Gurman has bootstrapped a fast growth company using services. Read about his impressive journey.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Gurman Hundal: I was born in England in a town about 30 miles from London. My family is from the northern state of Punjab in India. Even though I was born in England, I couldn’t speak English till I was about six years old. I have a British-Indian upbringing. My parents owned their own shoe shop in a shopping mall near where we live. I got an early exposure to family-run organizations. I went through the educational system within England. I went to University of Kingston where I studied Business. It was there where I started my career.
I was on a course where I had to take industrial work placement in the third year of a four-year course. I actually got my work placement in a small boutique digital advertising network called AdLINK Internet Media. That was really good for me for two reasons. One was, I got into the digital advertising sector very early on in its history. Online advertising kicked off in the late 90’s and in 2003, I got my first exposure to it. Also at that company, I got a lot of autonomy. They tripled in staff during the time I was there.
By the time I left, I was more experienced than some of the other people. I learned a lot. Then I went back to finish my degree. When I came out, I went back to that same company. I was working on the analytical and operational side of things. I learned a lot about the backend of digital advertising. My actual boss at that time, who is now my business partner, asked me to move to the sales team. After about six months of joining the sales team, I found a gap. Digital advertising is very much about a results-driven medium. It’s very much data-driven in terms of how you’d compare to other media.
We had a big product at that company. I said, “We need to create a performance-based product that we can sell to clients. To do that, we need to create capabilities and have analytical and optimization-led capabilities. I actually started a division there, which was a new division for that company. About 18 months into building and launching a new product for this firm, it became a massive product. It started getting exposure to the CEO of the firm. I was flying around Europe and trying to get other markets to take on that product.
I then got head-hunted to work for a big publishing company called Associate Newspapers to, pretty much, build the same product for them. That was my first stab at the corporate world. I was starting a division inside this massive company. It was an online advertising network leveraging data and analytics. I did that for two years. I always had this urge to start my own company and run my own business. I hooked up with my old boss. We decided to launch Media IQ. We really thought that we could add more value to the market by building our own company than if we worked for existing companies.