Nitin Mohan Srivastava: As an entrepreneur, the first lesson that hits you is you need to understand people

June 26, 2023
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Tell us about yourself?       

I am on a journey of creating something that brings true purpose and meaning in people’s lives. I am always up for a conversation and these very conversations with innumerable people have led me to the discovery of the idea for my latest startup Pinch.

Through it, I am hoping to transform lives and the home environment by offering our lifestyle management and home hospitality services. In today’s world, people are bogged down by the everyday stress at home and I earnestly want to transform that experience. As the CEO of Pinch, I wish to give the entire experience at home a makeover.

Currently based out of Gurugram, I am using my vast experience in a number of successful startups (as VP of Marketing and Operations at Chaayos and SVP of Growth Strategy at Stanza Living) to my credit.

An avid reader and poet myself, I want people to be able to make more time for themselves by taking care of their everyday stress at home so that they can pursue meaningful activities and hobbies that truly matter.

My home holds a special place for me as I believe it to be an extension of my personality. I wish for everyone to bring the same joy into their lives so that they can turn up as their best selves in all spheres of life.

What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?

As an entrepreneur, the first lesson that hits you is you need to understand people, because that is where it all begins and ends.

The only way your life’s dream is going to come alive is when you are able to energise somebody else with the same dream and vision as yours. You can’t do it alone; you have to get people to do it for you.

The only way your dream will come true is when your employees are equally excited, and they understand it the way you want to build the company. They will be able to better your idea and execution.

If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?   

Nothing. We can go back and better a lot of things because our mind thinks that we could instinctively do this better, but there is no place else that I would have rather been.

A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?  

I have been fortunate and blessed to have a family and friends, who have backed whatever I wanted to do and however I wanted to express myself through my professional career.

Secondly, as an entrepreneur I get to choose how I want to live my life. This question is valid when you don’t know how to recharge but I do know how to recharge. I read books, garden and spend a lot of quiet time. That’s my recharge.

What is the inspiration behind your business? 

The inspiration has been a constant nagging feeling that plays at the back of our minds every day – of pending household chores. These are everyday errands and struggles at home, which can actually be solved through structure.

By structure, I mean, by giving it out to somebody else to get the tasks done, be it bill payments, wardrobe organisation, ticket bookings or home repairs.

It becomes difficult for people to find solutions because there aren’t a lot of solutions like our company in the market. I just wanted people to focus on what they want to spend their time on.

Since we are constantly on the internet, we keep wasting our time on it. It does not serve people like me well if I tell my employees that the time they are spending here at work is actually a compromise on their life.

That their most valuable time is with their family and friends, and every minute that they spend away from them, is actually a compromise.

This hits home very late in life. This is why we must make the best of that time, which is so dear and valuable. We must do something meaningful out of this time and not waste it away. A classic example that I keep telling our customers is the way they book their flight tickets.

For a Rs 200 discount, they will waste an hour searching for options. That Rs 200 does not matter but their one hour was way more valuable than the money they ended up saving.

What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?     

My magic sauce is our pure intent to serve. And if we are able to scale this intent, it will be the magic sauce of this company. Intent to serve is universal – you don’t do it only for your customers. You do it for your fellow employees, your parents and for yourself.

If you can find such people and can coach them to serve, that is the magic sauce. It’s incredibly hard to find such people and coach, but it’s the right thing to do.

If we get this right, we have got the business right. Competition is when somebody else is trying to do what we are doing. If one has true intention to serve customers, and somebody else serves them better, customers are better served by them.

For us, competition is just one more party we can learn from. If they make mistakes, we learn from their mistakes. If they do a great job, we learn from it. We look at competition very positively.

How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?         

This is a game of patience. Founders should know this and they should plan money, resources and business planning around patience.

You have to plan your venture keeping in mind that this might take time. Secondly, when the systems are small and the company can’t scale numbers, that is when we must hold on to stories. If you only have let’s say two customers, those are the moments when you have the opportunity of going really deep. These two customers have a lot to teach. Stories then trump data points.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far in your business, and how did you overcome it?

Everyday presents a range of problems that need to be solved. If it is a challenge, we need to be able to solve it. Every challenge is a problem waiting to be solved. And if some part of the business is not working well or isn’t profitable, one must know when to shut it down.

What do you consider are the main strengths of operating your business in India and the specific state you are in over other states in India?

India is an extremely ambitious country, flushed with opportunities. Before I would hear our government saying that we are becoming a 5 trillion dollar economy.

We’d look at it with half knowledge, comment and take sides. But when you become an entrepreneur, you look at the India opportunity at this point of time, and realise that even the 5 trillion dollar economy mark can also be surpassed.

That is the kind of opportunity we are sitting at. The sheer exposure of Indians as a community in the world is just coming together for us. India is a great market for any kind of service.

You could be selling the most premium wine in the world and India will still be a relevant market for you. When you are creating something for the top 1 percent of Indians, don’t look at 140 crore people of India as your market. It’s actually lots of markets put together.

India is not homogenous as we’ve got a lot of small markets within India. As a service, we are possibly playing it up only to the top 0.1 percent in the country, which is essentially 1.4 lakh families. But it can’t be 140 crore people for us.

You have to look at whether it makes sense for you, when you look at the right slice of the Indian market, because India is a multi-market story. There can’t be a service or a product which can serve everybody, except if it is samosas and Parle G.

What (if any) are some weaknesses of operating your business within India and your state?

None. I fundamentally believe in the India story and that it is one of the great markets. There are better markets to learn from, but I won’t say that there is any weakness to operate in India.

If you could operate your business in another state in India rather than the State you are in, which state would it be and why?

I want to operate in every state of this country. We want to spread out as far as possible and be able to serve as many people.

India has an incredibly diverse population. How has the affected your consumer base and business?

For us, it is a very exciting space because we get to understand India in a much more deeper way from a cultural context, than any other business would have gotten an opportunity to.

This is because we deeply intervene in the life of our customers. That gives me a lot of opportunity to understand each family, each market, very deeply from a cultural context. Not many products and services get this opportunity.

Infrastructure is really important to businesses. How have you seen India’s infrastructure improve recently? Do you see new opportunities opening up?

Look at what is happening on the roadside – there’s such a huge push on the infrastructure in India. Roads fuel economic growth to an extent that no other infrastructure could. It is not just roads – it is ports, airports, townships and business parks.

The kind of real estate infrastructure that is developing in this country lately is amazing.

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