After the first post on technology mentors in India, the next person who can help the most as a mentor to startups < 2 years old is someone that can help with product & customer knowledge (or understanding user / customer behavior if its a consumer startup).
There are 3 primary categories of “marketing” mentors I’d recommend you think about. You dont need them all, just be clear who you need for what kind of mentorship.
Product mentors are people who can distill what customers would need and say into what you need to build in your product. There’s a big difference between a product manager and a business analyst. The latter, typically found in many Indian services companies, tries to give the customer exactly what they want, and end up building largely a custom piece of work for that client. Product experts on the other hand, observe customers, ask them tough questions and direct the technology team to build what the customer really wants.
Sales mentors are people carrying a quota (target). They are pounding the street or directing teams that are selling every day. They understand targets, compensation, lead nurturing, managing deals and sales opportunities. There are many types of sales people but largely they are either “farmers” or “hunters”. Farmers end up expanding your current opportunity and Hunters get new business from new clients. They both have their place. Mostly, I have found sales people dont make very good mentors because they are largely unavailable, but there are a few good guys around. Ideally they would help you understand and grow your sales team from “CEO is the sales guy” to building a repeatable, growth-oriented team.
Marketing mentors would help you with positioning, building awareness, lead generation and digital marketing. They can typically help you at the stage when you need to launch (largely after product-market-fit). Most marketing people tend to talk lots and do little, so if you get someone that can give you practical tips on how to build your funnel and grow your customer base by spending as little money as possible, then you have the right person.
The question usually is why do you need so many mentors. The answer is you dont. It all depends on the team you have and if they need advice, help and mentorship. I have seen startups with 5 mentors and many with none. Most have 2-3 mentors to complement the team. You can get as much value from mentors as much time you put into the relationship. I typically recommend most entrepreneurs to setup 1 hour every other week during the initial days (<6 months) and then 1 hour every month and finally 1-2 hours every other month.
Some recommended Product mentors:
1. Amit Somani (Make my trip)
2. Varun Shoor (Kayako)
3. Vijay Anand (The Startup Center)
4. Girish Mathrubootham (Fresh Desk)
5. Sridhar Ranganathan (InMobi)
6. Amit Gupta (InMobi)
8. Preetham VV (InMobi)
9. Dhimant Parekh (Hoopos)
Some recommended Sales mentors:
1. Madhu Lakshmanan (ex Photon)
2. Abhay Singhal (Inmobi)
Some recommended Marketing / Online customer acquisition mentors:
1. Pankaj Jain (Startup Weekend)
2. Ravi Vora (Flipkart)
3. Karthik Srinivasan (Flipkart)