Scale up – The Power of Asking Session with Yamuna Sastry was organised by HEN India. Starting a business is the first step for any entrepreneur. Scale up is the next milestone that everyone awaits. Many questions arise during this process –
- What is needed to scale up?
- How do you prepare for this big step?
- How to find an investor?
- Are we really ready?
The list seems endless.
We invited Gita Ramanan, the Co-Founder – Design Café to talk about how to scaleup. She has been instrumental in exponentially growing her business. Beginning with just a team of 2 people, today Design Café has raised funds of INR 35 million. It has 1000 + employees across 3 different cities in India with over 5000 + completed projects.
Scale up is like Chasing a Dream
The initial days of business make a difference. Here a few key learnings from Gita’s experience –
Schedule your days
Business is about investing your time productively. It is important to budget your time on a calendar. Every activity needs to be accounted for. When you are working day and night for your business, it’s essential that you utilize your time effectively.
Grow your network
According to Gita, with over a decade of experience working for architectural firms, it was easy to obtain smaller interior projects. For bagging bigger projects, growing the business network was essential. It is how Gita prioritized to attend business networking events. This has played an important role in spreading the word about Design Café.
Surround yourself with like-minded people
Not everyone can understand your dreams and aspirations. It is common to see discouragement from close friends and relatives to pursue higher goals. That’s why, Gita and her set of like-minded friends, formed a small group called Entrepreneurial Think Tank. In this group, the members discussed openly their businesses. In her words, “we learn from our peers as much as we learn from reading or from online courses”. The support group has helped Gita and her friends to think big and gain from each other.
Prepare for Funding to scale up
According to Gita, one should answer these questions before thinking of funding–
- Do I really need funding?
- Why do I need funding?
Gita explains funding is needed when a business needs to aggressively scale up. For example, if a product with a minimum margin is viable only when it is produced in mass. Or when a tech-based company needs to reach to different sets of people in the world.
How to look for an investor?
There are thousands of investors in the business world today. It takes detailed research to know which investor suits your business. An investor with lifestyle business experience, will not be interested to invest in a B2B business.
Hence, it is important to know your investor before you approach them for funding needs. For Design Café, the investor was finalized after understanding who would show interest and understand an interior design company.
How to pitch to an investor?
Gita emphasizes on the importance of in-depth research before the pitching process. Once this process is done with precision, the major parts of a pitch shall include-
- What is your business?
- Why will the customer need your business?
- How will you make money from the business?
- How will you scale up?
- What is your team?
According to Gita, the above points contribute to a strong pitch. A well-researched pitch along with solid work experience played a vital role in bringing the funds to Design Café.
About Yamuna Sastry
Yamuna Sastry is the highly driven founder of CabDost. Started in the year 2015, CabDost is a social fin-tech startup. It mainly focusses on filing tax returns to the cab driver community in India. With Yamuna in the lead, the company has educated and raised the awareness of taxation to the cab drivers.
In about a span of 5 years, CabDost has filed 50000 tax returns with a TDS refund amounting to 10 crores. Apart from tirelessly working for the driver community, Yamuna and her team are continuously striving to grow their venture.
CabDost has been a part of Global Entrepreneurship Summits in the year 2017 and 2019. Yamuna was also a part of US State Department mentorship program. She has been conferred with NITI Aayog’s Women Transforming India award by the Vice-President of India Sri. Venkaiah Naidu.
Before stepping into the journey of entrepreneurship, Yamuna was in the corporate world with KPMG. She was then a professor at Rewa University where she has immensely contributed to forming of their curriculum.
Scaleup – The Power of Asking
Yamuna shared with us some great examples of ‘power of asking’ that led her forward in the journey to scaleup CabDost-
Asking the family
In India, moving away from the comfort zone is still not a norm. So, when Yamuna decided to start her own venture, talking to her family was the first step. Her father was not greatly convinced at her decision and took a step away from extending his support.
Yamuna had no other option but to turn to her mother for supporting her. This meant, asking her mother to move out with her. It was indeed her polite request and commitment that her mother agreed to be with her. She also sold cosmetics to sustain the living expenses during the initial days of CabDost
Asking to validate your idea
An idea takes you nowhere. It is only the validation of the idea that can allow you to dream big. For this stage, Yamuna headed out to the Bangalore International Airport to talk to cab drivers. She spoke to them daily to understand their awareness on taxation.
Then, to check her idea she called up her friend RJ Sowjanya. She requested her to talk about a free tax filing campaign of CabDost for the drivers. This was a stepping stone to validate the idea. With just a 45 second announcement on the radio, 180 drivers registered in the campaign. This meant a refund of INR 2 lakhs!