Invest in Sales and Marketing people early enough
Invest in Sales and Marketing people early enough
Sandeep Mittal – Managing Director at Cartesian Consulting says that he stumbled into entrepreneurship without having a grand plan in place. He had his first startup while studying at IIM Calcutta. Since there were no entry barriers to starting, he founded a Software Development firm in 2000 in the dotcom boom. However, the results were not that positive and he had to look out for employment. He joined a company called Direxions (DIREM) and took up the analytics function as the person handling analytics function had left. During his tenure, he figured out that there was a huge opportunity in analytics as he was unable to find the tools to get the inputs he had wanted in order to make marketing decisions. So, as an intrapreneur, he set up Cartesian within DIREM and ran it for almost 4 years. He then bought out the stake and launched Cartesian Consulting as a separate entity in 2013.
Analyzing the Market
Almost all the analytics firms which are being launched have a clear North American focus as analytics is a well established function in the market but I feel that there is a need for India focused analytics firms as companies here are increasingly relying on data insights to make marketing and customer centric decisions. The whole perception that it is difficult to work with Indian companies in this space, as they don’t like to spend on analytics led consulting is a myth. Indian companies are ready to pay if one can show them the value. The fact that sales cycles are long and decision making is slow are factors that exist everywhere and having worked in Indian market for so long, one can’t let these factors overburden them. India is a great market to work.
To get the cash flow in the early days, Sandeep provided analytics as a service. This gave not only the money but also the knowledge of how other industries looked at analytics and what they wanted as output. The decision on how to productize came out of knowledge of the market and analytics. The team decided that they would like to differentiate in the analytics space by automating the workflow not necessarily embed intelligence in the workflow and be the most intelligent firm in the space of analytics. They understood how to automate triggers and how to measure customer value to call out of a couple of important aspects. They took the knowledge from the services and began embedding those functionalities in the product.
Sandeep says that the product was initially built for the Retail industry as they had lots of case studies and use cases. They now have diversified into hospitality, manufacturing and telecom.
Initial days of reach-out
Since they came from a direct marketing background, they understood direct marketing better than anyone else. They adopted a process of list building, cold calling, cold emailing and fixing meetings to engage with prospects. They figured out ways to create the right sets of lists, finding email ids, writing contextual emails. Sandeep says that his team understood what they wanted out of the initial out-reach. All the team wanted was to meet with the right person to talk and to engage. Sandeep swears by this method and says all Founders should do this because this is the most effective way. He, however cautions that one should not get lazy and just begin calling companies and people just because they got a database because it won’t work. Sandeep stresses the need for quality in terms of getting the right person and transforming the dull database into an intelligent one. He says that he spends time on Linkedin and find out who is heading functions they should be selling to. They also try to find out to whom this contact reports to and what they want, to make the conversation very contextual. Sandeep, says that his sales person in the US spent almost 3 months in pruning the database before he began the calls.
First Customer Acquisition
Sandeep talks about his First client acquisition. The client was in the retail space, a large brand and in the QSR space. He cold emailed the Marketing Head. This email was so coincidental that the Marketing Head had just created a role for precision marketing in his organization and he was surprised to see the email had solutions for what he thought the person in the new position would do. Sandeep got a response with a meeting and was excited. However, the meeting turned out to be slightly different. The prospect was talking with around 6 to 7 agencies and all of them were in the final stages of the buying cycle. They got a break to step in at the last moment because Sandeep was known as an expert in the space and also because they were a bit persistent in getting a chance. Sandeep says that Founders have to knock competition out of the park in every single meeting. The prospect got convinced and said that they will give ten days only as the other agencies had already completed the POC. The team worked on the POC for the next few days and finished the POC in ten days while the other companies had a headstart of a month. The prospect was amazed both with the speed and the depth of knowledge put in by Sandeep and team. They got convinced that this was a company they should work with as they were also one company who was very clear in working only with the Indian market whereas the others had a significant share in the global market and were getting clients only as filler in the Indian market.
Expansion to global markets.
Cartesian’s advisors on board suggested to Sandeep that they should look to expand into other global markets like the US. Sandeep recollects the initial meetings were interesting in terms of him talking to his advisors on the strategy and vision. The advisors were happy with the product but they also mentioned that other analytics firms were focused on the US market and Cartesian should also be there. Sandeep spoke passionately about his approach and belief in the Indian market. The advisors told him that the focus on the US market was not necessarily from a monetary perspective but from an angle of understanding the best practices in those developed markets and bringing back a lot of relevance to the Indian market from a learning perspective. Now, there is an active push to the global market.
Things he could have done better
Sandeep recalls that he was the only person who was in charge of sales at Cartesian for a long time. He believed that he comes in with a deep consultative selling skills and felt that he will be the best person. However, he felt that this gave him a lot of limitations in terms of scalability and he grew very slow. He feels that he should have spent time in getting good sales and marketing people, as the firm could have grown much bigger. Sandeep says that no one is ever too small to have sales and marketing people. He says that people who join sales and marketing role in Cartesian are given ample time to learn the ropes and then demonstrate their performance in the role. They shadow others leading different aspect of the business for many months in order to make them more productive. He hires senior sales people with 15+ years of experience as he believes that running a team with junior people wearing a sales hat will not cut ice with the prospects.
Sandeep Advice to Entrepreneus
- Invest early in sales and marketing
- Invest in hiring senior people
- Handhold your new employees for about a year
The Company currently employs 150 people and is working with over 45 brands in India, Apac and US. They plan to expand into other parts of Asia. They have won many prestigious awards that includes “Top 10 boutiuqe analytics firm in India by Analytics India”, “Big Data Analytics Awards @ ConsumerFest”, “Excellence in Industry Application in Retail in Big Data Analytics and Insights Summit to name a few.
Cartesian is bootstrapped till date and plan to stay that way, as the business is generating sustainable revenues.