How are Startups Responding to the Coronavirus Crisis? | Suraj Meiyur | Next Skills 360

Disaster can strike at any time. This harsh reality was experienced by Suraj Meiyur and his team
when their product’s launch in the toy retail market was abruptly cut short by COVID-19. “We were
badly hit,” he says. “In the current crisis, startups like ours are being tested in unimaginable ways.”
In this podcast, the intrepid entrepreneur shares five coping strategies that he adopted while
navigating the disruption caused by the Coronavirus.
Stay calm in tough times
This mantra from his corporate days came in handy for Suraj when he was faced with the unique
challenge of reworking his product’s launch strategy at short notice. He calmly took stock of the
situation and restored ‘business as usual’ operations, keeping his team involved in the process
during this tough transition.

Look out for your employees’ well-being
Suraj believes that a crisis of this nature should not take the focus away from the well-being of team
members. It was crucial for the management to lend support to employees to ensure their
emotional, physical and mental health. Also, during the crisis, the frequency of the team’s
interaction has increased through online communication tools such as video conferencing, virtual
meetings, among others.

Pivot during the pandemic
Almost overnight, the business had to pivot in order to survive. Suraj shares that although the
software apps were ready for the launch, the manufacturing came to a sudden standstill due to
COVID-19. This compelled the team to think on its feet and come up with a unique DIY kit that can
be made and printed at home by the kids—the startup’s target audience. The primary challenge was
that the team couldn’t access the high-end development machines that were in the office as
everyone was now working from their homes. Thus, they had to make do by using all the available
machines in their homes and on the cloud to eventually release their DIY kit. This pivot, says Suraj,
was a true testimony of the startup’s resilience to bounce back despite the lockdown.

Conserve cash
The startup availed of moratoriums from banks and adopted a stringent cash saving strategy to
survive the crisis. The company also explored ways to defer payments wherever and whenever
possible. A company account was created that was accessible to each member of the team.
Employees could use this account to purchase urgent essential groceries and medicines, with the
understanding that all accounts will be settled later.

Revisit your funding options
Suraj reveals that since founders are wary of pumping in investments during the Coronavirus crisis,
the startup had to revisit its funding options. The company reached out to a couple of angel
networks that offered lifeline infusion through convertible notes. “A small stake in the company
going away at a higher discount seemed okay, given the prevailing conditions,” says Suraj.
Other changes such as employees’ routines, shift in focus areas and timelines are some of the
additional adjustments that the startup had to adopt to cope with the unprecedented situation
presented by COVID-19.