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Building a Retail Business in India: Manish Sharma, CEO of Printo (Part 5)

Posted on Sunday, Jan 12th 2014

Sramana: What happened to that business?

Manish Sharma: We were caught in the crash. Not a lot of people remember how fast that happened, but I definitely do! The company did not go anywhere.

Sramana: What did you do after the dot com crash?

Manish Sharma: We had 40 people in India at that point who were working for the company. After the crash, I explored selling the product to media companies in India. We were not able to sell it. My credit cards were maxed out and I went into debt to pay salaries and keep the team afloat. We had a fantastic team and we personally helped placing each and every one of those people in new jobs. Some of them got jobs in the U.S. It was important to me that we took care of the team.

I was lucky to find a small company in Chicago called Pipal solutions. They were looking for some products guys and they had an Indian running their research project. They hired me to help them with roll-ups. I thought I would work there for six months and pay off my debt. I ended up staying there for three years. They eventually moved me to the U.K. and made me a VP and interim CEO. I also built a new center for them in Delhi.

Sramana: Where were you located, Chicago or the U.K.?

Manish Sharma: I was in Chicago for 9 months before I moved to London. I stayed in London for a couple of years.

Sramana: That brings us to the 2003 timeframe?

Manish Sharma: Exactly. That is when I decided that I had made enough money and wanted to take a break. I decided to do an MBA at Oxford. After that concluded, I decided to return to India and do something in the non-technical space. I really wanted to focus on the retail space.

I looked at a lot of business options before deciding to open a print shop. Digital technology and digital printing have really changed the market. I started a shop in Bangalore and expanded to Bombay. By this time, I was married and my wife had worked with Xerox in both India and the U.K. She knew a lot more about printing than I did. We decided to start the business together.

Sramana: How did you get that business off the ground?

Manish Sharma: I put together a business plan to open a couple of shops. I figured it would cost be about $200,000 to open the two shops with equipment. I had about $100,000, so I had to figure out where to get the rest of the money. The sentiment in India was very upbeat in 2005 and all my friends told me they wanted to invest in whatever I was doing. I was able to get the necessary resources to start this business.

This segment is part 5 in the series : Building a Retail Business in India: Manish Sharma, CEO of Printo
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