Path to Scale

Every entrepreneur dreams of creating something scalable. Leaving behind a legacy which people look back in wonder and say … how did they achieve this.

What do we mean by Scale?

Scale could mean multiple things for different people. The CFO would look at scale and say more profits, the Head BD would say more clients, the Head Sales would say more revenues, the Founder would say more valuation, the HR would say more people!

At 13 Llama Studio, when we started the firm, it was just three people and we literally started in a garage. For us scale means all those terms combined, and in the past two years we have trebled our team, our sales and our clients.

I would not say that we have scaled up so far. In the past two years, we have faced a fair bit of challenges. I am pretty certain that most start-ups go through this issues, and only the ones who are able to solve these are able to become larger entities.

Focus has to shift from People to Process

When a firm is small and is largely dependent on the founding team, it relies on the heroics of that team to do things. Folks in IT would know this a SEI CMM Level I.

As the firm grows, the number of tasks the founding team gets to spend on actual delivery versus running an organization slowly goes down. For example, when we started 13 Llama, I used to spend 80-90% of my time on implementation … these days its not even 40%.

That also means that somehow the founding team has to shift their capabilities into the organization … the people they hire. It’s expected that this rung of employees would not be as driven as the founding team, but that’s the rule of the game.

Now, the founding team has to focus on setting up processes via which a team reporting to them would be able to deliver on similar lines. A team which may or may not have the same passion as the founding team. Now, we are not looking at individual heroics any more … we are worried about the sanctity of the business process.

Eventually as these processes become well defined, there would also be a need to automate some of them so that the people running these processes could do a lot more.

Along People come People problems

I am a people person. I am, believe me. However, the minute you start hiring folks, the issue you face with this new found pool of talent is to train them, ensure that your organizational culture remains intact and the values that you espouse are transferred to them. Even if you manage to do all of that, you still have to worry about retaining them!

As a growing organization, one of the departments that would be working full time would be the Human Resources (HR); for the need to attract and retain the top folks would never stop. However, if you somehow manage to automate your processes (look at Uber for eg), then a lot of tech can replace a lot of people.

The Uber way

I deliberately gave the Uber example. These days everybody is thinking about the Uber of model. By this I mean that folks are now trying to think through the entire process to automate as opposed to first figuring out which is the best process and then implementing the same.

Uber did not immediately have this process automation. They took their time getting there … then they scaled up across multiple geographies. What Uber really did for folks in India, was to shake up the core beliefs that to grow, one needs to hire more and more people.

The IT Sector

Take the Indian IT Sector for example. I am pretty certain that we at 13 Llama Studio do not identify ourselves as an IT Services providers. However, at times we have to do development and a lot of times people whom we speak to often use the mental model of asking how many employees do we have to measure the scale of the firm.

A recent economic survey by Delloite revealed that the per capita productivity (annual) of the average Indian employee is 4000 USD (2.5 Lakh INR). As compared to China (at 17500 USD) its less, but as compared to Canada (105,000 USD) it’s a pittance.

Technology is meant to increase productivity, can’t we focus purely on increasing this than the number of warm bodies working for an organization? Yes, this is a term that is actually used.

That’s what Scale should be … doing more.

PS – If you would like to find more about this, be sure to take a look at some of the opportunities at 13 Llama Studio.

Notes from Pune Digital Marketers Meetup

March has been an exciting month so far, with multiple speaking opportunities both for 13 Llama Studio and me.

On the 1st of March, I was invited arm-twisted into speaking at Pune Digital Marketers Meetup. In case, if you are in Pune and are working in this exponentially growing industry, then this is one meetup which you should not miss!

Continue reading Notes from Pune Digital Marketers Meetup

Maker’s schedule v/s Manager’s schedule

At 13 Llama Studio, we are a young and energetic team who works on multiple ideas at the same time. We are makers … people who tinker with code, libraries and see if we can put all of them together and create a beautiful kaleidoscope of an experience for our audience.

Continue reading Maker’s schedule v/s Manager’s schedule

The new office!

The New office
The New office

We recently shifted our office to Sakinaka to a larger, much open space. Shifting to a commercial property has its charms, and it has its overheads as well.

This office will see us through for atleast the next couple of years, and hopefully we will be forced to move on to a much larger space after that!

Yes, the cake was our own celebrations on having finished the furnishing of the office. More teaser photos of our office here.

The difference between a Good vendor and a Great vendor

9 months into this business, here’s a gem of a lesson that I have learnt. It’s good to have vendor’s guilt (you need to be clued in on Amit’s blog for this term, he is going to has shed more light on this – Vendor’s Guilt). It keeps you on the edge, it makes you deliver on time. However, it’s great to learn how to control this feeling and not get overwhelmed by the same. On a more personal note –

One of the primary reasons for starting a services firm was to beat the run of the mill service providers that I see in the Indian IT Services market. Service providers need to be value adding rather than extracting value from the organization.

Being steered by this value, the focus has always been on adding value. Getting recognition and paid for providing this value is the differentiation between a good and a great vendor.