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Finding Opportunity

May 26, 2020 | Essay by MicroMentor member Vibhas Sen

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Vibhas Sen

Vibhas Sen is a strategic marketing consultant and Paralympian. He has previously worked with MetLife India & Dentsu Aegis Network in various marketing roles over the last 14 years. He is an alumni of IIMC & Mumbai University. Currently, he is consulting startups in brand & marketing. Vibhas is a frequent TedX Speaker speaking on various accessibility issues and a Sport Diplomat.

Read more from Vibhas in his latest Medium article, Every Startup Pivots.

See Vibhas's profile on MicroMentor here.

It's not the destination but the journey.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Being a mentor on MicroMentor, I didn't expect I would be helping businesses pivot and succeed during these challenging times. Mentoring someone with a business plan and guiding them with marketing strategy is totally different then pivoting a business. The dynamics are very different—a wrong pivot would make struggling businesses disappear—with no second chances.

A mentor's responsibility, unlike an advisor or consultant, is typically on the individual and not on a specific task or performance. You need to guide the decision maker in taking the right & calculated steps, thereby keeping him focused on the objective and keeping him motivated throughout the process.

I was lucky to get such an opportunity when I was introduced to a startup in appliances rental.

I met my mentee in early January 2020—the problem statement was very simple: he was facing a growth issue after being in business for 3 years. After a lot of coffee & brainstorming together we finally put together an action plan in late February for the next financial year, starting in April.

And then Covid-19 happened. This kind of pandemic cannot be planned in any crisis management handbook. Being an appliances rental startup, this business was not an essential category.

We knew this was going to change the business plan & category we were in. We went to the drawing board & in 5 days reworked the action plan with the objective of pivoting to a model which would have least impact on the business revenue. We wanted to make sure the pivoting was a smooth process and integrated easily with the existing brand positioning and values.

This laid the bed for the marketing re-strategy and a new line of business was put in play. Instead of renting out any appliances and returning them back at the end of the rental duration, we decided to combine a rental & buying model—more like EMI in nature but with maintenance & other cost included in the offering—with a total saving of 23% at the end of the renting period which includes the customer owning the product.

The team made a very solid operation plan along with a focused and highly targeted marketing strategy to make sure the margins were as high as possible to maintain viability of the business without worrying about cash flow.

The entire backend was set up in the record 8 days and the business was able to resume in exactly 3 weeks from India’s announcement of the lockdown.

The business just completed 1 month of operation and the Average Revenue Per User has increased by 40%. They have in-fact over-achieved their pre-COVID target for the whole quarter in a single month with a plan of hiring more employees and ramping up warehouse capacity to handle the demand.

So my question to all entrepreneurs is—are you sitting on your hands trying to figure out if the glass is half-empty or half-full? Or are you seizing that opportunity and drinking that glass of water?