skepticism: how do you handle it?

Skepticism is perhaps the least talked about important aspect of entrepreneurship. It is also a very natural state of being that every entrepreneur goes through, whether they want to admit to or not. How do they deal with it? How do they forge ahead on untrodden paths?

There’s skepticism in starting out a new venture; hesitation in investing in a project that could fail;fear of others’ ridicule. There’s also skepticism on the part of customers. Will the product or service deliver? Is the price worth it? To help our readers gain courage, inspiration and necessary perspective in this skeptic world, VenturePlus asked 6 enterprises two questions:

1. How did you deal with your own skepticisms about launching your venture?

2. How do you help potential customers get over their skepticism about your product or services?

Here is what they had to say.

Nripal Adhikari is the Director of Abari, a social enterprise that uses natural materials for construction. Launch skepticism: Before starting Abari, we knew we would be working against the massive concrete and steel industry that can spare millions of rupees. We knew it would be a hard battle. Abari started out of passion rather than just the opportunity to go back to our rich architectural heritage of using natural materials like mud and bamboo. Our drive to promote natural material outdid initial concerns about and skepticism of the market and profits.

Customer skepticism: Our marketing strategy has been to spread the word about Abari via conversations and creating a website full of information. The site explains the benefits of using natural material like mud and bamboo and how we are embracing natural architecture, drawing in people who are looking for something sustainable and grounded. In order to turn them into clients, we show them our portfolio and take them on an exposure visit, during which we explain how, in terms of strength, comfort, cost and aesthetics, natural materials are as good as or better than conventional ones. Even we are surprised that in the last five years our work has impressed many high profile clients -so much so that we have built modern homes using pure earth and bamboo not just in Nepal but also outside. I think the answer in our case is “Seeing is believing.”

Rupesh Shrestha is the founder of Epic Mountain Bike, a leading mountain bike store and one of the forerunners in promoting mountain biking in Nepal.

Launch skepticism: I left a secure job in one of Nepal’s leading department stores to pursue my passion. I loved cycling, but had to go all the way to Thamel to maintain my bike. I knew I was doing something very different by having a good bike shop along with a workshop in Jhamsikhel. My passion for biking minimized my fear of the future. In addition, I believed in myself to work hard, stay committed, and put in everything that I could to grow my business.

Customer skepticism: Because many people have become health conscious and know the benefits of cycling, nowadays my job is half done. Because Epic Mountain Bike is an authorized dealer of most of the brands we sell, our customers know that our products are genuine and of high quality. We also provide standard guarantees for almost all the bikes that we sell, so customers can walk away confident in their purchase. This customer service is what people remember when they turn to us for workshops. By creating a name that can be trusted, we have started doing mountain biking tours through our sister concern, Epic Rides Nepal.

Manohar Bhattarai introduced Foodmandu, a food delivery service through online and phone orders, Launch skepticism: I was a little skeptical about my idea at first. But I overcame it by doing enough analyses of different aspects of the project, from which I figured out that Foodmandu would not be a success in the short run but rather after 2-3 years. With the determination to run the service for at least a couple of years even if it wasn’t going to give me visible returns, I gathered enough courage to start the project. Before launching Foodmandu and during its beginning days, people around me were skeptical too; everyone started saying “Foodmandu won’t see its second year.” My desire to do something new and to serve the need of others helped me drown out the noise of their doubts. I simply didn’t lose hope on my dream.

Customer skepticism: We focus our efforts and campaigns on certain demographics instead of spreading ourselves too thin by trying to make everyone our customer. We believe that the success of any business lies in understanding its customers and getting to their needs, and we do that. We provide exceptional service to our current customers, who when satisfied, spread the word about Foodmandu, grabbing the attention of skeptics. If there are any complaints, we act immediately to reassure the customers that they can trust Foodmandu. To reign in someone for the first time, we explain the benefits of Foodmandu: they can eat from their favorite destinations in the comfort of their homes, avoid traffic, and not have to worry about parking. Since some people may not be ready to embrace the concept of online ordering, we take telephone orders too. It’s about making customers comfortable and familiar with the process.

Sandeep GIiri is the founder of Gham Power, a Solar PV system company that is directing the attention of people suffering from loadshedding towards solar power.

Launch skepticism: We dealt with our skepticism of not succeeding by preparing ourselves. We did a good amount of research on both environmental conditions and market conditions to realize that solar PV is quite feasible in Nepal. We didn’t know exactly how the local market in Nepal would respond, and how to size and package our systems, so we conducted a market research study where we interviewed homeowners and business owners. We packaged our systems based on the research. We then asked all of the founding members of the company to install our solar PV systems at their individual homes, and to go through the bank financing process. This enabled all of us (and our families) to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes and identify how we needed to refine our sales, installation, and service processes.

Customer skepticism: Since a lot of people don’t know that solar PV can power appliances other than light bulbs, such as refrigerators, water pumps, and even lifts, we did many awareness campaigns through social media sites like Facebook as well as word-of-mouth and local events. Because people have a tendency to only look at the upfront costs of the system and not consider the running costs as much when comparing it to other options, we adjusted our pricing and financing to make it easier for our customers to compare and see the benefits. Another way how we show solar is more reliable, long-lasting, and eventually more cost-effective in the long-run is by giving numbers. For example, we explain that since solar panels have a 25-year warranty, after the customers have completely paid off the system in 10 years (or less), they still have 15 more years of free electricity coming from the system.

Raj Gyawali, the founder of Social Tours has noticed many things around him that most people don’t, which has helped him find new ways to stay ahead in the competitive tourism industry.

Launch skepticism: I was skeptical about finding the right clientele. I wasn’t sure if I was venturing into the right niche since I would be going into Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and responsible tourism. I found tourism to be a challenge that I wanted to take on, and I wanted to show that it could be done in a responsible manner. Even now, I enjoy the challenge of it. As for the anxiety, because we deliver new products even now, there is anxiety in that. If the high is not in getting money but in developing a product, the anxiety level is down.

Customer skepticism: Right from the beginning we wanted to market Nepal ourselves instead of going through travel agents, so we had to do all the marketing. By being very friendly and outgoing with customers and establishing a strong online presence, such as a well-presented website, Social tours has come to be known for its unique tours and trips. We provide these tours sometimes for free in exchange for customer feedback. That openness, that hospitality, gets noticed. People who did a trip or tour with us when we started 10 years ago are coming back. They have also made solid recommendations. We are about delivering exceptional products and creating an image of ourselves so big that people want to come to us.

Suraj Acharya is the Managing Director of Metro Tarkari , a company that delivers groceries through online orders.

Launch skepticism: Since there is no infrastructure for online shopping in Nepal, things like online payment and how people would react to buying vegetables online was a matter of apprehension. But at this time and age where people spend a lot of time working and most of it in front of a computer screen, we were quite optimistic that a small market existed for us. We launched the company with the idea of educating our customers as we went along. It is a slow process but people love the idea of buying online and having things delivered to their door. Our confidence lies in the fact that we are competitive in price and provide the best service we can.

Customer skepticism: We have done everything from printing flyers, to using billboards, to opening up physical outlets as approaches. But our market is the informed customer who already spends time online and would be easier to persuade, such as people living abroad who would like to support their household by buying groceries for it back home. For this we use aggressive campaigns on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Our brand name is flashed on people’s Facebook walls on a regular basis and we constantly throw specials and great offers. Packages or bundled pricings are always a good idea and people respond to that. As of now for reassurance, we are building a video advertisement with reviews of people who have actually used our services and have shopped with us multiple times. Showing current customers’ satisfaction to potential customers will be very helpful in dissipating the latter’s skepticism.

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