Home / Specials / Lessons In Entrepreneurship /  Timing of starting out is very important

“I don’t believe in taking right decisions. I take decisions and make them right." This quote by Ratan Tata has been my mantra as an entrepreneur for the past few years. I have always believed it’s better to do something, even if it fails, than not doing anything. When you are comfortable with your handsome salary and a stable job, it becomes difficult to take the first step—a plunge into entrepreneurship—and that’s where most of the aspiring entrepreneurs fail. Once you take the plunge, then there’s no failure, there’s only learning. Immense learning.

In my 10 years of professional career, I have been involved with five start-ups—both as an entrepreneur and an intrapreneur. But it was only in my last venture, Letsbuy.com, that I could experience the complete lifecycle of a business. Even though I could only run it for two-and-a-half years before Flipkart acquired us in February 2012, providing successful exit to all the stakeholders, I had the learning of a lifetime. I had lost the fear of failure. After getting dejected for numerous times, I tasted success that firmed up my belief in not giving up until you succeed. The learning gave me strength to refuse a million-dollar job offer for a dream to build something bigger now.

Fear of failure makes you overcautious and then you start seeing more negatives than the positives. Thus, the timing of starting out is very important. You should list down the pros and cons of your business plan but shouldn’t over-analyse it or you may miss the opportunity. We started Letsbuy within a month of first thought of starting out with an e-commerce venture. We were clear that if we don’t do it then someone else will. We were confident about the market opportunity. And fortunately for us, timing played a very important role in our journey. Even though, when we started in 2009, it was not the perfect time to raise funds and we had to struggle for 18 months before we raised our first round, we had gathered enough learning, which helped us in scaling up faster than anyone else in 2011. Letsbuy grew by 1,100% within a year of our first and only investment round, which made us attractive enough for acquisition.

I strongly believe that we could do so many things right at Letsbuy because of the numerous mistakes I had made in my previous ventures where I had co-founded the businesses but couldn’t conclude the journey. And with Letsbuy, I have only added to my list of mistakes and learning, which I would like to list.

1. Think big, start small. I wanted to build a 100-crore turnover company within three years before starting Letsbuy and ended up doing that. Now I blame myself of not thinking big enough. I wish I had a billion-dollar dream.

2. Raising capital is not a cool thing. Delay it as much as possible. Bootstrapping will make you wiser and prepared for the tough journey ahead.

3. Maintain a balance between scale and profitability. Your investors may push you to scale but don’t get into a trap where investor’s money becomes oxygen for your business.

4. Get a co-founder with whom you can spend more time than with your girlfriend or wife. I was fortunate enough to have great co-founders. It would have been difficult to build Letsbuy without them.

5. Hire people who are smarter than you and retain them.

6. Don’t delay in firing the bad sheep. Firing is as important as hiring.

7. Don’t get obsessed with competition. It may hamper innovation. Learn from your own mistakes and grow.

8. Stay focused. Be clear of your short, medium and long-term objectives and work diligently to achieve them.

9. Stay humble. What goes up comes down. It’s important to earn respect along with wealth. Make sure you maintain cordial relationships with your teammates, clients, vendors, investors, etc. Life is too short and you may need each other very soon.

Hitesh Dhingra is founder of LetsBuy.com. He also co-founded India’s largest online advertising network Tyroo.com and was a founding member at Quasar Media.

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