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Z-KITBAG – The Mantra from Army for Startup Success

Published on: March 7, 2018        Author: Alok Kumar
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.

Z-KITBAG – The Mantra from Army for Startup Success


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.