How To Make Your Startup Survive The Corona Virus Onslaught

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By Major Sunil Shetty, SM (Retd), CEO at

Unprecedented times demand ‘out of the ordinary’ response. As over a Billion, Indians brace up for three weeks lockdown, necessitated due to the ‘Corona Virus’, also known as COVID-19, established business, startups, and their employees find themselves in uncharted territory.

The Wuhan Virus has caused total disruption to people’s lives- globally not to forget thousands of untimely deaths.

It is the startups, primarily early-stage and bootstrapped, gig-economy workers, and urban poor who are finding themselves in a precarious situation- having to decide between sustenance or survival.

The situation is no better for funded and cash flow positive startup and business as they are experiencing a different set of challenges.

Companies are complaining about stranded supplies and non-uniform implementation of orders by law-enforcing authorities. Add to this; the ever-changing government rules and notifications that are trying to be ahead in the race against the Corona Virus.

Humankind has never witnessed anything like this before; thus, there is no experience to fall back on. Each new learning becomes a rule, and each failed attempt becomes new learning.

To survive the Chinese Virus crisis, governments, societies, people, companies, startups, and their employees have to come together and fight as one unit.

Indian startup Enablers and thought leaders have come together to join forces to support the startup community. Here are a few thoughts shared by leaders during the webinar- “business continuity amidst COVID-19” organized by Invest India.

1. Synergizing the energies of startup community:  Invest India, the National Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency, launched a fully integrated “Business Immunity Platform” (Bi-Platform) to help businesses and investors get real-time updates on India’s active response to COVID-19.”

Deepak Bagla, CEO of Invest India, speaking at the webinar “business continuity amidst COVID-19”, said actual business “problems are being sorted out,” be it “stranded trucks with inflammable material” or companies that have supplies but are looking for assistance to connect with the buyers.

The Bi-platform is helping in “supply chain movement,” and “everything that is related to business is happening on this platform.” The platform is “designed as a comprehensive resource to help businesses and investors get real-time updates on India’s active response to COVID-19.”

Since its launch, the platform has attracted traffic from over 40 countries and 30k visitors. Entrepreneurs and enablers should register on the platform to connect, collaborate to offer, and receive assistance and support.

The Bi-platform will soon carry a matrix displaying various demands, such as ventilators, masks, etc. from central and state governments and suppliers who can fulfill the supplies.

2. Thoughtful & Swift action: According to Rajan Anandan, MD of Sequoia Capital, “the only thing” founders “can guarantee is the annual plan” they “had two weeks ago is not valid anymore.”

Thus, his advice to entrepreneurs is to “think through various scenarios” that might impact their business in the coming several months and not just weeks.

Rajan cautions startups from assuming that their business will restart from the point where it halted due to the Corona Virus crisis. Thus, entrepreneurs will have to “act thoughtfully, take right calls, and swift action.

Each startup has its set of the challenge; thus, they need to tailor their response in line with their business requirement and a mentor at this stage can do wonders.

3. Dispassionate analysis and tough calls:

Vani Kola, MD of Kalaari, says, the need of the hour is to make a dispassionate analysis of the current state of your startup and take tough calls even if it means- merging your startup with another venture.

Sooner then later, startups will come face to face with the reality-survive at any cost. At that time, the only way out of this crisis would be to “consolidate for survival and use of capital towards collective pooling,” says Vani.

She further adds to take such calls entrepreneurs “would require support and help to think through.”

A few other options, that founders can explore, are pulling a plug on a favorite project or “letting go of a resource that might be valuable but not affordable,”at this hour.

4. Reset Mindset and business model:  It is time entrepreneurs reset their thought process when it comes to their business model.

According to Rajan, with the slow down of the investment landscape in India, entrepreneurs will have to rethink their “growth models.” It can no longer be the model of scale that has worked during the past decade.

Rajan’s advice to entrepreneurs is to find “new growth muscles” that are “based on viable unit economics” and “thoughtful growth model.”

5. A leader becomes Great During Crisis: Great leaders are born during a crisis. The global lockdown, due to the Corona Virus, and its impact may be irreversible for many startups.

In these challenging times, founders need to plan for various possible scenarios and how their business and people depended on it can emerge out of this with the least negative impact. Vani’s advice to leaders across the society is “whenever there is a crisis, what do we ask of any leader-transparency, extensity, communication, and empathy.”

As we fight through the crisis, let’s remind ourselves of the great Vedic saying, “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – The World is One Family.” A collective mindset is the need of the hours. Each will have to create space, share resources, and pray for the well being of the fellow human being.


About Author: 

The author is an Indian army veteran, entrepreneur and a war journalist. He now runs Askmentor, a platform to facilitate networking between mentors and mentees. It is a professional social network that matches entrepreneurs to advisors and resources. Wantrepreneurs and Entrepreneurs, irrespective of the stage of their idea, can connect with the author at