In this episode of The Balls Of Steel Show, our host Sarthak Varshney gets in conversation with Sony Jain, who shares her entrepreneurial journey to start her business with minimal resources. She throws some light on why entrepreneurs need to hail from an established business background to grow and do some business. Living in a different country and a different time zone, here we have her journey and business mindset behind AdCode.
WHAT BUSINESS ARE YOU INTO BECAUSE OF WHICH WE CAN SAY THAT YOU HAVE GOT THE BALLS OF STEEL?
I have a digital marketing agency and we deal with offline and online marketing both. Within one year, we have been able to achieve our operations in India and Canada.
LET’S DIVE DEEPER INTO OUR CONVERSATION SONY, WHAT HAS YOUR JOURNEY BEEN LIKE TILL NOW FROM THE POINT THAT YOU STARTED?
It was my cousin Arpit and I who were tired of the monotonous work cultures. We were finding it difficult to survive in our boring jobs. So we just thought that we will start with something of our own since Arpit had a marketing background. I had also recently done a marketing course and was doing business development for my father’s company, in which I was handling the marketing part. I still remember it was the 14th of November and we decided to start our own business over a glass of beer. After three months of starting The AdCode, I moved to Canada. I wasn’t sure how I’d manage my MBA and this startup which was based in India. I actually have given a lot of sleepless nights because of the time difference and my MBA.
THE SEEDS OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP WERE SOWN AT A VERY YOUNG AGE SINCE YOU ARE FROM A BUSINESS BACKGROUND. THROUGH THIS CONVERSATION SONY, TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR EARLY EXPERIENCES.
It’s true that business is in my blood and maybe that’s why I was able to manage my MBA in international business along with this start-up. I have grown up listening to my father’s story and learning from it. He has been my mentor.
We initially used to manufacture glitters and now my father is into the import and export business. He used to come home and share his stories, his journey and that has shaped us into who we are now. One of his most inspiring stories was when once he went to Europe to meet his clients and buy some materials.
My father told the guy that one of the rolls was flawed just by knocking on it. To check whether my father was right or not, he opened the roll and it actually was flawed. This made me realize that there are a lot of things that a textbook cannot teach. So having a business background was a huge advantage to me. Because of my three years of experience in my father’s company, I learned so much more than my MBA.
People learn a lot from their own experiences and also by listening to other’s experiences. One of the qualities of a good leader is the quality of listening. Another thing that made me interested in marketing was my internship in Ogilvy and Mather. I gained an interest in advertising and marketing when I saw its culture and how people were working. I saw how companies would come in and how they would take care of the minutest of details.
Gradually, I learned and understood that the slightest of mistakes you make could hamper your whole career or future. When somebody wants to start their own business, they should listen to the market and understand its demands. Arpit and I knew the market well, we knew exactly how it was working, and that is how are we decided to do something of our own.
SINCE YOU BELONG TO A BUSINESS BACKGROUND; TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR INITIAL DAYS, THE FUNDING, AND YOUR MINDSET AT THAT TIME.
Some people take advantage of their business background, but Arpit and I moved strategically. We did not invest in office space; instead, we chose the freelancer model. We would hire the best freelancers that were there to do our work. I knew about online marketing, and Arpit knew offline marketing. So, the initial investment was our experience and knowledge.
AdCode’s speciality lies in the conception, design, and development of human-centred campaigns and connecting ideas with new-age media services’ interactive potential. The advantage I had coming from a business background was that I could always go back to my family business even if I failed. However, it does not matter if you’re coming from a business family or not; you have to work hard to make your business a success. I was ready to work. One thing that I always say is that doubt kills more dreams than failure ever does. So if I feel that I need to start, I give it a thought and try to understand the market. It is good to be passionate about something, but you should also study the market demand.
If you are passionate about something, then it’s okay to ask for help. A lot of people get investment because they worked hard, and they started something. You cannot make easy money because risk is everywhere. Whatever comes easy goes easy. I always tell my employees to do smart work instead of just hard work. It took me seven years of hard work, not my father’s money, that helped me fulfil my dream of going to Canada. It’s not just about having money; it’s about the responsibility that comes with it. Even if I fail, I just give the situation five minutes of my time and then look for solutions. This has helped me grow.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAMILY’S MINDSET REGARDING YOU OPENING YOUR OWN BUSINESS AND NOT JOINING THEIRS CONSIDERING YOUR BUSINESS ACUMEN?
My parents were supportive; however, at some point, they wanted me to marry. I wasn’t ready for it, but I realized that I wouldn’t be a part of the family business after marriage. It was also my mindset to start a business of my own. I believe everyone should be financially independent before they think of settling down.
HOW DID YOU COPE UP WITH THE SITUATION WHEN YOU MOVED TO CANADA WHILE YOUR PARTNER STAYED BACK IN INDIA PLEASE TELL US THROUGH THIS CONVERSATION SONY?
Arpit and I knew each other since childhood. We know how the other person works and how to get work done from one another. We had our ups and downs but we both supported each other. I believe that whenever you get into a partnership, understanding is the basis.
Moving to Canada was a big challenge, and today, too, we have sleepless nights; however, we pulled it off well. We made mistakes too, but we made sure to compensate our clients for it. Whenever we made a mistake, we proactively tried to correct it, and we also gave our clients services that might not yield us profit. It’s not about making money, and it’s about making connections.
MOVING AHEAD IN THE CONVERSATION SONY WHEN ARPIT DECIDED TO LEAVE HIS JOB AND GIVE HIS ALL TO THIS BUSINESS, WHAT WAS YOUR MINDSET?
We both considered the risk that he was going to leave his job and I- my father’s business. We had discussed the risks and how we were going to survive in this market. So we moved very strategically.
We made decisions that helped us a lot. We considered everything to the point of what kind of revenue we were looking for. If I had convinced him to leave his job and the business failed. I wouldn’t have felt bad for a long time because the other person is no child and had taken into consideration all risks. If there is a mistake, we should find solutions, but if we cannot, then we should just let it be. I believe that there is a solution always. We chose our business considering market demand.
Even during the lockdown, people went for marketing. It’s just that the preference changed from offline to online. I have made my policy not to regret any of my decisions. I should know how to handle situations instead of playing blame games. So, I try to figure out solutions instead of cribbing. Whatever you do, don’t regret your actions because what’s done is done. If you’ve taken that decision, it’s because you reckon it’s right, so there is no point regretting it.
Setting up a business in Canada wasn’t easy. We were looking for customers and a sales base. We took our business idea to many stores and had covered three hundred to four hundred factories within five months. So, we physically went and asked for the materials we were looking for. Finally, after the fifth month, we decided to leave this search.
We were rational enough to decide as even after investing in five months, and we did not get the expected revenue. Rather than working hard for three or four years and not getting expected results, one should work smart. You should be able to take the right decision at the right time. Even if you’ve taken a wrong decision, you should be able to accept that. Acceptance is essential. The biggest risk is not taking any risk.
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST FAILURE THAT YOU FACED WITH YOUR STARTUP AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME IT? WHAT DID IT TEACH YOU?
After starting The AdCode, I moved to Canada which was a huge risk. When we were in India, most of our business came from referrals but when I moved to Canada, I introduced AdCode to five hundred companies by myself. After this hard work, all companies in Vancouver knew that there was something like AdCode in the market. Establishing this level in just one year was a huge milestone.
MOVING AHEAD IN THIS CONVERSATION SONY ARE YOU MONEY MINDED?
I read an article on LinkedIn about how potato chip companies make profits by the manner of packaging whereas they could reduce the air from the packet that would greatly help the environment. However, according to customer attitude, they don’t reduce the air. A customer would not pay for a smaller pack even if it had more chips for the same price. If you think from a business perspective, this is how they make a profit. But if companies compensate for the environment then there is no harm in extracting profit. In Canada, if a company cuts wood, then it has to plant ten more trees. You can only give back when you have enough to give back.
WHAT WOULD BE THE MANTRA THAT YOU GIVE OUT?
I would say that stop doubting yourself and start with whatever idea you have had and give it a try. Do not be scared of working hard and find out ways of working smart. Give difficult tasks to the laziest person because that person would find the easiest way to complete the task. You should just go for it because the only regret would be when you didn’t give it a try.
What an insightful entrepreneurial journey it was. In this conversation with Sony Jain, she taught us how to follow our passion and make it happen. This conversation with Sony is a reminder for all to live a life without regrets regardless of consequences. For more insightful and inspiring entrepreneurial journeys, listen to The Balls of Steel Show on all major audio streaming platforms. Stay Tuned!