Nov 27, 2017 Humans Of iKeva

In Conversation with Mr. Sandeep Sivaram

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This week, we got a chance to have a wonderful conversation with Mr. Sandeep Sivaram about his startup, some interesting insights, and challenges of being an entrepreneur.  He is a co-founder of LLS Leads and is AVP Strategy and Talent Acquisition at Step2 Strategy.
Sandeep is a rare combination of skilled engineer and deft communicator. Fluent in four languages, he quickly adapts to the challenges of new cultures and new businesses.
Take a look at what he has to say:

Q. Tell us the nature of your startup. As an entrepreneur, how has your experience been with iKeva’s workspace?
My startup helps other startups and small businesses in the US to accelerate their sales processes. There’s a huge gap between sales and marketing, which we want to address because most startups don’t have much money and they spend from their own pockets during the initial days.
So, we have come up with an outcome-based model where we generate the demand for our customers. This means getting them more business. We provide sales qualified opportunities to our customers.
It has been three years now. There have been lots of ups and downs, obviously! We started off as a seven-member organization and gradually the number grew to 49. Right now we’ve cut down to become a 24 member organization.
Two major things that we’ve learned being in this business:

  • Always choose the right customers and go that extra mile to deliver
  • Having your right

Both of these are very important in ensuring that you’re on right track!
As we are a startup, we are a revenue funded company; we don’t have much funding, so whatever money comes from the customers is what we mainly thrive on.
We, therefore, have to think about every revenue and source that we spend on. That’s why we decided to not opt for a traditional office space.
Having a business center in Kolkata and Bangalore, one of the best places that we’ve been to is iKeva in Bangalore. It’s been about a little more than a year that we’ve been in Bangalore, and for the most part of it, iKeva was present! It was a great place with a wonderful team that was very helpful and supportive. The office space was beautiful!
While leaving iKeva, we were certainly quite upset! However, we had to leave as we were scaling up, while iKeva was already an established organization that was already packed. If we ever get a chance to move to iKeva’s workspace, we definitely would!
The fact that we have built good connections with a lot of in-house people at iKeva explains that! On the whole, it was a great experience!

Q. Why did you choose the two cities, Kolkata and Bangalore, for your business?
We started off with Kolkata, mainly because one of the co-founders of the company belongs there. We managed to grow our team thereafter, but about a year and a half into the business, we figured that is was difficult to get good talent there. A number of efforts that were going in the recruitment of talents were a lot more.
So we considered shifting our base to Bangalore.  It’s a diverse city with people coming in from all parts of the country. The good talent was easier to find there! Also, I am from Bangalore, so logically it made more sense to come here.

Q. What other hobbies do you have? We’d like to know you more, apart from your work!
Well, right from the time I started this business, in the last four years, I’ve not had time to breathe! I spend more than 16 hours a day at work. My first shift starts here, and the second shift starts once I go back home! Considering that all our customers are in the US. There are a lot of customer calls back and forth.

 Q. How do you maintain the work-life balance and what’s the motto behind it?
I try to keep the weekdays just for work and weekends just for family- that’s how I keep up with the professional and personal balance!
I got married recently, so I have to make it a point to be able to spend some quality time with my wife as well! My parents live in Bangalore too so I try to have outings with them as much as I can!

Q. You’ve had 2 startups, what inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
Initially, it was not my plan to become an entrepreneur. I started off working in Clarion technologies, and in fact, I joined another company called Profitex, which was headed by Harsh, my business partner. Eventually, from associate, I grew up to become one of the cofounders there! We grew that company and had a successful exit from there.
We handed it back to the investor and decided to start something ourselves. That’s how this strategy came into existence. It has been quite a journey. There have been lots of ups and downs as I mentioned. Being an entrepreneur is definitely not a cakewalk. People might think that it is fancy to be an entrepreneur, but behind the scenes, things make a lot more difference than what’s seen outside.

Q. In the wake of the startup culture going around all over India, it seems to have become more about the quantity than quality. Do you think that this might saturate at a point?
There are a lot of factors attributing to this
Our population – Every year there are close to a million people that are graduating.
Almost everybody wants to go from a graduate course to an MBA. The whole concept of an MBA in our country has diminished. People want to get an MBA because they want a fancy job or more money, whereas the whole concept of education is learning. But obviously, you do have a lot of people who are coming up because they want to pursue their passion.
A lot of startups, about 98% of them, fail within their first 18 months! In my opinion, they fail because they do it for their passion.

If you think you have the zeal and energy to go through whatever comes across you, only then you shall be defined a real startup and that’s what would define you as a real entrepreneur.

We have a lot of startups that have been successful in our country, like Flipkart. They had that zeal and the energy to take on over the biggest in the world, which is Amazon. It has been 10 years now, they’ve grown into a big company with a wonderful work culture.
The idea is that entrepreneurs need to have that zeal and that energy. It’s not always about passion. It’s about the persistence.

You are not always going to have a wonderful time. It is going to take a long time until you’re successful. The most important aspect is to fail, learn, fail again, learn, but ensure that you’re not repeating those mistakes.

You will obviously have a lot of things coming through you, like resources, your customers, your products, people, services, but you will learn a lot through that course. The most important aspect is that persistence and to ensure that you don’t repeat your mistakes. Fresh entrepreneurs looking forward to pursue something should definitely keep this one thing in mind.

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