I am very happy to introduce Mr. Suraj Sreenath – Head – Sales & Operations at Dream Gains Financial Pvt. Ltd. Before taking over the sales & operations at DG, Suraj has played a number of sales roles at Transworks, Dell & finally at PTC.
A salesman has a number of stories to share and Suraj has been kind enough to share a number of anecdotes from his career and personal life.
Coffee With Suraj Sreenath – Head – Sales & Operations, DG
Me: Sundar Rajan G S
SS: Suraj Sreenath
Me: Hello Suraj, Welcome to CWS Season 2! It is a previledge to have you here on the show!
SS: Thanks Sundar, the pleasure is mine!
Me: Suraj, the interview is based on single big question. Tell us YOUR STORY! If I remember right, you did your first sales when you were in 10th Std.
SS: Sure.. I will share all I can..
Actually, my first sale was in 3rd std
I was in Hassan then.. Opposite to my house, there was a tree with boat shaped leaf.. I sold it to a guy who was staying a couple of lanes ahead for 10 paise each! He had a drain in front of his house
This was covering my icecreams without informing my parents.. But the business was shut when the guy’s mom found out.. I dont know if she took the money back
My pocket money was reducing after it closed.. But I was still proud of my sales.. I gave me confidence at a very young age!
Me: Wow! You were a sales man in 3rd standard Anything else you managed in your early school days?
SS: Yes! I started my next sales work in 4th std
This time it was a bit more sophisticated.. At that age, students in school used to collect stickers of super heros.. gods.. etc as hobby.. So, I thought there was huge “opportunity”. I researched the whole of Hassan to find out where the cheapest stickers were available.. So I would buy at Rs 2 and sell it at Rs 2.5 making money in between.
That is when I learnt the power of research while doing sales.
Me: So were in Hassan only all your childhood?
SS: Yes.. from 3rd standard to 12th I was in Hassan..
Till 7th.. I used to get a pocket money of 200 rs a month.. I was a 70 – 80% “normal” guy.. My sister was in a different zone all together.. 98 – 99%
Me: Sure.. You have compensated ur academic scores with your sales target scores Carry on with your sales story…
SS: I was in my 7th std when I first got a computer.. My dad got it for himself.. Till 8th std I wasnt very interested.. 8th I joined St.Joseph. There is something special about St. Joseph.. They always set the toughest tests.. I only managed to get some passing marks.. I reduced from a 80% student to 40-45% of 8th std.. Obviously not acceptable to by any std..
They cut down my pocket money till scores improved..
Instead of studying.. I was wondering.. how to make pocket money.. not why was it cut..
I put a Rs 100 catridge for printer… I foundout that it costs 30 rupees refill.. I started typing jobs
I had a dot matrix printer.. So I could take loads of printout… Regular typist would charge Rs 6 – 7.. I was charging Rs 15 for a printout + softcopy.. I started getting lot of customers.. I used to do this 3-4 hours after school.. full of sundays etc.. My dad saw that I was doing some good work… he started giving some of his office work.. My working in PWD (Public Work Dept).. PWD had a document called the SR document.. It had the complete schedule of records.. what task has to be performed.. how much to charge etc.. And having a softcopy of that document would be very invaluable.. So he said, he would give a bulk order
and instructed me not to take any other orders.. I took 3 months & finally gave him in a good format..
Me: But were you excited with Typing? Wasnt it monotonous?
SS: Yes! I agree.. Somewhere I Realized.. that there is no future.. I wondered what can i do after typing.. So started learning how to assemble computer.. more about computers.. Installing OS etc.. I charged Rs 1000 for installation
I can go easy on typing if I get an installation order.. My interest started developing towards programming.. The Computer teacher was a good friend.. He started teaching C, Fotran.. I started developing small softwares.. education database.. for a school etc..
Me: oh cool.. So you got into the geek side of it
SS: Yes.. In 9th std… We (a friend of mine & I) started thehassan.com.. Internet was very new then.. The website was meant for local advertsing.. We launched with a rock show.. It was a portal.. motivation was from Rediff.. We even found a sponsor.. – Oxemberg
It was an exciting phase.. I had a business card as Founder, Thehassan.com
We gave cards in IT.com and other gatherings.. People used to ask.. are you a founder..
Me: So how did it go? How was the venture..
SS: I was going ok for some time.. But the problem was management.. I was going to schoool.. Ravi had a MIRC.. (Internet relay chat version) He was running the admin of that site.. Dont remember how it got shut down.. But great experience.. newspaper & tv coverage.. those were the days when DOT COM companies got a lot of coverage..
Me: What next ?
SS: Next was when I was in 10th std.. I had fair idea about web design.. 2 – 3 friends had excellent design skills.. they were not getting jobs.. mainly because of language problem.. Only today the communication skills have increased.. I proposed them to start something on our own..
We knew one thing.. from my past experience.. Indian customers dont pay.. So we decided to focus on international customers.. So we didnt want an Indian name.. for our venture.. Hence we called it.. “Manifesh Technologies” The idea was we shouldnt have any dictionary meaning..
No Indian connection even through that.. It took off well.. I was in 1st PUC (11th std).. Major way to catch customers was by yahooo chat group.. I was hooked onto many chat rooms. A UK company had information of hospital docs/nurses.. they gave us big orders.. We had many global group of companies.. A China company etc..
The understanding with my friends was I will do sales.. They will do coding.. We also got registration done.. It was a Small Scale industry registration.. actually it was free.. We didnt even know about taxes at that time..
We had 10 – 12 clients.. By the time I was in 12th.. We made our first 1 lakh
I couldnt focus on exams.. So I didnt write my 12th exam
Me: What.. You didnt write 12th? Then what happened?
SS: My father was working for PWD. My uncle was a commissioner..
I didnt want to write 12th.. My reason I gave at home was attendance.. I had 18% attendance.. So I may not able to attend exam.. My father used his network.. FORTUNATELY FOR ME.. My princi was strict and I was barred
I was “Shifted” to Moodbidre – 30 km from Mangalore to hostel.. So that I could get some discipline instilled..
It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.. My company grew faster as one of the parnter there..
We used to meet and lots of brainstroming.. We stared something called “electrifying pages”. It is exactly same as Justdial.. This was done when we had some free time.. A local yellow pages company brought us for 2 lakhs.. In the mean time.. UK company started giving more & more projects.. They asked our designers to shift inside… We had a meeting and I told them that they should go ahead.. They got to go UK
They were job less here.. They both took up.. One of them is a chief designer there.. He started a 50 seater design house.. based out Mangalore..
Stay tuned for part 2! and also watch out for the next interview with Padma Bhushan Roddam Narasimha – India’s leading scientist.