Sarthak Varshney in conversation with Hardik Chauhan, in The Balls of Steel Show, CEO and Founder of Revamp talks about how he developed a versatile personality by living in several places since early childhood.
He talks about how he switched from financial careers to media to eventually starting his own company. Listen on to find out how he gained multiple skill sets and has put that all in his business and add to your “Dhandho Ni Soch“.
WHAT BUSINESS ARE YOU INTO BECAUSE WHICH WE CAN SAY YOU HAVE GOT THE BALLS OF THE STEEL SHOW?
I have many businesses. But right now my passion is Digital Marketing. The first thing that comes to my mind with regard to Digital Marketing is what is it? People see digital marketing as hiking likes, subscribers and followers. But, this is not what it is. And right now digital marketing is a huge thing, especially the pandemic stand as a testimony. Whether it’s shopping on various website to various social media. Digital Marketing is booming.
BEGINNING THE CONVERSATION HARDIK, WHY DON’T YOU LET US KNOW MORE ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY?
As I talk about how my journey started, it was back in my 10th standard. After my board exams, an idea came into my mind. I thought, why not throw a batch party and earn. That’s how I got into media at a steady pace.
I knew one thing that I have to sell my skill. Provided my lack of interest in studies, I had to make my way through. I was not a hard worker. Instead of that, I was a smart worker. Because of family pressure, I had two career options to choose between pursuing CA or CS. Immediately post my B.com, I went to Delhi, joined Amity University. I wanted to go out of Jaipur and do something by myself. So, I did my MBA in Media.
Slowly, my roommate, an anchor, took me to a show. Once, he just took me on the stage. His event overlapped with another one, so someone had to manage the background instead of him, and I did so. That’s how I became an anchor. This went on all my college life. I hosted a few shows for my celebrities, including Mika Singh and other corporate events. Once I finished 100 shows, it was me wanting to do something more. It was something I liked, but not something I wanted to pursue.
Though, I was always interested in filmmaking. So, while I was anchoring, theatres of ShreeRam, created a few short films. I learned from Mahesh Bhatt’s institute. Mahesh Bhatt also liked my short films. Till here, there’s no digital marketing. I went to Mumbai soon after and joined Balaji Telefilms. The best thing I learned from Mumbai is patience.
I wanted to do something more challenging. From there, I switched to advertising. I participated in a competition WHAT’S YOUR STORY of Viacom18 and made it in the top 12. At the age of 23, I realized I was a skilled salesperson. However, I was not very good at studies. From there, I thought of making ads and got into an ad agency. Now at this point, I had the hang of media. Starting from how to conceptualize, create, and sell it.
Now the only thing left was how to sell it in the 21st century. I came back to Delhi. One digital marketer had left. And there was a vacancy. My boss comes up to me and asks if I would do it. And I agreed. Thus the story began.
The digital interest came into me just like digital media, and the web knows every detail of yours. And it just went to different articles and videos. Later in the week, I was creating various campaigns for known brands. Now, I knew how to use platforms, create videos, and what to speak. I thought I why not have my agency after much knowledge of media. That’s when I came up with my company, The Revamp. This is what we say to our clients. Let’s Revamp your company.
LOOKING AT YOUR JOURNEY, FROM WHERE DOES THE THOUGHT OF MAKING MONEY OR HAVING A BUSINESS COME FROM PLEASE LET US KNOW THROUGH THIS CONVERSATION?
When I was young, it wasn’t that I had a lot of money. It was just the pocket money that I got. The basic rule that I had for my life was never to let your expenses dry, always make ways to increase money. Till your money is growing, you are doing well. I just needed ways to not compromise on my expenses. There was a point where I had to do something. I had to enjoy life on my terms. Not asking my parents for my expenses.
WHAT IS THAT ONE THING THAT YOU LEARNT FROM THE START OF YOUR JOURNEY, ESPECIALLY AT THE AGE YOU WERE AT?
What I learnt is, just go with what is coming in your mind. Don’t wait for an opportunity, don’t wait for somebody’s suggestion or don’t wait for approval. There is nothing that you fail, people won’t talk bad about you.
Everything is normal, it happens with everyone. So, just why not start. It is all on you. If you fail, people will talk. Even if you grow they will talk. In the end, you should be happy with what you are doing. You should be dignified with what you are doing. And slowly up in life, people will start respecting you for what you are doing.
HARDIK, WHILE KNOWING YOU ARE A VERY FREE SPIRITED GUY, WHO FORCED YOU INTO CA, CS, PLEASE SHARE VIA THIS CONVERSATION ?
Your decisions are always dependent on the knowledge of different things. Life wasn’t that merciful back then, to think about what you actually wanted to do. Sometimes, few situations arise where you do not have facts, knowledge to support what you want to do.
I wasn’t that stubborn. I respected my parents. Plus, I was also a logical person. And what they were saying was very logical. I studied gave my exam as well. After that, I cleared the exam, and I proved to them that I did it; I tried. Then as I mentioned, I went to Delhi. It wasn’t mainly because I just wanted to run away.
For the fact that I had to go out and learn more. And again, it was high time that I get to know what I wanted to do. I did an MBA in media, so it wasn’t much of an issue for my parents.
TALKING ABOUT CULTURE, WHAT IS YOUR THOUGHT ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JAIPUR AND A METROPOLITAN CITY LIKE DELHI?
I was called the spoilt boy, who would spoil others. I studied in a boarding school in Bangalore. Life had been different at Jaipur after I was back in Jaipur. People did find me weird and separate because of the changes that I had adopted.
So, people did get judgmental. Slowly, it so happened that the behaviour was adopted by others in the class as well. Like spiked hair, wearing three fourth sleeves, and so. I was also called and told out by the principal once. While I went from Chitor to Bangalore, I was a different person.
TAKING THE CONVERSATION AHEAD HARDIK, HOW HAS YOUR EXPOSURE CHANGED BY JUMPING OVER CITIES?
Talking about the exposure, I can speak to a panvari about politics. I can go into a club talk about parties and their margins. I can talk with a tech guy, talk about AI. Go the media guy talk about the kind of poetry he can use on the stage. You now tend to talk to everybody from an extensive perspective.
Plus, I have a vision that sees different life phases that can feel other stories of life. It is a place where you have been with people at different stages. Here you know from top to bottom, what to talk and what people like. Again talking in marketing terms, you know, every kind of target audience. So when you think about marketing, it is all about living their lives, what people think, and what people will get attracted to. Thus, it gives you a lot of perspective in life.
AMONG ALL THE INTERESTS YOU HAD, LIKE PARTYING, FOOTBALL, SWIMMING, WHERE DID THE IDEA OF MEDIA COME TO YOU?
I heard media was a stairway to Bollywood. Like, reading the articles where an AD becomes an actor, behind the scenes team gets a chance of being in the front of the camera. It was just blind passion and faith. That I would work behind the camera, I would get a chance to star in a show of it. It was pretty lame. But, then again, destiny was good. I got good exposure in the end.
MOVING AHEAD IN THE CONVERSATION HARDIK, BEING IN AMITY AND WORKING FOR EVENTS WHAT DID YOU ACTUALLY PICK UP, MAKING A PATH FOR YOURSELF?
The first thing that I learned is that working hours don’t matter. There have been times when I have worked for 48 hours continuously. One just small mistake, in any event, can destroy the entire work. The appreciation for working so hard goes in vain.
You would hear the nasty taunts. You’ll have to bear with them. But, you cannot be upset about it because they are the clients. And you have to take all odds with a smile on your face.
With events, I also learned that you would have to do everything. But, everything you do does not mean everything will fall in place. Life is not that easy. This made me patient. And all the hard work that you put in can also lead to failure. You should even know to move on and do better because there will be hard times and good times. Only the good times wouldn’t make your work exciting. And that’s why you should enjoy both phases, either good and evil.
AS WE SPOKE ABOUT LEARNING PART, WHAT ARE YOU APPLYING IN YOUR BUSINESS?
Suppose we are or talk about events or building a video. I have one thing in mind. First, you set standards that suit yourself. And then you have to live up to your standards. It would be best if you never compromised on your standards. So, the first thing you need in life is patience. The second is setting up your standards and then doing things accordingly. It would be best if you did not change because of what people are saying. It would be best if you did not fall for negotiations. Not also for early success.
Early success is like a bubble. The media industry gives you one thing: patience, which is essential in our lives. Wait for the right payment. Wait for the right person who will understand. The thing is you have to educate the person about your ideas.
When I started my digital marketing journey, it was an indication that my boss gave me. I did not know anything. Now, when you’re talking to anybody talking as a layman. Understand the problem, and give them a solution so that they can understand.
In digital marketing, one deals with every industry. So, I need every industry’s language, and I understand the problem, I see their competitors. But when I go talk to them, I speak to them as a friend. I tell them how the tools are, working, what they are doing, and not technical language.
Like, what I’ve seen in the media, people think that the other person knows everything, so they use technical language. They see that the client is dumb. False, because he is doing pretty well in his life, and that’s why we pitch our product to them. Therefore, you have to educate them on patience, logic, education, and your sales pitch. If you don’t have a pitch that one can understand, your entire business and your whole idea will go down.
PLEASE TELL US THROUGH THIS CONVERSATION HARDIK, WHILE YOU WERE ANCHORING AT EVENTS, WHAT WAS YOUR MINDSET?
The only thing in my head back then was that I’m doing something enjoyable. I’m getting a lot of attention. And every day was something different than the previous one. But then, after a point of time, it was just me doing this. It was pretty monotonous. About anchoring in corporate shows, it is more like you’re just saying it differently. There came the point that I had the urge to learn more. I felt, now, this is enough. I had to do something more ahead. Do something better. Keeping that in mind, I wanted to learn more about the field. And with the same notation, I just moved on.
TAKING THE CONVERSATION AHEAD HARDIK WHAT IS YOUR GOAL IN YOUR LIFE?
I never thought that this would happen. Right now my wife has apparel business and we have our export business together. Basically, the thing is whatever I have learnt I’ve applied in circumstances and situations in life. I thought how to grow apparel business from digital marketing. Working together our export business is worldwide. So in short how to just grow yourself and keep doing something has been the thing. Because if I would not have joined her, she would not have joined me. There would not have been fun. So work hard earn money and live your passion. Also, whatever I have learnt I still carry that. It is all there in me till date.
WHAT MINDSET YOU HAD FOR THIS SMALL JOB WHILE YOU HAD THE MEETING, LOOKING IN THE STUDIO?
So, as I told you after Amity, I was not the only person. My friend and I were selected by Viacom 18, MTV booked tickets for us. We can attend the interview, and it was a 3-month contest consisting of different rounds. We were the first from Amity, who made it for the final round. So, it was a huge thing for us. Imagine that guy who was anchoring not paying attention in lectures and then went to the final round. It was just the next level. I did not make it through the final round. Not because I wasn’t in the media but because I didn’t shoot so that I couldn’t make through. So that is when I took to business and marketing in a creative way to a production house.
Because I wanted to reach there and see how things would go ahead, I stayed late and learned to go to studios. After some time, I left and then joined a course. Because I always find a way to be near what I want to do. And then think about how to work my way ahead. Just figure out a form and go there. Finally, figure out a way how to move forward from there.
HOW WAS YOUR FAMILY SUPPORT WHEN YOU TALKED ABOUT GOING TO BOMBAY AT A POINT IN TIME AND WORKING AT BALAJI?
According to my mom, I was always a hero. So, she was excited when I told her I got into Balaji. She was happy that I am doing something that I wanted to do. Amazingly the flat which I got was right opposite to my lead actor in the same building. We used to share the chef. Mom was thrilled, and dad was too. He always wanted me my own life and do what I want to do.
In Balaji, I worked for 12 hours, seven days, so you don’t get a holiday or no Sunday. So, 3 hours I used to travel, 12 hours for work, I hardly got time to sleep and eat. Parents were delighted that finally all his parties had stopped and he was only working hard.
HARDIK, I WANT TO KNOW THE PART WHERE YOU STRUGGLED THE MOST AS A CREATIVE PERSON IN THE MEDIA INDUSTRY. HOW WAS YOUR PAYMENT STRUCTURE, AND HOW DID YOU MANAGE? PLEASE TELL US THROUGH THIS CONVERSATION?
I took the money from my parents. Delhi and Bombay are not the kind of cities where you can survive on your own. At the same time, you are not earning for that part. So, there was a struggle. The media industry is something where people think that everything is chill. Especially those who are even close to this industry. There was a time when I was doing an event. I was out of money, so I even went as a coordinator. I wore a red skirt, a wig for two days just so that I can earn something.
If you talk about the struggle, there has been a lot of that in my journey. In Delhi, when I started, I had a lot of throat issues, cough because of the pollution. Anchoring is something where you don’t have an option to say that you are not feeling well. You cannot have any excuse for taking leave because they are always on toes no matter what. Here the boss is right because he knows better about the work than you.
Here what experience teaches you one can teach that. It’s always that you have to see the difference between success and you. Plus, why are you not there at that level yet? This is the situation where your boss knows more and why your boss is your boss.
HOW WAS YOUR SWITCH FROM THE MEDIA WORLD TO A CORPORATE WORLD WITH A STRICTER HOUR AND LESS LOITERING AROUND IN THAT WAY?
There was a time when I went to the media agency again. I was not able to sit for this long hour. There was a time I just used to stand up thinking about things. When you are working behind the camera in Mumbai, there’s no time for you to sit. I wasn’t used to sitting in one place for a long time.
But after some time, when you get involved with the work in the agency and corporate culture, you get used to it. Agency is not entirely a corporate culture; you party there, go on shoots. It is a mix of both. It was a challenge, and you get to meet successful people. You get to know their story and learn so much.
It was excellent. I have always been that guy who’s inspired by people that are doing great with their lives. Successful people. People who are working hard. It is still good to listen to their ideas, their tricks. Especially how they reached that level.
HARDIK, WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM YOUR JOB AT THE AGENCY? HOW DID IT MOULD YOU AND HOW DOES THE EXPERIENCE HELP YOU IN YOUR BUSINESS CURRENTLY?
The virtual world is like a whole new dimension of life. I don’t hail from a tech background but learning about this AI-powered world is just magical. That dimension is really vast, and not a lot of people know it.
The BTS of some platforms like Instagram is fascinating to me than the platform’s content now. That experience introduced me to this whole virtual universe.
Something like the Google Analytics dashboard can be a scary sight to someone from a non-tech background. A lot of people tend not to learn it or find someone who already understands it. So, I think that the digital marketing person leaving was a blessing in disguise for me.
PLEASE TELL US THROUGH THIS CONVERSATION HARDIK, WHAT WAS YOUR MINDSET WHEN YOU DECIDED TO QUIT YOUR JOB AND DO SOMETHING ON YOUR OWN?
I was part of a few very successful ad campaigns—for example, the Lays “Smile Dekho Dekho” campaign involved around 500 influencers. The deal was that there would be printed on the Lays packets, and they had to do it for free. This turned out to be one of the best barter deals. It became such a big hit, and I was able to build a vast database. That is when I thought that I shouldn’t just be paid a salary. I felt I deserved much more.
When you reach the level of a manager, you start doing everything. I was handling the team and handling the clients. Right from the first sales pitch presentation to the clients till the end of the campaign, there was nothing I did not do. Another plus point in opening a digital marketing agency is that it does not require a large capital. It would be best if you had the right people, the right team, and a nice place which could even be your bedroom.
So I decided to start working on my own and pitched an idea to a client. I got a client and then started figuring out things like who will be on the team. Before that, all I had was a website that contained necessary information about my work and my portfolio. It’s not that I was entirely clueless. I had an idea of what to do if I did get the client, and I knew people working in the field. But at the time, I was the only one. Within the next two weeks, we started hiring people, and then we have never looked back.
WHEN YOU LEFT YOUR JOB, YOU WERE ABOUT TO GET MARRIED. DID YOU FEEL THAT IT WAS WORTH TAKING SUCH A RISK AT SUCH A SIGNIFICANT POINT IN YOUR LIFE? DID YOU THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU WOULD DO IF IT DIDN’T WORK OUT?
When you have a good skill set, you are not scared of not having a job. There is always a certainty that you will figure something out. That was the case with me. Even if the first couple of months are low, I knew that I could eventually pick up. I was confident that I knew the work and that I’d somehow get a job.
Secondly, coming to how I convinced my parents and in-laws regarding my decision. Again, I was a good salesman. My father-in-law wanted my wife to join him in his business. Otherwise, he would shut it down. My sister-in-law is a designer. I told them about all that I could do with all these existing businesses and our individual experiences.
Later I left Delhi and moved to Mumbai. I asked my then-fiance to join her father’s business six months before that and joined them later. I started improving its digital presence. Earlier it was a traditional export business that garnered clients through references. Now we have started getting even international clients through our website and because of our SEO.
We then built the House of Tomar, the apparel brand, and Revamp, our digital marketing agency. We created these at around the same time. Through my digital marketing, we could grow our e-commerce business. With their e-commerce, I could get more clients for my digital marketing agency. Along with the export business, I could get B2B clients who could be my digital marketing clients. So we could build all the three companies together. At no point would any of us feel insecure or scared because we were there to back each other up.
I pitched this like a proper proposal with actual numbers to back up my idea. My father-in-law liked my honesty. He had known me for a long time by then. He always said that he saw an entrepreneur in me, and that is what I eventually became. I think I am fortunate to have the right people in my life.
HARDIK PLEASE ELUCIDATE THROUGH THIS CONVERSATION SINCE HOW LONG HAS THIS COMPANY BEEN RUNNING?
The company has been there for the past seven months and has 6-7 clients. This is when the pandemic hit us. However, overall, things are going well. We have some massive orders from Africa, Europe, etc., in the export line. The House of Tomar is live. Things are not very bad as we are not solely relying on one vertical. So since we can play with all these tools, things are exciting. I think this is what you mean by making your situation right. This could have been a traditional business, but we chose to make it better.
HOW HAVE YOU APPLIED THAT FINANCIAL KNOWLEDGE IN YOUR BUSINESSES, TO START YOUR OWN BABY?
For me, a money management plan has always been like, no matter how big a businessman you are, always keep yourself on salary in your own company. Never touch the profits. You have an operating expense. So then think about contending your business.
So, if you are getting a profit, don’t think you are getting a profit. Remember, this is your operating expense, out of which there is a particular salary. From which you remove your profit. Use the profit to grow your business.
So, start on salary and start increasing your salary with every success. But never touch the profits. The moment you start taking on money from your business, the time will go down because there will be bad times.
During the COVID time, not even a single guy, from the smallest ones to the managers were fired. The staff was home but were salaried. We took the cut on our salary. We did never fire anyone because the foundation of our business is strong.
WHEN YOU ARE STARTING OUT, AND YOU BARELY HAVE ANYTHING BE IT MONEY OR CLIENTS AT THAT POINT HOW TO MANAGE COST AND PITCH TO THE CLIENTS?
When our parents invest in us they don’t think or expect they would get back a lot back from us. They invest and nourish us to see us grow. While we give our luck back to them. It so happens that’s we grow, they start expecting. Even then they don’t expect much. But it so happens that parents do think that our children would do something. So business should always be like your child. What parents don’t do for their selves, they do for us.
So, if you have a sound vision, but if you start being desperate for things, nothing will be able to work. And till you can survive, try to stay and put in your business. Never let good people and the team go. Today the 500 rupees you put in can give you a crore. Never lose hopes till you can survive, survive. There is always a success that you get after a while. That is the real success.
HARDIK, IN THE 7 MONTH JOURNEY OF YOURS WHAT IS THE BIGGEST FAILURE OUT OF WHICH YOU HAVE LEARNT PLEASE TELL US LISTENERS THROUGH THIS CONVERSATION?
Surely COVID, and I’ll tell you why. The client gave me an advance. They were the best launch there, but now they shut down because of COVID. There was a delay in the House of Tomar. We could not launch it at the right time. Suddenly, I thought it is the right time; everything is pretty smooth.
There was a deal, and we needed to go to Africa for export business. So we had one MOU. As flights were getting canceled but we could not stop. So, that one signature would have given us something massive with it but did not come my way. This is because COVID was at our door.
While there were many things, I was looking for. They were savings that had to be there. A trip with my wife as I was completing one year of my marriage. No money came, and nor was the time to do anything.
So, along with the team, we figured out to the client to pitch. We started raising them because the post COVID world had to be a majorly digital era. Because from shops to showrooms to malls, everything was shut. Like, it won’t have the foot that it used to have. Everybody is going digital. And we always had to try to come back one step and see the broader picture of what is happening.
I was figuring out how we could be successful. We pitched to three of the clients. Then, if, like we were getting paid, it was on the margins of the sales. I figured out a middle way of how no to build financial pressure on them. We had a solution and the amount that we deserved. That’s how we could come back and find a way to think about it.
HARDIK, TELL US THROUGH THIS CONVERSATION THAT ARE YOU MONEY MINDED?
So, for me, money-minded people are who always keep their money with them. I never want to save money excessively. But also think of money spending logically.
I told you, again, be smart. So, again talking about business. Don’t take all of the money out of business. There should always be a calculation.
So, you should spend money on calculations. There has been a problem with a generation before us, which is excessive savings. I don’t know why they don’t enjoy it. They have to think so much like they always want to save every penny from sabjiwala to travel. I would say spend money wisely but don’t think about every penny you are spending.
IS THERE ANYTHING IN BUSINESS THAT YOU ARE STRUGGLING WITH OTHER THAN PANDEMIC?
The biggest thing troubling me right now is the right talent. Because as you know, I lived in Bangalore, Jaipur, Delhi, and Bombay, Delhi, finally Agra. Agra is not a place where you find many people looking for a job from a tech background. Mainly, we will move out because Delhi is not far away. So they want to go to Noida or Delhi. We really struggled with every team member that I’ve earned right now.
We have a few other cases, and then there’s a guy whose family is not allowing them to work outside Agra, who has studied well. So we have to figure out like we have those all odd cases in our team. There was a lot of struggle, and we were on video calls for a long. It did take us a lot of time to get into the right team, provided the pandemic. It is no less than good luck for us.
When they say that your learnings mold you as a person, and in this conversation with Hardik, the statement stands true. Hardik just earned his wisdom, and constructively made the most out of them. This conversation with Hardik again reinforces the significance of one’s leanings and how that can further enhance one’s life.