So what does it take to be a business owner? Dotsquares CEO Bankim Chandra shares his story on what it was like to start his own business from scratch!
Well it all started in 1996 when I left my job as a programmer for a company called TCS based in India. I came to the UK to work for Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) as a programmer for their CRM Systems. After just under a year at RBS, I moved to Bradford to do programming for Abbey National’s Car and Home Insurance Products. Then finally in 1998 I came to Brighton with one suitcase to take on the challenge of fixing the Y2K bug at American Express.
When I was at American Express we found that there was a gap in the IT industry. Companies would charge clients a small fortune for open ended projects. For that reason we knew that we needed to provide cost effective software solutions, which would help start-ups, SME’s and corporates.
I remember my first office was in a garage and I used to go back and forth from the house to the garage in a suit and tie. My wife and my friends all used to laugh at me, but that was the only way I could give myself discipline and focus. I still get up at the crack of dawn and put on my suit however now Dotsquares has offices in France, Australia, the US, two in the UK, as well as three development centres in India. We now have over 800+ staff members or family members should I say, compared to when we initially started with five people.
Well, when I left American Express I was given a redundancy package that I used to invest into the business. My wife’s support has been instrumental for the success of the company, as well as the support from all of my close family members. Leaving American Express was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. I was leaving a good salary, knowing that my wife was at home with our two year old daughter, with another child on the way. As the sole earner you worry about how you are going to support your family, as well as the uncertainty that lies ahead. However as I had the support of a good consultancy who was willing to impart their knowledge I felt reassured when it came to taking that leap of faith.
I have learnt a lot from the next generation, from coaching individuals and groups as part of the Young Enterprise programme. This involves giving some of my time to teach schools and colleges all over Sussex, on how to run a business. The kids involved are full of optimism, positivity and great energy levels, which is exactly what you want as a business owner and entrepreneur. Positive energy is crucial when nurturing a business because without that you can’t take your business to the next level. My father is also another key inspiration, as he was a vital contributor to the success of Dotsquares, and in fact he still contributes in the same way for all the teams in the offices in India.
Not necessarily, but I do believe that you need to be organised, honest and try to put people in your own shoes.
Yes, I actually consider myself incredibly lucky to have worked with Santander and their breakthrough programme. The programme has been designed to help business owners break through into the market outside of the UK, by organising trade missions for 15 – 20 people at a time. I have also been involved with other export missions with the help of London Chamber of Commerce and UKTI. Through those trade missions I visited a range of different countries accompanied by other business owners, and I still have solid relationships with those individuals to this current day. Who knows? You could find yourself sitting on a plane next to someone like Willie Walsh (British Airways CEO), whom I then spent several days with in Brazil networking and discussing export options for the country.
If I’m being, honest being a business owner isn’t easy at all. Every week/month you have to think about how you can change as a business to adapt to the current economy, IT market and competition. I would also say to people that leadership can be very challenging as a business owner, especially when you face a range of different characters in the business. However during this experience I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by honest, diligent and talented team members, which is exactly what you need when you want to achieve your business goals and ambitions.
For me, I feel the main learning curve was all within the market research. Doing the right market research, finding out what the problems are within that industry or area, and then finding the gap to make your business unique. You want to ensure that you’re the niche service provider or a product within that industry. You also need to put in hard work and keep your eyes and mind open. Don’t just try to look for the sales opportunity, as a meeting with anyone could turn into a business relationship or a learning experience.
When it comes to starting your own business, advice from your friends and family is essential. For example when I first started out I had a couple of staff at the time, so I was the first sales person, the project manager and the account manager. Although that sounds like a lot, I actually loved it as that’s where my passion lies. However my peers told me I would have to leave those things for others and delegate more, if I wanted to grow the business. So I started employing more people which meant I could focus on the bigger picture. I think the key principle here is to trust your confidants around you and take on board each and every bit of advice. Don’t hastily rush into anything and remember to think about things rationally.
Well, these days, there are many different routes available such as going to the bank and enquiring about a Venture Capitalist, or looking for business partners and investors. Here at Dotsquares, we offer affordable and competitive rates as we understand funds can be of limited supply when you’re trying to set up a business, especially as we too were once a start-up ourselves.