Advising startups versus big companies – what are the big differences? What has been your experience with both? (I am interested in the understanding the Indian market)

Answered by Meeta Malhotra

I can’t explain the intricacies of the Indian market in a short answer, so I’ll focus on the major differences I have experienced as advisor to big companies and startups:

1. The obvious one of course, is that large Indian corporates have painfully slow decision-making processes much like their counterparts anywhere else in the world. With startups, you can see the results of your work very quickly and that is immensely satisfying.

2. Big companies are used to working with consultants, startups are not. Most people tend to overlook this very important difference. I have developed a whole different kind of methodology for startups, which is less structured and more collaborative. When a big company commissions you, they expect you to be prescriptive. With startups, that doesn’t work because they very rarely follow a linear path. You have to find a way of infusing your recommendations into their, often chaotic, way of working.

3. Most startups have very weak processes. For example,  expect delayed paperwork. That’s not to say that big companies are faster, but once they commit to something, the reputed ones at least, will stick to the letter of the contract. I have never personally had a bad experience, but have heard many stories of startups who reneged half-way when funding was tight.

4. Finally, the reason that I chose to enter the startup world in the first place – these young companies question the status quo in a way that very few large companies do. Regardless of whether they finally succeed or not, the learning is invaluable and the energy infectious. That makes it all worthwhile.




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