The decision to grow

I’ll be honest.

After having run Tapprs as professionally as possible and after having tackled quite a few issues successfully in a short span of time, I felt we had done fairly well. And that all will be rosy and cozy in future. We just needed to push the pedal harder. Everything will fall into place.  We will scale, we will do more business and the Good Luck Fairy will see us to the top. And I will laugh my way to the bank.

At this stage, I know we are doing very well. We are confident of establishing ourselves as market leaders in this space. We are picking up expertise that clearly differentiates us. Also, our vision is ahead of others, at least, so I feel.

In spite of all that good feeling and confidence, the last one week, I have had to do some serious soul-searching.

Are we working towards  creating a company that I want to eventually create? Do all the criteria match?

What I love to build:

I am a hardcore Warren Buffett fan. I like to

  1. take a simple & no-brainer business and run it professionally. Meaning – no complicated stuff, esp futuristic / innovative businesses.
  2. choose 1 foot jumps over the 7 foot jumps – meaning, I don’t like to take undue risk with long shot business plans.
  3. use the law of compounding to help you. Find a lucrative business, invest and reinvest in its core. Improve economies of scale.
  4. take it to autopilot as soon as possible.
  5. NOT get into businesses plagued by leaky boat economics.

During the last 2 weeks of meeting angels and potential investors (more than raising money, I was very curious about how things happen in the financial circles and realized establishing connections will help one day), I realized a lot about my own business. Much by way of internally accumulated facts surfacing up after being kindled by discussions with such people and in a few cases, by directly being given feedback by potential investors – on what they saw in Tapprs and what they felt about it.

I thought a lot about value creation especially (not valuation, mind you!). How much value could I potentially create?

With that in mind, in addition to the points mentioned above, I feel inclined towards creating a company that addresses a bigger opportunity and potentially can grow much bigger, a much respected company and yes, a market leader in its stream. While Tapprs could potentially get the latter two, I am not sure if we could build a large sized company out of photography rentals. After all the largest company in this space in US is only 10million $ big.

Entrepreneurship is a different beast. You are never satisfied. Especially, after you’ve tasted a bit of initial traction. What looked like an awesome figure just 6 months back looks plain ordinary now. Greed is good! Especially if you can combine it with solid business economics.

I also found comparing myself with the other startups out there. I know comparison is a sucker mindset, but honestly, I don’t think that’s bad. Take the good from what you see around you and leave the rest out.

I found myself asking these questions. 

  1. How much growth is enough growth?
  2. Being in a niche consumer retail space, is there scope for me to create a truly fantastic and reasonably large company? After all, only 2,000,000 people in the country own DSLRs today (but growing at 100%). Or would I need to do more? Am I happy enough to be running a photography equipment rental company that can comfortably do a few crores in revenue at pan India scale, but that’s just about it? Or do I have appetite enough for more?
  3. What resonates better? Pursuing a smaller lesser risk opportunity? Or a larger but higher risk opportunity?
  4. Rental business is a steady, one step at a time growth business. Scaling is dependent on capex. And if you are scaling to other cities physically, you basically start from scratch again, almost.
  5. It’s a simple business. It’s a fantastic business for the one who will be content with owning a small sized business that will grow steadily over time. Would I be okay with it? Or is it better to push for more?
  6. I know my strengths lie in good execution, disciplined and sustained effort. Should I start looking out for larger business opportunity pivots within the photography (and travel) space and perhaps even outside? Learn more and more doing the rental business very professionally, but take the lessons to a much bigger opportunity eventually?

At this stage of my life, when my initial apprehensions of starting something new in life are gone, my appetite has just risen up. I want to create more value. I care less for money, though the more I make, the happier I would feel.

Your startup is only a vehicle for your ambitions. If you want to go round the world, would you take a hot air balloon or a plane? Both are fine. Richard Branson attempted it on a hot air balloon… for the heck of a thrill and perhaps for a record. You need to pick one that resonates within you for reasons that sometimes only you can justify.

In this age of the internet, no one has the patience to wait for 15 years to build a truly great company. From food in restaurants to toilet paper in restrooms, things have turned quick and easy (?). Long term, that may not be a truly good solution. Who cares? Speed is what matters. The thrill is in the Ferrari’s, not the Hyundai i10’s.

I only hope I don’t get sucked up that hole.

However, that burning desire to grow ‘bigger’ just got stronger! Good or bad – I won’t bother to analyze. It’s the gut feeling that matters.

5 thoughts on “The decision to grow

  1. Dear Prem,
    I totally understand your feelings on growth and feeling of owning something with a thrust to make it better. As you said you don’t bother about the money much but the more and the better it is. I have worked in couple of startups till now ( already sitting on third to release our first product) and I have always enjoyed the streak in startup owners to excel and their different thinking.
    All the best for the future Prem.

    BTW, have you read this book ?

    http://www.flipkart.com/the-choice-8185984301/p/itmdyyvgmg3rmgwq?pid=9788185984308&ref=fe02ee64-57b5-4a8f-b50c-c16f456328ed

    Cheers,
    Pankaj

  2. Thought process Brilliantly framed into words. Can’t agree more. The game has to be big and greed is good if it takes you forward and compels you to create more value. Valuation will follow.

  3. Prem, you’ve expressed your thoughts wonderfully.

    I could totally relate to most of what you wrote. Looking forward to the new scheme of things @ Tapprs

    Good Luck !!

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