Every startup needs to find the right commercial path, particularly when it comes to growth and marketing. But many can’t afford to pay for the big agencies, or they just don’t know where to start. Daleep Chhabria saw this gap in the market and used his expertise in marketing to start Growth Forte, with the aim of helping startups to execute growth and marketing strategies. We spoke to him for the story…

Can you give us a brief introduction of Growth Forte?

Growth Forte is a marketing and commercial partner to startups and SMEs, using expertise to lead their growth through the right marketing and channel strategy. We have a high degree of integration, and, unlike the typical consulting model, we also execute our plans. So it’s a lot like having an internal CMO and marketing department on tap instead of payroll.

My main focus is on smaller and early-stage developments that also have a technology angle, like a new product, or the company as a whole. This is much more exciting than helping with something that’s already big and established.

Clients tend to be startups and SMEs within tech. However, established firms do also fit my funnel, especially where they have a new product and recognise the benefits of entrepreneurial marketing.

Do you have a specific type of clients to work with? 

I like to work B2B2x, so my conversations are with CEOs and founders. Many of these people have brilliant business ideas and develop great products, but they’re honest and humble enough to admit they aren’t the best people to drive commercial growth. They struggle to attract highly experienced people largely due to lack of funds, but another gap is the lack of such people who understand and embrace the characteristics of the startup world.

With so many marketing consultants out there, what’s so unique about Growth Forte?

Experience with a breadth of marketing disciplines, coupled with deep integration with client organisations, taking a holistic approach to form a bespoke strategy to drive growth – on tap. This requires a certain mindset, treating their business as my own. I don’t operate as consultants do because I like to execute, which is also one of the best ways to keep learning and remain current.

And how long have you been working on this?

About a year so far in build-up, but incorporated in the past quarter of 2015. It was an evolution from employment to self-employment.

How did you acquire funding? Did you approach any VC’s or are you self funded?

Self funded. It’s a service which is supported by various technologies, therefore the setup costs were initially low. Assembling the business infrastructure and business development aspects have been time-consuming, but massively rewarding for discovering amazing people and businesses.

Is this your first startup venture or did you start other businesses before this?

I started a couple of other businesses in very different areas. The first was an international trading business. The next was an eCommerce store, which is a big passion of mine as I have roots in retail. These have been great learning experiences!

Tell us how the idea for Growth Forte came about

Over the years I’ve gone from corporate to startup to corporate, and so on. A couple of years ago I started thinking more deeply about my future and found myself feeling most passionate about what I’ve done in startups, and the opportunities they present. What happened next was a form of career shake-up, which led me to turn my back on employment at corporates.

However, I wasn’t totally suitable for joining a startup either. Once I understood this problem I came up with a solution to share my experience across multiple startups, whether they have no marketing people, a few (but they lack direction and leadership), or they’re quite established and need fresh thinking on a particular new area of their business. I love the variety!

You’ve touched on your work background – can you elaborate?

I had to get work experience as part of my degree qualification. I joined GfK (a leading global marketing research agency) and loved how data was being used to drive business and marketing decisions. I went back and changed my degree course to BA Business Administration, which offered enormous flexibility to tailor my qualification based on my field of choice – marketing.

What about your family background? Any entrepreneurs in the family who influenced you?

I was surrounded by entrepreneurs. Nobody in my family worked for anyone else. 

Do you have any hobbies that you are passionate about? Do you think these influence your business decisions at all?

I play drums and I organised a few gigs with my band, just for friends. I love channeling my energy through this huge passion – it gives me a lot of pleasure! My hobby and my work share the same philosophies, which are to do what you love, love what you do, reach new heights, and relish what you create.

Do you have a business partner?

I don’t have a business partner. However after I start executing the growth strategy, I use certain technologies, or sometimes work with certain professionals where it compliments my strategies and ultimately benefits the mission. I lead every delivery to keep control and maintain the deep integration with each client.

Tell us about the most exciting moment to date in running Growth Forte

I had dealings with several CEOs before setting up my business. But pretty much straight after setup, those conversations changed into business relationships. I’m not sure if it was just a coincidence, or something else that drove the change. Since then the offerings have started to include equity share, board advisory, etc. I’m exploring everything and the excitement continues.

And any tough moments?

Taking the actual plunge.

Tell us about any bad decisions that you have made along the way. What did you learn from them?

Only that I wish I followed my instincts by starting earlier.

Tell us about your plans for the next few years. Where would you like to see it going?

I want to achieve integration and scale like nobody else who is offering services. The model has inherent challenges but I think I know how I will overcome them. And because I love sector-variety, being open to a mix of equity and board advisory are great dimensions to my offering (where they make sense for both). This is worked out over a discussion.