Interview with Sekar Vembu

Posted on December 19, 2007. Filed under: Indian Startups, Interview | Tags: , |

Sekar Vembu is the ceo of a chennai based startup Vembu Technologies. He was a Co Founder, the CTO and a Business Unit head for AdventNet (of zoho fame). After Adventnet, he founded SwissSQL, a database migration solution, which was later acquired by Adventnet in 2004. Desistartups had an email interview with Sekar recently.

What made you to focus on backups, when the world was starting to pronounce “Web 2.0” in 2004?

The truth is that I am not really an early adopter of anything. So I never really paid attention to web 2.0 back in 2004 though I read about the different web 2.0 apps nowadays. Also, I would like to call myself more of an incremental innovator with a lot of common sense. So I am not sure if I can come up with a completely new world-changing idea or something like that. So when I started in 2004, I stuck to what I know best. I chose to work on storage as I felt there is lot of growth potential in that area and I did a little bit of research and decided to do a backup software product (which we call Vembu StoreGrid) – more because I felt I could really contribute with my incrementally innovative ideas and also because I felt I could get a product out and start generating revenues to support a boot-strapping model.

What was your initial investment?

I do not want to talk about the real investment. But it is quite significant compared to the investments with which I had helped bootstrap other companies. We still are in investment mode and expecting profitability in the first half of 2008.

Tell us something about your team?

Our management team has a very versatile background. I have always had good success in recruiting my friends from my school days or college days. I do not give much weight to relevant experience in the field I am working on. For example, the president of our company (previously VP, Marketing), Lakshmanan (lux) Narayan was my classmate at IIT, Madras. He did his MBA from IIM-C and then worked in the media/advertising industry for about 10 years. And when he joined me as a co-founder he did not have any experience in the IT field. But I know that he is a very smart and a creative guy who can get anything done if he puts his mind into it.And added to that we get along very well in spite of the huge differences in our personalities – him being a highly enthusiastic early adopter of anything and everything and me being quite cynical about trying anything new. And our VP of Business Development, Bhavdeep Oberoi, (who was Lux’s classmate at IIM-Calcutta) does not come with an IT background either. And both our Director of Technology (Jayavasanthan) and Director of Engineering (Sathish Subramanian) are known to me before. So when I recruit people I give a lot of emphasis on getting people with a variety of experience and skill along with a “Do what it takes” attitude and the willingness to signup for the long haul. And I should add that every employee in our company has fit in nicely into our culture of hard work, dedication, and willingness to make short term sacrifices to achieve our long term vision. I consider myself quite lucky in that front.

Different challenges that you faced over these 3 years and how you managed to overcome them?

I do not think I can pin-point any one significant challenge which we had to face. And of course there are business/people challenges you have to deal with everyday. I always believe no challenge is insurmountable given that you have a highly motivated team of people which have the attitude to “Do what it takes”.

Have you taken any silly decision which proved costly to your company? If yes, what was that?

I can’t think of any silly decision we have taken which proved costly for us. The truth may be that we have already made some silly decisions and we are not aware of that yet. Over time we may know.

How easy/difficult it is to hire people here?

One of the earliest challenges you face when you start a business is to find the right people with the right attitude for a startup. In India I believe it is especially difficult to attract young talented people to join a startup given the fact that you are competing for talent with the large well known services companies and also the large multi-national companies which have setup their software development centers here. In this age of fashion, driven by peer pressure, convincing a young person to work for your unknown startup is not that easy not to mention retaining them by keeping them motivated for the long haul. In our case, I have been quite lucky. Most of the people I hire or partner with are my friends or come through references from friends. That has worked for me very well.

Also, very talented and ambitious people try to move out of India for various reasons. And lack of experienced talent pool, especially people with software product management and product marketing experience, is a significant hindrance for entrepreneurship to blossom in India.

What will you call as your “Moment of proud”?

Obviously, the first time someone actually pays for the product you have created.

What do you think about Leopard’s Time Machine feature?

I think it is a very good feature provided it works as well as advertised. I have never tried it myself though.

Your genuine impression about zoho suite of products?

I have not personally used Zoho suite of products or for that matter any online office apps. It will be a while before I try them. But I am sure online apps will be successful either in its current form or in a form none of us are imagining right now.

What kind of people are you willing to hire?I will list the top 4 criteria I look for when I hire people:

  1. “Do what it takes” attitude.
  2. Passion with willingness for extreme hard work
  3. Willingness to make short term sacrifices and not succumb to peer-pressure.
  4. Intelligence combined with a lot of common sense.

Any tips for the upcoming entrepreneurs?

The biggest obstacle for being an entrepreneur is to get into an analysis paralysis situation. If you are passionate about being on your own just take the plunge and figure out everything later. You do not have to be a super smart visionary to be an entrepreneur. All it takes is a single minded pursuit of what you want to achieve along with the will power to stay focused and not give up.

Thanks Sekar for this wonderful interview. On behalf of our team and our readers, we wish All the very best for your startup.

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Lets meet our Prodokts guy!

Posted on December 13, 2007. Filed under: Interview | Tags: , , |

myProdoktSpacelog Vs Desistartups logo

Lets meet Arun, Co-founder of a Chennai based startup called myProdoktSpace. Before going straight to the interview, lets munch about the name. “My+Prodokt+Space“. As the name suggest this startup is going to be a social network, where the each of you is going to discuss about a product that you bought/like/wanting to buy etc. In short, we can call myProdoktSpace as social network meets Online shopping. Review about this product is in the pipeline. Without wasting any more time, lets go straight to the interview.

Tell us something about your new venture?

We are India’s first Social Shopping Portal. Social Shopping is going to be the next generation shopping trend which involves both Online and Offline Shopping and we see a huge potential for Social Shopping. Gone are the days where the users buy just on instinct. Today we speak to our friends to know more about the products, research about the products on Internet read reviews from various forums about the product before making the purchase.

Mission of myProdoktSpace is to make shopping easier and buy trusted products available in the market. The review and feedback of Products is provided by the users of various community members who are directly or indirectly linked in your network.

Tell us about your current team.

myProdoktSpace is promoted by AK Consultancy services (P) Ltd which is a startup Company based out of Chennai. Founded by myself (Arun) and Kumaran. Kumaran takes care of all technology related aspects and I take care of Business side of the venture. We have a small team comprising of technical people and business development team.

Given that the online shopping in India is still in its nascent form, how do you plan to position your startup as – more weightage to online shopping or more weightage to social networking?

As I mentioned in first our product is going to connect Peoples and Products. We have a market share of both Online and Offline Shoppers. Even the person who buys a mobile in the retail store does a lot of research today through his friends, reviews blogs and forums. Hence we do not see a problem of Online Shopping not kicking off as expected as we are targeting both Online and Offline Shoppers.

Whom do you think as your competitors?

Because we are the first one for social shopping in India, we do not have head to head competitors in this arena. But we do have some Quality players in product and service reviews but they are not our direct competitors. We think its too early to talk about competitors as we are a startup company.

What do you think about “Web 2.0”. How critical is it for your startup?

Our Product revolves around Web 2.0 and this is buzz word which you hear all around which is dominating the web. User is the King now and Our service follows similar model and we give full control to the user and have them contribute and aggregate the data.

The trend now is to expose API’s – for both social networking and shopping engines. Do you have this in your pipeline? If yes, when can we expect one?

Yes. But cannot reveal much detail now. Feel free to check out our Blog for updates!

How easy/difficult it is to setup a company in India?

If you do on it your own and scratch your head it is not easy due to the bureaucracy issues in India. If you go through Auditors and Service providers you can have your company running anywhere between 15 days to a month.

The profile of the people you are willing to hire?

Start ups requires only Go-Getters. When we go for hiring we first look at the attitude how does it fit in Start up environment and next comes the technical part. Feel free to get in touch with us at contact [at] myprodoktspace [dot] com.

Your two cents for other startups in India.

Keep your Focus Straight and work towards your vision. You will see lot of Obstacles in between and do not lose focus looking at these Obstacles. Focus, Focus and Focus and you will achieve your vision.

Thanks Arun for this wonderful interview. We appreciate that and on behalf of our team and our reader community, we wish your startup, All the very best!

Review of this product coming soon! Keep reading our blog!

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