The Game of Startups: Lessons from ‘Game of Thrones’

Startup has become a buzzword today. Until March 2018, Department of Industrial Policy and promotion (DIPP) had 9000 registered start-ups .Beyond the registered number, it would be signifificantly larger.The trend today is to discuss more about start-ups  then about stock markets.News is more about Walmart acquiring Flipkart, battle between Ola and Uber etc.India today has a favourable demographic dividend ,a growing middle class ,a huge consumer market ,a big talent base in engineering  and complex problems to be solved at a massive scale.All these are right  ingredients for a startup eco-system. However there are a number of challenges  faced by Indian start-ups.Some common challenges include

  • Government regulations
  • Fund raising
  • Lack of mentoring
  • Scalig correctly
  • Managing cashflow
  • Finding right employees

Besides these,there are certain more pressure on a startup like ;

A start-up has to think about scale from day1.Only reading glorified stories will not help. It takes a lot of resilience in the entrepreneur to understand that  rewards will take time and that the entrepreneurial journey is  full of anticipation and uncertainty. Mental strength becomes a vital tool for survival.

India ranks (instagram)#1 among all Asian countries when it comes to Game of Thrones frenzy. Few characters in game of thrones teach us how to be better,wiser and survive in a world not easy to navigate.

  • The hated queen Cersei said ‘When you play the game of thrones, you win or die’
  • Tyrion Lannister, the imp, said ‘Never forget what you are, the rest of the world will not. Wear it like armour and it can never be used to hurt you’.
  • Peter Beylish who betrayed everyone said “Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder.Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try it again.

An analysis of traits of founders of various start-ups reveal that most of them exhibited common traits like  being self driven, passionate, determination, creativity, discipline etc. They identified a problem and came up with an innovative solution.Here are few such examples:

  • Real life ‘Padman’ of Delhi started with a realisation of struggles that women face during menstruration and launched ‘Azah’ in 2017
  • Twenty Motors aims to change the face of bike commute in India.Twenty Motors aims to make EV two wheelers as popular as fuel powered bikes
  • Artelus is using AI to save people from going blind
  • F5 (IIM alumunus ) wants to replace local chaiwalas
  • Kabadiwala online is a Bhopal based startup that helps people sell household junk and get paid
  • Healthcare at Home is bringing ICUs and cancer care to patients at home

Founders of most start-ups like the above possess certain traits attributes which helps them ideate, plunge, survive and sustain. Here are few more lines from characters of GoT which can be followed as lessons for business and entrepreneurship

  • “Winter is coming”-House Stark –Being prepared for tough times. One never knows what the future holds. Being able to adapt to a situation is the most important quality. Being prepared means to plan and strategise ahead.
  • “A Lannister always pays his debts”—unofficial motto of the House lannister—Deliver what you promise if one has to breach a contract for some unforeseen reason, one must be prepared to bear the cost.
  • Family,duty, honour- House Tully –Come what may, your family, your team always comes first. A startup goes through a lot of highs and lows but sticking with the team throughout the entire journey, putting loyalty, sincerity above everything else is how one gets through all.
  • “I am no ordinary woman.My dreams come true—Daenerys Targaryen. From this character start-ups can learn the lessons of resilience and not loosing focus
  • ‘Any man who must say,I am the king,is no true king” Tywin Lannister. A true leader will never have to assert himself as the leader
  • One more character from Game of Thrones. Arya Stark, the feisty character who has perhaps undergone the most transformation to reach  where she is now.We all like to see people take on challenges head on and live to tell a tale and this is very  aptly comes out. Arya’s response to what she would say to the God of death ….’Not today’ .

In Arya’s journey, there is  little every women entrepreneur chasing a dream encounters in chasing a dream and trying to slay a dragon in the way.

There are three lessons from Arya Stark for women entrepreneurs

  1. Never say die: Life is tough and full of surprises. Arya has shown through series—whether is is learning how to fight, to take a revenge or just survive without family and friends

Journey of an entrepreneur is lonely and it is important not to give up.

  • Own who you are : Arya’s character has shown us how important it is to accept and embrace who we are.Once we accept ourselves with all our strengths and vulnerabilities,we are ready to take on any challenge.
  • Never loose focus: If you know what you want and are driven by passion.then continue to pursue your goal. Arya never lost focus.She knew what she wanted and never once diverted her attention from her goal.

Many brands and start-ups in India have also jumped to make the most of Game of Throne fever

  • Zomaoto has started a section called ‘Game of Cones’. This section takes one to a list of icecream joints in a city.This appeals to the emotions of urban millennials who are fans of GOT and online food delivery
  • Myntra has its GOT inspired “Kook N Kuch” line which includes wide range of trees ,sweatshirts and more.These are listed under special GOT section—‘Styles approved by the Old Gods and the New.
  • Times internet owned Gaana has come up with GoT special section and includes playlists like Wild and Wooly, Dragon’s Den, Brotherhood,paying tribute to show’s economic characters like Khal Drogo, Daeneys Targaya,the Starks etc
  • Swiggy and Uber Eats have also come up with options in line with GoT
  • Flipkart has sections like ‘Game for Shopaholics’, ‘Your Watch Begins here’,’Game of Gadets’

Game of Thrones gives us many valuable lessons in business,leadership and strategy.One needs to be prepared for change ,know his/her self worth,have a solid strategy,pay debts and commitments and should never be afraid to take the correct course.

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