Representing NASSCOM product forum as Speaker | Startup Xperts

Planning for right business strategy is better than failing to plan. 

A NASSCOM report states that the Indian Startup ecosystem is likely to grow 4-fold by 2020; total number of startups is likely to grow to 11,500+ by 2020, from about 3000+ as of last year.  Though as an entrepreneur, you have the flexibility in terms of work schedules, more important is to keep your commitment levels up to ensure higher probability of success. Every one of us likes to win, but does your initiative have an effective strategy?

Goal setting is something most often startups do not do.  Few of them do set goals, but those are just unrealistic.  Choose your markets, your customers, profiles, based on the limited resources that you have.  Pick what you want to achieve.  What you crave to do, have to get captured in your goals. 

Realistic goal setting is the first step, before looking at moving forward.  Anything that does not get measured does not get done.  Simple! If you and your team do not know what to do and by when complete, then how do you plan to achieve?

Create a differentiator.  How well you are able to differentiate against your competition, matters a lot to your customer.  You don’t need to be miles ahead to win a race, but just nose ahead!  You will have to analyze, brainstorm, to figure out unique strength that your initiative possesses, and whether that strength can bring tangible benefits to your customers.

Usually for product companies it could be speed, user friendliness, features, functionality, etc. 

For services/solution companies it could be your domain knowledge, expertise, customer relationship, post services delivery support, etc. 

If there are none to start with, the same need to be created through some expert consultants/mentors/advisors, as it forms the pillar to your business build-up.

Pitch through multiple offers. If you are running a product company, showcase to your prospects/customers about good, better and best products as they can see value that you have crafted in segmenting those offerings.  Likewise in services, you can provide multiple levels of services (where applicable).  These are best practices that you usually see in airline, hotel, banking industries, etc. 

Building a team is easier said than done.  As a startup you will have less time to deliver results; you have limited resources and so attracting talent through higher compensation may not be feasible.  Decide who you want to bring to the table, and as Jim Collins rightly puts it ‘have the right person in the right seat’!  Pick people who are passionate in building your venture and compensation strategy can include a mix of salary and stocks (you need to showcase your company value and what it could deliver in a few years time if folks are to be attracted to stocks in today’s world).  You can also plan to have a long term incentives (retention bonus) for early stage employees, as that will help in retaining good talent for a longer period; it also helps employees plan their career with you with a long term in perspective.

It is equally important to ensure that your team is in sync with your vision. Having the bigger picture in their mind, will help them relate to your organizational goals, vision and aspirations.  This is one of the core ingredients, but not practiced with most organizations. Have clear actionable items identified, tasks assigned and every individual accountable for their actions.

Have a well thought on Digital Marketing Strategy for startup.  In today’s world, the boundaries established by traditional/large corporate is getting thinner with the digital entrants.  Digital strategy can be powerful if you know how to use it right, and that will help your venture create value; else you may end up losing value as well. A good Social Media Strategy will help you position your entity better in the eyes of your customers.  It’s all about customer/prospect’s mind share. 

SEO and SEM can provide strong ammunition in your battle against competition, but the Digital Marketing Strategy has to fit well to your budgets and aspirations. You might not have to be an expert in building your business digitally.  In which case you will need to decide if it is right to delegate your ‘digital agenda’ to digital marketing evangelists, or to a digital marketing specialist company? Digital marketing is very cost effective and impactful as well.

Under digital marketing strategy, you can look at doing Email marketing for your products/services.  Email marketing is very powerful and advantages, numerous.  Refer: for more interesting insights.

Define your partnership strategy.  Seek and build alliances who can sell your products or services.  Having committed alliances is multiplying your sales force that many times.  It’s a very powerful strategy and as a product company you can derive significant mileage that can build up big time, over time.

De-risking Strategy should be in place.  Strategy is not about taking big risks, but rather how well you are de-risking yourself from large opportunities, does matter.  This is very critical in valuation, especially when the investors look at how well you have de-risked your business against financial, legal and business risk factors.

Yet other key factor is your ability to change.  As a startup with limited resources, the margin of error is thin.  More importantly mistakes do happen when you are building an enterprise.  Boardroom planning is good but you will find things different especially when the rubber hits the road.  It is the ability to quickly react, being agile, have systems that will take care of those issues in future, decides whether your startup is built to last.

One common mistake most startups do is their inability to wait to see results.  You do not keep checking root of a plant by plucking it on a daily basis to check their growth.  It will not only kill the plant, but all your efforts in vain in growing that.   You need to have check points and monitor progress, but not impatient enough in not seeing through to completion.  I know of some companies who just shuts their effective business development team especially when the close is very near, just because it did not meet their anticipated timelines (many a times, unrealistic).  Awful, as a month or two could have made hell of a difference to their business outlook and opportunities!

How to manage your sales process? Part 1

The business of selling, in much of the corporate world, is perceived as a function to which business targets (sales quotas in strict sales-speak!) are handed down, with the expectation that they will be achieved somehow. Sales was perceived as a profession that is invariably personality driven: it is very common for field sales representatives to be viewed as a flamboyant individual who uses the ‘power look’ to intimidate prospects, or uses ‘closing techniques’ to make the prospect sign on the dotted line. In short, sales was perceived as more of an art, rather than as a science.

Although service delivery capabilities and functional expertise is very critical to any business, without the right sales efforts, nothing gets achieved. It is a no-brainer that without sales there are no revenues and hence no growth. Sales, which is such is a critical function, is often not managed in the right perspective. Just pushing the target down the throat does not work anymore. As said before, it is more of an art and there are very few professionals in the industry today who not only understands the sales secrets, but who also able to manage their sales team far more effectively and build high impact enterprises.

Every organization cannot excel in their sales process. More often than not, start-ups, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) will observe that bringing in the right sales talent is one of the most common challenges they face. This challenge becomes more evident when the founders of such organizations come from a strong technology/operations/service delivery background.

With no in-house sales ‘expertise’, the question that comes to anyone’s mind will be – can the sales process be outsourced?

The answer to the question above is a ‘Yes’, as well as a ‘No’!

To understand more about when Sales Process Outsourcing (SPO) can work, and when it cannot, we need to break down the general sales process into various phases, and relate each phase to the organisation’s specific product, service or solution. The objective of this exercise will be to understand how amenable a particular phase will be to outsourcing. Depending on the nature of product or service, the complete sales process, or a few phases at the minimum, will lend itself to outsourcing.

Captured in the table below are the various phases of the sales process, and their amenability to outsourcing:

Sales Process Phase Suitability for Outsourcing Factors to consider before outsourcing
Lead generation through tele-calling A very common activity that is outsourced.
Can be streamlined significantly through the concept of ‘ideal customer profile’
Lead Qualification Can be completely outsourced for products and also solutions having a relatively straightforward functionality
Product Demonstration / Service pitch Where the solution being sold is complex, or lends itself to extensive customization to the prospect’s business needs, this is best done by the organization itself.
If it is a product or services pitch this process can be outsourced.
Proposal preparation As it applies to the Product Demonstration phase;
If it is a product / simpler service, can be managed through ready-made template that can customized for different prospects.
Negotiation/sales closure As it applies to the Proposal phase

From the table above, it is evident that by and large, the first two phases of the sales process (Lead Generation and Lead Qualification) are amenable to Sales Process Outsourcing. The next three phases, namely, Product Demonstration, Proposal preparation, Negotiation/sales closure lend themselves to outsourcing only when the type of solution offers a relatively well defined functionality, with almost no scope for customization. Typically, such solutions can also be sold online as it can be targeted towards self use type.

While contemplating the outsourcing of the lead generation and/or lead qualification process, it is worthwhile to use the concept of the ‘ideal customer profile’. The ideal customer, as the name implies, is a customer that an organisation would like to have in its client list. Even where the product or solution is complex, when the ideal customer profile is well defined, organizations can derive significant improvements in the productivity of their field sales force, since the outsourcing partner is broadly able to qualify leads that are fed into the sales pipeline. Field sales resources ultimately get to work on good quality leads when the ideal customer profile is well defined.

Sales process outsourcing will be a win-win scenario for both the outsourcing organisation and its outsourced partner, provided the ideal customer profile is well defined. Regardless of the product/solution/service focus of an outsourcing organisation, outsourcing their lead generation efforts, and after careful consideration of the complexities involved, other phases of their sales lifecycle will help them significantly improve the rate at which they win deals.

In Part 2 of this post, we will dwell upon a few scenarios where outsourcing various phases of the sales cycle will benefit an organisation.

Startup Xperts is a business growth consulting firm with an objective to transform CEO’s vision into achievable, actionable goals that deliver results. Our mission is to help companies to steeply accelerate their revenue growth, profitably. Be it family run business, small or medium enterprise or a boutique firm, Startup Xperts have all the right answers to step up their growth. Startup Xperts help clients in a range of service areas including business consulting, strategic consulting, sales and marketing consulting, digital marketing, Sales Process Outsourcing (SPO), HR, Operations and leadership training and coaching.

To know more about Startup Xperts, visit us at or write to us at

The views expressed in this article are that of the author’s and Startup Xperts is not responsible for this content. In case of any objection in content, IP violations, incorrect or inappropriate information, please inform us at We will do our best to act on it at the earliest.

Globally Recognized Certifications & Standards

Globalization has shrunk the world to an extent where we can see its impact in numerous instances in daily life. We use laptops and PCs for instance, which are assembled in China, with parts/subassemblies sourced from local and international manufacturers spread across the globe. When an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) depends on a globally spread supply chain, it becomes imperative to ensure that the suppliers adhere to a well defined set of quality standards and organizational best practices.

Best practices that have an impact across the organization can fall under several functional areas: Quality Management, Environmental Safety, Organizational Health, Information Security, Process Improvement, Energy Management, Social Accountability, and so on.

Just as there are so many areas under which best practices can be categorized, organizations could look at several standards and certifications which establishes guidelines for managing their business effectively. In fact, for parts suppliers and manufacturers to compete in a global economy, they need to demonstrate their commitment to management excellence by getting accredited to globally recognized certifications as is relevant to their business.

Some of the most prominent globally recognized certifications that help organizations position themselves in the global marketplace are highlighted below.

(a) ISO 9001 – Quality Management System (QMS)

The ISO 9001 standard specifies the requirements for a Quality Management System where an organization is able to:

    • Consistently demonstrate its ability to provide products or services that meet customer expectations within the framework of applicable local/regional statutory & regulatory requirements
    • Ensure that its business processes are designed for continuous improvement through effective use of checks and balances to deliver products and services that meet customer expectations.

ISO 9001 standards have evolved over time, and in their current form, draw the focus towards achieving customer satisfaction. The accreditation process for ISO 9001 now measures the extent to which business processes as defined by the organization will be able to achieve customer satisfaction.

Benefits of ISO 9001 accreditation include:

  • Gives visibility to the senior management through an efficient quality management process
  • Clearly defines the areas of responsibility and accountability across the organization
  • Identifies and develops more efficient and time saving processes
  • Highlights process deficiencies, and thereby areas for continuous improvement
  • Reduces operational costs

(b) ISO 14001: Environmental Management Systems (EMS)

The ISO 14001 is a standard for environmental management systems applicable to all businesses. The objective of this standard is to reduce the environmental footprint of a business and to decrease the pollution and waste that a business produces.

The ISO 14001 standard can be adopted by any organization that seeks to improve the environmental impact of their business operations. This standard is of particular importance to large multi-national, multi-site companies, manufacturing, process and service industries across all industry sectors.

The benefits of ISO 14001 accreditation include:

  • A more proactive and measured process for environmental sustainability across the supply chain
  • Enhanced levels of waste reduction
  • Enhanced level of employee health and welfare
  • Reduced impact of business operations to the surrounding environment
  • Adherence to regulatory requirements on environmental impact

(c) ISO 27001 : Information Security Management Systems (ISMS)

The ISO 27001 standard is largely targeted towards IT/Software and Systems engineering companies. The information security controls in a business operation typically address important aspects of Information Technology or data security. In today’s connected world, information present in the IT infrastructure of organizations is one of the most valuable assets. Information assets are held by organizations on behalf of their customers, by virtue of providing them business services

It thus becomes imperative for organizations to ensure that:

There exists a robust process to examine the organization’s information security risks, taking account of the threats, vulnerabilities and impacts
Designs and implements a coherent and comprehensive suite of information security controls and/or other forms of risk treatment (such as risk avoidance or risk transfer) to address those risks that it deems unacceptable
Adopts an overarching management process to ensure that the information security controls continue to meet the organization’s information security needs on an on-going basis

(d) Organizational Health and Safety Assessment Standard (OHSAS) 18001

The OHSAS 18001 is a non-ISO standard which deals with how Occupational Health and Safety of employees, contractors and visitors in an organization is effectively managed. The OHSAS standard draws attention of organizations to the potential risks/occupational health and safety hazards that persons can encounter during the course of their duties in the organization. It also helps organizations identify the regional regulatory and legislative requirements with respect to Occupational Health and Safety

The OHSAS standard is compatible with ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 standards, and can hence be approached from the traditional Plan-Do-Check-Act sequence of implementation.

Organizations accredited to the OHSAS standard derive the following benefits:

  • Reduce the exposure of employees and other parties to occupational
  • health and safety risks associated with their business activities
  • Potential reduction in resultant costs
  • Greater assurance of conformance with occupational health and safety guidelines
  • Demonstration of conformance to third parties, and of due diligence generally
  • Consistent and proven management approach to health and safety, present and future
  • Deployment of method for continual improvement of the occupational health and safety management system

(e) Software Engineering Institute – Capability Maturity Model (SEI-CMM)

The CMM Process Improvement & Certification process enables software product organizations and software services companies to benchmark their processes at five levels:

  • Level 1-Initial: Processes unpredictable and poorly managed
  • Level 2-Managed: Processes defined by nature of projects and is reactive
  • Level 3-Defined: Processes defined by the organization, and are reactive
  • Level 4-Quantitatively Managed: Processes are measured and controlled
  • Level 5-Optimizing: Organisational focus is on process improvement; defect prevention

Each of these levels could be attributed to software product companies, in which case the applicable model is referred to as CMMI-Product & Service Development (CMMI-DEV). Where it is to be attributed to Software Services, it is referred to as CMMI-Service Acquisition and Management (CMMI-SVC).

The certifications mentioned above some of the most prominent ones that apply to a wide spectrum of industries. There are other certifications, sometimes derived/extended from the parent ISO QMS that deal with Energy Management, Safety in Food Manufacturing, etc. Likewise, organizations could also look at Six Sigma based approaches for process improvement.

The common denominator amongst all certification programs is that they demonstrate the existence of well-defined management approaches to running all the business processes in an organization. By virtue of being globally recognized, these certifications help organizations position themselves in the global supply chain.

Startup Xperts is a Business Growth and Consulting company with an objective to transform CEO’s growth vision into realistic, strategic, actionable plans that delivers results. Startup Xperts supports enterprises through business strategies, goal setting, sales and marketing set up, developing a high performance sales engine, digital marketing, specialized trainings, executive coaching and leadership hiring. Whether the organization wishes to move forward with ISO / CMM certification or have systems and processes that are world class, equivalent to ISO/CMM standards, Startup Xperts provides its expertise in getting these organizations ready for this initiative in a highly efficient and a cost effective way.

How to find the right mentor for your startup? 9 things to be considered

With numerous startups coming up every other day all over the world, there is a definite need for startup consultant. The requirement and demand has never been so much, and one of the primary reasons that entrepreneurs looks for a good mentor is to ensure that nothing goes wrong during their startup journey.

Unlike other services, are startup mentors easily available? Can they add value? Can they increase the success ratio of the aspiring entrepreneurs or startup founders? The answer actually has two sides;

One who has ‘been there, done that’ kind of professionals are too busy in their own stream of things. Being an entrepreneur themselves it is hard for them to find time to dedicate to many startups who seek their advice. So those, while still being busy, who are able to spend a fraction of their time with your idea, your product, your vision, are a smaller fraction of these ‘available’ mentors. So it is best to figure out if they are available and can they really spend that quality time with you to build your dreams.

Now, the next question will be how to find the right startup mentor?

It is not a simple way to just look for and asking someone. You will need to be clear as to what you wish to accomplish; what your strengths are; where do you exactly need the support of a mentor; what aspects do you feel that the mentor should look at while are you busy building your vision, your entity; and many more.

Well, the reason you are looking for a good mentor is to help you avoid those pitfalls which you may fail to notice. The following are some pointers that I have usually shared with so many young entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs for how to choose a right startup mentor.

Need business or technical mentor?

Founders come with their own unique skills; while some have deep technical/technological expertise, while some may be finance experts. So you will need to be clear as to how you wish your mentor to bring those complimentary skills. A business mentor need not necessarily be from your area of expertise/domain, unless you need someone who you would like to contribute technically or technologically.

Powering your thought process:

A good mentor should also act as a ‘devil’s advocate’; should shoot the right questions at you to power your thinking process. They can help transform your team’s thought process. A good mentor should also be ready to push out of your comfort zones, whenever required.

Mentor in your city or anywhere?

There are some requirements that work best with a local mentor, based in your own city. But when either you are unable to find the right one, and if you are fine with a mentor outside of your city/town, it is fine to look for a mentor who is based in a distant location as long as that mentor can add value to your business. Even in the same city, meetings may not happen often. Second, with the technology transformation, you are connected to anyone, anytime, everywhere. So connections and communication has become so seamless it may be a good idea to rope in a right mentor outside of your base location too.

But then how to track and bring them on board?

There are a number of avenues today to spot a right mentor. You can either Google; or keep looking for the right person in various networking events, conferences, and other communities. Quickly prepare a list and do the following;

Follow their social profiles:

You can get to know about them if you can spend some time in LinkedIn or Twitter for example. Get to know their interests and their areas of expertise. Are they personalities who wish to contribute something back, to our society? Understand what motivates them to be in this business.

Be convincing: 

After squaring in on the right mentor, send them a professional note or mail seeking their mentorship. Your mail should look professional without mistakes; grammar errors are fine as we are not an English speaking country (yet) but it should not be carelessly composed. It is like making a ‘statement of purpose’ which you might have done in your college days.

Give them a good reason, as to why they should act as your mentor. Pick the phone and start a conversation. You will emerge with more clarity as to whether to sign up with that mentor or not.

Building relationship is the key to successful mentoring. Mentoring is built on trust and respect for mutual strengths. Mentoring should not be treated as just another casual or commercial transaction. Respect their time and consider that you are getting benefited because of their involvement in your entity.

How to strike an engagement deal?

There can be numerous ways to engage a mentor. It can be a non-commercial understanding and with a good relationship you can get things going. Or it can be a small commercial, incentive driven, with commitment to time spends clearly agreed upon.

There have been numerous instances that startups come with the proposal in terms of providing equity to get me on-board as their mentor/advisor. Though I have refused so many earlier, this also does have some merit if you look at it as a win-win value proposition. Just make sure that there is a cultural fit with that mentor, as he is like your co-founder sailing with your company for long. Once taken on-board, it will be difficult to push him/her out.

Move ahead with clear commitment to time slots, goals, milestones, to ensure that there are no misunderstandings or realizing the gap later between what was expected and what was achieved?

Not having the right mentor can make or break your idea or your startup. Mentors bring in a lot of wisdom, experience, insight, and their aspiration is also to see you through emerging successfully. So even if you are running your startup, enterprise (small or big) successfully it is always advisable to rope in good mentors, as advisors, for your business growth.

Startup Xperts is a business accelerator supporting startups, small medium enterprises, boutique firms, by driving their go-to-market strategies, digital marketing, smart sales initiatives, to accelerate their revenue growth.

To know more about Startup Xperts, visit us at or write to us at

The views expressed in this article are that of the author’s and Startup Xperts is not responsible for this content. In case of any objection in content, IP violation, incorrect or inappropriate information, please inform us at We will do our best to act on it at the earliest.