Cost of Acquiring a Customer must never be greater than the Lifetime Value of the Customer. Most startups believe that this equation will gradually change in their favour. They also wrongly believe that Lifetime Value of a Customer is the top line earned and not the profit from the revenue. 

6.    Weak Management Teams: Many promoters start with friends as their team members instead of bringing in strong management teams. Weak or in-disciplined management teams have weak execution and their insecurity perpetuates the challenge faced by the startup when they bring in even weaker team members down the line. This leads to a domino effect and does insurmountable harm to the young startup. 

7.    Scaling Up: A big reason for losses is when a startup scales up before it has established its business plan in a smaller and more controllable environment. Conversely, startups have failed because they have not scaled up fast enough. There is really no right or wrong answer when it comes to building a startup. 

8.    Getting a Coach or a Mentor: Most entrepreneurs are lonely people and while they have the ability to hire a business coach who could function as a friend, philosopher and guide without any agendas, they are either not aware of this input they can seek or have a sense of “know it all” bravado. The young and abrasive energy of a startup founder needs tempering with the wisdom of an older manager. Bringing together the vision of the Startup Entrepreneur and the experience of an older manager in an unobtrusive and non-threatening manner will prove to be very helpful. In addition to watching the back of the startup entrepreneur and guiding him when the ship hits troubled waters, such individuals will also bring in strong subject matter knowledge, from their respective domains.  

There is a hot new startup that is being seeded by its founder and breaking out of its incubator every so often each day and yet there is another startup that has had its place in the sun and basked in its glory and is quietly riding off into the sunset. 

We need to create an environment that certainly applauds successes but does not punish failures. Otherwise, people will stop nurturing entrepreneurial dreams and this can be a serious challenge for any economy.  

Unless there is support system for entrepreneurs to handle failure, entrepreneurs will continue to take steps to mitigate their losses and save their businesses. When nothing works, we need to prevent them from taking any extreme steps. 


The author is a Business and Executive Coach, a Storyteller and an Angel Investor. He hosts the highly successful podcast titled The Brand Called You. A keen political observer and commentator, he is also the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies. He is the author of 6 best-selling books and writes for several online newspapers. 

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Should Startup Entrepreneurs have a Coach?

180908 Business Coaching

Business Coaching, is a direct one-on-one interaction between two individuals in a regular and structured conversation. This is done to address and handle business challenges faced by one individual by drawing upon the experience of another individual. Coaching is done in an environment of complete trust where all matters ranging from work to personal challenges may be discussed once the comfort level starts to increase.

Every Startup Entrepreneur needs a coach.

A majority of Startups all over the world are founded by young men and women in their twenties and possibly in their early thirties. While their ideas are excellent and their energy levels are great, most startups start to falter within a couple of years because of poor / inadequate systems, over aggressive scaling up, weak financial planning, insufficient focus on people management, weak governance or poor execution of their revolutionary ideas.

At the same time, thousands of managers are retiring from the corporate world at the “young” age of between 60 – 65 years after spending almost four decades in specialized or general management positions in major and smaller corporations. At this stage of their lives they clearly have at least another decade of work inside them.

Retirement of senior managers is happening in all parts of the world and is a consequence of the superannuation policies of the employer rather than the competence or the age of the individual. These people know what it is like to run businesses and tackle the challenges of building businesses. They have functional expertise in finance and accounts, budgeting, packaging, branding, sales, human resources, governance, legal matters and general management.

With a little bit of training, most of them can become excellent coaches.

Therefore, logically, there is a huge opportunity to bring together the vision of the Startup Entrepreneur and the experience of the older manager in an unobtrusive and non-threatening manner for the entrepreneur. Older individuals can connect with the entrepreneur as coaches (or in some cases as employees), depending on the need of the individuals.

Not every superannuated individual has the energy or the risk taking capability to start a business enterprise on their own. At the same time, the older managers, in the twilight of their careers, are not yet ready to hang up their gloves. Most of these older individuals would be reasonably financially secure. They are looking to give back their life’s learnings while staying occupied, and earning some money (which could be in the form an equity option as well). Further, they will be much more stable for a startup. They will not resign and walk away in a hurry because they did not like the way they may have been spoken to or because another exciting opportunity has come up.

For the entrepreneur, it is a very lonely job and there are very few people he can trust. Most young entrepreneurs need a sounding board in a non-threatening manner with someone who has no agenda with the individual or the business. Given the significant work pressures Startup Entrepreneurs face, they need someone to discuss their issues and allow them to vent.

They will not say what the startup entrepreneur wants to hear and after a long work innings, hopefully, they would have learned how to manage their personal egos in front of the young team that they wish to be a part of.

A coach should see their success in the success of their younger colleague and not attempt to score brownie points directly with the teams.

In addition to watching the back of the startup entrepreneur and guiding them when the ship invariably hits troubled waters, a coach will also bring in strong subject matter knowledge from the domains they would have spent decades working in.

Most startups face issues in the following areas and an experienced professional can provide invaluable inputs for the startup team.

Some of these areas outlined below.

People Strategies – Most entrepreneurs struggle with their people strategies. The people who started off with the entrepreneur may not be the best to take the business to the second and third level. Even the entrepreneur needs to stay ahead of the curve to manage a fast growing business. A coach can evaluate the people and help in identifying new resources at each stage of the growth.

Business Planning and Review – Startups are famous for making plans and then not meeting them! A good coach can work closely with the entrepreneur and the top management team to develop an achievable business plan and more importantly, hold quarterly reviews. This will ensure that the entrepreneur and leadership team is held accountable for what they commit in each quarter.

Good Governance Practices – All Startups should normally be started with the objective of building a strong and stable business which can mature into an institution. A coach will ensure that the entrepreneur will build good governance and transparent practices in the organisation.

Even something as mundane as ensuring board meetings are held on time and minutes are properly recorded is an area where startups have been known to slip up.

Fund Raising – While most startups are looking for funding from Angel Investors and Private Equity Investors, there is a large opportunity for raising funds from banks though debt and working capital financing. A coach with a strong finance senior background will bring in much needed contacts and experience to reach out to the banking system.

External Relations – Most businesses, irrespective of the sector they are addressing, need a strong connect with the external world. These connections could be with bureaucrats, politicians, environmental activists or the local councilor. An experienced coach will have the patience to handle these external challenges. This could also include developing a strong public relations contact programme with the print and visual media.

Legal Processes – In addition to hiring legal help during formation and fund raising, most businesses are faced with a lot of legal challenges. Once again, an older and more experienced coach will bring wisdom in handling such matters. Which cases to pursue and which ones to drop is a critical decision to save valuable managerial time, resources and of course, money.

Playbook / Standard Operating Procedures – In the hurry to get started, very often standard operating procedures get lost in the detail. These need to put in place very early in the game so that mistakes are not repeated. An experienced manager tasked with this will be able to put in place such a manual / playbook that would serve the company well into the long term.

Having mentored several startup entrepreneurs, I have seen the value a coach who has “been there done that” can provide to a startup entrepreneur.

I have often said that the combination of young energetic legs with grey hair would be a win-win combination for all Startups. To draw a parallel from hockey or football, the entrepreneur is the centre forward rushing to shoot goals and win while the older manager is the goal keeper who will protect the companies turf and ensure that self-goals are not scored!

What is important for both the parties is to mutually select the right set of individuals. What is important is to develop mutual trust and confidence between the two individuals to build a win-win combination for the success of the business.

In other words, every Startup Entrepreneur needs a coach.

Experience Never Gets Old!


The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies. A keen political observer, he is an Angel Investor and Executive Coach. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye; The Buck Stops Here – Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur and The Buck Stops Here – My Journey from a Manager to an Entrepreneur.

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Working from Home – What you need to keep in mind

170420 Working from Home

Working from home is becoming a very attractive option. Companies around the world are encouraging employees to work for at least one day a week from home, thus freeing up desk space in the office and therefore reducing costs. Startup entrepreneurs generally work from their homes as long as they are bootstrapping their young business. And then there is a large community of professionals like lawyers, architects, chartered accounts and the like who have earmarked a section of their homes as their work place.

You can work at your own pace, in the comfort of your home and out of sight of overbearing bosses. No long commutes and no getting stuck in traffic. You can dress how you like, eat and drink what you want, schedule your work the way you want to and stay in your pyjamas or your T Shirt and shorts until lunch. No one will be the wiser.

If you are thinking of working from home or are already working from him, it is worth planning carefully. The idea of working from home and the reality of actually not stepping out every morning can be very different. You can set up your own workspace the way you like and not be constrained by the interior decorator or the administration officer of your organisation.

Here are some pros and cons for you to consider.

No Distractions

Working from home means that you can work in an environment of your own liking and do away with distractions that are normally to be expected in an open office or in a cubicle from fellow workers and vendors. You can work at your own pace and in an environment of your choosing. You can play music while working and you can take as many coffee breaks as you want to. You can be at your productive best!

But, working from home can be lonely. The office environment also provides the much-needed companionship of co-workers and the ability to brainstorm ideas. Colleagues can provide a break from the stress in the work place. You will certainly miss the office grapevine and the pleasures of gossiping about other colleagues! You will also miss out on the goings on in your company. Out of sight out of mind could easily apply to you when you do not have sufficient face-time with your boss. And of course, you will be required to deliver on your commitments, irrespective of where you may be working from.

In Office Meetings vs Video Conferences

A lot of time at work goes away in meetings called for to discuss virtually anything. Meetings can be time consuming and painful especially if the boss drawls on and on. If you are not in the office, you will not be dragged into unnecessary meetings.

Given all the easy communication options available, staying in touch with colleagues is now very simple and cost efficient. Video Conferencing, using Skype, WhatsApp or a host of other options are virtually free.

But, it is easy to become a slave to video conference calls where you are sitting facing your computer camera for long hours! With so many people watching you over the band waves, it is not easy to switch off as you could during an office meeting! There is also a strong possibility that your work hours will blend into your free hours and before you know it, you could be working much longer hours at home.

Save the Commute Time

Driving or taking the train to work every morning is getting more and more painful and stressful every day. Sitting for hours, stuck in traffic jams can never be anyone’s idea of a starting or ending a day at work. This is exacerbated if you are late for a meeting or worse, if you are late coming home for a family commitment. Imagine the number of unproductive hours you would have spent sitting in your car and imagine what you could have done if these hours were to be freed up. Not to say about the savings you will make in the cost of commuting and the maintenance of your vehicle. You could even consider moving out into the suburbs closer to nature and with better air quality.

But, if you are one of those people who enjoy the personal time this commute provides you and either read, listen to music or watch a movie, then you need to provide for this in your homework day as well.

No need to Dress up every day

One advantage several people who work from home talk about is not having to “dress up for work every morning”. You can dress far more casually than you would normally do and sport a two-day-old stubble! No one will ever know whether you are wearing jeans or shorts when you join a video conference call.

But, for your own discipline, it is advisable to dress up every morning. After all, you are working from home and you are being paid to work by whoever your employer maybe. There is always a sense of formality that overcomes ones being when one dresses for the office as compared to a weekend at home. Further, an over casual dress may not necessarily go down well with your fellow participants over a video call.

Work Life Balance

You will have the ability to balance your work and your home commitments. Most people who work a 10-hour day and have a 3-hour commute miss out on life at home. You will be at home when your children return from school and you will be able to get all those odd jobs done at home that you for which you struggle to find time.

But you should remember that while your location may have changed, you are still working. You need to strike the right balance between your work and all other activities, especially during the time when your colleagues are at work in office.

Working from home can be wonderful but requires an incredible amount of self-discipline. Everyone enjoys some space, and peace and quiet. Your quality of life can be much better once you do not have the challenges of the daily commute. Remember that it is critical to get into a routine if you decide to work from home. Dress up like you normally would every morning. Schedule your workday similar to what you would at office including your coffee and lunch breaks. You should aim to get out every day. Many cafes have a regular clientele who turn up with their laptops and work for a while alongside a cup of coffee, just to provide a break in the day.

If you are comfortable to schedule your home working day and go into home working with your eyes open, you will not regret it.


The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of 5 best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye; The Buck Stops Here – Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur and The Buck Stops Here – My Journey from a Manager to an Entrepreneur.

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Work Life Balance

170215 Work Life Balance

Work Life Balance has been the subject of much discussion all over the World among people of all ages.

With increased work challenges, the stress levels are beginning to rise for almost everyone. When work life and personal life is out of balance, stress will increase. This is evident from the increased health challenges hospitals are beginning to see in terms of heart and cholesterol problems, increase in pre-diabetic disorders and significant increase in aches and pains in the back and shoulders of young men and women. Most psychologists would agree that the demands of an employee’s career should not overwhelm the individual’s ability to enjoy a satisfying personal life outside of the business environment. A poor balance between work life and personal life will lead to fatigue and poor health.

Business Dictionary defines Work Life Balance as “A comfortable state of equilibrium achieved between an employee’s primary priorities of their employment position and their private lifestyle.” This balance should help you in attaining focus and awareness, despite the seemingly endless tasks and activities competing for your time and attention.

This balance needs to be looked in the context of four segments. Family, Self, Work and Friends. Each of these four segments are mutually dependent on one another. The boundaries between work and personal time are now hazy, at best.

Most people agree that they need to change their work priorities assuming that whatever change they make, will give them the elusive “balance that they are seeking. Work life balance for each one of us will be completely different. It will differ for a single person, one who is married and one who has children and other family commitments. There is no “one size fits all” definition for work life balance. No one I know seems to have achieved that perfect balance between “work” and “life”.

The widely accepted outcome of Work could be Achievement and that of Life could be Enjoyment. Are these two sides of the same coin? Are these mutually exclusive or could there be a blend of both achievement and enjoyment? At what stage should achievement give way to enjoyment if we assume that achievement results in more money, power, assets and other worldly belongings? Conversely, at what stage is too much enjoyment detrimental to achievement?

More and more people are depending upon their digital devices to earn a living, stay connected with friends, family and the workplace. They use these devices for their news and entertainment, when they have time. Smart phones with 4G or LTE is making data accessible from anywhere in the world in a nano-second. What are these devices doing to our work life balance?

So what are some of the questions raised by each one of us to justify this imbalance?

I Spend Quality Time with my Family

Dividing one’s time equally between work, family and sleep is not an achievement of a perfect balance. Keeping one hour every evening to “spend quality time and bond” with one’s child is practiced by many. What happens if this time slot does not suit the child? Does the child then negotiate a new time slot?

We go for expensive vacations and I buy gifts

Most duty free purchases of cosmetics, clothes, electronics and toys happens because of “guilt shopping”. Taking the family for expensive holidays and buying them expensive gifts to make up for all the time is not necessarily achieving the balance that your family is seeking. Such gifts would be tantamount to buying peace at home and such peace will be very short-lived.

I work hard to secure a better future for my family.

When I told my family that I was travelling 20 days a month to secure a better future for my family, I was in for a rude shock. I was surprised to hear that my travels and work was only for myself and that my family would prefer that, I spend more time at home!

We only have 24 hours in a day and there is no way that we can squeeze any additional time, irrespective of who we may be or how much power we may believe we have. Given below are some pointers that we can work on to manage the inevitable imbalance we have in our work and life priorities.

Manage your time well.

Prioritise and schedule your work in office and at home. Do not bunch up all your work for one day. Delegate to your colleagues and empower your teams to give yourself more time.

Learn to say No.

Most of us hesitate to turn down work or an invitation even though we know that we do not have the time. We do not like to offend another person by declining.

Leave for your work at your work place.

If you are not able to do this, keep your phone and other electronic devices in another room before you head to your bedroom. Nothing can be so important that should disturb your sleep.

Follow the “bottom drawer” principle.

With the constant arrival of E Mails, WhatsApp messages, conference calls and so many other messages, you are inundated with messages that need a response. Anything message you believe is not important should be moved to a “junk” folder. The sender of the mail will follow up if it is important. Otherwise, empty your junk folder at the end of the month.

Give yourself breathing space.

Instead of running from morning to evening, whether for work or for family, you need to be step back and carve out some personal time for yourself, to think, plan ahead and rejuvenate yourself.

Achieving a balance between work and life is always a challenge for everyone. At work, you need to agree where you need to draw the line. The balance will change every day and in ways that you could never have anticipated. Do what you think is right and in consultation with your family. After all, they are the ones who gain or lose the most if the balance becomes unbalanced!


The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of 5 best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye; The Buck Stops Here – Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur and The Buck Stops Here – My Journey from a Manager to an Entrepreneur.

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Self-Doubts of a Startup Entrepreneur

170413 Self Doubt

Most of us, who have started entrepreneurial ventures, have gone through several self-doubts on whether we took the right decision to pursue our dream venture and start-off on one’s own. We have also faced self-doubts when we have taken decisions through our journey of building our companies.

So if you have self-doubts and questions about why you took the plunge as a startup entrepreneur, relax. You are not alone. Self-doubt is a very normal human response whenever we are faced with challenges that initially seem insurmountable. How you handle these self-doubts, face your internal challenges and build your business will be the key differentiator between success and failure of your dream venture.

Accepting that you are not alone is a great start to addressing your own self-doubts. Here are some pointers from my learnings addressing the challenges I have faced in my entrepreneurial journey.

When faced with challenges, look back at your successes

Think of all the successes you have had in the past whenever you are faced with self-doubts and concerns. Positive thoughts will help you prepare better for each day’s challenges.

Stop worrying about what others think of you

You have embarked upon your entrepreneurial journey to achieve your dreams. Worrying about what someone else is thinking about your business or what your friends may think about how you are building your company is only harming yourself. Remember that others are too busy facing their own self-doubts and challenges to think about you and your challenges!

Dream Big. Think Small

As an entrepreneur, dream of the big picture and where you hope to take your young business five years from now. However, your tactical plan to achieve your dream must be to set “bite sized” goals for yourself and your teams on a weekly, fortnightly and monthly basis. Only when you start to achieve your small steps will you be able to run towards your dream.

Get great people in your organisation and delegate effectively

Putting together a good management team always helps in better decision making. Once you have a good team, empower them and delegate effectively. Remember that you only have a finite amount of time every day and you do not have the skill sets to handle all the work. At the same time, remember to set up strong systems to seek accountability from your people.

Do not be afraid to take decisions – right or wrong

When confronted with challenges, your people are looking towards you to take tough and well thought through decisions. Hesitating, procrastinating or deferring decisions can only harm the long-term interests of your business and your people. Not taking a decision is worse than taking a wrong decision. An incorrect decision can be corrected but a management team, faced with an entrepreneur who does not take decisions will be directionless.

Keep evaluating yourself

As the person who has the greatest stake in your business and your success, keep evaluating yourself constantly. Keep thinking of the worst-case scenarios that you could be confronted. Once you recognise and understand your downside, you will be able to take better and well thought through decisions.

Remember to carve out personal time each day

I have met many entrepreneurs who just cannot find time from their busy schedule. They are so immersed in their business that they fail to find time for themselves to introspect and they fail to find time for their family. Personal time, every day, gives you the much-needed breather from your hectic work schedule. If you can add an exercise schedule in your daily routine, you will be helping yourself with a fitter body to face your challenges.

Learn to forgive yourself

I have met many entrepreneurs who keep regretting an incorrect decision and hence keep punishing themselves for what “may have been” the direction if they had taken another path. Will not forgiving yourself make a difference? Will you be able to turn back the clock? If the answer to both these is no, then you are wasting your time. Forgive yourself and move forward with a correct decision.

Do not wallow in self-pity

Mistakes will happen. Either you can run with the ball or you can wallow in self-pity. A weak entrepreneur transfers his uncertainties and self-doubts to the entire team very quickly and this can have snowballing consequences on the health of your young business. Pessimism in an entrepreneur is very visible to everyone.

Discuss with family

Remember that your biggest supporter throughout your entrepreneurial journey will be your family. Keeping them advised of what you are going through will get you a lot of support at home. Moreover, you will be surprised at how valuable the inputs you get from your family can be in handling your own self-doubts.

Stay connected

Staying connected with friends and the community you live is essential to retain your sanity. Keeping in touch with what is going on in the World is important to retain your perspectives. An all-consuming business can never be a recipe for long term-success.

Emotional involvement

While it is good to take strong ownership of your business, getting emotionally involved with your business is never advisable. Every entrepreneur needs to learn to distance himself from his business.

When you look back at the end of a few years, you will realise all your self-doubts only made you a stronger entrepreneur. Finally, remember that it is a lonely job at the top as an entrepreneur and keeping yourself motivated to keep pushing ahead will be your first and biggest challenge.


The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of 5 best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye; The Buck Stops Here – Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur and The Buck Stops Here – My Journey from a Manager to an Entrepreneur.

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स्टार्ट अप्स की शैशव काल में ही मौत – स्टार्ट अप्स विफल क्यों हो जाते हैं


एक एकदम नया-नवेला स्टार्टअप है जिसका बीज उसके संस्थापक ने लगाया और इसके अंकुरित होने से पहले ही उसे बार-बार ज़मीन से खोदकर निकालता रहा और दूसरी ओर एक ओर स्टार्टअप है जिसे सूरज की आँच में तपने दिया गया और वह पूरी चमक के साथ पनपा और शाम ढलने तक शांति से अपनी मंज़िल पर पहुँच गया।

हर उम्र के सभी लोग कुछ नया स्टार्टअप करना चाहते हैं या किसी और को कुछ शुरू करने के लिए प्रोत्साहित करते हैं या किसी नए विचार के लिए ऐंजल निवेश करते हैं। संस्थापक निर्धारित करते हैं कि उनके विचार का व्यवसायीकरण दुनिया बदल देगा। वे ऐसा कुछ करना चाहते हैं जैसा इससे पहले किसी ने न किया हो या कुछ ऐसा क्रियान्वित करना चाहते हैं जो हर किसी से बेहतर हो। कुछ स्टार्टअप इसे ‘युनिकॉर्न’ की हैसियत प्रदान करते हैं।

स्टार्टअप की दुनिया में सन् 2015 में अनुमानत: 125 अमेरिकन डॉलर निजी ईक्विटी का  निवेश हुआ था। इसमें बिलियन डॉलर की राशि शामिल नहीं है, जिसका निवेश संस्थापकों, उनके दोस्तों और परिवार के साथ-साथ ऐंजल निवेशकों द्वारा किया गया। इसमें बिलियन डॉलर की आपूर्ति करने वालों उन निवेशकों का ‘निवेश’ भी शामिल नहीं है जिन्होंने डूबी कंपनी से अपना पैसा वापिस नहीं मिला। न ही इसमें वह सारा पैसा शामिल है जिसे कर्मचारियों ने अपने सारे वेतन और मज़दूरी को जोड़कर निवेश किया था और जो उन्हें वापिस नहीं मिला था। यदि ये सारा आँकड़ा मिल जाए तो कुल राशि बहुत बड़ी हो सकती है। हर साल इस उम्मीद में इससे भी अधिक निवेश होगा कि कुछ युनिकार्न वो सारा पैसा दिलवा देंगे जो दूसरों में निवेश किया गया था।

माना जाता है कि लगभग 90 प्रतिशत स्टार्टअप विफल हो जाते हैं। नए उद्यम सफल होने के बदले विफल ही अधिक होते हैं। तब भी इन विफल स्टार्टअप के लिए कोई स्मृतिलेख नहीं लिखा जाता। निजी ईक्विटी निवेशक, आपूर्तिकर्ता, कर्मचारी आदि उसे ‘हारी हुई बाजी’ कहते हैं और इसे बिना किसी चर्चा के दफ़ना कर भुला दिया जाता है। बेहतर होता अगर उस पर कोई सार्थक चर्चा होती ताकि भावी पीढ़ियाँ/ आने आने वाले स्टार्टअप उससे कुछ सबक लेकर नये स्टार्टअप शुरू करते समय इस अनुभव का लाभ उठा पाते।

स्टार्टअप का वातावरण भी बहुत-कुछ बदल रहा है। यदि अतिरिक्त पैसा लगाना हो तो व्यावसायिक योजनाओं को निर्धारित समयावधि में अधिक वास्तविक और लाभदायी होना होगा। मार्केट शेयर, टॉप लाइन और उपभोक्ता सेवा काफ़ी महत्वपूर्ण हो सकती है लेकिन इन दिक्कतों के बने रहने का एक ही कारण है कि पैसा न मिलना। तो स्टार्टअप विफल क्यों होते हैं? वे संस्थापक के लक्ष्य तक क्यों नहीं पहुँच पाते? यह समझना बहुत ज़रूरी है कि स्टार्टअप के विफल होने का क्या कारण हो सकता है ताकि समय रहते सुधार किया जा सके, न कि मरीज़ के गुज़र जाने के बाद उसकी चीर-फाड़ कर कारण खोजे जाएँ।

इस लेख में ऐसे कुछ कारणों की चर्चा की जा रही है कि आख़िर स्टार्टअप क्यों चल नहीं पाते।

कारोबारी योजना में दोष है

व्यवसाय की मूलभूत योजना में दोष पाए जाने के कई कारण हो सकते हैं। जो योजना बहुत ग़ज़ब की लगती है, जरूरी नहीं कि उसका राजस्व मॉडल सशक्त हो। सरकारी नीति में परिवर्तन पर निर्भर रहने वाले स्टार्टअप की शुरुआत ही कई लोगों के लिए ग़लत हो सकती है। उदाहरण के लिए भारत में किसी को विचार आया कि दवाइयों की बिक्री के लिए ई-कॉमर्स मंच का प्रयोग किया जाए या अमेरिका की ‘फ़्लाटनाऊ’ नामक उस कंपनी की तरह प्रयास किया जाए, जो चाहती थी कि उड्डयन प्रेमियों को ऐसा अवसर प्रदान किया जाए कि वे पायलटों से मिल सकें और उनके साथ उड़ने के आनंद को साझा कर सकें। पुराने उदाहरणों में संगीत और वीडियो की चोरी के आधार पर व्यवसाय खड़ा करने की योजना को देखा जा सकता है।

हो सकता है कि ये विचार अपने समय से कहीं आगे हों और बाज़ार उसके लिए तैयार न हो या हो सकता है ये विचार बाज़ार से एक कदम पीछे हों। यदि कारोबार में ही संदेह हो तो स्टार्टअप के लिए वास्तव में कोई उम्मीद नज़र नहीं आती। यदि उपभोक्ता आपकी योजना को नहीं खरीदते तो क्या फ़ायदा आपकी योजना कितनी ही अच्छी या स्मार्ट क्यों न हो, स्टार्टअप सिरे से नकार दिया जाता है।

हज़ारों लोग ऐप्पल या ऐन्ड्रॉइड मंच के लिए अपना ऐप बनाते हैं और उनमें से अधिकांश कुछ समय बाद ग़ायब हो जाते हैं क्योंकि वे लोगों की जटिल आवश्यकताएँ पूरी नहीं कर पाते जो उनके बने रहने के लिए ज़रूरी हैं।

याद रखिए डी- शब्द से मिलने वाला डिस्काउंट या मिलने वाली “छूट” पहले-पहल बाज़ार को अपनी ओर खींच सकती है लेकिन मध्यावधि में उसके दम पर टिक नहीं सकती।

पैसा पर्याप्त नहीं है

बहुत से स्टार्टअप शुरुआती महीनों/ सालों में कमर कस कर खड़े होते हैं, जब तक कि वे पैसा जूटाने में सक्षम नहीं हो जाते। जैसे ही पैसा आना शुरू होता है, आम तौर पर देखा गया है कि तब तक संस्थान की ज़रूरतें कंपनी के व्यवसाय के अनुपात में कई गुना बढ़ चुकी होती हैं। एक बार व्यवसाय का गुबंद बनने लगा, तो पीछे लौटना बहुत मुश्किल होता है।

बहुत सारा समय व्यवसाय शुरू रखने के लिए धन जुटाने की मशक्कत में ही ज़ाया हो जाता है। जब पैसा ख़त्म होने लगता है, कारोबार भी डगमगाने लगता है। कारोबार पर ताला डालने की एक आम वजह यही होती है कि ‘हमारे पास बैंक में पर्याप्त पैसा ही नहीं था!’

बर्न रेट बहुत ज्यादा है

अधिकांश संस्थापक अपनी बर्न रेट को कम आँक लेते हैं। बर्न,  मतलब वह राशि जो आपको हर महीने अपने हाथों में खर्च करने के लिए तैयार रखनी होती है। एक बार कंपनी अपने व्यवसाय से धन कमाने लगे तो बर्न को वर्गीकृत किया जा सकता है और कमाई से ही खर्च निकाला जा सकता है। इस वजह से यदि स्टार्टअप में लगातार बर्न हो, तो ईक्विटी से पैसे आते रहना ज़रूरी है ताकि नकदी का बहाव ज़रूरतों के हिसाब से बना रहे। बर्न की समायावधि जितनी लंबी होगी, नया वित्तपोषण उतना ही कठिन होगा।

याद रखिए उपभोक्ता को जुटाने की एक कीमत है लेकिन उस उपभोक्ता को आजीवन अपने साथ रखने की कीमत उससे कहीं ज़्यादा है। अधिकांश स्टार्टअप को लगता है कि समीकरण धीरे-धीरे उनके पक्ष में हो जाएँगे। उनका यह सोचना भी ग़लत है कि आजीवन उपभोक्ता ही सबसे कीमती होता है और उसे हासिल करना ही सर्वोच्च है और राजस्व से लाभ उठाना नहीं।

प्रतिस्पर्धी वातावरण

इससे कोई फ़र्क नहीं पड़ता कि आपकी स्टार्टअप की कल्पना कितनी उम्दा है, टिके रहने के लिए प्रतिस्पर्धी वातावरण को समझना बहुत महत्वपूर्ण है। प्रतिस्पर्धी क्या कर रहे हैं इस पर निगाह बनाए रखना कारोबार में बने रहने के लिए सबसे ज़्यादा ज़रूरी है

ई-कॉमर्स, म्यूज़िक स्ट्रीमिंग, लॉजेस्टिक्स बूम..की धूम पूरे विश्व में है, दर्जनों खिलाड़ी एक ही समय में आ रहे हैं, हर कोई बेहतर तकनीक या अच्छी सेवा का मंच देने का दावा कर रहा है। जब तक उनके पास पैसा होता है वे टिके रहते हैं, अधिक से अधिक छूट देते हैं। उसके बाद उनके पास कोई विकल्प नहीं रह जाता- या तो वे किसी बड़े प्रतिस्पर्धी के हाथों बिक जाते हैं या अपनी दुकान पर ताला लगा देते हैं।

कमज़ोर प्रबंधन टीम

कई प्रमोटर मज़बूत प्रबंधन टीम के बजाय अपनी मित्र-मंडली के साथ काम शुरू कर देते हैं। कमज़ोर या गैर-अनुशासित प्रबंधन टीम का कार्यपालन भी क़मज़ोर होता है और अपनी लगातार असुरक्षा की भावना की वजह से स्टार्टअप के लिए वे चुनौती बन जाते हैं क्योंकि वे अपने नीचे एक कमज़ोर टीम खड़ी कर देते हैं, जिसके कारण नये स्टार्टअप को भारी क्षति का सामना करना पड़ता है।

क्रमिक रूप से आगे बढ़ना

घाटे का एक बहुत बड़ा कारण होता है जब उद्यमी (स्टार्टअप) छोटे स्तर पर और बेहतर नियंत्रण के वातावरण में अपनी व्यावसायिक योजनाएँ स्थापित न करते हुए सीधे आगे बढ़ने लगता है। इसके विपरीत इसे ऐसे भी कहा जा सकता है कि स्टार्टअप इसलिए विफल होते हैं क्योंकि वे उतनी तेज़ी से क्रमिक रूप में आगे नहीं बढ़ पाते। जब बात स्टार्टअप खड़ा करने की आती है तब वास्तव में सही या ग़लत जैसा कुछ नहीं होता।

एक समाधान जिसे बहुत सकारात्मक रूप से स्टार्टअप संस्थापकों और स्टार्टअप में निवेश करने वालों को सोचना चाहिए वह है स्टार्टअप के लिए बढ़िया सलाहकारों का चयन। युवा और अनगढ़ ऊर्जा वाले स्टार्टअप संस्थापक को बुज़ुर्ग प्रबंधक की संयत सोच की ज़रूरत है। स्टार्टअप उद्यम की दृष्टि और बुज़ुर्ग प्रबंधकीय अनुभव होने से निर्बाध प्रगति का मार्ग प्रशस्त हो जाता है। साथ ही ऐसे स्टार्टअप उद्यम पिछले अनुभव के साथ-साथ आने वाली कठिन परिस्थितियों को भी पहले से ही भाँप सकते हैं और जब भी जहाज पानी में डगमगाने लगे, वे उन्हें मार्गदर्शन दे सकते हैं। इन लोगों के साथ उनके विषय का पूरा ज्ञान और उनके क्षेत्र में उनका एकाधिकार भी चला आता है।

स्टार्टअप की विफलता के उपर्युक्त मुद्दों के अलावा ऐसे भी बेशकीमती उपाय हैं जिनमें जबर्दस्त कल्पना और तकनीक होती है लेकिन वे अपने उपभोक्ता तक किस तरह पहुँचा जाए इसे समझने में अधिक समय नहीं लगाते और इसके लिए कोशिश भी नहीं करते। उपभोक्ता पर ध्यान दिए बिना कोई कारोबार न तो सफ़ल हो सकता है और न ही उसे अच्छा उपभोक्ता मिल सकता है और न ही ऐसे उपभोक्ता उसके साथ टिके रह सकते हैं और न ही बार-बार खरीद की उसकी ज़रूरतों को समझा जा सकता है। इसलिए बढ़िया कारोबार का विचार होना या खूब पैसा होना ही काफ़ी नहीं है।

तब स्टार्टअप के लिए स्मृति लेख लिखने की ज़रूरत नहीं होगी यदि संस्थापक के पास वह विवेक होगा कि स्टार्टअप को मज़बूत नैतिकता और मूल्यों के साथ एक संस्थान के रूप में खड़ा कर सके, न कि महज़ बड़ी लागत वाली कोई कंपनी बना सके!


लेखक गार्डियन फार्मेसीज के संस्थापक अध्यक्ष और बिज़डोम सलाहकार मंडल के सभापति हैं, आईआईएम रोहतक के इन्क्यूबेटर हैं. वे ५ बेस्ट सेलर पुस्तकों – रीबूट- Reboot. रीइंवेन्ट Reinvent. रीवाईर Rewire: 21वीं सदी में सेवानिवृत्ति का प्रबंधन, Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; द कॉर्नर ऑफ़िस, The Corner Office; एन आई फ़ार एन आई An Eye for an Eye; द बक स्टॉप्स हियर- The Buck Stops Here – लर्निंग ऑफ़ अ # स्टार्टअप आंतरप्रेनर और Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur and द बक स्टॉप्स हियर- माई जर्नी फ़्रॉम अ मैनेजर टु ऐन आंतरप्रेनर, The Buck Stops Here – My Journey from a Manager to an Entrepreneur. के लेखक हैं.


ट्विटर : @gargashutosh                                      

इंस्टाग्राम : ashutoshgarg56                                      

ब्लॉग : |

CEO’s and Mentors – Experience Never Gets Old


It is a lonely job at the top and very few people can be trusted by the person who has just been installed in the top job as the new CEO.

Most young and recently promoted CEO’s, while aspiring for the job feel overwhelmed when they take on the responsibility in The Corner Office of their company. This is a big transition that most people make from being top class functional heads to general management. Some settle into their roles and soar. Some plod along, keep managing their risks carefully waiting for their term to end. Some don’t settle in and have to be replaced. There are CEO’s who love to micro manage and there are others who only look at the macro picture. There are those to take responsibility for their decisions and there are those who blame someone for every decision.

At no stage in the careers of these CEO’s would they have been deemed “unfit for the task” because they have been selected for the top job, with the full confidence and support of the Board. So what is it that makes these CEO’s become risk averse in their new role or set themselves up for failure? And what can the Boards of Directors, who have played a role in the appointment of these CEO’s do to support their chosen candidate?

If the Board of Directors is committed to investing in the success of their newly appointed CEO, it becomes necessary to support the CEO through mentoring and coaching. It is believed that more than half of the CEO’s do not reach their potential, leading to anger and frustration. The Boards must understand that for an Alpha Male to succeed, he must me mentored by a former Alpha Male.

At the same time, thousands of CEO’s and managers are retiring from the corporate world at the young age of between 60 – 65 years after spending almost four decades in specialized and general management positions in large and small corporations. At this stage of their lives they clearly have at least another decade of work inside them. This aging and retirement of senior managers is happening in all parts of the world. These people know what it is like to run businesses and tackle the challenges of building businesses. They have functional expertise in finance and accounts, budgeting, packaging, branding, sales, human resources, governance, legal matters and they have “been there done that” in the areas of general management.

Is there a possibility of getting these older managers to mentor the young and newly appointed CEO’s? Is there an opportunity to bring together the energy of the young CEO and the experience of the older mentor in an unobtrusive and non-threatening manner for the benefit of the stakeholders? I believe the answer is a resounding yes. The challenge will be to find the right match and not to succumb to the easy way out of hiring a retired manager from the same company to mentor the young CEO. Therefore, finding the right mentor and then monitoring progress is a role that the Board of the company needs to own and take accountability for.

If I was to try and define the role of a CEO based on my 4 decades of experience in the corporate world and as entrepreneur, I would list out 6 key points:


The CEO needs to drive accountability in his team members while being accountable to the Board and the investors. Developing the right metrics for each department and then holding them accountable to achieve these is critical.

Allocating capital

For most high growth businesses, capital is scarce. The responsibility of managing the capital made available by the stakeholders lies squarely with an empowered CEO.

Ambassador – Internal and External

The CEO has to see himself as the Ambassador of the company and its business, irrespective of how large or small the business maybe. The role of the Ambassador is equally important both inside and outside the company.

Culture and Core Values

Every business has a culture and the role of the CEO is to develop this culture. The culture of the company needs to be managed as it evolves from the core values of the business and is built over a period of time.

Craft Strategy

Every business needs a strategy to reach out to the consumer and the CEO needs to think through the strategy of the company with his leadership team and in consultation with the Board.

Succession planning

These two words are generally misunderstood to mean succession planning from a human perspective. However, the CEO needs to ensure a proper succession plan to include new vendors and new products to meet and exceed the expectations of the customers.

Given his experience, a mentor play a significant role in brain storming each of these 6 points with the CEO on an ongoing basis. In addition, an experienced mentor will also bring in guidance and knowledge in the following areas:

Good Governance Practices

A good mentor will ensure that the CEO will build good governance and transparent practices in the organisation. Even something as mundane as ensuring board meetings are held on time and minutes are properly recorded is an area where young companies have been known to slip up.

External Relations

Most businesses, irrespective of the sector they are addressing, need a strong connect with the external world. These connections could be with bureaucrats, politicians, environmental activists or the local councillor. A strong and experienced mentor will have the patience to support the CEO to handle these external challenges

Legal Processes

Most young CEO’s are inexperienced when it comes to handling litigation. A mentor will bring wisdom in handling such legal matters, resulting in a saving of valuable managerial time, resources and of course, money.

Having mentored several CEO’s and entrepreneurs, I have seen the value a mentor who has “been there done that” can provide. For the CEO, it is a very lonely job and there are very few people he can trust. A well-crafted combination of the young energetic legs of the CEO with the experienced grey hair of the mentor would be a win-win combination for all businesses. To draw a parallel from hockey or football, while the CEO and his team are rushing to shoot goals and win, the mentor will be standing on the sidelines guiding the players and protecting the goal!


The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of the best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye and The Buck Stops Here – Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur. 

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