A start-up’s view on combating Covid-19 and staying afloat

As businesses adapt to the new normal, it is the ideal time for start-ups to support one another to stay afloat.Start-ups need to use their resources to the best advantage to help attenuate the challenging situation brought on by Covid-19, says an official.

Rubal Chib, Co-Founder and CEO at Qzense, a start-up aiming to detect the shelf life and ripeness of agricultural produce, says there is a strong need for resilience in business and people need to collaborate at this time to beat the revenue crunch.

“One powerful idea is of resource sharing. It helps in cutting costs as well as saving jobs. Leveraging the start-up ecosystem, companies can share and exchange resources with other companies on a need basis and can avoid new hires as well as layoffs,” she said.

The agile and reactive nature of start-ups makes them more equipped to serve consumers in uncertain times, pivoting and adjusting as needed to survive. But it will take the community to ensure this shift is successful and sustainable.

QZense is an early-stage start-up from the maiden cohort of Entrepreneur First, a UK-based talent investor. Founded by Rubal Chib and Srishti Batra, QZense is building an IoT solution that deploys a unique blend of spectral and olfactory sensors to capture the internal quality of food and proprietary machine learning (ML) models to give an accurate assessment of ripeness, spoilage, and shelf life.

The co-founders first pitched their start-up idea in a Shark Tank-like scenario and received initial funding from Entrepreneur First. Qzense itself is adapting to the challenging times.

“We have a hardware-based product and are using the time to improve our product, especially its software. Additionally, we have implemented over-the-air software update features on our devices. This helps the whole team sitting at various locations to get updates on their devices and test the updated features,” says Chib.

Sage advice

The co-founder says this is the right time for start-ups to be proactive and prepare for the time ahead. “Cut any extra costs that can be cut. And leverage any new opportunities arising in the market with changing times,” she adds.

Chib says it is necessary to prepare for a longer runway. “Wherever possible, cut costs and decrease burn. start-ups must objectively refine their business model and revenue projections based on the Covid impact on respective markets. They should also leverage new opportunities wherever applicable,” she points out.

QZense is to be accelerated by the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad’s Atal Innovation Centre. The company is to soon pilot their project with the Punjab government.

Pointing out that communication is most critical at such times, Chib says it is important to have regular channels open with team members as well as (virtual) one-on-one meetings to keep team motivation high.

Start-up leaders should connect with their teams on a regular basis, says Chib. “Use virtual team management tools to communicate and manage teams effectively. Use one-on-one phone calls for more detailed discussions and keep meetings only for team discussions,” she adds.

Covid-19 is also a good time for up-skilling and strengthening the team’s core competencies, she maintains.

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