What does it take to make a company a Unicorn?

“What makes Sachin Tendulkar, Sachin Tendulkar?”

Well, some will claim that he was a born genius, some will say his relentless training is the most significant factor for his success, some will assume his passion and determination brought the eventual result, and yet others will also point to luck and destiny and claim that he was at the right place at the right time to emerge as the legendary cricketer he finally became. A success, perhaps, cannot be credited to a single reason as there are a multitude of factors that are at constant play. Undoubtedly, he had abilities, he received good training, he was passionate and determined, and moreover, he received a good opportunity. The same can be said for a successful start-up that goes on to become a unicorn i.e. being valued at a billion dollars. Addressing all the important factors mentioned in the checklist above becomes inevitable for the success of an individual as well as for a business entity. Let us throw some light on the important points required to make a company a unicorn:

Curation of an idea

A successful business venture requires thought establishment based on well-researched and incisive knowledge of a particular need the business will cater to. It is not possible to establish a business venture by mere curation of ideas and failing to acknowledge basic ground realities. Thus, acquiring an in-depth understanding of your field of operation and interconnection of your industry with the factors that are directly and indirectly linked to your industry assumes primary importance. If left unnoticed, these factors can hamper the growth of a business venture thus causing hindrance in reaching its true potential, and subsequently, can also result in its failure.

Analyse your target audience

India is a land of diversity. From age to ethnicity, from financial background to specific hobbies, there are a plethora of individual identities, tastes, preferences, and opinions. In order to become a successful business, it is necessary to develop a deep understanding about your target audience and consumer demand in order to make your business venture successful. A generic approach often leads to lapses in strategy of a company as the demand for your product is subjective to the variable needs and wants of the target audience. For example, suppose an individual sensed massive opportunity in a market of over 1.27 billion people for a clothing line. Analysing the general needs and demands of the country will not be sufficient. Here, the sub-category of the clothing line (say women’s fashion, men’s apparel, kids wear), the target audience (upper class, middle class, upper-middle class, etc.), and identification of prominent players catering to this market will be critical factors that will affect the success of the business venture. Also, its characteristic differentiator, the USP of the company, is also a matter of concern in this field.

Leverage the benefits of technology:

Establishing a business venture in the day and age of digital technology is a boon in itself. Today, businesses are leveraging the massive prospects offered to it by automation, data integration, cloud computing, analytics, mobile solutions, social media marketing etc. for brand building, improving customer service, increasing productivity and efficiency, identifying trends, product development, and promoting growth. Tapping the benefits of the desired technology efficiently can play a vital role in determining the growth of your start-up. Also, one should be careful in selecting the proper technological tools which are ideal for the purpose and relevant to the case specific business application.

Thought Leadership

Another critical aspect of a business is its thought leadership. The complexity of decision-making process requires a top-down approach regarding ideation in an organisation. The constant flow of information from the uppermost hierarchy ensures there is no confusion in the collective thought process of the company. A successful entrepreneur should always share his/her vision with the employees to ensure that individual efforts are made towards achieving a common goal. Also, it inculcates operational coherence, increases employee engagement, and assists in smoother workflow of an organisation, thus increasing the overall efficiency.


It is advisable for upcoming entrepreneurs to develop a strong rapport with established business leaders for their guidance and mentorship to assist in an entrepreneurial journey. A mentor will provide you essential business skill that otherwise, you will have to develop after a lot of trial and errors. Apart from the skill polishing and guidance to achieve success in the market, mentors also prove to be vital for acquaintances with critical business partners, prospective clients or providing key business insights.

Financial Constraints

Many examples can be cited of recent start-ups that began with a lot of promise but fizzled out fairly quickly. After back to back rounds of fundraising, such business ventures also received positive reception from consumers. But the only problem that caused their eventual failure was an alarming rate of cash burn. It is critical to seize consumer market, but not at the expense of financial instability of the company. Pay heed to the financial constraints of your company and rein in the spending at an appropriate time, in order to ensure the survival, sustenance and success of the business in the long run.

Think Big

A unicorn company, or any big achievement for that matter, needs to begin with a panoramic vision. Every realistic or short-term goal needs to be constantly fed with the hope of a huge dream that inspires every component of the organization to push themselves harder. An entrepreneur should always have the next milestone and the end goal in mind and should try and share both these ideas with the employees to make optimum use of the collective efforts.

Addressable opportunity

The phrase ‘carrying coals to Newcastle’ probably evolved from a failed business idea. Any product or service that your business tries to sell needs to have ample and long-term demand. Utilizing an existing necessity, or creating one successfully, are the hallmarks of a business on the verge of being a Unicorn.

As markets get clogged with a rise in the number of new entrants while the established players continue to keep a lion’s share of the returns, the purse just gets lighter for everybody. In such a scenario, it is only the business’s marketing plans and disruptive strategies, along with their immaculate execution, which can save the day and guarantee a greater portion of the profit pie.  An entrepreneur needs to have a futuristic vision and should be able to predict the changes in business variables beforehand to keep the business prepared to handle all kinds of topsy-turvy conditions.

Regulatory environment

Sometimes, there are businesses which might have a high degree of engagement with the government. In these cases, either a business can start generating quick profits, or it can go bust trying to negotiate with the bureaucratic red tape. A careful evaluation needs to be undertaken before any entrepreneur ventures into such businesses which are directly controlled by the state or central government.

It would suffice to say that any entrepreneur who believes in her/his idea should not give up until the vision is realized. While luck also plays a significant part, a pro-active entrepreneur combined with a hungry team with immense growth possibilities is bound to find success in today’s environment.

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