Failure is a big part of success–and yes, it’s a cliche, but I think more people should learn to see failure as an opportunity to learn rather than be an excuse to give up.

 

Dr. Saurabh K.H. Srivastava is a Doctor Entrepreneur and Co-founder of Doctor Arthritis, a leading healthcare e-commerce brand that specialises in joint supports and compression products for customers with arthritis and other joint conditions.

He is a MBBS and BSc (1st Hons) graduate of Imperial College London. He went on to do his Foundation Program at the prestigious Addenbrooke’s Hospital, University of Cambridge and is a published medical author. He is also the recipient of the Santander Entrepreneurship Prize.

He has a strong passion for retail and e-commerce, healthcare, start-ups, new economy industries and sustainable enterprises.

Where did the idea for Doctor Arthritis come from?

During my time working as a doctor in the hospital, I couldn’t help but notice a common problem among many of my patients – joint pain. After taking the time to engage and talk to them, it also became clear that most were doing very little about it. Many of them knew very little about their condition and had simply resigned themselves to a life of chronic pain, which was unfortunate given how debilitating arthritis could be. At this point I realized that my experience and understanding of what they’re going through could help provide a solution to their pain and the brand Doctor Arthritis was created.

We started Doctor Arthritis for two reasons – due to the lack of simple, non-invasive therapies being utilised by our patients and the shortage of critical information being provided to them. So we created products that addressed both of these needs. We designed supports to provide much needed relief that was accompanied by handbooks that we had researched and wrote ourselves to provide information on various conditions, treatment options available and basic exercises that can enhance joint function–information that a GP or family doctor would not be able to deliver in a 10 minute consultation.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Being an entrepreneur means you’re essentially your own boss. And that’s mostly a good thing. But it also means we don’t have bosses to tell us what’s important and what should be prioritized. If you’re not careful, you end up working on tasks that seemed urgent at the time but aren’t necessarily very productive. This is why I try really hard to stick to a routine that gives me a big picture perspective of my day.

My mornings usually start at 9am, where I sit down for breakfast with my co-founder and discuss what’s on our plate. We talk about everything from major, long-term tasks, big picture strategies, and steadily work our way down to more pressing concerns and immediate deadlines.

We try to identify three to five tasks that we need to work on on top of our usual to-dos and assign specific metrics to them–that way, we know exactly whether we have accomplished a task or not.

How do you bring ideas to life?

When inspiration strikes, I like to work back and strip it down to its fundamentals.

When we thought of creating Doctor Arthritis, we wanted to offer a simple, straightforward solution to joint pain and deliver relevant information straight into the hands of chronic pain sufferers. But why? What specific problem would our solution address? By answering that question, you’ll gain a better perspective what other steps you need to bring your ideas to life.

So in our case, it was because arthritis happened to be one of the most prevalent and debilitating conditions that was often ignored. Despite how common it was, it was difficult to gain reliable and credible information on how to manage symptoms that affected sufferer’s quality of life. Arthritis sufferers had a lot of questions, and very limited access to people who could help them answer it. So why not bring the solution and information straight to them through products that help manage their symptoms that come with materials to help educate them about their condition?

What’s one trend that excites you?

For all intents and purposes, businesses started getting into the idea of sustainability because they started to realize that integrating it into their core practices made a lot of business sense. It improves brand image, boosts competitive advantage, helps with productivity, ensure compliance, attracts better talent and investors, and so on. Even so, it’s inevitable that the world will start to reap the benefits of their efforts.

As a result, more and more companies today are consciously pushing to create products and services anchored on the idea that it will accelerate positive social change. Sustainability is more than just a buzzword now, and that’s exciting.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Setting clear and measurable targets to any task I’m working on. This gives me the push and motivation I need to keep working towards a specific goal.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Failure is a big part of success–and yes, it’s a cliche, but I think more people should learn to see failure as an opportunity to learn rather than be an excuse to give up.

My co-founder and I are doctors who became entrepreneurs. We were trained to be physicians, not businessmen. So yes, we saw our fair share of failures. But we pushed through the mistakes that we made and corrected them, we learned from bad decisions and made better ones, and we mastered tempering our idealism so we could take more calculated risks.

Failure teaches us incredible lessons in ways success can’t. It builds our character, makes us more resilient, and once you finally find success after trying and failing–no matter how many times–it will affirm just how capable you are.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Your degree should not dictate your future.

We’re all fairly young when we’re faced with a big choice–what to study at University. At the time, we don’t even really recognise the weight of that decision. But it basically sets us on a course that may lead us to a life of fulfilment or the complete opposite.

At that age, do we truly know what we want so we can make a decision that would affect our lives in such a big way? And is it really so wrong to shift your focus to something completely different from what was written on your degree certificate because you chose to make that decision when you were 17?

I have a degree in medicine–a path I chose because I was drawn to the idea of helping people. But as a doctor, I realised there was something missing. I was lucky enough to have been able to forge this path instead–which allowed me to combine my passion for helping people with new opportunities in retail and ecommerce. But not everyone is as fortunate.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I give myself room to step back, and see the bigger picture. As entrepreneurs, we’re sometimes so focused and driven to achieve our objectives that we forget to pause as we go from one task to the next. If I don’t give myself the time to revisit why I’m doing this, I lose sight of the values that allowed me to stand out in this very competitive market. And on a more practical note, taking a step back gives me the opportunity to clear my head and review where I stand so I can make more informed decisions on how we can move our brand forward.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

When new businesses try to scale, they tend to forget that they don’t have to do everything themselves. A lot of it stems from business owners being very protective of what they have built–they know the business inside/out, so there’s no one else is better suited to run critical aspects of is but them. Sometimes it’s because they want to minimize their overhead expenses–they feel that their business isn’t ready to take on employees yet.

We felt the same way with Doctor Arthritis. But very early on, we decided it would be more strategic to invest in hiring and training so we had the option to delegate critical tasks. Because we decided this early on, we didn’t have to rush through the hiring process. We were able to take the time to find people who shared our vision for the brand and brought specific skills to the table. It also meant we had the opportunity to train them well, build rapport, and establish trust in their capabilities.

So instead of having to worry about the day-to-day tasks that take up a lot of our time, we could now focus more on core business functions that would allow us to grow our business and develop our brand.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

We pride ourselves for creating high-quality products that make a positive difference in people’s lives. That’s our main selling point–our products work. But early on, we ended up with a big batch of defective inventory that missed our quality checks. We had no choice but to take a loss and pull back all the inventory. And that’s on top of hundreds of very disappointed customers who received defective products that we had to manage and appease.

We didn’t anticipate how one careless mistake could create such a massive ripple effect in our business. Our brand took a big hit–not just financially but also in terms of brand reputation. And when you’re just starting out, it’s so much easier to just cut your losses and move on. We still had the option to go back to our careers as doctors.

We didn’t. We figured if it was such a small mistake that caused this massive ripple effect, we had every opportunity to correct it, learn from it, and move the brand forward. It wasn’t going to be easy, but we believed that we would be able to bounce back.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

We need a more convenient way to measure calories and macros. We’re all so conscious of staying healthy and keeping ourselves fit, but we lack simple and straightforward technology that will facilitate this.

My idea is to have an app that allows you to take a photo of a meal and you get information on calories or macros that you’re about to consume. We have apps today like MyFitnessPal that sort of does this, but it requires users to individually select each ingredient in every meal, which is very tedious and time consuming.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I recently took out the team to celebrate our early 2020 wins for drinks.

I’m fortunate enough to have found team members who share the same values and vision we have for Doctor Arthritis and whenever possible, I try to do something that isn’t completely focused on just our jobs. We all need to unwind and take a break once in a while, and what better way to do that than by giving them a reason to celebrate recent accomplishments. I think it helps build rapport and trust among all of us and empowers better communication.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Trello. It’s a very simple platform that helps everyone in the team work with a level of diligence and transparency that facilitates productivity. It’s essentially a web-based to-do list that centralizes all our tasks and gives everyone in the team a big picture overview of where we are in terms of tasks and next steps.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I’m a big fan of Yuval Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. The author approaches his subject matter with such thoughtful insight that it’s impossible not to pause and at least consider each topic from his perspective.

21 Lessons offers a framework that helps us wrap our head around universal themes such as technological and political challenges, hope, truth, and resilience in the modern world.

The book is not without its faults–some of his ideas can be sweeping and provocative, almost to the point that it feels untethered from the intellectual roots where they were derived. But isn’t that the very backbone of a good book? Harari’s latest work may be grand in concept, but it offers such a unique perspective. His bottomline? The world needs more self-awareness–a sense of mindfulness that will allow you to recognize gaps in your skills, and identify areas where you can do better. And that’s certainly something that you can apply in business and in life.

What is your favorite quote?

To discover new oceans, you must first lose sight of the shore.

Key Learnings:

  • A good idea is just one, very tiny aspect of success. Execution matters
  • Self-awareness is critical to good leadership.
  • As much as you want to, you can’t do everything yourself.
  • Failing should never be an excuse to give up.