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Corporates can help start-ups learn business skills they lack 

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DOING start-ups and conducting traditional corporate business requires explicitly different styles of doing business. The world of start-ups revolves around the concept of fast-paced growth as much as it does the rapid expansion of a customer base.



In doing so, start-up leaders receive feedback that leads to a timely improvement of products or services. In contrast, traditional corporate management aims to build quality into their products and maximise return on investment.

Certainly, both types of the business chase the same goals: building products or services that meet and satisfy targeted customers' needs, convincing them to buy again as well as build love and loyalty to the brand. Despite the differences, both types of business organisations work toward mutual fulfilment and play a role in fitting together the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle to complete Thailand's business ecosystem and surf the wave of rapid digitisation washing over every single corner of the world.
Large corporates are perhaps best thought of as a big brother who utilises internal capability to educate and advise start-ups, aiming to transform them into effective cogwheels in the ecosystem. This creates a healthier holistic ecosystem that moves at the same pace as does global change. It is a venue where large corporates and start-ups enjoy mutual benefits. Under the spotlight of media, big brothers therefore step up as educators and consultants for start-ups. They come from nearly all industry categories including telecommunication, finance, tourism and even construction. The two mentioned roles come in different forms and for various purposes as follows.

Education for start-ups
A corporate big brother is aware that the first step is the hardest to take. Designing a foundation programme provides start-ups with guidelines of how to take the right path at the beginning and how to sustain growth. The programme would be a maverick in comparison to conventional educational program, and yet would normally present a fixed curriculum. Contents would be generalised rather than designed specifically for a particular start-ups needs.
Advantages of this approach for a corporate include giving it an opportunity to lead creation of a start-up community that can be defined as vertical segments reflecting specific interests of each corporate. Any corporate that successfully creates a genuine start-up community would indirectly benefit from a knowledge-sharing culture between internal and external personnel. It opens the door for the internal ones to learn new ideas from outsiders right from the initial phase. Cautions of this approach for a corporate include potential weakening of the whole business ecosystem if the big brother fails to build a strong community or lacks a decent response plan for managing start-up growth. Their endeavour to support start-ups could turn out to be a corporate marketing tool rather than a real driver of the entire business ecosystem.

Consultancy for start-ups
Consultancy is different from education. Consulting includes relaying experience, knowledge and special expertise from the consultant to the client by focusing on practical results rather than generalised concepts. The consulting normally relates to a particular concern requiring a solution.
Before the consulting process begins, the start-up needs to prepare questions about their challenge and understand why it must be overcome. The consultant generates recommendations and the client has a responsibility to do the hard work of implementation in line with their main objective. They also have to do planning to ensure concrete results. Consultancy is not always the right fit for a start-up. It normally works satisfactorily with a start-up in the post-infant stage, with a clear business road map already laid out.
A major advantage of this approach from the corporate perspective is that the knowledge gained by previous experience of internal staff in a particular function allows for easy sharing with the start-up.
Caution of this approach for corporate include an understanding that a good consultant requires more than experience in a particular function. Sets of skills are necessary, including a comprehensive understanding of business, persuasive skills and tracking skills. There is no guarantee that anyone with strong grounding in a particular function is sufficiently well-rounded to be a professional consultant to start-ups.
AIS The StartUp has conducted, for seven consecutive years, a distinctive education and consulting program for start-ups. Many of them - Flowaccount, ZipEvent, Local Alike and Favstay - are successful outcomes of a programme we introduced to the business ecosystem. We are ready to play the educator and consultant roles for other start-ups.

Srihathai Prammanee is head of AIS The StartUp, Advance Info Services Plc.

Published : October 10, 2017