Suhas Gopinath

Published on: June 2013

Suhas Gopinath (born November 4, 1986) is an Indian entrepreneur. He is the founder, CEO, and Chairman of Globals Inc., an IT multinational company. In 2005, Gopinath was the youngest among the 175 recipients of Karnataka's Rajyotsava Award.On December 2, 2007, The European Parliament and International Association for Human Values conferred "Young Achiever Award" on Gopinath at the European Parliament, Brussels. In November 2008, he was invited to represent the World Bank's ICT Leadership Roundtable for adopting ICT in Africa to increase employability and fostering ICT skills in students from these countries. Gopinath was announced as "Young Global Leader" for 2008-2009 by the World Economic Forum, Davos. In that position he would be involved in development programs across the world. He holds a diploma on global leadership and public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School at Harvard University.
suhas gopinath,entrepreneur

How did you kick-start your journey in entrepreneurship?

During my 9th Grade I started working in an internet café after my school hours. While I was there, using internet free of cost, I learnt about building websites. When I flunked in Mathematics paper after a year and a half, my mom got to know about this and ordered me to focus on my studies and there was no option of visiting the cyber cafe again. I waited for my summer vacation and started all over again. When I was a freelancer building websites for American companies, there was a company which asked for my CV (Curriculum Vitae) but later rejected saying that I was still 14 years old and they felt insecure to work with a school kid. That was the moment in my life when I thought that the best was to be my own boss rather than sending out CVs to others. Out of anger and frustration, I decided that I would start a company on my own. I realized that if Bill Gates could start a company then, even I could start mine. In India you can't start a company under 18. Hence, I registered my company in the US with an investment of 100$ (Rs.5000) on August 5th, 2000. In the morning, I used to go to school and when the sun set here my work day began. It was quite fun! I ended up sleeping for just 4-5 hours a day. In this whole process I could manage my studies. I never felt exhausted because everything I did was out of passion and there was fire in the belly. When you do something out of passion you can do that without eating or sleeping. That's the beauty of passion!

How did you handle the challenge of scaling up your company?

As the work burden increased, I started to lookout for freelancers who could work with me fulltime and got 5 freelancers from US who were ready to work with me. There was some kind of prejudice among my relatives and people in the US as to why one should work under someone who was half of his/her age. I was just 15 years old and all of them were 28-29 years of age. That's when I made it very clear that they weren't working under me but they were working with me. At the age of 16, I realized that there was a huge opportunity outside the US in the non-English speaking market. Hardly any of the mid-sized IT companies in India had an established presence in smaller countries of Europe like Austria, France Switzerland etc. We sensed the might of this unexercised opportunity. Can you share one of the most challenging experiences while building your company?

An e-commerce company in Spain wanted to outsource some of their e-commerce work to another Spanish company. I didn't know Spanish and used the translator to find out what the website was all about and sent them an email. The project manager wasn't ready to outsource his work to a non-Spanish speaking company. I couldn't sleep the whole night. In my life I am always proud of the fact that, I have never taken the word 'NO' for anything. I sent an email to MBA students of an internship organization called ISAAC in Spain who could speak both Spanish and English to know if they would work in an American startup. They were expecting a stipend of around 500 Euros but we were operating in a bootstrap mode; so didn't have much cash to spend on them. Out of the 5, 4 backed out but one was willing to work with us. We both agreed that we would pay him 20% of the sale. He was lucky in the first sale itself wherein he personally made around 5 lakh rupees.

How do you manage your leadership role in sales?

I am a person who likes to lead from the back rather than leading from the front. I allow people to lead their teams and if they are falling somewhere, that is when I would want to intervene and help. Then, I take the back seat again. There was one point in my life when I had to lead from the front and I used to micro-manage everything. I used to worry about little issues like water and electricity problems. Now, I entrust responsibilities to others and make every employee feel that he is the owner of the company. He feels that he is a part of the company and also has the freedom to take decisions. As long as people make new mistakes, innovative mistakes and don't repeat them, I am all fine with it. Meanwhile, I make sure to meet the sales folks during afternoons. I do sales calls and ensure to meet my partners or friends over lunch. I take care of strategic sales for the company which is of a larger impact like a deal with state government or a large enterprise.
I keep meeting our employees to find out if they have any new ideas. New technologies keep coming up and the last thing I want to do is to be isolated from the IT World because that's been my passion and that's why I have reached this position.

How do you work with the marketing team amidst the constantly changing market dynamics?

Our Sales and Marketing team are quite smart in identifying opportunities that exist in the market. If there is no opportunity then the team will evaluate if we can build an opportunity. We always believe that we cannot expect prospects to walk in with problems and ask us to build a solution for them. Hence our approach is to talk about all the problems that one is facing and build a solution to solve them. The sales pitch is simple for us. We don't wish to speak to a customer saying that we do all these things, we add value etc. We write to them saying that if they invest in us then what would be the savings on their expenses which would impact them in their PNL (Profit & Loss). That's what excites them.

What are your thoughts on investment funds and geographic reach of a company?

We have always made sure that we work with banks when we have funding requirement. We approach investors who benefit strategically to the company. We never approach investors who can't add any value except money. We want investors who are strategic, who are hand-holders and who can advise us. Coming to geographical expansion, one should be very careful while setting up a partner eco system. Opening an office outside can be at times frustrating because of the accountability issues but if one ensures that he has the right managers and the right team to look after and he has mechanisms through which he can validate the activities there, it might fit in the plan. Aggressive follow-ups and constant monitoring will be essential to get the work done.

What's your message to our readers?

I think high school is the best age during which children can experiment the maximum. If I am healthy by sleeping for 5 to 6 hours, then I needn't sleep for 8 or 9 hours. Every minute is very important and one cannot simply afford to waste time because anything you lose you can always regain, except time. Always make sure that you have the fire in your belly in any work that you do. Opt for the work that you're passionate about where you can feel the fire in your belly. Passion and attitude are more important than skill sets. One should have the sense of ownership and an entrepreneurial spirit. Success happens when even in spite of your nonexistence in this world you are still alive in everyone's minds like Steve jobs, Swami Vivekananda and other great men.
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