Sramana: It sounds like this dose of reality was good for your soul. It helped you get back down to the ground.
Srikant Sastri: Absolutely. That is why as Suresh and I set up our business, today I play the role of the background voice reminding us of the need to preserve our cash. That dose of reality has never left me.
Sramana: Where did things go with that company?
Srikant Sastri: It was a marketing services company, and by 2005 it had become the largest such company in India. We had 3,000 people at Solutions Integrated Marketing. It was in India and Southeast Asia. In 2005, for a variety of reasons, I decided that it was important to bring on a strategic financial partner. I really wanted to focus on global expansion, so I took a global trip and met all of the global marketing holding companies. I met with nine of them, and Suresh was very helpful in introducing me to some of them. We sold a 60% stake in 2005. By 2010 they had bought out the remaining percentage of the company.
In 2004 we had established a second company as a spinoff. It was a staffing company. We would provide sales teams on contractual basis to the same large multinationals. Between 2004 and 2007 we had 15,000 salespeople contracted out to our major clients. In 2007 we sold that company to a Dutch company. We existed that business completely. As a result, I have had two businesses which I have built and exited completely.
Sramana: Suresh, let’s go back and talk some about what your moves were. You had gone through a corporate career path and had enjoyed some success. How did you move into the entrepreneurial path?
Suresh Shankar: I started off with marketing as a right-brain, creative career path. I loved advertising and brands, but I realized in all of my work that there was a lot of data being used. The marketing world was moving towards left-brain, data-driven analytics.
I can’t say that my first step into entrepreneurship was entirely planed. I was supposed to join a big startup as the COO during the height of the dot-com boom. I quit my big job, and unfortunately in the fifteen days between quitting and starting my new job, we had a dot-com bust and my new job never actually materialized.
Getting a job was not going to be a problem, but during the down time I had the opportunity to reflect on the state of the market. That made me realize there was opportunity to do some things differently and that led me to my first startup, RedPill. That was my analytics consulting firm.
Sramana: Throughout all of this the two of you stayed in touch. How was that?
Srikant Sastri: When I set up my Singapore office in 2002, Suresh was a bachelor and I had a key to his pad. I would see him every month. When I started my business, Suresh started RedPill. We kept in regular contact in that manner.