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Aspiring Minds, a two-year old company, has not only been successful in coming up with a stack of interesting talent assessment and benchmarking tools, but also in adopting many best practices that have helped it curb expenses and yet scale up its operations. In a conversation with Vandana Sharma of itmagz.com, Himanshu Aggarwal, director, Aspiring Minds (AM), shares details on the strategies that the company has adopted to keep up its scorching pace of growth, while controlling unnecessary expenditure.
It is a known fact that the best of products can fail if not marketed well. That means a lot of expenditure on PR as well as media promotion. What importance does AM give to marketing, and what kind of budgets do you have to manage this? Any suggestions for other start-ups?
At Aspiring Minds, we follow a careful strategy of first testing the product on the ground, learning from the experience and then designing the product to be robust in all scenarios. Only when we are sure about the product's potential do we go into marketing it in a sustainable way. We are very averse to over-exposure of our products too early in the cycle.
Our marketing strategy has always been to first make people understand our product's core value proposition, get endorsements from thought leaders and then create a mass appeal through activities such as sponsoring HR seminars, events, organising placement seminars, etc.
Could you give some marketing advice for other start-ups?
At an early stage, it is important to identify and focus on one's target audience. The aim should be to find a set of key clients and build the business. Marketing to this focus group can be quite economical and one can use innovative methods.
Once the ground work is done, Internet targeted media and targeted forums can offer good opportunities for PR exercises.
What kind of an R&D set up does your company have? How much revenue do you allocate for research?
Over 35 per cent of the total spending in AM is on R&D.
Is the company bootstrapped or have you taken help from VCs, angel investors or from seed funding? Any suggestions for entrepreneurs to keep a tab on expenses?
Initially the organisation was self funded, i.e., the founding team brought in the capital. However, AM has raised angel investments in the third quarter of 2008 to scale up.
Start-up teams should always have the numbers worked out carefully and enumerate what they can burn in a particular month. This reverse calculation helps a lot in managing expenses. Do remember that spending too little can also be fatal to the organisation's growth.
What kind of IT infrastructure do you use?
Besides, we require a lot of soft infrastructure like servers connected to the Internet backbone, Internet connectivity, wireless and wired telecommunication, etc. We are pre-dominantly using Airtel Broadband services for the office's Internet connectivity while for telecommunication we use both Tata Indicom and Airtel. Regular workstations are procured or assembled as per needs.
Since start-ups usually like to leverage a lot of open source applications, do you look for people with experience in the open source domain? What kind of skill-sets would be desirable?
Which media do you use to tap and identify the right talent to fulfil your recruitment needs?
Which, according to you, is the best city to set up a new IT venture?
Could you share a few other strategies that AM has adopted to keep up its pace of growth? And a few ways of keeping unnecessary expenditure at bay?