SMEs need to focus on acquiring customers than chasing investors: Founder and CEO of 7boats
Updated: Nov 10, 2015 12:43:18pm
In an exclusive interview with KNN, Banerjee talks more about his start-up venture and his vision about the SME sector in India.
Q. To start with, please tell us something about 7boats.
I always wanted to explore the unexplored! Back in 2011 there were only few digital marketing companies in India and the big ones were mostly dealing with cream projects. Small business houses were apprehensive about the result a digital marketing agency could provide to the visibility & reach of their products and services. I wanted to reach to the masses, small business houses and startups to help grow their businesses. In that sense, I wanted to set up a company that would help others to generate business through digital marketing efforts at affordable cost. I also wanted to develop a good eco-system by training & educating students and representatives of companies to open up sea of opportunities. This compelled me to start my entrepreneurial journey by setting up Seven Boats Info-System Pvt Ltd in 2011. Today it's one of the leading strategic digital marketing companies in India.
The name “Seven Boats” has been coined from Bengali folklore and mythology – the famous ‘sapta dinga’, a metaphor for endeavours to unknown, uncharted territory.
Q. What are your core services?
Our core services include the following two divisions:
A) 360-degree Digital Marketing Service covering umbrella of activities like, SEO, Social Media Marketing, Online Advertisements, Strategic content writing, Content Marketing, Website audit, Web designing, Web Development, Web Consultancy, Domain registration, Web hosting & more.
B) Digital Marketing Training & Workshop for students, professionals, corporate, SMEs & startups.
We have given digital marketing consultation in 30+ industry verticals including Healthcare/Medical, Education, Engineering, Retail, Business Services, Finance, etc. for more than 500 international & domestic projects including some eminent brands like Shree Cement, NDTV, Hearing Plus and more.
We have been recognized by IITs, felicitated at Gargi Memorial Institute of Technology (GMIT), United World School of Business, invited for workshop at Primarc group, awarded with The Bengal Entrepreneurship Recognition 2015 by Bengal Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Indian Leadership Award 2012 by IEDRA, listed among top 100 Indian digital marketing companies by Digital Monster Magazine.
As part of our Corporate Social Responsibility we have trained professionals from Hope Foundation Kolkata at our office. We are committed towards building the digital marketing ecosystem through our training division - Seven Boats Academy. Seven Boats is also associated with St. Xavier's College Kolkata and NIT Trichy for their flagship events.
Q. You have a business of its own kind, where did you get the idea to start 7boats?
I have evolved in this industry seeing that a good number of people are driven by vague knowledge about digital marketing & they mostly follow obsolete techniques. I have seen people getting mislead by the opportunists for their lack of awareness. It's always a big issue. Falling in wrong hands, it's worse to see that they do not get to visualize the real picture in a transparent way. There is also dearth of quality digital marketing professionals because of poor ecosystem. These concerns have motivated me to address the issues in my own way – by setting up Seven Boats. We are very prominently working on our website to build the awareness through content. We give consultation to our clients in a very transparent way, keeping clear communication and keeping them aware about all pros and cons of digital marketing. Moreover, we are developing the ecosystem through training & workshop for students & corporate.
What were the problems that you faced in the initial stage of developing your start-up?
Few early career rejections in interview & my subsequent decision 5 years back to start up a company led me to face sarcastic questions from many people around me. Tackling questions to convince my well wishers about the move had become regular fixture in early days of Seven Boats. Have you set up a computer shop? Are you running a cyber cafe? It’s an interesting journey full of ups & downs to see my company grow from ‘zero’ to where it is today. But the real challenge was Bootstrapping my company. I had started the journey having basically no working capital. I had to take along every issue without any external funding. Right team building was another challenge. When you have to make a perfect balance of quality team, reasonable remuneration & quality service delivery and as well as to excel simultaneously, keeping a firm long term vision, these challenges really matter a lot.
Since funding is a real road rock for any startup, how did you manage to get the funds for your startup?
We had started with “zero” external funding and so far we have been managing it that way. We have traversed all this distance generating working expense from our projects. However, money is a big concern and therefore we have set up our academy wing to mitigate the financial challenges. We are cautious about unnecessary expenses, do not run luxurious office and have also nurtured a small sized multi-tasking team to minimize the financial risk. We also put focus on system and process streamline and automation. All these are working out well for us but we are definitely looking forward to external funding for expansion and improvement of infrastructure if it fits well with our vision and in good terms. We do not have any investor on-board and so far have not committed to any interested investor. However, in the last year a Dubai based investor had shown interest & approached to invest in our business.
What is the size of your company (annual turnover) ?
Our annual turnover for the FY 14-15 was around INR. 30 Lacs which has seen a growth of around 70% from the previous FY. That way we are hopeful to cross 0.5 Cr next FY.
What is the USP of your startup?
We have a list of USPs. One USP is we do not believe in providing only that much of service our clients pay for. We get involved in the business process of our clients and never shy away from contributing additionally to our clients’ business. To add to this list, our customer service, respecting deadlines and use of latest technology are some of our other features that make us unique. Another USP is our unique concepts – simple but powerful that yield result & give better ROI to our clients. We have worked for a number of projects for worldwide clients. So, our experience in the web marketing domain is another USP. Continuing with a few more here -
- We focus on client’s ROI and overall business growth.
- We focus on client’s long term growth strategy.
- We are highly appreciated by clients all across the globe.
- We adopt strategic and selective approach.
- We have unconventional and highly effective strategies.
- We have ethical and transparent work policy.
- We give simple but powerful solution at affordable price.
- We are known for faster delivery and better customer support.
- We have resourceful customer awareness program.
- We put stress on building relationships with customers as their partner for the journey towards success rather just being a typical vendor.
E-Commerce is seizing the offline shopping trends in global market , what is your take in this regard?
E-commerce is of course seizing the limelight from offline shopping trends and it’s poised to gain momentum in coming days following the law of technology growth and human tendency to follow the trend. We are going to see lot many E-commerce startups as more and more young entrepreneurs are coming up with fresh ideas. However, these entrepreneurs’ adaptability with the latest digital marketing vehicles to reach the potential end users and ability to convince through effective marketing strategy will actually write the real success stories. So, this will also be interesting to see unique online marketing campaigns that set the trend in a commendable way. But as per my opinion offline store will be still there and it will not yet be replaceable in near future. Online ecommerce will be sustainable for long only if this operates in premium segment and with fair profit margin. With low margin highly competitive products it will be tough to sustain for long term as the cost of operation might go at higher side than the revenue (except the already established giants in market)
How you see the growth and development of SMEs ( Small and Medium enterprises) in India?
If the SMEs have long term practical & sustainable vision and do not hurry to grow or expand in any how or just for the sake of funding, I think they have a great future in India. First they need to do market research well, if there is a market and they can solve a pain with quality delivery and focus on acquiring customers than chasing investors, it can sustain. I can tell this from my own experience that if you have a good product or service and you do not deceive clients, you work in a very ethical & transparent way and manage to keep the expenses within control, no one can stop you from growing. SMEs are the pillar of the economy. And rather than biggies, SMES can give a nation the major economic growth and can create more and more jobs. We can only be positive about external funding and Government help but at the end of the day one’s perseverance and faith on his team will sail him through rough weather.
What are your plans for 7boats in coming years?
We want to focus on expanding and excelling in our core expertise areas. For that we are on course to develop in-house resource who can add value in our team. We have another plan of bringing our training division online and associate more and more people from versatile fields.
Do you think the government is playing its role for the betterment of emerging enterprises?
As a growing digital marketing company we always aspire to receive Government help for further expansion plans & financial stability. However, this is a grey area which needs to be addressed in a transparent way for upliftment of the emerging enterprises. As most of the enterprises like us remain clueless about the procedures of placing tenders for public sector projects, this is not helping in growth of the ecosystem. The Government should come up with a good vision for inclusive growth which do not discriminate a company with good potential from the other on any parameter. Also more motivation, rewards, business referrals, invitation for seminars, regular meet up with local Govt officials are required. Also taxation, financials and other legal processes must be hassle free for start-ups and SMEs. Take example of Singapore. Also e-governance is required for startups to focus more into their business. Things now seems far better than before, we have seen some positive vibes and positive steps/willingness from Govt side, but still it’s a long way to go. We hope for the best and look forward to it. (KNN/ J)