Z-KITBAG – The Mantra from Army for Startup Success

I am in a business of identifying great startup ideas and help them succeed by providing them an ecosystem of success. The most significant issue I face is that of talent. It is not the quality of talent, but those talents who can thrive in a startup environment and drive success. Most of the people we get are those who have worked in corporates and nurture a dream of doing their startup. It is not very often that they have the genes of success in a demanding and stressful environment of a startup. However, it is those set of talent who over the period either quit or become an expert in startup success. I happen to be the later one; A lucky person to have several success stories.

In my journey over last several years, I have learned one big lesson that has defined my success, “Keep Learning.” While I learn and implement several of my learnings in my work, I have decided to share this with others through my blog.

Recently I happened to watch a video of a TED Talk given by Captain Raghu Raman, an ex-army corporate leader and found it incredibly intuitive on how he compared Army mission to a startup mission. He beautifully summarized the template of Army mission success in an easy to remember word ‘Z-KITBAG.’ I firmly believe that this template can be efficiently and effectively used in any startup or corporate culture to bring faster success as well.


Each alphabet in Z-KITBAG stands for some action or strategy that takes the mission to success. Any stage getting missed or compromised automatically compromises the complete mission and it holds true for a startup as well.

‘Z’ Stands for ‘Zamini Nishan’ or environmental scan. Any mission must ensure that the environment is adequately understood. The environmental scan refers to the understanding of the business you are getting in, the limitations, entry barriers, competition, landscape and everything that ensures that you know what you are committing your time and money for.

‘K’ stands for ‘Khabar’ or information. Wars are won not only by physical force but by knowing well in advance the details of the enemy and their strengths and weaknesses. This is usually done by the spies but in the corporate world, knowing your competition and your customers helps in positioning you better. Even more important, having information about funding, your staff and everything that can give you an accurate understanding of how much you can achieve with what you have can help optimize startups their resources.

‘I’ stands for ‘Irada’ or clarity of thoughts. Just like a platoon that comprises of soldiers who are not highly educated but achieve their goals perfectly well when they are given explicit instructions of the goals, a startup also comprises of a mix of people who need to be explained about your goals and objectives without any vagueness.

‘T’ stands for ‘Tarkeeb’ or the method. An army mission comprises of several elements that get deployed for success. A combination of artillery, air power, small fire attack, commando attack and many other things get planned before the real attack. Everything is well designed and executed with precision by everyone to get success. Similarly, a startup also needs to be sure of their methods to achieve success and harmonize them well.

‘B’ stands for ‘Bandobust’ which means logistical arrangement. Armies cannot fight and win wars without robust logistics that take care of their ammunition, ration, replacements, medical support and coordination with every other support teams. Similarly, a startup must ensure that their logistics are put in place correctly. Things like funding, office space, computers, workforce, coordination with finance, legal, HR and so on is essential to create an order.

‘A’ stands for ‘Administration.’  Without able administration, it is not possible for armies or a startup to succeed. Ensuring that resources are properly utilized, and soldiers or employees are given all support to focus on what they are supposed to do ‘achieve their objectives’ is the critical objective of efficient administration.

G stands for ‘Ghadi Milao’ means ‘match the time.’ This is what in army terms is the last part of the action. Ensuring that everyone is clear about the time they have to start their operation and achieve their objective. Keeping synchronized and having a clear understanding of timelines is essential for startup success as it is for the army.

With such a simple rule of Z-KITBAG, startups can check if any of their action is not adequate for the mission success, they can rework and get on the mission back again to achieve success; the army way.

Alok Kumar

Alok Kumar is Managing Partner of SRKay Consulting group, a private equity company, nurturing innovative ventures. Alok also serves on the board of ICCL (Indian Clearing Corporation Limited - A subsidiary of BSE- Bombay Stock Exchange) as an external advisor for technology and information security. Prior to this, Alok had been Managing Director of Sears IT & Management Services India Private Limited (SHI) since its inception in December 2009 and served in the same position till very recently. Having been in senior IT management positions in Fortune 500 companies, Alok has won several national and international awards. Alok is instrumental in planning and setting up SHI and thereafter growing it to a multi-locational thousand-plus people organization. Over the last five years, with his strategic vision, Alok helped SHI grow roots in India, develop and support technology applications and infrastructure across core mainframe, cutting edge e-Commerce and big data technologies. With his unique people-oriented transformational leadership style, Alok turned SHI into one of the most valued investments of Sears, garnering great ROIs, and creating value much beyond cost arbitrage. Under his tutelage, SHI has filed two patents and is recognized widely for its best practices in various areas, the latter, currently featured in Indian Institute of Management (IIM) case studies. SHI also became a CMMI Level 3, PCMM Level 3, and ISO 20000 certified organization. Alok is a widely acclaimed corporate leader in India today. He regularly participates and leads various forums as a keynote speaker and is an author of several books in different genres. Alok has several awards to his credit. He is particularly known in the industry for his people management skills and innovative ideas in improving the productivity of employees through unique people practices. He has been credited with the following industry awards: ¬ Emerging Leader of the Year award 2013 by IndiasGreatest.com ¬ Game Changer CEO of the Year 2013 (SHRM) ¬ CIO 100 - The Bold CIOs - 2008 (Reliance Infosolutions) ¬ CIO - Ones to Watch Award 2008 (Reliance Industries) ¬ Extended Manager Award - CIOL 2004 (Tata Teleservices) As an able leader of SHI, Alok got SHI recognized widely in the industry with the following several awards: ¬ CII Award for HR Best Practices in 2014 ¬ Global Excellence in Outsourcing Award - AIOP (Phoenix 2013) ¬ IT Innovation Award (Design & Engineering) - Computer Society of India 2012 ¬ Golden Company of the Year - Economic Times 2011-12 ¬ 7th Employer Branding Awards - World HRD Congress (Mumbai, India) 2013: • ‘Asia’s Best Employer’ Award • ‘Best HR Strategy’ in line with business • HR Leadership Award • Talent Management Award by Bloomberg TV India ¬ Employer Branding Awards - World HRD Congress (Singapore, Asia) 2013: • 7th rank in ‘Asia’s Best Employer’ award • Award for ‘Best HR Strategy’ in line with the business • HR Leadership Award Other recognitions: Alok had served on the distinguished panel of NASSCOM's GIC (Global In-house Centers) National Council members. The council members play a key role in major initiatives of the industry and include the torch bearers of IT industry as panel members. Books and Papers: Alok is an established author, with three books to his credit. Alok’s third and latest book, a novel, “The Spy from Unaula” is a 2015 publication. A handwriting analysis enthusiast, Alok collaborated with his wife Nandani on the book, “Handwriting Speaks” in 2006. “Value Sourcing – Future of IT Outsourcing” was co-authored with Keith Sherwell (currently CIO, Altice USA) and was released in 2013. Alok also researched and published two whitepapers: a. “Creating next generation captives” talks about the best practices that are helping generate higher value from the IT company captives.

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