Founders Handbook 2019

Entrepreneurs build successful business, despite the odds

I joined TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) a global organization as a Chartered Member in the year 2005. As part of my membership obligation, I started mentoring startup founders and since then I would have met hundreds of entrepreneurs who approached me to get clarity on their uncertainty, identify the direction appropriate for their business as well as personal life and develop a definitive roadmap for their business success.

While interacting with all these entrepreneurs and also been an entrepreneur myself, we all want the same things; we want to deliver a strong customer value proposition, pursue a differentiated strategy, develop a better understanding of the market, hire and build a strong team, and raise capital. But, their approach to achieving these results are quite contrasting.

In my quest to discover the persona of these entrepreneurs, I found a verse in the Bhagavad Gita that I could relate to:
“In this world, there is a two-fold path, as I said before, O blameless One (Arjuna), the path of knowledge for men of contemplation and the path of work for men of action.” //3.3//

Let’s call them Gyanyogi and Karmyogi.

Even though they look similar, speak similarly do the things similarly, they are separate from each other in their approach to work and life.

A Gyanyogi Entrepreneur will find comfort in the path of peace, his journey will be inward to the self, knowledge will be his ammunition and attaining success through wisdom will be his goal. Most of the scientists, scholars, and researchers achieved their success working on their ideas and solving it to build a meaningful solution. Ratan Tata, Narayana Murthy, Bill Gates are popular Gyani entrepreneurs.

A Karmyog Entrepreneur, on the other hand, would prefer the path of power, his journey would be to conquer the world, energy will be his ammunition and attaining success by becoming powerful will be his goal. Dhirubhai Ambani and Subhash Chandra are popular Karmyogi entrepreneurs.

There are enough pieces of evidence of all sort of people succeeding in the business leveraging their respective geniuses. I believe you can too by following these simple rules:

Spend time engaging in the provocative questions not just finding the answers. There are umpteen number of people ready to hand over the answers if you are able to ask the right questions.

Search and question what you are skipping and ask yourself why? Entrepreneurship is hard — whenever faced with the difficulties question yourself to get what is that one thing which will get you where you want to be.
Someone has done your version of success before – emulate their beliefs, habits and maximize on their strengths. Avoid their flaws and costly mistakes.
Siddhartha met a merchant. Looking at him, the merchant asked “Everyone can do something. What can you?”
Siddhartha’s replied to the merchant:
“I can think” –good decision-making and asking good questions
“I can wait” – plan long-term, be patient
“I can fast” – be able to withstand pain and be resilient
You too can think. You too can wait. You too can fast.
Just do it!

Every entrepreneur starts their business because they feel they have the ideas, inventions, creations, messages, technologies, products, services, archetypes, frameworks, platforms or communities which once launched will change the world. And you find these ideas:

Pursuing your passion for the specific interest and honing your talents, skills, and abilities to deliver better results and monetize what you love. You believe that you enjoy doing it and you will draw a great sense of fulfillment and satisfaction while doing it. You draw the inspiration from the popular quote from Confucious “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”

The greatest ideas are born when you face life challenges, solve it and sell it to others who may be facing similar challenges in their life. The only caveat here is that there exists a significant number of people facing a similar problem else it becomes the problem of few and you’ll find it difficult to scale.

Fueled with the advancements in technology and the emergence of newer technologies such as Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Biotechnology, robotics, etc. our future is going to be substantially different than what you see today. If you can do some future gazing and spot future opportunities, you can build a high-value business idea today.

Entrepreneurs also get their ideas while working on something side by or helping someone. When you keep doing things and constantly improve it over a period of time and that helps you build something so significant that you can build a highly successful business out of your continuous work.

Sometimes, business ideas also come when you experience things during your travel, holiday or actively participating in the events. When you apply your skills and creativity to convert such experiences, you can build a wildly successful business.

Whatever may be the source of your ideas when you convert it into a market-ready product solving a real problem of your target customer with excellent execution and passion for success, you can revolutionize an industry, create wealth and change the world.

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The Business Model is your product

We are living in a ‘surplus society’. Everything you need is offered by similar businesses producing similar things having access to similar resources with no remarkable difference in the pricing or quality.

You must be thinking:

  • Is there any opportunity which is worth pursuing and investing your time, money and resources?
  • How can you still create a great idea which will offer a strong value proposition that customer can’t resist?
  • How can you attract a continual stream of business leads and business opportunities?
  • How can you stay competitive to position your business so compelling that your customers continues buying it from you?
  • How can you monetize your customers by selling them more and offering them other complimentary products and services?
  • And, how can you cost-effectively and efficiently get more things done every day to remain competitive, offer better value, and maximize your profit?

Yes, you can.

The purpose of this guide is to help you find the secret formula that when applied together with the excellent execution, your entrepreneurial dream will lead you to achieve the success you deserve.

At this point in time, I want you to do a bit of day dreaming. I want you to think of the day when you’ll be introducing your idea to the world. You’d be tweeting about your launch. Knowing the limitations of introducing your idea in less than 280 words, how would you like to introduce your business to the world so that when they read it, they must feel “wow”. They can’t stop visiting your website or checking it out?
Use the template below to introduce your idea.

Don’t worry too much about it. Just use the best of your creativity and imagination to write the most compelling tweet to introduce your startup.

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The Big Picture

A little girl was drawing in her empty book. She was fully focused and rarely looked away from the paper.
“What are you doing?” asked her father, curiously looking over her shoulder.
“I’m drawing a picture of God.”
Her father frowned, “But people don’t know what he looks like?”
“Well, they will know now”, replied the girl.

Most of us think about drawing as a way of representing something in a graphic form. Therefore, we persuade ourselves that we cannot draw well and give up the right to draw.

Drawing is a great way for capturing thoughts, exploring ideas, and then sharing those ideas with others. It gets ideas out of your head into a form that is easy to sort, share and document for your research. Drawing even a simple representation of an idea makes you think through a lot of details.

This exercise focuses on considering the aspects or bigger picture around the issue, task or need, by painting an artistic masterpiece reflecting the notable proportions of your idea and future vision. Break through to bring your concept to life early to figure out how you might take an idea further.

On successfully completing this exercise, you will be able to:

  • Get a first tangible expression of your idea
  • Increase your range of vision and establish framework to take the first step into an empty space
  • Show your dream to rest of the world and make it happen

Case Example:

Getting you inspired – below is a sketch of Uber’s user experience. Simple, right? If you don’t know how to sketch, don’t worry – draw whatever you can. The goal is to let out your thinking into the real world.

Action: Draw your Big Picture!

Allow your imagination to soar beyond context and boundaries. You can follow the below mentioned steps for drawing your Big Picture

  • Get into the settings where you find your creative best. Identify when your best creative hours are. For most people, its a few hours after they wake up
  • Brainstorm and ask questions  like –
  • What will make people feel great when they will use my product?
  • Is it going to solve the real-world problem?
  • Try to speak to an expert in the field and discuss whether your big picture is correctly conveying your business idea/ product.
  • Erase all “what ifs” and close your negative thoughts.

Make a copy using Google Docs-> File->Make a copy option. Draw the sketch that presents your product out in the real world.

Additional Tips:

  • Leave all your emotions and imagination on the canvas
  • Sketch it first and color later
  • If needed, ask a trusted friend for help
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The 5 Whys – Digging deep into the root cause of the problem

Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. Answering “Why” gets you to the root cause of the problem. It allows you to go beyond the obvious answers and solve things on a deeper level. It is the key to your business.

Though this exercise might sound simple, but it requires thought and intelligent application in order to find the right Why? questions to ask, as well as the discipline and persistence to follow the method.

This exercise requires a lot of practice. But the more you use and apply it and the more you practice it, the more you’ll begin to find the real underlying (root) causes of problems. This method is extremely valuable and powerful to get you started.

On successfully completing this exercise, you will be able to:

  • Establish links between the root causes and surface problems with little required preparation
  • Gain an understanding of complex issues
  • Classify problems and solutions as either internal or external

Case Example:

Teemium is a technological platform that bridges the gap between college students and companies in terms of job opportunities. For the students, it aims to find a job as per their skills, abilities and career choice and for the companies it helps to get the right candidate for the right job.

Problem Statement: Only 20% of the candidates are hired through campus placement

Why?       Because it is difficult to connect with colleges
Why?       Poor response from colleges
Why?       Lack of placement management system
Why?      The college management cannot make the team accountable for placements
Why?       The team is not incentivize appropriately

Action: Define your 5 Whys!

Dig down deep into what the actual reasons are for a problem or what the problem actually is. You can start on the following lines to get your 5 Whys

  • Define the problem. Write down the identified problem to focus on possible solutions.
  • Ask “Why” did the problem happen? Write the possible answer
  • Again ask “Why” addressing the possible answer that you have written for the previous Why?
  • Repeat it for 5-6 times till you get to the root of the problem
  • Tip: Always write the first thing that come to you mind each time you ask “Why”

Make a copy using Google Docs-> File->Make a copy option. Start with your 5 Whys using the below mentioned format.

Additional Tips:

  • Don’t jump to a solution when presented with a problem
  • Look at the big picture and improve your ability to arrive at the root cause
  • Analyze the results and form relationships between answers
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Getting Started: Build Right Product for Right Customers

Ask anyone, and they will tell you that the only three important factors that can drive a significant portion of business success are:

1) Making your product so interesting that you can sell
2) Making your product create significant customer interest so that customer can buy
3) Making your product so compelling that your customer is willing to pay

Start identifying your customers, their demographics, and the pain points you wish to address through your solutions. Your aim should be to also visualize whether the customer you have identified is a decision maker, buyer, influencer, user or a recommender.


To scale efficiently and effectively, expansion stage companies need to focus their efforts not on a broad universe of potential customers, but rather on a specific subset of customers who are most similar to their best current customers. The key to doing so is through customer segmentation. The OpenView article Customer Segmentation: A Guide explains why customer segmentation is important.

Action: Identify Customer Segments

approach customer segmentation exercise with the aim to discover potential customers who are most most likely connect with the problem you aim to solve through your ideas

  • Identify the broad level under which you will categorise the customer. For example, undergraduate students, any family with income up to 50000 per month, etc.
  • Classify the customer demographic such as age, gender, income, nationality, etc
  • Define the pain point that you are solving for the customer segment
  • Name the customer if you can imagine anyone in your surrounding or reference
  • Answer the question why you feel the named person is your ideal customer and how you will reach out to them to validate your hypothesis.

Make a copy using Google Docs-> File->Make a copy option.

Additional Tips:

  • Be as realistic as possible.
  • If you are not sure about the real customer, search the internet for the exact buyers of the similar product or services. You can consult your friends for help
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Seize the Market Opportunity with Competitive Landscape Analysis

You have identified your customer segments and the pain points you are going to address through your product or service for them. Now, you need to define the competitive landscape to see how your competition is addressing those points, what would be the cost and efforts they’d need to catch up for addressing the pain points better than you do.

Your aim should be to know the competitors whom you’d face when you launch your product in the marketplace:
– How quickly will the competition catch up with you in solving the problem better than you?
– How will they seize your size through pricing, positioning, and marketing?
– What else would they do to achieve better customer success?

Do the SWOT analysis to benchmark with your product offering and know where you stand against the competition. Your aim should be to derive the solution hypothesis that will keep you ahead of the competitive value curve and help you capitalize the market opportunity to move ahead of your competition.

Action: Identify three Competitors!

Prepare the line of action you need to emphasize for making your business superior to the competition

  • Research the internet to find the businesses addressing the problem
  • Go