Suresh Shankar is the Founder Director at Crayon Data. Prior to founding Crayon Data he held various positions at IBM, RedPill Solutions, ANN AMRO Bank, Young & Rubicon and JWT Fulcrum. He was the CEO at RedPill which was sold to IBM in 2009. Srikant Sastri is another serial entrepreneur and seasons executive who joined the founding team at Crayon Data. He has held varying positions at Team4U, Vivaki, an Growth-For-All before founding Crayon Data.
Sramana: Before we delve into the story of Crayon Data I would like to get a sense of your backgrounds. Suresh, why don’t you go first.
Suresh Shankar: I was born in Chennai and grew up with a proper middle class background. My father was a lawyer and education was everything. My father also encouraged me to play a lot of cricket which was a lot of fun growing up. When I began looking at college choices I took the easy way out. I knew that I wanted to do an MBA eventually, so I figured I should start out with business studies for three years before my MBA instead of five years of engineering school. I ended up going to IIM Calcutta which is where I met Srikant. He ended up taking all of the notes while I skipped class and took all of his notes.
I had always wanted to be in sales and marketing. After I got out of college in 1985 I spent some time front end sales, and then I went into product management and marketing. From there I went to advertising. To some extend I think my future was shaped by that progression. I worked on a team that helped Citibank launch a credit card business followed by the launch of CitiPhone Banking in India. I grew up to be the national account director for that business which was a fascinating learning experience for me. The services sector did not exist in India before Citibank. From 1989 to 1995 there was a tremendous amount of learning around direct marketing and technology to grow a business.
I then moved on to set up the first media buying company in India. Now you have a few but none of them existed in 1995. It was the first country in the world where we won the Unilever business for consolidated media buying. Not only was Unilever the largest media spender by a factor of many miles in those days, but I think it was a creation of an entire industry of media buying on that scale. We literally had to put in place a lot of the systems and business models necessary to make that successful.
After a few years I moved to Singapore for purely personal reasons. In 1997 I joined Young & Rubicam and coincidentally a week after I joined Citibank shifted their accounts to Young & Rubicam. I claim it had everything to do with me but in reality it was just a happy coincidence and had nothing to do with me. I went on to be the account director for that account and I worked on the launch of Internet banking in Asia.