Hi Dhiren, please tell us about your journey from being a consultant at Monitor to founding your own company 25 years later?
I was a partner at Monitor, a strategy consultancy managing the relationship with BG Group Plc back in 1999. They realized that instead of paying £0.5million a year to Monitor, it would be cheaper for them to hire me. That’s how I became Head of Strategy worldwide for an FTSE top 50, recommending where to invest £1bn annually across 26 countries, at age 33. Consulting was far too academic. In 2000 oil hit $16 a barrel. So it was time to diversify. I went to India on behalf of BG to set up their broadband fibre business – a brand new start-up. Fifteen months later, I had got all the permits, had installed the entire network, set up the headend and infrastructure, and had a team of 120 – the fastest broadband implementation in the world at that time. I had been bitten with the start-up bug. Since then, I have led a heated ice hockey skate blade company in Canada, mobile payments company in Sri Lanka, a charcoal chicken company in UK, gas exploration business in Canada
The most important thing is to have a product which people want, which ideally is profitable in year 1. This is the biggest thing that I had learned from my other start-ups. It’s tough finding the right investor even if you have a great idea. Investors need to be supportive, not exploitative – this can end up being a lottery. The first sales are always the most tricky. So far, it’s going as I expected, only because I got it “wrong” with my seven previous start-ups. It’s inevitable that I will make mistakes, but there is no excuse to make the same mistakes.
Our product is particularly suited to the post covid world. It’s an exciting time for us.
When I first join an organization, they love me to bits because they had hired me for a specific problem that needs an unconventional approach. Which I provide, and come up with a solution very quickly which they are pleased with. I then start looking at other problems, which are usually the result of silo thinking and lack of working together as a company – rather than individual departments. I spend ages trying to explain the issue and the solution with analysis and objective reasoning. But, more often than not, people simply don’t want to change. The result is agreeing to disagree and me leaving – as I simply can’t stand doing something that is clearly wrong.
This is also why I prefer to have my own business rather than working for somebody else’s business. Own business also has its challenges. See my answer to question 2.
I am using Segment, Google Analytics, Hubspot, Adwords currently at Saphestera. I plan to add hotjars or something similar, a customer survey satisfaction tool such as Usabilla. It’s critical to constantly look at your entire funnel and optimize every single touchpoint.
We all face similar challenges, and we all have our fair share of mistakes. So, it’s essential to have those conversations – best to learn from someone else’s mistakes than your own.
You can’t develop a product/service without speaking to and collaborating with your customers. It’s shocking how companies develop products and services sitting in an office without any market research. They believe that focus groups are a waste of time (they are, if you don’t know what you are doing, invaluable if you do); they do little/ no quant research. Lots of companies don’t constantly ask for feedback from customers. There was a shocking stat that I can’t remember from a recent Hubspot survey as to how few companies do this.