OPINION: How can startups keep business games strong amid COVID-19 pandemic?

Entrepreneurs need to keep their game strong and stand together with their team


The novel coronavirus disease, or COVID-19, has become a pandemic, causing the global economy to come to a standstill. Multiple cities in various countries are being placed under lockdown, a desperate attempt to keep the virus from spreading further. Businesses across the globe--both start-ups and established companies--have borne the brunt of the situation. Some have even been shut down for the time being.

Overall, the virus has wreaked havoc on the livelihoods of billions. For the startups of the country, it might prove to be a bigger hit. Facing challenges and dealing with unforeseen circumstances is not new for startups. However, this particular situation is unprecedented and has arrived completely out of the blue. With over 300,000 cases confirmed across the world, this has become a stress test for businesses.

Recently, over 70 founders and investors in startups wrote to the government calling for a nationwide lockdown. This is bound to hamper the business further. So, how can startups cushion the fall in the wake of the outbreak? Here are a few things start-ups can do to keep their business game strong during these trying times:

1. Take time to reassess and restart

When businesses run in full swing with no glitch in between, there is no time to reassess or stop for a second to look at the bigger picture. Hence, while the operations are eased up under quarantine, this is the perfect time for entrepreneurs to focus on some key business aspects. Since business has taken a hit, start-ups can assess their monetary situation and try to cut down on unnecessary expenses. It is better to be over-prepared than underprepared in such uncertain situations. Reassess and revise your operation plans along with your supply chain and sales, which might also be impacted given the travel restrictions. It is a good time to come up with a plan B in the event of the situation prolonging or worsening.

2. Be a good leader

While cutting down unnecessary expenses is needed, it is critical to bear in mind that laying off employees might not be the appropriate solution. When faced with a difficult situation, the team looks up to the leader for support and guidance. Therefore, it is important to stand by them.  Supporting your team members in times of need is a sign of strong and reliable leadership. In the worst case scenario, you could consider a salary cut when times become desperate. You would also need to assess the hiring situation and possibly put it on hold temporarily.

3. Focus on your customers

The popular saying ‘customer is king’ is said with good reason. Customers are the heart of any business. For startups, customers are even more crucial as they help build and establish the business. The success of the company is partially dependent on its customers. These are arduous times for everyone and understanding the customers’ changing needs is necessary to ensure they are happy. Losing customers can adversely impact the business, especially in the case of startups.  

4. Supplement retrospection with introspection

Now, more than ever before, is a good time to look inwards. Check-in with your team, yourself, your advisers and investors, and board members. Introspection is critical in times such as these to help you gain a better understanding of the scenario from different perspectives across the board. This will not only enable you to develop a more empathetic outlook but also bring you closer to your team members and stakeholders. 

While it is true that it will take at least a few months for the economy to recover from the coronavirus crisis and gain a strong footing again, one must not lose sight of hope. After all, even and especially in trying times, one must look for roses, instead of only focusing on thorns. So, use this time to align your business strategy accordingly and plan your way forward, leaving some room for emergencies. Doing so will enable you and your organisation to come out of the storm better, smarter, and healthier!

(The author is executive director at TiE, Delhi-NCR)

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of THE WEEK.

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