IIT Shaastra Panel talks about hustling with the constant fear of new variants, sudden outbreaks, and vaccine booster shoots, the world always needs new outlooks to deal with its circumstances. Institutions and organizations (especially more recent startups) are ensuring their best to develop new perspectives and ways to deal with the situation. In fact, it seems pretty interesting to know about the techniques startups pick up. 

We are talking about one such event today, During Shaastra, IIT Madras’s technology festival, which happened virtually on January 15, 2022. There were four panelists (people from startups and role models around the globe). Aakash Sareen, Co-founder, and CTO, Copper Mobile, was one of them and discussed on the topic – “Startup Endeavor: Adapting to the New Normal.”

Here’s a snippet of Aakash’s insight into some of the topics discussed

IIT Shaastra Tells The Concerns During the First Onset of COVID-19

Around March 2020, everyone in the world already had a hint of a huge change in how they work, study, or live. However, no one knew what it was exactly. There was a sudden concern of reduction in economic transactions/activities – leading to lowered IT budgets and, thus, limited business opportunities. 

With that, several customers canceled on us initially. However, as people started adapting to the pandemic, new opportunities were made in new arenas, especially Healthcare and Fintech

We followed a BCP – Business Continuity model when we went into lockdown. With enough planning, we could retain employees by having enough reserve to run payrolls while projects may be dearth. So we reduced the leadership salary by almost 20% and no bonus – restoring things the way we worked while evolving newer methods. 

Moreover, we went onto the conserving mode wherein we made sure our account payable and account receivable projections were healthy, and we can sustain if this thing goes really bad because uh you know no one knew essentially how long it will take as you guys are saying as well as we didn’t know how long it will last and if the economy goes down.

Another major concern for us was the health and welfare of our employees and their families. It was extremely important for us that our employees are safe in every aspect. For example, the team dynamics that flew in due to the lockdown might hinder the delivery of multiple projects, and hence we allowed room for unplanned leaves and provided efficient financial backups. 

Sailing Through the Pandemic and How? 

The pandemic was a really weird time for startups. For us, we put all of our brains together and discussed several perspectives. While all of the processes were changing, we ensured to keep Our Technical Advisory board intact. This implied sticking to the level-based feedback, iterations, and discussions. This helped us be in touch with our peers better and made us learn from our own experiences – we called this the iterative approach.

What about your competitors?

Competition is always a concern for entrepreneurs, but it became an altogether bigger cause of worry in the pandemic. With businesses shutting down, people losing their jobs, and a huge crash in the market, there could not have been situations where we were not worried. 

However, as a company, we are really strong on our pillars – Empathy, Technology, and Collaboration. We made sure that we give back to society with the time in hand and help people who have recently lost their jobs. 

What we from IIT Shaastra did differently:

  • Online training for people losing their jobs. – contributing back to society. – permanent jobs for some of the people after training sessions.
  • Minimal/NO layoffs
  • Continuity of appraisals for employees
  • Boosting employees through virtual sessions (taking care of their physical and mental health)   

Business Lessons from the Pandemic

One of the major aspects of our enterprise that made us sail through was the amount of empathy we had, be it towards our customers or towards our employees. From understanding the client’s pain points, modifying engagement models to providing health and financial support to the employees- we did all we could. 

Some of the recommendations we have for startup owners for the next three years: 

  • Look for the silver lining concerning opportunities and new business markets (that weren’t there before the pandemic)  
  • Use and adapt to disruptive technologies like Big Data, real-world decentralized applications, and so much more. 
  • Be more technology agnostic. 
  • Include the DEI model in your roots (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion)
  • Encourage and adapt to the remote work mode. 
  • Starting a company is a 24X7 job; you always need to be available for your team.
  • Provide value, and people will be willing to invest.

To conclude, in Aakash’s own words, “ It was a real privilege and pleasure to be a panelist in IIT Madras’s Shaastra TIF. My experience has been great, especially getting insights of talented friends like Visakh Shasikumar, CEO of Pi Beam Electric, Shashank Reddy, from Founder VC, 100X.VC, and Prof. L S Ganesh, Retd DOMS, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras” 

You can watch the complete video here.