W Power 2024

First symphony: IDFC FIRST Bank's unique approach to empowering startups

IDFC FIRST Bank bridges the startup gap with First Symphony, offering a streamlined process for startups to find anchor customers, innovate and thrive

Published: Mar 22, 2024 05:17:49 PM IST
Updated: Mar 22, 2024 05:35:38 PM IST

First symphony: IDFC FIRST Bank's unique approach to empowering startupsEvery startup that made it remembers their first big anchor customer. The customer that they didn't expect to land, but did. The customer whose size and reputation gave other customers the confidence to say yes. The customer that had the clout to bring them other customers. The customer they gave pride of place to, on all their sales collateral, marketing collateral, and website. The customer who helped them keep the lights on through their early and growth stages.

Especially when you're a B2B, digital first startup who can cater to businesses big and small, you begin playing in the big leagues only after you land that first big anchor customer. Not all startups do, though. Despite potentially viable business models and sound tech, over 90% of all startups fail in the first five years. Having a good anchor customer in the early stages doesn't just give a fledgling startup heft, but also brings several tangible benefits.

What makes a good anchor customer, particularly for a digital native or tech forward B2B startup? For starters, your anchor customer needs to be a prominent player or have significant influence in the industry relevant to your business, giving you credibility and attracting other potential customers. It goes without saying that they should be open to adopting new digital solutions and have substantial scale and potential for growth, creating a long term, mutually beneficial partnership as you grow.

You also need them to demonstrate innovation orientation and a willingness to experiment with cutting-edge solutions. Moreover, a willingness to collaborate closely with you to solve specific business challenges is important, giving your product the edge that comes from learning from and working in the real world. An anchor customer whose business involves sensitive information also helps your startup hone its edge on data security and regulatory compliance, giving other potential customers greater confidence in your abilities.

The ideal anchor customer also has the financial stability to commit to a significant partnership with you, and shares your long term vision.

Where can you find them?

That's often the tricky part. Customers of this size and reputation are often leery of partnering with startups, even those offering clutter breaking tech. It's the classic chicken and egg situation: you're considered 'untested' and 'risky' till you land your first anchor customer, and you struggle to land one because you are considered untested and risky.

However, there is one potential anchor customer who already knows you, understands your business, and has a ringside view into your finances: your bank. It also checks all the boxes of being an ideal anchor customer:

  • Banks are prominent players and have significant influence.
  • They are often early adopters of digital solutions and have both the innovation orientation and the willingness to collaborate on solutions.
  • They have enormous scale and potential for growth, and they're intensely focused on data security and regulatory compliance by design.

Moreover, this is a potential partner you already trust, or you wouldn't bank with them yourself, right?

Fortunately for its many startup customers, one bank sees itself the way you do. IDFC FIRST Bank's FIRST Symphony Program is well on its way to identify startups it can partner with, play anchor customer to, and enable via distribution.

First Symphony by IDFC FIRST Bank: Music to startup founders' ears

The premise of the program is dead simple: banks make incredible anchor customers themselves, and can play matchmaker to other anchor customers by leveraging their own customer base, as well as their industry connections. When the bank's startup customers find anchor customers, it raises the likelihood that these startups will grow - some may even become unicorns. Each time one of these startups achieve success, it adds to the bank's own bottom line directly. Moreover, startups who see the bank as instrumental in their success, are likely to create goodwill for the bank and recommend them to their peers.

In sum, the program lifts everyone.

IDFC FIRST Bank has also made the First Symphony process as simple and transparent as it can be. No need to chase down multiple 'connections' to find the right POC. No need to jump through hoops. As with everything else in the startup world, it just starts with a pitch. The First Symphony team is made up of cross functional squads from various business units within the bank. These squads themselves are incentivised to help as many startups as possible, and being cross functional in nature, are able to spot and explore synergies quickly.

The startup and the squad work together to explore these synergies, and draw up the outlines of their engagement, which is captured in an MoU. IDFC FIRST Bank can function as an anchor customer, or become a partner by extending the startup's offering to its customer base, or even function as a distribution channel.

For instance, a startup that helps create personalised chatbots could come onboard as a vendor for IDFC FIRST Bank's own requirements. The bank could also bundle this chatbot offering as a part of its own offerings to enterprise customers, as a partner. Or, the bank could connect corporate customers to the chatbot provider with discounts, thereby playing distributor.

Once the First Symphony squad and the startup work out their terms of engagement, the teams work together to create roadmaps, products and offerings, as well as policy and/or system upgrades at IDFC FIRST Bank. Once these offerings, products and processes go live, the bank's PR team gets involved to get the word out to the media, and the first pilots are undertaken.

And the rest of the story is how unicorns are often made. By facilitating these connections to anchor customers, First Symphony is able to help startups surpass what is usually the first big hurdle. With the anchor customer in hand, startups are able to put their best foot forward, and give themselves a real shot at the big leagues.

Here's the best part: First Symphony isn't limited to a select few. The program is open to all IDFC FIRST Bank Startup Banking customers. Learn more about all the ways IDFC FIRST Bank is invested in putting Indian startups on the global map, and consider giving yourself the IDFC FIRST Bank advantage.

The pages slugged ‘Brand Connect’ are equivalent to advertisements and are not written and produced by Forbes India journalists.

Post Your Comment
Required, will not be published
All comments are moderated