The SME CEO Peer Group

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From Bootstrapping To A Profitable Exit

The fear of being ordinary in a world of unlimited dreams and possibilities aptly describes the rise and growth of Startup Advisor and Consultant, Mr. Samarth Saxena. He began his career as a Web Designer in 2000 and was soon intrigued by the nuances of running an enterprise. The inquisitiveness coupled with immense dedication allowed him to successfully deliver his first business pitch. The pitch was unlike any other as it did not require Finance or Direction, all it required was a time period of six months and support from his parents.

From an employee to becoming an employer

As a first generation Entrepreneur, he had only one way ahead of him, to make his organisation profitable, and he achieved this feat in the first quarter of his business with DigSam. The Web Development Company, founded in 2002 allowed him to be part of the fundamental shift, and a committed traveller in the entrepreneurship journey spanning close to two decades.

While working for a client at DigSam, he was given a project for Email Marketing. The unexpected client requirement opened a new door of possibility in an untapped yet ever growing market, and that was how his second company Octane was born.

The inception of Octane took place in the year 2007, wherein the web did not contain constructive literatures on the back-end technology for Email marketing, leaving Samarth and his team on a road to trial and error. The task surely contributed in making him a successful entrepreneur as the birth of Octane included implementing, training, learning and repeating the entire process. The process provided him an unmatched learning curve and long-term development. In his words, “My core job was to keep encouraging my team and tell them that if others can do it we can do it too, because in technology the thumb rule is very simple, if the specifics have already been built it can be built by anyone”, thus making him an exemplary guide and mentor in the field of technology innovation. The team’s hard work pivoted around a project that did not receive any validation, due to the space in which they were operating. However, motivation from their mentor kept them going as they crossed various milestones to achieve their target.

Now that the foundation of the product and the motivation of employees were in place, they had to focus on the best way to market a novel product.

The marketing strategy of Octane revolved around a theme of ‘no spamming’. This concept made their marketing fairly easy as they were able to inspire a lot of marketers to not spam.

This not only educated their potential clients about the product, but also about the concept of Email Marketing and the best way to use it. Apart from using the traditional methods of print ads and online marketing, such as Google Adwords, SEO, PPC etc. they relied heavily on industry events to promote their product.

Leading from behind

As a leader, he believes in bringing in Bold Leadership among his employees and enabling them to run the show. He always made it a point to be available for his employees when they faced any kind of trouble, but did not believe in micro-managing or heavy-lifting a task. In order to help his employees grow, he practiced a daily huddle called the SCRUM, wherein his direct reports from each team would gather to discuss their areas of concern. The only task at hand for him during these sessions was to observe the conversation from a distance, and step in to bridge any unattended gaps. These sessions along with his hard work, rigorous routine and perseverance is what he firmly believes has helped him scale these heights of success.

The exit strategy

Octane’s merger with a larger brand in the Martech domain was carefully planned to make sure that both teams complement each other and make a larger wave. The selling of the organisation came with various difficulties; he recalls how the organisation was built from scratch which led to a deep emotional bond, not only for him but for all his employees as well. The selling however did not take place overnight; it was a crucial and challenging process that required a year-long preparation from the Founders and the core members of the team. The giveaway message that he shares with startup entrepreneurs after this experience is, “Go after fund raising only when you are mentally prepared for it and have the bandwidth available for it because it is a full-time job”.

The dedication he has projected in his business endeavors is also reflected in his personal life. Samarth believes in healthy eating and a good fitness regime as he is of the opinion that “If you can’t respect your body, you can’t do much outside”. He also has an unusual way of learning, as reading is something that does not interest him. His favorite method of gaining new information is by taking up online courses that are less time consuming and easier to grasp. According to him, individuals must always be open to learning and “What you are learning should matter not how you learn it”. He also believes that listening is as important as communicating.

Building a future in Technology Innovation

Speaking about his future plans, Samarth looks forward to associate with companies in the technology space, especially brands that will be a need of the future. He wants to contribute his immense knowledge by ensuring his experience comes into play. His interests mainly lie in solving problems in the APAC region, and he would love to be part of a team that focuses on resolving a tough technology related problem in the Asian Market. He makes it a point to meet and interact with startup entrepreneurs, as he is constantly on a lookout for investment opportunities that would benefit the greater good.

Finally, as a Startup Advisor and Consultant, he has a few but extremely important pieces of advice for startup entrepreneurs. His main advice would be to

  1. Focus on bootstrapping your company and making the venture successful.
  2. Keep the people in the business happy before you run after funding.
  3. Make friends with your clients and have cordial relations with them, as they are the ones that usually come to your aid when you need it the most.
  4. Interact with people within your circle and outside, as mentors are available everywhere, there could be a mentor sitting right next to you. Discussing your problems with people, irrespective of their age and experience could do wonders when it comes to learning.
  5. Lead from the front while providing employees with ample autonomy.
  6. Contribute to mentor, advice and guide the people around you.

Samarth also leaves us with a key take away message in the journey of entrepreneurship. He firmly believes that one must never limit their dreams and always stay humble. An Entrepreneur faces a myriad of challenges but he also makes a mark by conquering a number of conquests. However, it is important to stay grounded when you take the soar towards greater heights.

The idea of writing creative copy that persuades is what introduced Smitha to the world of writing. At CEO BottomLine, she is a correspondent, brand publisher and content curator.


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