Category "Business"

While the online food and grocery stores are stepping up their operations to supply essentials to the masses, the overall food supply chain is battling a number of challenges to stay functional

4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Even as the country gears up to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the food supply chain for vegetables, fruits and other daily essentials is facing one of the worst setbacks in the mid of a national 21-day lockdown. With over 3,000 positive cases and counting, the central government’s call for a total lockdown has been a desperate attempt to control the pandemic that has already claimed thousands of lives across the globe.

While the online food and grocery stores are stepping up their operations to supply essentials to the masses, the overall food supply chain is battling a number of challenges to stay functional. These range from lack of regular supplies added pressure on agricultural and temperature-sensitive food storage and lack of manpower. Even as the end consumers and traders are bracing for the worst, here are the four factors that are redefining the food supply chain in the country, as it manages to cope with the pandemic and a global slowdown.

Ban on import-export

With the global health crisis accelerating, most countries have closed their borders, restricting passenger and cargo movement. Additionally, amid a complete lockdown, manufacturing and other industries remain shut, impacting trade and economy. This has largely affected international trade and the food supply chain that depended on the import and export of fruits and grains to edible oils and certain processed foods, resulting in a major scarcity for Indian consumers. Not to mention the loss of revenue due to a completely non-existent international supply chain.

Increased storage for perishables

The lockdown has caused delays in the supply chain, resulting in a slow movement of raw and processed food, including perishable items. Farmers are already battling the fear of wasted produce due to a near stagnant supply chain resulting in enhanced demand for adequate storage space and conditions for these. Apart from fruits and vegetables, other processed foods with a shorter shelf life are also occupying space in warehouses, both for temperature-controlled and regular storage.

Perception of scarcity among masses

The uncertainty and the delays in last-mile deliveries and the tendency to stock up supplies has led to a massive surge of demand which is adding more pressure to the already stressed supply food supply chain. Apart from fruits and vegetables, supplies such as bread, and ready to eat items with a shorter shelf life are also scarce while people continue to stock or save and bulk-buy whenever available. This is creating a bullwhip effect which in the long run is going to be detrimental on the purchasing and supply chain functions of companies and farmers because of the perceived demand.

Bottlenecks in last-mile delivery  

With the lockdown and fear of contracting the virus, there have been several bottlenecks in the overall supply chain, including a major shortage of manpower for logistic offices to manning warehouses. However, the biggest bottleneck has been the last-mile delivery areas. With the closure of district borders, extreme precautions at housing societies and serious lack of manpower, from truck drivers to on-field delivery boys, the last mile have been hampered, adding to the already stressed situation.

While the above factors are forcing logistics and supply chain networks to adapt and rise to the challenges, going forward in order to ensure that if a situation like this pandemic is to arise again companies across all sectors will be working on innovative ways with use of technology to smoothen the supply chain disruptions and have better visibility and communication.

The end goal ideally would be to ensure that the customer regardless of the situation has access to the products they require when they require it without the need of hoarding supplies.

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New laws have given business owners and entrepreneurs more flexibility, and these attorneys can help you figure out the best option for you.

1 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In a previous webinar, Entrepreneur contributors Mat Sorensen and Mark J. Kohler broke down five strategies to access retirement account funds. Those strategies included taking a loan from your 401(k), now that you’re allowed to take as much as $100,000 from that account. You can also take an early distribution from your retirement account, which you can pay back over three years without having it considered a distribution. A riskier option called 60-day rollover allows you to take money out and (importantly) put it back in within 60 days. 

Related: Free Webinar – How to Access Your Retirement Account Funds Under The New Stimulus Act

Viewers had a few important questions about these urgent ways to access retirement account funds now, and in this video, Sorensen and Kohler address those questions directly in a 20-minute Q&A format. Check out the full video for more great financial advice you can use to get through these difficult times.  

Related: 8 Ways Business Owners Can Take Advantage of the Federal Stimulus Package

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Join Neil Gordon, a communication consultant, as he discusses best practices when changing up your brand’s messaging.

2 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

With the COVID-19 scare changing the way we all do business only several weeks ago, established companies are now scrambling to adapt to a whole new and sudden shift in meeting customers’ needs. And with existing offers already in place and ready to be sold, it can be tempting to simply make those same offers and hope for the best. But given how people are now buying for very different reasons, how is a company supposed to pivot their messaging without redoing their entire business model from scratch?

A brand is defined not by the offers it makes but the impact it has. And a successful pivot comes from the business’s leaders having clarity around this underlying impact. When it does, they can adapt their messaging to address a different problem the customer now has but still make their original offer – or at least a slightly modified version of their original offer. Then, as they address this need in the short-term, they have the option to build out other offers as a part of a longer-term strategy.

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Join Neil Gordon, a communication consultant who focuses on helping clients deliver compelling messages, as he discusses best practices when changing up your brand’s messaging.

Attendees will learn:

  • A simple exercise that teaches businesses how to go beneath the surface of their offers to define their impact
  • A simple structure for crafting a powerful elevator speech/message in just a few sentences
  • A few simple sentence stems that will help them to frame marketing copy, content for content marketing

Register Now

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Your energy alone will help increase sales.

3 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

A while back, the “Tall One,” aka my husband, some good friends and I went out for an “it’s-been-way-too-long” double date.

As always, the best part was our conversation — which was proven hysterical because I collected at least 20 southern stares while my loud and proud NJ-self bellowed with laughter.

A good night indeed.

But the grand finale was the sales pitch the waiter gave for the dessert. As he shared the sugary treats, he seemed uninterested and sleepy. I thought he might lay down in the booth next to us and call it a night. But then, all of a sudden, he came to life. (It’s a miracle!) As he shared the final option, he sounded like a kid on Christmas morning with the first peek of wrapped presents under the tree. His excitement was contagious and persuasive.

Related: How To Create ‘Momentum Moments’ And Increase Sales 10-fold

Before you could say “sucker,” the choice was, of course, the final combo dessert option, a Bananas Foster rum bread pudding combo. And as he walked away, this table full of salespeople realized we’d been had. His energy close worked. He walked us right to the sale.

The good news is, you can do the same thing.

Changing your speed, tonality, and excitement doesn’t just work for the finale of a good meal. It works anytime you are trying to make a sale. From a one-on-one prospect meeting to a speech on stage at the main call to action, to the close on a webinar.

Your energy needs to stay high throughout and especially at the close if you want to be effective. If you aren’t excited about the solution, how can you expect your prospect to be excited?

Related: How to Plan an Initial Strategy That Helps Increase Sales from the Start

A few ways to keep your energy up during a webinar:

  1. Play a song that pumps you up before you start to get that heart racing and energy up. I like to full out dance before I start. You can do jumping jacks, headbangs or get your booty shake on. You do you — just more animated.
  2. Stand to give your webinar. Use a standing desk or laptop tray to get the monitor up because you want it above your head.
  3. Smile during the entire webinar. It sounds crazy pants, but it gives off your enthusiasm for what you are sharing on-screen.

Want more strategies for your sales persuasion? Check out this masterclass on how to create a killer presentation and launch a six-figure funnel.

Watch for the content and for my energy during the presentation. See how it changes at the close and in my final words on the screen. Take notes and be ready to give the enthusiastic close.

And then walk your prospect to the close.

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Finding qualified prospects is key to growing your business.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Too much prospect communication comes across as nagging, desperate and unprofessional. Too little prevents salespeople from laying the foundation for good relationships. Is there a middle ground?

According to a new study from Accenture, 80 percent of frequent B2B buyers changed providers in a 24-month period. To avoid falling victim to heavy churn, entrepreneurs and their sales teams can’t afford to play a guessing game with prospect touchpoints.

Mastering the art of communication frequency requires a careful balance, though. Not only must salespeople make prospects feel appreciated and valued, but they must also spend as much time as possible bringing in new business. Relationships are great, but when prospects with a limited budget and finicky demands ask for too much time, salespeople need to know when to let go.

Related: Grow Your Business on a Budget With This DIY Landing Page Service

What makes one touchpoint better than another when trying to grow your business?

Engaging with prospects is a dance. The best salespeople and entrepreneurs understand when to push the tempo and when to let the other party set the pace. Pick the wrong tactic at the wrong moment, and a once-interested prospect will quickly start looking for a new partner.

In this new decade, where data intelligence and personalization have become the expectation, sellers must add value to the buyer journey at every touchpoint. Instead of asking whether someone is ready to purchase, salespeople should provide more context, point to other relevant resources and ensure prospects feel they’re in control.

Close more sales with more qualified prospects by making the most of these critical touchpoints:

1. A better version of a first email.

Marketing may handle this early exchange, but regardless of who’s responsible, a good first impression sets the stage for trust on both sides. 

Experienced salespeople understand that the first outreach isn’t truly the beginning of the relationship. Prospects today view all sorts of media and materials online and in print before taking an action that generates an email. However, by turning this first opportunity to engage into something special, salespeople can differentiate themselves in the eyes of people looking to purchase.

Instead of sending a standard cold email inviting prospects to ask questions, try a video greeting. Maintain a few professional standards for lighting and sound, but don’t get hung up on the details. Use the information the prospect submitted to create a short video, and include a few tips or next steps. Then, send the email and wait for the (now much more likely) reply.

Related: Losing Control May Help Grow Your Business

2. Engagement without encroachment on social media.

Maintaining an active presence on social media provides a host of benefits for young companies. In sales, social media allows brands and representatives to connect directly with prospects on a level that feels comfortable for both parties. 

Limit social media engagement to brand-owned channels and appropriate public spaces. Remember, the goal is to continue the conversation, not to get blocked or reported as spam. Inviting people to send messages with questions is fine, but don’t DM people about special promotions unless they ask explicitly.

Brands, on average, post 23 times as much promotional content as responses to prospect questions on social channels. Get users involved by answering questions as often as possible and posting more user-generated content. Maintain an active presence with real humans during business hours; when the doors close, lean on chatbots to continue the conversation and provide context for future prospect engagement.

3. Smart outreach at natural moments.

Today’s buyers know that companies track their online movements and email open rates. While prospects prefer to maintain privacy, companies can’t let their collected data go to waste. Smart outreach based on good data, using workflow automation and appropriate tools, empowers businesses to connect with prospects in the moments when they’re most willing to move down the funnel.

For example, say a prospect usually opens emails and clicks links but has yet to reach out for more information. Workflow automation tools can identify these opportunities for meaningful touchpoints and either prompt salespeople to reach out or send automated responses. In some cases, this could be a perfect opportunity for a follow-up video email.

Related: Learn How to Grow Your Business on a Budget By Outsourcing

Don’t let best practices and other businesses dictate what qualifies as smart outreach. Different companies and prospect pools prioritize different things. One whitepaper download might matter less to a software business than three email click-throughs matter for a machinery and equipment sales company. 

In the dance of prospecting, pitching, and closing, don’t get caught doing the tango with prospects looking for a waltz. Consider the most important touchpoints for the target audience, optimize communications to make the most of those opportunities and start having more productive conversations.

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Any business’s online presence must comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As the old cliche goes, “Presentation is everything.” Having great content for your website is an important starting point, but ensuring that it is presented in an appealing way will make all the difference in whether visitors stick around. Unfortunately, far too many companies and brands ignore the needs of users with disabilities when implementing a design update or launching a brand new site. And this can prove costly, as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is increasingly being viewed as applicable to websites and mobile apps.

The result? Celebrities like Beyoncé and major corporations like Domino’s are getting sued when disabled users find themselves unable to fully use their websites. Domino’s especially has faced negative press.

Even without lawsuits, failure to make web accessibility a priority could result in significant losses for your business. The 2019 Click-Away Pound Survey found that 69 percent of individuals with disabilities “‘click away from a site with [access] barriers.” Despite this, only 8 percent contact site owners about their problems. This means a non-ADA compliant site could be losing money without your even knowing it. As such, few things are more important than making sure you address the needs of those with visual, auditory, mobility and other disabilities.

Start With the Basics

An analysis of 10,000,000 web pages conducted by accessiBe revealed that the vast majority of compliance issues occur with seemingly basic elements of web design. An incredible 98 percent of websites had noncompliant menus, and 83 percent failed to utilize accessible buttons, while 89 percent had noncompliant popups.

Where did the accessibility problems stem from? In the majority of cases, noncompliance issues came from a failure to offer alternative methods of navigating through these common design elements.

As just one example, sites should offer the ability to navigate the menu bar with keyboard arrows, open dropdown functions with the enter key and move to the next element with the tab key. A failure to implement all of these features could cause a motor-impaired user to waste several minutes.

A related problem is when content or actions are subjected to a timer, an especially common issue during the checkout process. Giving users an option to turn off, extend or adjust timers will ensure that they aren’t kicked out of a session before they can finish their purchase.

Such navigation issues can get even harder with popups. If a user can’t close the popup by pressing the escape key, they may not be able to close out of it at all. From voice-friendly search to keyboard-only navigation, you must consider alternative methods.

Related: 5 Steps to Make Sure Your Website Is ADA-Compliant

Provide Alternative Content-Delivery Methods

Another common web-compliance issue comes with the delivery of your content. Do your images have alt text so someone using a screen reader can still get the information conveyed by the picture? Are there text transcripts for video-only or audio-only content? Do your videos provide closed captioning?

As your website expands the type of content it offers in an effort to grow its audience, you will need to ensure that each new piece of content is accessible to all. And this likely won’t be as time-consuming as you might think. For example, if your website is publishing an infographic, ADA compliance would entail supplying the full copy of the infographic in a text format below the image. As part of the process of creating the infographic, the text would likely already have been produced in a standalone format, so all you need to do is add this to the bottom of the page.

Presentation Matters

ADA-compliant presentation goes beyond making sure that each section of the site uses proper HTML or tagging. Remember, not everyone that could have trouble reading your web content will be using a screen reader.

For example, there must be adequate color contrast between the site’s text and background. Color alone is not enough to convey information. Font should be in an easy-to-read text that is still legible when users zoom in. Web pages should avoid series of flashes that could trigger a seizure or other severe physical reaction.

The overall site layout — especially navigational elements — should stay the same no matter what page someone visits on. Form fields should always be clearly labeled so users know what information is required. A cohesive, well-designed site will benefit everyone who visits your page — not just those with disabilities.

Related: Even Internet Entrepreneurs Need to Make Their Businesses Handicap Accessible

Don’t Make ADA Compliance an Afterthought

This is just a quick overview, and I strongly recommend reading the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines from the Web Accessibility Initiative for a full understanding of how to improve your site.

While the way the ADA is being enforced in the digital world is still subject to debate, site owners should prioritize making it a key part of their design from the get-go. By improving the online experience for all users, you can better serve your customers and protect yourself against potential legal harm.

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In time, all generosity is returned.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The philosophy of Givers Gain® is about giving to other people first. Within this context, the giver cannot and should not expect an immediate return on their investment based on another’s gain. What they should focus on is that, given enough effort and time, their generosity will be returned by and through their network of contacts, friends and colleagues — many times over and in many different ways. 

I incorporated the philosophy of Givers Gain into BNI almost 35 years ago, because I saw that many networking groups were far too mercenary in their approach. They used networking as a face-to-face cold-calling opportunity. I believed then, and I know now, that networking is all about relationship-building, and that one of the best ways to build a relationship is to help others first.  Through giving, you can gain in so many ways.

Related: Why Someone Else’s Poor Planning Isn’t Your Emergency

I also recognize that there are takers in the world. There are people who either don’t understand the power of Givers Gain or who don’t really care or believe in the concept. I call these two categories of people “can’t do’s” and “won’t do’s.” 

The can’t do’s do not know how to do something or do not understand why it’s important to do something. For these people, I’ve learned that with the right coaching, they may become willing to make that transition. 

Then there are the people who are “won’t do’s.” They just want what serves them best and have no true intention of giving. It’s important to recognize them as soon as possible, because they will abuse the relationship, not nurture it.

Life requires discernment. Sometimes, that is about evaluating the people in your network and whether they are willing to contribute to your relationship. Givers Gain does not mean you should be a “taker’s victim.” The world is full of givers and takers. Apply contextual insight and use appropriate judgment to give freely to the people who value the giving approach in life. Use discernment for the ones who do not.

I know a man who gave a half a dozen referrals to someone in his networking group over 18 months, but the individual never reciprocated. The man came to me seeking advice. I coached him to do the following….

Invite the person out for a one-to-one meeting, and come prepared to the meeting with as much detail as possible about the six referrals you gave. Start with the oldest and ask the following questions: How did it work out? Did it turn into business?  If so, was it as much as you had hoped? Did the relationship work out well? Use open-ended questions to determine how well that referral worked out for the individual. After a few minutes, do the same for the next one, and then the next one and so on, until you discuss all of the referrals you’ve given that individual.

Here is where your discernment needs to be fine-tuned. What if all those referrals you gave the individual did not work out like you thought? Then you need to ask the person how you could give better referrals in the future. However, if any of those referrals turned out to be good and possibly resulted in business, take a different tack. Tell the person that you are really glad the referrals you gave worked out well. Then pause a moment and say, “Since some of them worked out for you, I’d really appreciate if you could do something similar for me. Maybe we could talk a little bit about how I can help you do that.” 

From there, talk to the person about what a good referral is for you, how they can refer people to you, and even dive deeper into specific clients they may have that may be a good referral for you.

After the person I coached had his meeting, he came back to me and said he was so glad he followed my advice, rather than just end the relationship. He told me the individual “apologized profusely and then acknowledged this needed to be a two way relationship. We spoke at length about how he could reciprocate, and he has already done so. The referral he just gave me turned into a big client!”

Related: How the ‘Gratitude Effect’ Can Reshape Your Life and Its Direction

Sometimes, people are so busy in life they are just not thinking about the importance of having a reciprocal relationship.  Sometimes they don’t know how, and sometimes they don’t care.  All three require discernment, and that discernment requires a different response strategy.

Your giving energy should be focused on people who are aligned with the need for reciprocity. They may or may not be able to give back to you directly, but observe their behavior before you continue to blindly evolve into a giving victim.

The more energy you have for giving, the more you are able to give. Giving more where you have strong relationships makes you able to practice this philosophy in a healthy way. Givers Gain is about taking off your bib and putting on an apron. It’s about building a relationship by helping others first.

Givers Gain® is a trademark of BNI and is used with permission.

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The new funds will be used in developing the product further, hiring and expanding presence outside India.

3 min read

Recko, an enterprise fintech start-up, has raised $6 million in a Series A round led by Vertex Ventures SEA and India. Existing investor Prime Venture Partners also participated in the round.

Founded in 2017 by Saurya Prakash Sinha and Prashant Borde, the company has built a Software as a Service-based financial reconciliation product to track entire transaction lifecycles and commercial contracts for businesses. It counts the likes of Grofers, Meesho and Dunzo among its customers.

The new funds will be used in developing the product further, hiring and expanding presence outside India.

“If you look at us as a company, there is a massive volume of transactional data which comes in and we have to store this information and make it available to all our clients at any point of time; that takes a lot of engineering bandwidth so that is the first place a lot of this investment is going to go,” Sinha told Entrepreneur India, adding that the company is also looking to hire for certain senior leadership roles.

Why Recko

According to the company, digital payments in India are expected to more than double to $135.2 billion in 2023 from $64.8 billion in 2019.

Bengaluru-based Recko automates reconciliation and allows data to be traced throughout the transaction cycle. How it does this is by getting connected to payment gateways, banks and merchant’s order management systems through application product interfaces (APIs). This helps customers track receivables and identify settlement discrepancies. 

“Like several others before it, we believe that the CFO function will see high quality platforms driving disruption in the way processes such as reconciliation are managed, and high-quality software, along the lines of what Recko is developing will make complex problems look trivial,” Vertex’ Piyush Kharbanda said in a statement.

The product allows finance functions to reconcile millions of transactions, and reduces the time required to do so by a significant margin. Recko claims it reduces manpower by 50-80 per cent.

Sinha says, “When we started, we did as an additional reconciliation platform; for example, if you go to Dunzo, a lot of people would be making transactions and after two-three days, they would be receiving a lump sum credited to their bank account, that is the place where we come in and ensure that they have received the right money at the right time with the right set of charges. Then our clients started telling us that we have a lot of different channels, so then we started adding different flows such as cash on delivery, aggregators et cetera, so that’s where we stand right now.” 

Growth Plans

Since inception, the company has reconciled transactions worth $5 billion and the plan is to reconcile $10 billion worth of just digital transactions by the end of 2020.

The company has also started to work with various banks, non-banking financial companies and those in the insurance space, and is currently running pilots with them.

“Recko is solving a very complex problem for the finance teams who are dealing with complexity and a good amount of transactional volumes on a daily basis. This is an area that hasn’t seen much innovation in the Indian technology ecosystem, despite the massive addressable market,” said Sanjay Swamy, managing partner at Prime Venture Partners.

On expansion outside India, Sinha said they had done some client onboarding in the US and are currently running pilots in South East Asia.

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4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

COVID-19 outbreak has created panic globally with total confirmed cases crossing 6,00,000 (as on 28th March 2020). To prevent its spread, countries across the globe have begun enforcing tough lockdowns. India, the world’s second populous country has followed the suit with a 21 days complete lockdown till April 14th. The virus has been sweeping all across Europe and the US, with confirmed cases growing at a brisk pace.

On the other, India has seen a slow rise in positive cases with total positive cases reaching 900 considering its first case was reported two months back in Kerala (January 30).

Considering its huge population, urban clusters and socio-economic characteristics, the rate of new cases being added in India is still much lower than other countries like China, the US, and European countries.

Therefore, has the government’s decision for 21 days complete lockdown has worked?

The answer is no. India lacks the infrastructure to conduct massive COVID-19 tests. A low number of testing labs and a shortage of testing kits are the primary reason why India has one of the lowest testing rates among all affected countries. As of 27th March 2020, India had conducted just close to 27,000 cases, which is much lower than in other countries. With 6.8 tests per million people, it surely has one of the lowest testing rates in the world.

The government along with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is taking steps to increase the testing capacity like adding private labs and approving homegrown testing kits like MyLab Discovery. Though the testing capacity is still inadequate considering the massive population of 130 crores these measures will add more screening centers across the country leading to a more accurate picture of the number of active cases in the country.

More screening of suspects is important considering India has a high risk of entering Stage 3 of Virus transmission. This stage results in the transmission are happening at a large community level with the source of infection not known for the majority of the infected population and new positive cases can no longer be traced to diagnosed cases. Countries like Italy and China are already at Stage 4 of the epidemic. Though, ICMR and the government continue to maintain its stance that there is no evidence of India entering Stage 3 but experts from all over the world have suggested that India is either already there or between Stage 2 and Stage 3 of the virus transmission cycle. Recently, new cases with no history of exposure to affected persons have just added to the expert’s claim.

So, if India enters Stage 3 of coronavirus, how well prepared are we?

Considering, how this stage has created havoc in countries like Italy, Spain, the US, and China, with new cases being added in thousands, India surely not seems to be prepared for this outbreak. Following are the reasons

  • India has an estimated 0.7 hospital beds per 1000 people- a ratio that is lowest in Asia. Several reports suggest the number of infected people in India growing exponentially in coming months. This will surely depend on India’s testing capacity. Thus, very low availability of beds will complicate it further.
  • Less availability of medical equipment especially ventilators, a device for patients in critical condition, will provide a challenge in handling the large influx of patients at Stage 3 cases of the transmission. As per reports, India has a mere count of 40,000 ventilators; most of them are with the private institutes. This figure is therefore grossly inadequate when cases surge. Besides this, a shortage of masks, sanitizers, and scrubs will hamper India’s fight against the virus.
  • India has just one doctor for every 1,404 patients against the World Health Organization (WHO) standard norm of 1 per 1,000 people. Also, India averages 1.7 nurses per 1,000 people, against the WHO standard of 3 per 1,000. In the worst case of scenario when pandemic worsens, Indian medical structure will surely collapse.

As the threat of further mass crisis looms, the country surely needs to be prepared for such an endemic. It’s difficult to contain this virus but to stop further transmission; this lockdown period needs to be extended, considering the current rise in the number of cases. The government has stepped up efforts to prepare for Stage 3, like growing its medical facilities and equipment through imports and local manufacturing. Besides this, the various business communities have offered support to add to these initiatives, for example, automobile manufactures Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai manufacturing and supplying testing kits and ventilators and Tata Trusts offering Rs 1,500 crore to support boost healthcare facilities of the country.

Strict lockdown, robust healthcare facilities and high testing centers across the nation are the most important steps. These efforts will surely help the Indian government prepare to combat coronavirus.

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Follow this simple checklist to go above and beyond your physical program presence.

7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

So you have your next startup accelerator program going on right now or coming up fast. You may be asking yourself, how do I provide as much value without face-to-face relationships? Can I have as big of an impact virtually, or should I delay our timeline? Can I even do it at all?

Short answer: Yes, you can.

Now is the time to step up as innovators in the startup ecosystem. It’s time to evolve. Just like the startups they fund, accelerators are always ripe for an upgrade.

The great thing is that there are already some virtual models out there today. Look at Propel, for example, which supports Canadian founders in the east coast region without a physical program for up to 12 months. Propel does all of its “visiting mentor” talks, startup interviews and investor check-ins via Zoom video chat.

500 Startups is now taking all of its current international programs virtual, but the company already experimented with a partially virtual model before with its distro partners (aka growth hackers-in-residence) checking in on startups remotely and weekly over the flagship four-month program in San Francisco. 500 Startups would use a simple, shared Google spreadsheet to track metrics with a focus on the one metric that matters.

When it comes to your demo day, there are also scores of great ideas out there for running virtual events. When the news of COVID-19 intensified, Outreach CEO Manny Medina took its industry event Unleash completely virtual in a matter of weeks. The plan was to have live keynotes with additional choose-your-own-adventure breakout topics.

Anything is possible, especially when we work together.

Here are six specific things to think about when moving to a virtual startup accelerator or incubator program.

1. Replacing facetime.

The key times when you would normally interact in-person are during interviews and when coaching the startup teams throughout the program. There isn’t a perfect substitute for building those one-to-one relationships, but video chats will be as close as you can get. The 500 Startups San Francisco accelerator program often invests in teams before meeting them in person due to a thesis that is open to global startups. To bridge the geographic distances during the interview, a simple group Skype call is often used. SweepSouth, Aircall and TalkDesk were all startups that interviewed virtually for the program and went on to raise millions in venture capital.

The next step is building a consistent relationship over video calls. The video aspect is essential: Audio calls are easy to default to, but the video will help bridge the virtual founder-investor relationship. Consistency is also key. Katapult Impact-Tech Accelerator in Oslo asks its lead mentors to check in weekly with startup mentees. Try using a format that checks in first with personal selves and emotional state, then what’s top of mind, then metric tracking.

2. Managing content.

The second most important things — after building relationships during a startup program — are the tools and resources you provide. Luckily, a lot of that is already online or a short moderated Zoom call away.

Y-Combinator offers up a lot of its resources online in the form of a Startup Library. 500 Startups has a YouTube channel full of pitches and speakers from past events, plus a separate site with the sub-program it lovingly calls Marketing Hell Week. Almost all startup programs have leaders who blog. You’d be surprised how much content is already being shared openly from the top accelerators.

It’s necessary to provide value as a program, so personal, invite-only, batch-only sessions are also important. Group video calls formatted as a one-speaker interview with questions moderated over the text chat is an easy way to do that. Plan on doing at least one of these weekly. You may also do breakout sessions based on a business model or industry. Content is queen, so be creative in this area.

3. Maintaining team continuity.

At the core of every great accelerator is the team that runs it. The easy part about this portion of the program is there is so much fantastic content online to support distributed teams. Buffer runs an incredibly transparent blog about their fully remote team. BetterUp is another example. AngelList even has a Head of Remote who teamed up with Buffer to write an annual report titled “The 2020 State of Remote Work.” 

Create a structure that makes it easy to be remote: Weekly check-ins, team meetings where everyone wears headsets even in the office, online tracking of goals, participation, feedback loops … it’s all about communication at the end of the virtual day.

4. Building founder bonds.

One of the longest-lasting things that come out of an in-person startup accelerator is the bond between soldiers. Those founder-to-founder relationships can make the whole program worth it for some entrepreneurs. But how do you support that connective tissue without foosball, ping pong or happy hours? Well, why not try online multiplayer gaming, Slack channels and virtual socials?

Start rituals and traditions early on with your batch. Promote safety and belonging. Have one person on the accelerator team in charge of this. Do online icebreakers Day One. Encourage a weekly group entertainment night or business book club. Encourage connection by hobby, interests, or business categories. There are lots of tools for this.

You can even use Facebook’s Watch Party function to have a TV show night. or host a weekly Friday happy hour over video conference that continues from one batch to the next. 500 Startups had one called Tequila Friday (started by the CEO of Worthix, a batch founder).

5. Preparing for demo day.

It’s here. Your big day to showcase the startups you’ve invested in and mentored for months. But how do you go out with a bang without renting out a funky event space, a brewery or the San Francisco Giants’ baseball diamond? Easy.

Demo days have been overdue for disruption: Investors are overwhelmed with the number of events they need to attend, and associates often fill the place of invited venture capitalists.

Y-Combinator has already committed to doing its next demo day virtually. Others will follow. CMX, the community of community manager, put together a comprehensive article with tips and tools for event organizers during the coronavirus outbreak that will help immensely.

6. Follow up and follow through.

Post-program, you already have gone mostly virtual, but this shouldn’t be the end of the relationship. Use an online form to gather updates from your companies. Automate the quarterly sending of it and connect it to your CRM. Google Forms to Hubspot is one example of this.

Continue to do video calls to check in with your founders when necessary. Make thoughtful introductions over email. Think about how you can add as much value as possible when giving advice over email to the point that you forego the need for an actual call.

With that vision in mind, you may actually eliminate, not add, to your calendar. Try network tools like Signal, AngelList and LinkedIn to support your startups with your connections. You can also manage shared financials with collaborative software like CapShare, Capbase, or Carta. It’s never been easier to be a data-driven investor.

It’s also never been easier to go completely virtual. The technology is there for the taking, and you might actually simplify your program life rather than complicate it. 

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