08 December 2019

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Focusing on Web and Mobile Technologies

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Mahadev Gupta is co-founder of StrApp Business Solutions Private Limited. StrApp was started in 2003 with a start-up capital of just Rs 3 lakhs. StrApp is a technology company that focuses on php, opensource software development, web and mobile technologies.

Could you tell us something about your company?
Strapp started in November 2003 with a start-up capital of Rs 3 lakhs. In legal terms, it is called paid-up capital. So, we started with Rs 3 lakhs and the rent and security was around Rupees one lakh, we had around Rs 2 lakhs in hand.

Were you working anywhere before you co-founded Strapp or did you just start right out of college?
I was with a company called Schoolnet for around a year and then for around 4 and 5 years, I was with a company called Genie Interactive Private Limited in Bangalore where I learnt the tricks of the trade, interacting with clients and working on clientele, this is all the creative area of the business.

What prompted you to start your own business?
Right during college, I was pretty much thinking of starting something of my own, get the right exposure, experience and then get on to the business mode because I always wanted to be my own boss, and do something that doesn’t hinder me, that doesn’t come under somebody else’s process. So that’s what prompted me to start something of my own.

Where did you meet your business partner Vivek Jain?
Me and Vivek did our graduation together, way back in 1994 - 97. We did our graduation together and that’s how we got along and both of us had that flair, that fire in us to do something on our own. He got his experience from an embedded company in Coimbatore for around 3- 3.5 years and I went on to do my thing in client interaction and client management from Genie Interactive in Bangalore.

What has been your learning experience in the last 8 years?
Big time, my learning experience I would say, I have realized that business is not just something that keeps growing and growing. There are ups and downs in business and with the experience we had, you need to be patient, you just can’t take a challenge and not wait for things to come to its full speed. I realize there would be times where your best ideas might not succeed. You need to move on and come up with better ideas, a better management, learn a lot of things.

Yes, you realize that when you start off, you have the flair and fire in you. We’ve come to take a lot of risks in a very short duration and you expect it to be fruitful enough. Again, in a short duration, after being in the business for 9 years, you realize you need to be patient and you need to have the confidence and guts to believe in your intuition and that’s what takes it to either failure or success. It’s all about intuition; it’s all about believing in yourself and your people. So it’s a whole lot more than just believing in your tactics.

What services do you provide in STRAPP?
All these years on the technology front, we have been a PHP, open source development company. In terms of solutions, we’ve been doing a lot of custom software development which includes web applications and client side applications and also server side applications. We’ve been doing this for the last seven years of our business, last two to three years, we’ve been very focused on the mobile front.

A lot of developments are happening on the mobile and tablet space, and today the internet is changing from desktop environment to smart phones, tablets and mobile environment on the bulk. So, we’ve been doing a lot of change, learning a lot of new technologies like Ruby and a lot of things around mobile structure. It has been successful, new clients are coming on board and things are looking good on the mobile space as well especially Android and IOS.

What is your marketing plan?
Right now, we see a lot of growth in the mobile and the tablets space. In the US, it has been great, in India, it’s still slow but on the marketing and sales side, we are talking to a lot of investors, right now. We see that with the kind of capital and the kind of people structure we’ve been working, it was not suited to the desktop and the whole web space where you sit down and you work and the client would sit down in their office and it would work. But from 2010 onwards, things are changing drastically.

We’ve been talking to a few bigger clients, companies and people and they are trying to see how we can jointly work together and we have a few strong clients in the US and Australia. We’ve been talking to them as well. So, in the coming months, we should be seeing a few more people on board to expand this new web internet space.

When you see facebookers and all these B2Cs that are crazily expanding in the US, I keep talking about the US more often because our target market is the US market. I wouldn’t say that we can’t make it in the Indian environment, our local environment but we don’t see that kind of initiative coming from our own market, it all comes from developed spaces like Silicon Valley and others and we tend to follow. So, we are looking at partners, who can have an edge over what we are working on. So in the future, we’ll be partnering with a few companies and this should enable us to take things forward in a bigger way.

Have you had any investors coming into the company in the last 10 years since you started?
We have been a very closed company, we have not been very open to investment. Whatever we are earning we’ve been putting back into the company and growing. We started as a two people company and now we are around 25, so growth has happened but now I think development has entered and now things are looking really big in the IT sense on the web area and mobile area. We have to stop thinking small and try to think big. So yes, the answer to your question is, No!  We never had an outside investment coming in the last say 5 years.

Now are you open to outside investors?
Absolutely, in fact, things are moving slowly towards that and in 2012 a few of these ideas should materialize. Our focus on sales and marketing which has been lacking all these years should change.

How do you see the future of STRAPP in the coming three years?
Next three years, I see us very strong.  We have taken a very big decision last year that we are not going to be happy with whatever we’ve done in the last 8 - 9  years, we need to move to the next level. That next level would come when we bring in additional capital, additional people with good experience, add people at the board level and bring in good ideas and look at new avenues.

Next three years, we should at least be going at about 70-80% growth. I think at least by  2015 -2016, we should be at least 4 to 5 times of what we are. We have been constant for the last 8-9 years, its just that things haven’t  happened  because we are on a different strata all these years.
From 2011, we have moved so drastically in the  developed market, we have been exposed to that market at least 7-8-9 years, we understand the language, we understand  how they think , so for us to go with some kind of investments, some  kind of additional ideas coming in, should not be a big deal.

What would you suggest to somebody who is just starting off in business?
For us also, I wouldn’t consider ourselves successful, we are still trying to leave from  where we  initially started. Even though it took us around 8 to 9 years but with experience in hand, we’ve learnt a lot of things, we learnt to exercise patience. Some people will start off, they would have lot of fire in them as we started in 2003, that was the  point where the legacy systems were coming to an end and the integrated convergence was happening.

I’m sure the people starting in 2012 onwards would be having the same fire to change the world, change the things they are doing on the web. I would suggest to them to look long term, don’t look at very short term goals, have a longer view and each phase  there would be ups and downs  initially, you would see that in the second or the third year  where  all the kind of fire you have, all the kind of growth you have, they would be some kind of ups and downs.

It’s like a cyclical behavior you would see in the long run, that ups and downs are part of the business. Initially, it would seem like it can grow under the kind of idea and the kind of capital we have but it’s not the case, it is very similar to the product life cycle as they call it. Every business has a life cycle. In the last 20 -30 years,  it’s pretty similar but now  Google and facebook have got to it in a very short period, Microsoft took 20 years to be what it is today, Google took just 7 years, facebook is taking just five years, it would get shorter and shorter, and that would make you realize or feel like it’s pretty  easy to just shoot up. But it would have it’s ups and downs is what I would say. You should have the patience and just go on.

How do you bring about a work-life balance?
It’s absolutely important to look at that aspect. When you start off, you will have all the support of your girl friend or your wife or your family, you may spend something like 16- 20 hours a day to get where you want to be.

But I would just say that please go ahead and do it, do it till the point where you would start feeling a little bit of that burn-out sensation. When you start feeling that burn-out sensation in your life, you know you are actually compromising on your personal life. Initially, everybody would be on your side, go ahead and spend a lot of time but after sometime it may be one year, two years, you yourself would feel that you need to give a little bit more to yourself, to your family, to people who you love, the work life balance as they call it, it would start hitting you after a while and when you get that feeling, you need to respect that and that is what actually we’ve gone through.

You shouldn’t just be crazy about work, I’m saying that you can start off with that because that’s what you need to do in the beginning but when you feel like somewhere that some kind of thing is needed for you to pull down, you need to respect that, you need to bring that into your life, and after a while you need to have a good work life balance.

Do you recollect the moment hiring your first employee?
Absolutely, the first employee we hired was a web designer. He had about 1-3 years of experience and  we interviewed him in our  first office and it was a lengthy  process because we  were very keen about  bringing in the right person for our kind of work. The guy was also very happy because the previous work he was doing, he was doing a night shift in an IT firm and he wanted to do more, that was another primary reason and he didn’t mind joining a small team and growing from there. He was there with us for almost 3 years and he was very good.

He was good and with our experience, he became better. Initially, we used to get a lot of work from Chicago and Florida from my contacts as a freelancer. So, work was pouring in, so after a year of experience with us, he started getting exposed to the US Markets and US clients and that was an amazing experience. Initially, it was all about our experience and our love for this business.

Do you also understand programming or are you a business oriented guy and not very technical?
I’m not a technical guy. I don’t come from a technical  background. I am a designer, I finished my MBA in marketing and I joined my first job as a web designer because I was not so much into marketing and sales initially and ideas were just coming in this way. I got my professional experience  as a web designer with a company when I was doing my MBA. So, I joined this company and that’s where I did web designing.

I was creative, very creative, then I  got clients from Intel and other places. My boss realized that I’m good with convincing clients so, I started handling clients and business development.

Have you ever felt like you’ve burnt out and you cannot go beyond a certain point and you felt like retiring from the business.
Frankly speaking yes, I have. We‘ve been in this business for nine years. At times I would feel if I had remained  were I worked, I would have been  much more successful and I would have a lot of things  to take back home for family. We’ve been working as entrepreneurs, lots of things have been pumped back into the business.

At times I don’t feel, I should be retiring indefinitely but  I would feel like the load of working  hasn’t differentiated us out or hasn’t made us more financially comfortable. That’s what I feel but that‘s one of the times where you are intensely pushed to the corner, you get that feeling. It’s a feeling, it’s a passing phase, I wouldn’t say that these feelings don’t come, it’s all part of the business, it’s all part of living, accept it and go on.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 03 May 2012 13:07 )  

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