FIVE lessons from Gita for the start-up world!


Photo by <a href=”">Element5 Digital</a> on <a href=”">Unsplash</a>
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

I once read that Gita has answers to all questions about life and its situations. For those who don’t know about GITA — it is a series of verses that captures dialogues between Lord Krishna and Arjun from the battlefield of Kurukshetra (Mahabharat), and lessons from the same. Now, I am miles away from being an expert on it but I keep reading/watching videos and when I find something to which I can relate, I try to draw a parallel to what’s happening in my life (especially at Sirona, my start-up).

These are the 5 lessons from Mahabharat which are oh so relevant even today!

1. Planning over funding

I can’t count the number of times I have heard that ‘big funding’ is the most important aspect in any start-up’s success. I believe, that while funding is important, it’s not the reason why you will be a success or a failure. History books have countless examples of spectacular ‘funded failures’ and ‘un-funded unicorns’.

Even in Mahabharat — Pandavs & Kauravs (Fighting clans or Founders) were in a similar situation before the war (their target or start-up). On one hand, was Lord Krishna’s Narayni Sena which meant millions of troops and ammunition, and on the other was Krishna (the great planner ) himself as a charioteer who won’t pick up any weapons — so basically all alone.

Duryodhan (Head of the Kaurav clan | 1st Founder) picked the former (endless army/quantity) assuming that is what will win the war, but he lost eventually as his resources were ill-spent and Arjun (The most blessed archer from Pandavs’ clan | 2nd Founder) picked Krishna. In today’s parlance, I would equate the endless army to endless funding (Quantity) & access to Krishna to ‘Importance of Strategy & Mentor’ (Quality). If you are running a start-up, game plan, quality (planning) is far more important than funding/quantity!

Funding isn’t the answer. It’s always Quality over Quantity. Focus on basics (Plan / Foundation/ Strategy / Unit Economics / Quality / Customer needs — focus on these). Rest (Funding) will follow

In our case — I won’t say we have got it all figured out but have seen this play out. When starting Sirona, we were clear that we want to grow on customer dollar (planning right) and hence every funding (funding was a means / never the goal or ultimate moat) round was used to achieve the next phase of growth (with a clear sight on break-even). This planning helped as our copycats/competition kept raising and burning money while we kept growing better and healthier. Eventually, this was the biggest factor in us not only raising one of the biggest Series B in our segment but also giving a great return to our early investors!

2. Agility

We are all smart, there is no denying it. Still, there are times when we might know all the answers and can give our best, but the time is not right — in such times we should adapt, be agile, and be flexible — what we know/who we are is NOT always important — what the situation demands IS!

In Mahabharat, when Pandavs’ lost the great gamble they were subjected to 12 years of exile (in the jungle) and 1 year of agyatvas (strict hiding). If they were caught during this last 1 year, they would have had to spend another 12 years in the jungle. Pandavs kept their ego aside during this time, all brothers & queen Draupadi took different menial roles and waited for their time to strike.

Similarly, there will be days when you know you are right, and you have done everything right but still, things don’t go your way! For such days, learn to Adapt, and lie low. Brothers (Pandavs) took on various disguises — Chef, Eunuch Dancer, Minister, Stableman, weapon maker, and Queen Draupadi became a slave / daasi. Brothers who were meant to be kings/ princes — took on jobs that no one would imagine they would take. There is nothing called — this isn’t my role / this isn’t my part / this isn’t fair! Strike when the time is right. Adapting is the only way out for a founder/leader.

An example at Sirona would be — When covid hit — we adapted in many ways. We had no connections with the police for permissions (during lockdown one needed permissions to operate) but both of us (founders) sat at police stations for hours during the first and second wave and arranged permissions. Warehouse guys worked double shifts (faced commuting-related issues still showed up) and did all the work to make up for the lack of manpower, sales team started finding new opportunities to sell! We pivoted the range, changed the channel, and launched new products (despite no funds) and it helped us turn things around. With no new round/funding money, we still grew the revenues and didn’t fire anyone! No one in the team said this isn’t my Job! We all adapted.

3. Relationships

Photo by Luwadlin Bosman on Unsplash

This is another important aspect.

While I have heard ‘your network is your net worth’, I believe the ‘depth of bonds’ is far more important than the ‘number of friends' we have. We should work on the quality of relationships instead. It’s okay to have a few friends, but the ones we have we should bond well with them. Same for acquaintances, don’t meet anyone with an objective of benefiting / how can he/ she be of help to you instead if you commit to helping someone, go ahead and genuinely do that. Don’t promise today to forget tomorrow.

In Mahabharta, It was the Pandavs’ bond with Krishna which kept his allegiance to them. Otherwise, they were both cousins for Krishna. The kind of bonds the brothers shared with other people around helped them during the war. So many other clans came to fight for them (Dwarka / Matsaya) just because of the bond they shared.

For me, relationships are important. We are eternally thankful to all our customers and investors and team members. Right from day one, we have kept everyone in the loop with full transparency! Example

- For our Angel investors — created a WhatsApp list and kept sharing all small, big developments one-on-one basis with each and every investor followed by biannual email updates (throughout 4 years), till their exit. This open relationship helped us a lot with connections/introductions and during covid when we ran short, our angel investors arranged a loan (which was paid back within 4 months) at 24 hours’ notice :) This deep bond has helped us earn so many well-wishers who are waiting for our next start-up to back us.

- With our team — We started having monthly town halls right after our first angel round. The format varied but this is where we started sharing everything related to business, numbers, and product launches — with the full team. Though initially, things did leak out a little (you always have some short-term team members who go and join the competition and share all details/launches/numbers), but the confidence it built in our larger team has been brilliant! Today, we are a bunch of passionate, mission-oriented souls with a common objective of breaking the taboo around female hygiene (while helping those who can’t buy our products). The alignment due to these deep bonds is so high, that if the founders die tomorrow — any of the core team members will be able to run the show with equal (in fact better) fervor.

4. On-Going Learning

It is important to keep learning. Depending on your situation — it can be in the form of regular reading, watching videos, or listening to podcasts (about your interests) to keep yourself updated. It has to be an ongoing process. Else, you won’t even know when your edge becomes redundant, and you lose to competition / other factors.

Arjun’s son Abhimanyu was a rockstar who was born with great talent. He was so bright that without even formally learning all the major tricks of the war, he had learned one critical one in his mother’s womb. Now when Abhimanyu finally went to the war, he applied what he knew and did get successful to a large extent — but couldn’t go all the way and lost (if he had kept the learning process may be the result would have been different). Here Abhimanyu can be us or any of our gifted team members/ cousins who are amazing. It’s our job to ensure that we keep the learning going!

Whether for the team or myself, I keep finding ways to keep us updated. Have tried many courses which have helped me at different stages with different strengths. Early on we got selected for ISB D labs (and learned many things), then attended a course by the great marketer Eden at Cambridge and my favorite — Stanford Seed — truly transformative for early-stage businesses — this helped us fine-tune our strategy/vision/mission and gave me some great friends. I also try to read books and watch YouTube videos on development /positivity — daily!

Learning is an ongoing process! It’s like bathing / brushing your teeth — you need it daily!

5. Right Ambition

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It’s good to aspire for more. It’s very good to be ambitious, but when this turns into greed that’s where the downfall starts. Many times, it’s difficult to distinguish between ambition/and greed.

In the case of Mahabharat, Duryodhan could have easily given 5 Pandavs 5 villages (though The Pandavs deserved far more), however, his greed knew no bounds and he refused to part with anything. Due to his mean and greedy ways, he did live a lavish life for a long time, but it eventually led to the war & his fall.

In our case, an examples could be

In the start-up ecosystem, creating an Employee Stock Options Pool is standard practice. Depending on the stage of the business, it's used to attract talent, negotiate salaries, retain teams, etc. Even we had one. However, we had many employees who came on market salary and hence they were not offered these shares. When we raised a good round, we decided to include even those who weren’t expecting it / promised esops. Even logically, these members played an important part during slog hours, and it’s only right for us to thank them when we are better off. How is this example relevant? Most would say — let’s keep the shares for self/senior people who will now take this ahead / why give when they were not promised. We feel differently about this and hence all core early team members were given shares. Right ambition.


You might be at the idea stage or scaling up / just started your professional career or a long way into it — the basics of the game don’t change. There are 100s of stories (Mahabharat or ours or others) emphasizing on the importance of being adaptive, planning long term over the short term, having deeper bonds — using things and not people, and the importance of learning as an ongoing process. Keep these in mind always!



Deep Bajaj : Founder Sirona Hygiene (PeeBuddy)

Social Entrepreneur | Solving Unaddressed Intimate & Menstrual Hygiene issues with award-winning products | Fortune 40 under 40 | ET 40 under 40 | Tedx speaker