Startups have been glamorized by the media and made to sound cool and sexy. But the reality couldn’t be far from it if you are in it for the long haul.
Passion and vision go hand-in-hand. Not necessarily everything goes according to plan. Things fall through, people give up, servers’ crash, and there will be times when nothing would go right. You're going to have to deal with it and handle it while keeping your calm. Nothing beats resilience and humility when working on building an organization that lasts. Hear our startup story from our founder.
How did it all start?
My name is Kunal. I am the founder of Arcgate, which is an 1800 person strong IT and BPO services outsourcing company headquartered in Udaipur. We started back in year 2005 in Austin, Texas in the US and since then we have grown organically. We haven’t raised any outside funding and we’ve built a pretty good team of people who are passionate about working with high growth startups and helping them with lot of their backend business process outsourcing needs and we feel we’re in a pretty unique position to continue the growth and keep having fun.
What or who was your inspiration to start off?
You don’t really need inspiration. I think you have to see pain point and something which inspires yourself and if you feel the need is there, go for it. You don’t need to look for any big role model or any big…you know Steve Jobs kind of stories to inspire yourself.
What was your first set back and how did you overcome it?
Your day is always made up of setbacks; good times and bad times. So the day you are not having a setback, you should question; “Is something wrong?”, because without setbacks you can’t progress, which means you are not taking enough risk, you are not doing the right things and your people are not either telling you something or business is not going in the direction it needs to. So setbacks are always part of the process. Of course, when we started in 2005...you know the infrastructure in a place like Udaipur, the internet connectivity to power backup to whatever…we had to create everything from scratch. We started when dial up modems were still around. So those are the times when we started. So there were hiccups or issues pretty much every day, right in terms of delivery, getting things done which you know lot of people starting today do not have to face or take for granted, but you know there are always different kinds of challenges. So if you are starting today, you’ll face different sets of issues, problems and that’s where I think, the lesson to be learnt from Jeff Bezos at Amazon, he says it very nicely, that a startup progresses in every 10 years so I think anyone in India looking to make a quick million within a year or two, you should rethink and probably get a job.
What is your success mantra?
There really isn’t any success mantra. I think you take one day at a time and you keep progressing, keep having fun, make sure you and your team are moving forward and you are executing and everyone is growing along with the vision. I think once you do that, success kind of follows itself. You don’t start of saying you want to be successful or you want to…you know make a couple of million or sell the company. I think that’s the wrong way to approach a company, a startup which is going to grow aggressively over the next 5-10 years. So I think it's better not to have those brand visions and think about success INITIALLY because that will get you delusional and feeling low fairly quickly because in a startup, you’ll have more challenges than successes. So I think success follows is the net result but you shouldn’t really have a mantra or you shouldn’t be getting into all those kind of things.
What was your goal? And how hard did you work to achieve it?
The focus point initially and which stays today is making sure we are doing the right things for the clients because the startup community in the US is very mature, unlike India which is very new and the founders and the executive teams of startups are always looking at each other for references for how things are working with vendors all over the world. So our goals is always to make sure we are a trusted partner, do the best we can for every customer. That way there is a trust; there is a reputation and the growth kind of follows along with that. So I think that’s the main goal and the vision when we’re working with the outsourcing in an area like startups in the US which is very challenging, very demanding at the same time, very fulfilling when it works out.
It’s said that you have to, lose something to be successful. What all did you lose or sacrifice for your success?
So, I think any time you are starting a company or you’re athlete or preparing over the years before you make it to the Olympics or whatever the top segment is, you have to sacrifice, you have to put in lot of work, you have to work over weekends, nights, or sacrifice family time and personal time, not take holidays. So I think all that goes with the territory and I think you have to make that personal choice and decision whether you want to have that lifestyle or not because from outside you know every industry, whether it is entertainment or sports or business looks very glamorous and easy. I think once you get into it, you want to be successful; you’ll be willing to roll up your sleeves, do the hard work and make sure you are in for the long run because it will take… I’d say 5-10 years before you to see some results and maybe you won’t see result. You have to be ready for the failure and ready to take it in the right swing and move on. We started with 2 person team, sitting in office in a garage, next to where I live. So, from there to where we are today, it’s you know there are lot of benefits, right. We have done lot of good and created lot of employment opportunities, that’s the biggest benefit to the local community. There are lots of people who’ve grown from very beginning, entry level stage to 10-12 years now to a much more mature experience role. So those are the benefits or the things which give me pleasure when you see that kind of growth. I think creating industry in a place like Udaipur, creating IT-BPO and this is still the start...we feel there is a lot of opportunity room to grow. I think those are all the pluses. In terms of the journey...like I said growing from 2 to 1800 is always going to be challenging. It’s never easy in terms of funding, making sure you are profitable, making sure you are doing the right things, customer deliveries, top notch, the people are happy, you are hiring the right people especially in a place like Udaipur, attracting talent from other places. So I think those all are the challenges. But I think you know if you execute day in and day out, it typically works out okay.
How has the year been so far for you both personally and professionally?
I think this year is going well, there’s no issue. Challenges with the global economy, the slowing growth rates in India, so on and so forth. But those are always there, they is some external or internal fact that which are challenging or bring problems along the way and I think what we’ve done over the last twelve plus years is we’ve gone through 2008 financial crisis, we’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs in the broader economy, we have survived and kept growing. So we kind of know the formula and its very simple stick to the basics, do the work, make sure delivery is top notch and people are growing and executing well. So I think once you do all the basics, things fall in place. So I think this year is no different. It is going well and we continue to grow and do well. We are expanding and all good things coming down the road.
Message to the new generation of entrepreneurs?
I think new generation of entrepreneurs in India, I think the message would be fairly straight forward, “Do it if you are passionate, if you are IN for the long run, don’t do it for the wrong reasons which typically ends up being money or fame or trying to make it to the media or get some coverage because those typically don’t happen. If they happen, you go out, raise funding as you’ve seen with lot of flipkarts of the world; you dilute yourself to the quick, and the board ends up firing you and you basically look back at years of not accomplishing much. So I think, if you are starting off today, don’t get into it for the wrong reasons because that’s typically what I see the younger generation trying to do it just because they want to become the next Flipkart or Amazon or Google. But you gotta understand, for every success story, there are probably thousands of failures and to get to success, there is lot of hard work. That will take like I said decade or two decade of hard work before you see results and maybe you won’t, so I think once you understand that and enter that with a passion and approach which is mature, you should be okay. This is interesting that you guys are doing this series because this will help create the awareness of technology, business and startups. So congratulations on it. Keep doing it because I think there are only positive results by looking at this kind of interaction, seeing what people have gone through and making sure you be realistic and face the challenges of what lies ahead and make sure you do something that makes a difference.