Over the years, I have found the journey of my life is quite challenging despite of the sound family background I possess. My journey since I turned as an adult has witnessed a lot of up and downs but would state that I am fortunate enough as I have always received immense love and support from my parents and friends irrespective of various worst circumstances.
Despite of various challenges I am happy with my life because this is what the reality is and everyone has to face various challenge at certain point in their life irrespective of the profession, age, caste, creed etc. These challenges have allowed me to interpret and understand various things in life which have proved to be beneficial at various stages of my life till date. It has helped me in developing myself as a responsible individual.
Reflecting on my journey while pursuing my Masters in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship at Kingston University I have experienced immense fun as well as various complex challenges throughout the course which initially started in September last year.
The tenure of my course was undoubtedly the most precious and useful learning experience of my life till date. As mentioned it has always provided me with great inputs and opportunities across two teaching blocks.
Relating it to fun it has provided me some very special moments experienced with friends which will remain with me till I stop breathing along with a fruitful learning experience. Talking about the challenges the list is quite long to be honest.
One of the challenge which I faced was that I had to leave my family and country in order to pursue my Masters in London. This was quite challenging for me because I am a person who believes in staying with the family and am deeply attached with my country. After some time, I was able to tackle the problem as I convinced myself that I have to sacrifice this thing in order to learn something new.
Talking about the modules, Design thinking for start-ups can be rated as the most challenging module in my course. Despite of the challenges and hardships it has provided me with various knowledge and skills which will ultimately help me in developing my career as a successful entrepreneur.
It seemed to be challenging from the start but soon I started realizing that it is more challenging than I thought it would be initially. The first challenge I remember while reflecting my journey in terms of Design thinking module was the difficulty we faced in creating the teams for our start-ups which would remain the same till the end of the module. I had worked in teams before but I don’t understand why it was not the same this time. This was probably because we were allowed to select only one member from our course and rest of the two should belong to the different course which was known as MACE. Spending a limited amount of time with the students of MACE made it really difficult for us to choose the member who were likely to adjust well enough as a team. In addition, it was more important to select an efficient team as the assessment of the module was collective and we had to develop a unique start-up by the end of the March 2019.
Well, I must accept the fact that I was quite lucky in finding a really good team with whom I have argued a lot but at the end we all managed to satisfy the expectation of the team members and have various useful things which will benefit us at various stages of our lives.
How did we start?
How to kick-up the idea for our start-ups was itself the biggest challenge we faced before we really managed to agree and work on the idea which lead to the creation of Gemeinsam.
Well, to be honest we did not have a good start as a team. Despite of some really good ideas we all were not fully convinced. This was probably due the mistake we did which is most likely to committed while finding ideas for the start-ups. Indeed, we directly jumped on the solutions before defining the actual problem we were keen solving.
At, the end we decided to critically reflect on our lives in order to find the problem which can help us to creating a solution which can really add up value.
Interestingly, we all came up with the most common problem which everyone faces at some point of time in their lives. We all noticed that all of us felt lonely quite often and decided to work on this issue as a team.
Focusing on traditional forms of research we decided to some initial research with the help of reputed academic sources. Critical analysis of the problem highlighted that this was the problem which was faced across all the age groups but every 2 out of 5 individuals aged between 16-24 felt lonely quite often compared to various age groups. Hence, we decided to focus on the 16-24 age group and started talking to the people in that particular age groups in order to test our assumptions.
Lastly, based on our market research and backed by our feedback we decided to develop a book known as Gemeinsam which can be defined as a self-help book in order to tackle loneliness.
How did we implement?
The next big thing and perhaps the most important one was implementation of our business idea in real. This also lead to various challenges and probably the most complex ones as implementation itself is a challenging task.
In order to smooth down the working we all decided to adopt popular design thinking approach consisting the process divided into 5 steps: Empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test. (Stanford University, 2019).
Source: Stanford University, 2019.
As an individual we tend to directly assume the things. We all decided to empathize the views and problems of the people before coming to final conclusion. Empathy is very crucial in the design thinking process and we have developed these skills gradually throughout the duration of the course. In order to empathize the views, we decided to interview different people and noted down their valuable feedback which helped us to define our values more effectively.
Source: Own picture clicked by Chudasama (2019) at Kingston Library.
Defining the values for our products was perhaps the most challenging task we have ever faced with respect to our start-up journey. The main issue we wished to solve (i.e. loneliness) was itself becoming a headache for us while defining our brand identity. We noticed that people were not ready to accept the fact that they were lonely openly and the flow of the customers towards us during our first trade seemed restricted towards us as were marketing our product as a self-help book which tacked loneliness. Later, in order to solve this problem, we decided to redefine our value proposition as created positive taglines such as “Spreading connections together” in order to shift our brand identity from of a book that aimed of ‘tackling loneliness’ to ‘making meaningful connections.’
The next step we initiated was prototyping. We were really confused when we started discussing the material and content for our book. We all as a team decided to keep the content as simple as possible and use non-academic language instead of formal psychological language. Our main aim was to create a book which doesn’t negatively diagnose the reader but helps the reader to self –access the problem and solve it by using real activities making meaningful personal connections. We tested our MVP which was consisted of couple of patented activities of our company along with stickers which were designed by ourselves in our first trade fair help in Kingston Business school.
Source: Own photograph clicked by OMNI (2019)
After, the first trade fair we started prototyping again in order to develop a finished product for our second trade fair which was supposed to be held outside our university.
Deciding the material for the book and keeping the productions costs to minimum was a major challenge for us. In order to keep the costs to minimum, we decided to publish the books by ourselves and successfully manufactured five books using glossy papers.
Source: Own photograph clicked by Chudasama (2019)
After the completion of our second trade fair we managed to sell all five books and got eight pre-orders. We were happy as a team and appreciated the efforts of each other gracefully.
Lean canvas model played an important role in our challenging journey as it helped us in designing and formulating our company strategy. Value proposition model helped us to identify and define our values and helps us to address the needs and wants of the customers more efficiently.
Setting-up a team!!!
In order to keep things organised we decided to assign different roles to each team member and all of us were asked to stick to our roles. In order to make it professional and for designing a content which can be patented we decided to collaborate with the professional graphical designer who was a Kingston Alumni and was deeply inspired by our product.
I took over the Marketing Director job and was quite confident as I had done it before and had enough knowledge as well as experience. I was backed by my team members throughout our journey which I feel motivated and inspired me to work harder all the time.
All the team members took over the responsibilities seriously and focused on their strengths in order to get a fruitful result at the end of the term. Working in teams allowed us to compensate our entrepreneurial weaknesses and allowed us to work to our strengths. Impatience was probably my weakness I discovered during this journey which I wish to overcome in the future as soonest possible as patience is most for becoming a successful entrepreneur.
Collaboration is the key!!!!
Belbin (2012) states that in order to work efficiently as the team it is must to collaborate properly with each other which can be achieved using couple of factors- trust and communication accordingly.
The first discussion we had a team was regarding the same where we decided our working strategy in order to run things smoothly. We as a team decided to trust each other irrespective of complex circumstances and successfully backed each other during our journey.
Communication was the most important factor which I feel contributed the most towards the success. We had a really good communication amongst us since the start and it continued to enhance over a period of time.
We decided to follow strict discipline in terms of our team meetings and discussed the agenda which we were supposed to discuss well in advance so everyone can prepare accordingly and it also saves times and keeps things more organised. We together as a team meet every Thursday and Saturday and worked together in order to achieve our goals.
Connecting the Dots!!
Working in team during my course taught me that connecting dots is very important when you are working together and it is a necessity for entrepreneurs at every stage of their career.
We as a team have developed a skill of connecting the dots in order to achieve our goals. I personally have learned that we have to really work on small things in order to connects the dots more effectively and these skills will be very helpful to me in the future.
Source: Chudasama (2019)
Design thinking model and our start-up journey has taught us a lot of things but I would like to list down some crucial lessons which I feel will be quite beneficial to me in my career.
- Identifying the gaps in the exiting market is crucial in order to design a product or service which can actually solve the problems and add value to the customers.
- Balancing the strengths and weakness of ourselves and our team and develop a mind-set to work accordingly.
- Work harder in order to reach to the expectations of our customers as well as our team members.
- Design values for the products and services which can correlate to the attributes of the product which should always be customer focused.
- Identifying what is viable for our company and stick to the reality in order to work on the things which are practically possible or viable.
Rise of a New Era!!
Despite of the hardships and challenges which I have faced my course Innovation Management & Entrepreneurship and particularly Design thinking module has boosted my confidence and has strengthened my wish to become an entrepreneur.
With all the valuable lessons I have learnt and backed by my experience of our start-up Omni I look forward of becoming an entrepreneur with an intent of contributing to the community and society as a whole.
- Belbin, R.M., 2012. Team roles at work. Routledge.
- Chudasama (2019). Photography
- school Stanford (no date) Design Thinking Process.Available at: https://dschool-old.stanford.edu/sandbox/groups/designresources/wiki/36873/attachments/74b3d/ModeGuideBOOTCAMP2010L.pdf?sessionID=1b6a96f1e2a50a3b1b7c3f09e58c40a062d7d553