On a sunny Saturday afternoon on the month of March, in the calm and unassuming campus of IIT-Madras, a bunch of entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs gathered to celebrate women entrepreneurs & women entrepreneurship – the theme for Headstart’s Startup Saturday, March 2016 edition.
Rupal Surana, COO, Stayzilla presented the keynote address.
Some quick bytes from the six nuggets of wisdom Rupal shared in her keynote address for helping women entrepreneurs:
Not for the weak-hearted
Through her journey from being a student at MNM Jain Engineering College Chennai through an IT services giant in India and Inasra Technologies to Stayzilla, Rupal drove home the message that starting-up is surely not for the weak-hearted. As claimed for eons that there are no short-cuts to a place worth visiting, there is no secret sauce to escape obstacles while building a start-up.
Co-founding with friends
Being a woman entrepreneur who co-founded the accomodation aggregator Stayzilla with her college classmates, Rupal gave out some very important pointers about starting-up with friends. According to Rupal, when starting-up with friends support is immense as the team dynamics is already in place. However, it is very important to clearly demarcate responsibilities and craft a structure. One of the key factors for the evolution and success of Stayzilla has been laying down structures black-and-white.
On identifying the space to venture into
Most wannapreneurs have a few classical chicken-and-egg stories that’s holding them back and keeping them a wannaprenuer. One of the classical blocks is identifying the problem to solve or the service to offer as an organization. Rupal and her co-founders did their research and began with a variety of verticals such including books and real-estate. During their free-wheeling market research in early 2000s, the co-founders of Stayzilla identified tremendous untapped opportunity in the travel accommodation space. Ever since they have stuck to solving problems in this space.
On responding to a question by an upcoming start-up from the audience on out-sourcing services to build a start-up, Rupal recommended against out-sourcing in the initial stages.
Mission/Vision for Start-ups
When quizzed about how important it is to have an unwavering mission statement for a start-up Rupal instantly responded that “Rooms anywhere” was our mantra from the day we started and it shall continue to be so.
Evolving with the times
“If you don’t evolve with times what made you success in the past could kill you in the future” was one insightful nugget. Being one of the earliest entrants in the aggregator space in travel & tourism space, Rupal explained about the challenges faced in mid-2000s when anything online was dealt with skepticism. To avoid hassles, calls were made to liaison with the concierge confirming the booking and informing the needs of the traveller. Today it is practically not feasible to adopt the same approach.
Similarly Rupal states that with greater mobility for leisure and business reasons, that there is a gap in the demand for accommodation spaces and the supply available. To solve this problem Stayzilla has come up with home-stay concepts. This in turn suggests that to be a successful organization evolving with times with laser-sharp focus on the sense of direction is critical.
Women & Board-rooms
Women entrepreneurs sometimes assume that they are taken for granted. Men and women are equals. Women look at some problems very differently from men and the diversity helps. Rupal assured that the world is an equally safe & challenging place for women as it is for the men in entrepreneurship.