Gaurav Mantri's Personal Blog.

What Startups Can Learn From Aam Aadmi Party

For those who have been closely watching Indian Parliament elections concluded recently, you already know who Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is. For those who don’t know, AAP is the youngest political party which came into existence in 2012 as a result of India Against Corruption movement. It is led by an ex-bureaucrat, Arvind Kejriwal.

When I look at AAP as an entrepreneur, I see it as a startup; nothing more, nothing less. They are young, motivated, trying to do things differently. Startups do good thing and they do not-so-good things and same was done by AAP. In this blog post, I will try to summarize some of the things AAP did (without actually mentioning those incidents) and the lessons I learnt from them as an entrepreneur.

I do realize that AAP is a political party and you just can’t really separate politics and emotions. If this post somehow touches your emotions as a lover/hater of AAP as a political party in a negative way, I apologize in advance but please refrain from posting your political thoughts in the comments. I reserve the right to delete them.

Now that the tone of the post is set, let’s start! The points I mentioned below are in no particular order.

Ideas are good but what matters is how you execute them

As startups, we get ideas every second of the day and believe me all of the ideas are good. However what matters is how you execute those ideas. Make sure that the execution of your idea is flawless.

Dare to be different

As a startup you have to be different. There are no excuses. You simply can’t do run-of-the-mill things. People may not understand you, disagree with you, mock you but you have to be different.

Consistent messaging

In a startup, the message conveyed by each and every team member should be consistent. A startup really can’t afford mixed messaging. You simply can’t have team members expressing “personal” opinions when everybody’s seen as a part of a team. It severely impacts startup’s  credibility.

Don’t leave your customers high and dry

Let’s face it, not all startups are successful. Heck, most of the startups fail. Startups have grand ideas and plans but ideas fizzle out during execution and plans backfire. It is quite natural. But that doesn’t mean you pack your bags overnight and leave your customers in lurch. They have trusted you (because they are your customers after all) so give them a decent amount of notice that things are not going according to the plan. At the very least they deserve this much from you.

Take criticism positively

As a startup, you have some ideas and convictions that you firmly believe in. However not everybody will share the same conviction that you have and you will get criticized both externally and internally (it’s a democracy after all). But that should not mean you take your gun out and start shooting everybody who doesn’t believe in you or your ideas. The attitude should not be “Either you’re with us or against us”. Instead it should be “How can we make you believe in us”.

Don’t badmouth competition

As a startup, we want to show our product is better. But badmouthing the competition is not the right way to go about it. If you really want to show that your product is better, show the things your product has and does better than the competition but never-ever say what your competition does bad.

Be humble

Remember, you’re a startup. You don’t have a track history (good or bad) just yet. May be you do, may be you don’t. So don’t go around town tooting your own horn. Humility is the key. Let your customers decide if you’re good or bad.

Don’t stretch yourself too thin

As a startup, you are full of energy and lots of ideas. You want to implement all of them. You want to expand mega-exponentially but don’t stretch yourself too thin trying to do too  many things at the same time. You will not do anything good. In fact, chances are that you mess up most of the things. Instead focus on a few things (or may be one thing) and make sure nobody does that better than you.

If life gives you lemon, you make lemonade

As a startup, you work in adverse conditions. You don’t get everything you hoped for or desire for. That does not mean you give up. Try to make the best of what is given to you and then improve upon that.

Be graceful in accepting defeat

There should not be any shame in losing. As a startup, you should take pride in the fact that at least you tried. So if you fail, be graceful. There could be many reasons of failure both internal (e.g. failed to acquire enough customer) or external (e.g. competition outsmarted you). Introspect your failure and when you do, don’t lie to yourself because if you do lie to yourself you will never understand why you failed thus you will never learn.


That’s it for this post. If there are more learning that you can think of, please feel free to post them as comments. But please, refrain from making political statements.

Again, I apologize in advance if I have hurt your emotions in any way. That was not my intention for writing this post.

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