Turning Crisis into opportunities : A Roundtable discussion with CIE Startups

Since the COVID-19 led lockdown was announced, numbers have soared, disrupting the economy and grinding lively cities to a halt. As a result, startups are bound to feel the pinch of uncertainty and seek ways to sustain their business.

While the crisis is obvious, finding opportunities and strategically managing the situation in favour of survival is not. To better understand how startups across different domains are tackling with the crisis  and what could be useful for other startups to ease out their struggle, CIE IIITH organized a Roundtable with 9 Startup founders, 7 on panel with 2 other as the moderators, sharing the impact and how they turned the crisis into opportunities.

NanoHealtha health management Startup offering a digital platform with stakeholders’ engagement throughout the value chain.

The impact of COVID-19:
The startup was catering to Corporate clients with its platform and most of these closed down due to COVID, forcing the Startup to find means for survival

Dealing with the crisis:
The product is pivoted to provide modular technology platform that works in large governmental programs, corporates in terms of managing end-to-end value chain of their employees and also licence their technology to other providers.

Pluspina platform for pharmacies to do various kind of cross-selling and upselling to maintain their customersThe impact of COVID-19:
Due to COVID, the startup saw a significant dip in no. of service consumption by retailers(about 70-80%) and the biggest hit was on the branding segment for various healthcare and wellness companies to advertise, which led to shut-down  of all the screens.

Dealing with the crisis:
The Startup strengthened a previously smaller segment of homecare where they provide various medical equipment and nursing assistance to people who are willing to avail these services at home, after seeing a significant rise in demand outrunning supply of medical equipment from last 2- 3 months.

Indriyn Data Analyticsoffering a platform that harnesses AI and building data to make buildings efficient, intelligent & sustainableThe impact of COVID-19:
The entire real estate and construction industry is badly impacted due to COVID and as such there are no customers and business has been stopped.

Dealing with the crisis:
More than 80% of Facility management teams comprising of Mechanical maintenance and plumping manpower are immigrant and have moved back due to COVID. This raised a need for the platform to ensure minimal building maintenance. Identified the current need and introduced an add-on module called “unmanned” building maintenance using computer vision and sensor technology, later on tying up with a Facility management company for direct services . Along with this, the Startup took measures such as avoiding consultant fees, cutting operational costs etc.

“The priorities have changed as people no longer are concerned about the experience, but for the cost”

Apxoran integration platform to generate user insights and analytics to boost your product intelligence for onboarding users and retaining the existing ones

The impact of COVID-19:
Due to COVID, the customers are hard-hit and in some cases such as Quick Ride- India’s largest ride sharing app, there is nothing that the Startup could do to help. The overall shrinking of the market had the unanimous impact.

However, a few companies in Healthtech and Gaming sector, have significantly doubled down on the platform usage giving an overall benefit to the Startup.

Dealing with the crisis:
The Startup is doing fairly well as there is an upsurge in demand from clients in EdTech, Healthtech and Gaming sector. Apart from that, to deal with the overall market squeeze, the Startup cut some cost and delayed payments to the vendors.

Dave.aia virtual sales avatar for brands across the country that leverages an AI platform to create an intelligent digital experience while augmenting sales

The impact of COVID-19:
The predominant segment for the Startup is retail stores and hence been adversely affected as a result of the lockdown. Most of the work used to happen inside the physical stores which came down as the stores shut down. Cash squeeze and delayed payments are some of the other blues.

Dealing with the crisis:
The Startup observed a surge in the virtual sales experience and reprioritized their offering from product stack to Virtual Sales Avatar and saw significant traction with customers who were willing to pay.
In addition to that, a touch-free speech enabled avatar was launched with grocery stores, supermarkets and hypermarkets which were, in any case, getting a lot of traffic.

“We adopted the aggressive sales strategy instead of going into hibernation”

Onward Assista Cancer analytics platform that enables Pathology, Radiology and Patient data management verticals through AI and Computer vision deployment

 The impact of COVID-19:
The Startup was in the customer implementation phase which got disrupted due to COVID and the biggest challenge was the discontinued meetings in person with the clients.

“Selling a software to doctors over telephone is not happening”

However, with the prolonged crisis, the doctors and clinicians too are also now being open to adopt the electronic channels for communication.

Dealing with the crisis:
The Startup looked at the new possibilities and adoption happening which led to a budding need for digital tools for example, in case of pathologists limiting exposure.

Kidsensan intelligent data science driven health technology company focussed on transforming paediatric development and behavioural health

The impact of COVID-19:
One of the target segments is pre-schools and the Startup was doing market validation around the time when COVID hit the planet. All the schools were closed down and hence the Startup could not complete the process and the product launch was delayed.

“Ours is a good-to-have product and not must-to-have product, so we had to take a step back to look at other verticals”

Dealing with the crisis:
The Startup looked at its core strength and steeped into online therapy, collaborating with Child development centres helping children with special needs. Parents who were otherwise skeptical about online sessions are left with no option and hence moved to such solutions. This opened up a window for the Startup for significant growth.

Seeing a growth in the segment, Kidsens is now building similar training modules for professionals with special needs.

How are startups mitigating the cash flow risks?

  • Cloud credit facility by Google and Amazon
  • deferring the payments and partial salaries of employees
  • putting employees’ salaries on credit cards and new stream of startups offering corporate cards to startups

Funding and Govt Grants?

  • Funding looks tough on Equity side but VCs can be explored. According to Dinesh from Onward Assist, VCs will taker lesser decisions this year and startups should approach a larger set of people at this time
  • Santosh from Pluspin says that tranche payments have been pushed but small investors from Asian countries like Singapore and Hong Kong are showing interest in small investments at this time
  • According to Kishore Apxor, micro VCs can be a good option for any startup looking for a pre-series round of funding at this time
  • SIDBI is providing debt funds to startups but the definition of startups is very vague.

COVID has provided both opportunities and challenges to almost every startup even in the fields other than Edtech, Healthtech. With partial pivoting, it is possible to survive and find even bigger opportunities in the times of crisis also. The startups are still facing troubles to resume their normal operations and are hoping for things to get better with the relaxed lockdown.

Insightful? Watch this space for more such takeaways ↑→ https://cie.iiit.ac.in/startup-jukebox/

Know more about our ResilienceUnlocked series here https://cie.iiit.ac.in/resilience-unlocked/

Until next time!

– Sunita Kumari, Team CIE