We all live in a well-connected world, online and offline. In business, the importance of networking and interacting with new contacts is implicit. It not only helps us grow professionally but also helps gain social relevance.
Our team interviewed the founder, Sampath K Iyenger to learn more about his initiative and experiences.
1. Tell us about your background before The Indian Networker. Share with us briefly about your beginner’s and entrepreneurial journey, any hurdles that you faced in setting up and scaling up your enterprise and inception of The Indian Networker.
I was born in Mumbai and moved to Dubai in 1967 where my father had got a job with the company which build the first road from Dubai to Abudhabi.
I did my schooling till 9th grade in the Indian High School, Dubai; moved back to India in 1981 and studied in St. John The Evangelist High School, Andheri East, and completed my B.Sc. Physics in Electronic Instrumentation from Bhavans College, Andheri West.
My Journey first began as an employee in 1989, with General Electronics where I was one of the first persons to be trained in India on Wipro Epson Printers. This stint lasted 6 months where I honed my skills on Computer assembly and maintenance on PC & PC XT.
This helped me in my next job at Minafax Electronics where I was hired in 1990 as a computer support engineer where I furthered my IT hardware knowledge with the latest tech at that time.
Around 1991, the entrepreneurial bug bit me and I initially started out with a company in my wife’s name called as Systems & Services which ran for about a decade. In 2000 we started a new company – Sam 7 Computers & Networks which still continues and currently has over 100 customers and a base of 1000 devices which we manage and maintain.
In 2000 I noticed that the company was slowing down and we started moving all the focus only to service and support. It was at a right time we did that as the double whammy of both off line retail and then online retail hit the company.
2009-10 was when the digital wave slowly started. I was looking for a new business opportunity, I attended a quite a few meetups and trainings about digital media , I picked up gyan from Sanjay Mehta & Hareesh Tibrewala from Social Wavelength, Mahesh Murthy from Pinstorm , Vivek Bhargava and Benedict Hayes who were the SEO experts and finally a course from IAMAI which was run by Rajiv Dingra from Wat.
Armed with this knowledge I went and founded Neosocial Media Solutions which catered to the MSME and SMB where we set up basic digital media content and strategy. We we one of the price leaders where we used to charge about 10000 per month as a retainer. But we were ahead of the curve and not from an agent background and hence had to move to professional online and offline branding which continues till now.
The Indian Networker
Around two and a half years back , we thought of coming out with a magazine which would cover networking groups and meetups around India. I was part of Rotary, BNI, TIE, IAMCP, StartupSaturday, GBG etc.
After speaking to a couple of people, they suggested that print is on the way out. I then thought of having a networking group for networking groups and the idea of The Indian Networker was born.
2. What is the revenue model of The Indian Networker? Can you briefly summarize the growth achieved from the day 1 till now?
The revenue model of TIN is member fees but we will be profitable once we start getting sponsors for the events. We started with 2 members and have grown to 20, our emphasis is on top quality members who are not HUNTERS but FARMERS.
3. Can you share your views on growing importance of business networking and how it is crucial for any start up?
In business, face to face networking is the single most critical thing to do- if I like you, I will listen to you, establish a relationship with you. It takes time to build up trust with others. It also depends on the nature of the business- it could be a visible or an invisible business. For example, a visible business is selling a product, and an invisible business is selling a service.
Don’t HUNT- we head out for a networking meetup and just start handing out cards like a casino dealer- don’t do that. It takes 3 to 4 times before you meet a person to at least acknowledge his or her presence.
Join networking groups like BNI, IBG, TIE, Trade bodies, Startup bodies, NGO’s like Rotary , religious and social groups like JITO, Dimensions, etc. Be consistent, keep listening. Meet people- you never know who can connect you where.
4. Can you tell us about the initiative Jam with Sam?
When I started Neosocial in 2011 , I thought about connecting my customers together so they can learn and maybe earn from the symbiotic relationships. I used to watch a lot of interview shows and at that time Coffee with Karan was very popular. So I started Jam with Sam which was a crowd sourced name and the complete avatar was done by the Late Rajan Raman from Dattaram Advertising .
We had close to 18 episodes with 2 speakers on the show. This was self funded from the revenue of Neosocial 7. Some of the Jammers were Sanjay Mehta & Hareesh Tibrewal, Vivek Mendonsa, Mona Menon, Rohit Poddar and many more.
5. What is The Indian Networker all about? Tell us in detail about the product offering and the target segment.
Like I mentioned before, TIN is ‘a networking group for networking groups.’ We started membership last year and currently have 20 paid members and 2 sponsors.
The Indian Networker is evolving , Jam with Sam became a show on the Indian Networker and members and guests can attend the event and learn from the top quality entrepreneurs and media celebrities who attend TIN. Winners, as we call them, interact and build relationships which results in three outputs:
1- A Vendor or 2- A Customer or 3- A friend or business mentor.
Connecting the dots is my area where I help each one of them leverage their strengths and address theirs weaknesses.
We currently have 2 meetups- a monthly one in the suburbs, and the other in South Mumbai, which we launched in March.
6. Any other initiatives your are currently pursuing or a part of?
I am currently looking at starting another meetup soon. I am also a Rotarian and the president for the Rotary club of Bombay Seacoast for 2015 to 2016.
7. Can you tell us about your other founders/core team?
No other founders or core team.
8. How are you all funded? Any early stage money/seed stage experience that you would like to share with us?
Currently, we are self funded.
9. What will The Indian Networker look like in 10 years from now? All perspectives – people, business, revenues, team, size or anything you foresee for the venture.
We are looking at having an international event in a couple of cities and getting funding via investors, and sponsors for the same. But 10 years is a long time, changes are happening at a rapid pace .
10. Any school/ campus-connect initiatives that you are pursuing or plan to pursue.
At the moment no, no bandwidth.
11. Any experience or advice you would like to share with soon to be start-up founders out there?
Keep a nest egg and money for your startup ready, don’t always depend on investors. Just think if an investor gives you money, how would you treat it differently than if it was your own money.
Real world experience is very important, you get to learn at somebody else’s cost. Keep working and learning till you can afford to run your startup for a year without any pay check coming at the end of the month. Once your startup is running smoothly, first pay yourself and then the staff salary and vendors. That way, you will realize whether or not you are making money. And if for three years, no profit shows, shut it down- you are running a hobby, not a business.
If your family has an existing business, see how you can help run it better, use the infrastructure to start your own business along with that. It helps to bring the running cost down.
There is a lot to learn from Mr. Sampath’s experience over the years. Here’s wishing The Indian Networker, and all its members, the very best in their endeavor.