Leverage your earlier connections
Mukund Krishna, Founder of Suyati Technologies (www.suyati.com), has a BE and MS in Mechanical Engineering, and an MBA in Finance from the US, in addition to having around 22 years of work experience. In the US, he took the first job he got with a 4 member company where he had to wear multiple hats of developing software, evangelizing, and providing customer support. While the experience was hard to endure at that time, he gained a lot of insights into running a business. After several years in Automotive IT consulting, he joined Powerway, a small company with majority ownership from auto major Chrysler as the Director of Program Management, managing various aspects of product development that included building a large offshore team in India.
When he was doing his MBA in the US, he began drafting out a business model for offshoring for companies in the US to go to India and set up a small team to be successful. Sigma Micro (now renamed to Fifth Gear), showed interest and Mukund joined them in late 2004. To set up Sigma’s offshore development center, Mukund relocated to Kerala and began the work at Infopark, Kochi. Sigma also bought out some product IP from a Chandigarh based company and Mukund managed both centers. In late 2008, the parent company decided to sunset the product development because of global recession. Sigma became Mukund’s last assignment as an employee.
In March 2009, Mukund took the plunge into entrepreneurship with a core team of 7 employees. Even though he had some projects from Sigma, the revenues were marginal and he had to invest and also not pay himself any salaries for some 12 to 18 months. He says that he used two techniques to carve out the shortest path to sales closures – shortlisting the connections of his first connects in Linkedin, and shortlisting the domains based on the expertise of his core team. He reached out to all the people through email, set up meetings with them, and spent around 4-6 months every year traveling to USA, Europe and Australia, where he would do four to five meetings a day.
He got the first few sales mainly because the prospects were confident that Mukund was a connection of their friend, and were less hesitant about dealing with a startup. Mukund also did not worry too much about the commercials and he took any project of any size but got the projects executed successfully. He went to every ex-employer and ex-colleagues and got additional business from these sources too.
Mukund’s advice to startups?
- Go after known contacts (friends, families, ex colleagues). They will help open the doors to the businesses in their circle.
- Be upfront about what you can, and cannot do. It is better to openly admit if you cannot do a project, than do it unsuccessfully. Set expectations very clearly with clients.
- If you have a positive attitude, and genuinely try to understand your client’s problems, you will get business.
- Join networking forums like Nasscom, TiE etc. These forums will help you network more, and also make you a better communicator.
- Be disciplined in understanding and monitoring every aspect of your business – HR, Admin, Product Development, Customer Engagement, Finance, Govt Compliance, etc. There may be unintended consequences if the CEO does not keep track of these during the start-up stage. You will need to delegate responsibilities as you find the right people as your business grows.
- Keep your costs low initially. But do not skimp on employee pay and benefits. Treat them great and they will repay you with trust, dedication and loyalty.
- Do not forget your core friends and family. When things go wrong, they will be the first ones to step in to help you and encourage you. Take the time to be with them.
Today, Suyati Technologies has around 150 employees spread across 3 locations. They also have two software products focused on marketing technologies – Voraka.com and SoCXO.com. Suyati is also one of the top partners for Ektron, and have built complex marketing and tech solutions for over 25 companies, and have serviced more than 60 customers across the globe.