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Home Magazine May 2013 How I Found My First Customer!

How I Found My First Customer!

When an entrepreneur starts a business, there are many important things to be taken care of. The business plan, marketing, choosing the right name, raising finances, etc. Ironically, it is the sales task, which actually sets the cash register ringing. Making the company’s first sale deserves highest priority. To highlight this fact, we asked India’s leading SMEs to unveil the secrets on how they got their first sale. How and what worked for them. What is important to note is that sales can happen anytime, anywhere. This package of priceless experiences is for all budding entrepreneurs who know that sales is their primary responsibility.

BY Punita Sabharwal | COMMENTS ( 1 ) |

When an entrepreneur starts a business, there are many important things to be taken care of. The business plan, marketing, choosing the right name, raising finances, etc. Ironically, it is the sales task, which actually sets the cash register ringing. Making the company’s first sale deserves highest priority. To highlight this fact, we asked India’s leading SMEs to unveil the secrets on how they got their first sale. How and what worked for them. What is important to note is that sales can happen anytime, anywhere. This package of priceless experiences is for all budding entrepreneurs who know that sales is their primary responsibility.

Building Relationships

As an entrepreneur, I was lucky to secure not one but two first customers within 48 hours of deciding to start up on my own.

Mickey Mehta, India’s leading health guru, casually asked me about my career plans during my last few days with Times Group. I was managing and evangelising the 8888 mobile activations for internal and external brands when I decided the world was ready for a shot of Tonic. Mickey Mehta decided to hire us for his website within few minutes. And there we had our first client. It was not magic. Tonic Media had no ready portfolio, but thanks to the experience Mickey Mehta had on projects I had executed with him in the past. Building and sustaining relationships in entrepreneurship brings you huge returns. This was my very first lesson that has stayed with me through the last eight years. Even today, Tonic believes in partnering with brands rather than working for them.

The very same day, I received a mail from a UK based firm for a SEO (search engine optimisation) project. This was again through a referral and after a couple of Skype chats, we had another project in our pocket, which we were all set to execute. All this in a span of 48 hours.

Chetan Asher, CEO, Tonic Media


Difficulties and Learning

In my experience, one of the best ways to find the first customer is look around in the immediate circle of influence and the first degree connection. These are often friends, family and close business associates. I followed the same. My first customer was a close business associate from my previous job and in the same industry. He knew I understood his business problem and could create a business solution to solve the problem.

I made sure that I established the value of my product upfront. Therefore, I charged my first customer. We had a very frank conversation about the value our product can deliver, and how he was benefitting by being the first customer. He saw the value and we got our first customer.

Manav Garg, Founder & CEO of Eka


The Lasting First Impression

In 2001, the friend of one of our co-founders got a call from the HR Group Head of a leading FMCG company. He had around 3,000 temporary staff (temps) from 36 local contractors across 50 locations. His CFO was shouting at him for not being able to provide accurate reporting on actual number of temps and their justification thereon. His managing director was getting bombarded with notices from the labour department. His businesses were complaining about inconsistent quality of manpower, which was affecting business productivity. His internal human resource cost to manage the 36 odd contractors and preparation of data points was higher than what he was spending for his core manpower. Out of frustration, he called his friend seeking help.

That led to our first meeting with him, in which he was mostly annoyed. “Are they experienced enough to solve my problems?” seemed to be his expression. We had gone well prepared. We had mapped out their national presence, the kind of profiles they typically put on contractors, their business requirements, etc. After 10 minutes of discussion, he was convinced that we were not novices. We knew the market, the challenges, the regulatory environment and probably how to manage them all. Most importantly, he was assured that we were not fly-by-night operators.

Our unflinching faith in our proposed model actually convinced him to start with us for only 300 temps spanning 10 locations. He wanted us to walk the talk before he could ask us to play a bigger role. Within three months, he was our biggest fan within the organisation pitching on our behalf across business units, with his finance and MD. Within eight months, he consolidated all temp numbers with us, as their single temporary staffing provider. Till date, they have been our most ‘reference able’ customer and have played a key role in taking our customer base to over 2000 as on date.

Rituparna Chakraborty, Co-Founder & Senior Vice President, TeamLease Services


Tech Wins Vote

One of our first clients was none other than Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. He used to visit his constituency almost every day to reach out to each and every person in his constituency in the days leading up to the election. With just seven days left for the big day, he was planning to visit every constituency in a chopper.

We met him and offered to help him out in his election campaign. We told him that he could reach out to every voter in his constituency with an automated voice message adding personal touch to the vote appeal. He liked the idea because it allowed him to communicate with every voter in his constituency.

 The volume involved was incredible. There were more than 75 lakh voters in his constituency. We needed a robust platform for delivering the message without any hiccups. We worked for days at a stretch and built India’s first mass canvassing system on a completely new technology platform called the SuperCaller.

A few days before the polling, we called close to 75 lakh voters and earned one rupee for every call. Naveen Patnaik won. Later, we approached the chief minister and suggested that he should thank everybody in his constituency with our SuperCaller. Thus, the need of the hour had provided an easy-to-understand solution to the problem.

We have grown exponentially in the last few years. Now we are a global provider of hosted voice and communication services direct to business customers and indirectly through partners in the IT and Service industry. Starting out from a small garage setup in 2009, we have grown into a 200 strong, technology driven, innovation-led company, operating from Gurgaon, Haryana.

Ambarish Gupta, Founder & CEO, Knowlarity


Exploiting the Available Opportunity

It was the latter half of 2000. I had already built a company, sold it; worked on projects and even done a job for a short while. Now I was back in business with One97. While on my Internet stint, I had come to realise that content monetisation on the net was extremely tough. However, content through mobile phone was a different story. I wanted to earn from voice-based content, which needed a premium number and an operator partner. I also knew that it would need a capital investment of Rs 12 lakh to deploy one server. So I approached Airtel in Delhi, offering them voice content services. They happened to mention that Airtel Punjab was being set up, and I could find an opportunity there.

So I went to Airtel Punjab and gave a product pitch for voice content services. Now the discussion turned around to who would buy the voice server. I learnt that Bharti group was facing a problem in Punjab. They had bought JT Mobile and with that had inherited a penalty of a few hundred crores. As a result, they were out of budget. They expressed their inability to buy the server, but suggested that if I made the investment and partnered with them, we could share fifty-fifty revenue. I agreed. This was the origin of the revenue share business model in the industry.

I still did not have the money to buy a server. So I rented it from a company at Rs 55,000/- per month. It was a risk I had to take. Not just this, the business entailed IPRS licenses for the music used on these services and more. Thankfully, my risk paid off. The first month income was only Rs 45,000/-, but by the third it had grown to about Rs 65,000/-. Gradually, we began making more money from our voice content services in that one circle, and eventually, our business grew to every other circle of Airtel that had begun coming up in the country. Later more operators and circles added and One97 prospered.

Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Founder & CEO, One97 Communications


Never Give Up

I started as an entrepreneur in 1998 and the year prior, I was working as a sales manager for a reputed beverage company. When I started out, I did not have any customer, but I had approached eight different people to sell my product. I was perplexed because having approached eight people, and worked day and night, there was no purchase. Seeing my zeal and hard work, a retired professor came forward to buy my product. I was overwhelmed and very much happy that someone brought my product as well as encouraged me to never give up. He took me to a conference where Dr APJ Abdul Kalam was giving a speech and his speech was so motivational and I found a new strength, I went on to sell many products partly from my hard work and partly from references given by the retired professor.

I started my first Community Water Center with the sponsorship of a retired defense personnel in his own village, Nalgonda, which was fluoride affected. This project was crucial for the development of the village in Nalgonda and many villages thereafter and there was no looking back since then. We had set up camps and awareness programmes on clean and safe drinking water as well as overall hygiene management. Now, we serve 6,800+ satisfied customers as well as cater to provide safe drinking water close to two crore population.

Karunakara M Reddy, Founder & MD, Smaat India Pvt Ltd


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