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Early stage start-ups trying to sail during Pandemic

‘We are a start-up, we do not have the budget right now.’

This phrase sounds familiar, right? Of course, it is.

Many of us are so used to this phrase that we almost without a second thought think, “yes! Now play we are a start-up card”. But how many times do we actually take the effort to find out the truth behind the curtain? Absolutely none! Let’s find out from the founders themselves.

 

Talking to the founders of early-stage start-ups about their challenges during the Pandemic, here’s what is discovered.

 

When asked, Dattaraj Chodankar, Founder of Technofenix, said, we are a small start-up. We are into web development, app development, ERP systems, school management systems, logo designing, website designing, IoT, CCTV installation, custom developments, IT consultancy, and much more. We build problem-solving products. Being in the IT industry, the business was going well until Covid hit India. Because of Covid, the clients have almost stopped coming, as a result, there is no income generated, since there is no income, we cannot expand our business. It is a vicious loop. Even when clients come, they have a very small budget compared to the product they want us to build.

We are two core teammates who are working hard. I feel people do not understand the importance of the IT sector. They see IT as an inexpensive sector. They do not understand how much effort goes into the backend, building a product is not easy. Converting ideas into a reality is a challenging task. We recently got a school management project with the help of a middleman, but as the cycle goes, we have to give commission to the middleman for the project being allotted to us.

 

While Suwarna Surlakar, Co-founder of Funminds Learning Tech said, we are in the Education sector. We conduct sessions for students through the Innovation council. Also, we help schools with technical difficulties; provide Technical education services in collaboration with schools. We even introduced TV lessons for students of 1st to 8th grades through SCERT Goa and were covered on Goa 365. We are a team of 10 people.

Now we have even launched our own products; waiting for Investors. But we do not have the audience to approve the products. Also, we cannot get feedback from the schools or students. It is impossible to teach our content through online classes. It can only be taught in person. We conduct workshops to help students to develop an innovative mindset with the scrap around them and not with expensive gadgets.

 

When the schools resumed for a short span, it was only for the 9th and 10th grades. It was for hardly two months. Our audience is students from the 5th and 6th grades. We did pilot programs back then though.

 

While schools shift online, parents are worried about their children’s education and possess the thought that tech can wait. With this thought, tech loses its importance since it is an innovative field. Parents in Goa do not give much importance to making their children future-ready unlike metropolitan cities. The way to go ahead is by making children learn skills needed for Industry 4.0. In metropolitan cities, the parents do whatever it takes. The mindset here is different. The awareness is missing.

 

Additionally, if Covid continues we have to look for different ways through which we can bring the business back on track. We’ll have to find different ways to reach out. But looking at the situation, I do not think schools in Goa will be online for too long.

 

Having said that, with rains it becomes tougher to stay connected as the connectivity is not very strong. When you are used to offline modes, being comfortable switching online will take years.

 

We have seen around 60%-70% of a degrading crowd. Only 30% have been consistent. And these 30% are the ones who are interested and know half the things. We want to educate those 70% who we cannot reach out to.

 

Furthermore, through online sessions, we are unsure whether kids are really paying attention or are attending sessions for the sake of attending. In physical classes, students get the touch and feel experience of the products. They pay attention with a fear of being picked or asked questions. We get to interact with the students. In online mode, the students may just keep the camera on and indulge in some other activity. They attend for the sake of a certificate. We don’t really know.

 

The above two startups have been vocal about the difficulties and challenges the Pandemic has brought them. It will not be unfair to say these innovative early-stage start-ups are doing whatever it takes to sustain and bring a change. With Covid have come the opportunities but so are the worsening challenges.

Ila Dhond

Author, Incubees

 

DISCLAIMER: This article reflects author’s view point. Incubees may or may not subscribe to views of the author

 

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