Lean ways to manage your start-up during COVID-19 crisis


For our podcast episode, Blincventures.com engaged in conversation with Amita Deshpande. Amita is the Founder of Aarohana Ecosocial Developments, a social enterprise that recycles waste plastic to design beautiful tote bags and pouches. Aarohana Eco-social Developments is based in India, the innovative social venture uses traditional “charkhas” to manufacture its products, and while solving problems of environmental hazard caused due to plastic waste, the company also seeks to solve problems of seasonal rural unemployment.

Like many start-ups around the world, operations of Aarohana has been affected due to COVID-19  and subsequent lockdowns. However, this company has still managed to adopt lean ways to run their business. In fact, during such uncertain times, instead of laying off people, the company has hired an additional employee!

Find out some strategies for start-ups to work on during this lock-down by watching the full podcast episode here.

Continue reading to find some of the interesting highlights of  this conversation:

How are you managing your operations during this lock-down?

A quote by Nabil Sabio Azadi goes like this“When fishermen cannot go to sea, they repair nets.”At “Aarohana Eco-Social Developments”, our workshops and production site are shut. Nevertheless, our marketing and designing team in Pune are utilizing this time effectively to enhance branding.Whereas in the village unit our artisans are voluntarily cutting the plastics which is one part  of the production processes.

We pay salaries to our artisans  on a monthly basis irrespective of the production, although our production is currently halted we still need to appeal to the staff members for the favorable work from their side. Engaging in such operations employees get a sense that their income is not a favor; and we do not feel that we are paying our staff for nothing.

What can start-ups do to handle their finances during these times?
It is because of such unpredictability of the market, experts suggest to keep surplus cash for at least 6 months. But, because many start-ups cannot do so, some of the ways to go about dealing with the financial crisis is by cutting off costs in whichever way possible.

For an institution especially a business working for society upliftment, it is important to set the priority straight. It means that the business should segregate the ones who can afford the cut-offs and who cannot not. At Aarohana Eco-Social Developments, our rural artisans will get fully paid whereas the managers and staff will have to bear certain cuts which they have happily agreed too.

Secondly,  pre-purchase orders or use of gift-vouchers are also a way for business to move forward as of now.

In uncertain times like these, what can  founders do to   maintain good morale among the team?
It all comes down to hiring passionate individuals , who join the organization for a cause and not just monetary incentives or just as a job. Passion drives it all and brings the required motivation. The commonality in each member for a purposeful cause needs to be ingrained so much so that the situation like Covid-19 becomes irrelevant. A tip would be to hire people who see things like you see. Make sure to keep constant communication and counselling with each other so as to maintain good morale.

Are there any simple suggestions that you would want to share with people at home during this lock-down?
I would like to give my suggestions from Aarohana Eco-Social Developments’ perspective which cares for environmental and societal well-being.  In these circumstances, one must learn to empathize with each other. Our front line respondents do not just  include doctors, army, policemen but also waste collectors. So, my first suggestion is to start composting. Secondly, segregate the garbage as that makes things a lot easier for the waste-pickers.Lastly, use this time for self-improvement not just intellectual but also spiritual.

Article by Sujana Joshi