Suma E. P. heads Niswey, an inbound and account-based marketing company based in New Delhi, India. She has over 20 years of experience in driving content strategies for technology-driven businesses, including the likes of Yahoo, Microsoft and Intel.
In recent years, she has worked with mid-sized businesses driving brand growth through content marketing. She holds a degree in architecture and has undertaken programmes in entrepreneurship from CIAM and Goldman Sachs-Indian School of Business.
Suma became an entrepreneur when she co-founded her first company in 2005. And has gone through entrepreneurship realities such as a recession, partner exiting, finding new business partners, and a merger. She loves listening to music, is committed to her spiritual growth and enjoys the way her daughter is growing up.
Naaree interviewed entrepreneur, Suma E. P. of Niswey about her lessons from her journey and personal branding activities as a female founder.
Links mentioned in the interview:
- SocialOomph Post Scheduling Tool
- Suma’s Twitter Profile
- Suma’s LinkedIn Profile
- Suma’s Instagram Profile
- Suma’s Twitter thread on entrepreneurship
- Suma’s Inbound Marketing Agency
- Suma’s personal blog on entrepreneurship
Please describe your startup or achievement.
I became an entrepreneur when I co-founded my first company, a content services company in 2005. The business was growing well till 2008. Then the recession hit and things became really challenging for us.
My partner quit in 2010, and I managed to keep the business going despite being only the operations head of the business. So, I’ve gone through entrepreneurship realities such as a recession, partner exiting, finding new business partners, and a merger.
In 2013, I merged the company with Niswey, an inbound and account-based marketing agency based in New Delhi, India. Today, we are a full-service inbound marketing and account-based marketing agency. We have clients all over the world. We also have built our own Martech products which started generating revenues last year.
I have over 24+ years of work experience, 14+ as an entrepreneur. I hold a degree in Architecture but have never used it. I also completed a one-year program on entrepreneurship conducted by Creatnet Institute of Applied Management, New Delhi.
I am an alumnus of the 10,000 Women entrepreneurs program designed by Goldman Sachs and delivered by Indian School of Business, Hyderabad and BIMTECH, Greater Noida.
Here are some of our achievements:
- That we have withstood the tests of the market and reinvented ourselves.
- That on an average we have been able to employ 10+ people over 14 years in a highly consultative domain.
- We are proud of building a culture where we enable people to be fully themselves, and then the best versions of themselves. And find it within them to serve others.
What does your business startup offer and what makes it unique?
We offer inbound marketing and account-based marketing services for mid-size B2B companies. We specialise in IT.
We chose this segment simply because inbound and ABM require great content development skills across the buyer journey as well as excellent marketing automation skills to track engagement, intent and so on.
This combination is very hard for a regular agency to build and replicate. Hence we are unique.
Now that we have developed our own SaaS products for the HubSpot ecosystem, we have successfully launched another stream of revenues for the business. Not many agencies can make this claim either.
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur? Where do your goals and inspiration come from?
I used to think that becoming an entrepreneur was an accident. But recently I came across some notes in old diaries where I realized I have always had a dream of working for myself.
It’s good that I had forgotten this because now that I am running a business, I also get to work for my clients and my team, my partners and not just for myself.
My goal has always been to create an awesome, authentic workplace where people can be themselves and find joy in their work. After my current business partners joined, we tweaked the goal to say that we are building an awesome, authentic, purposeful workplace.
Of course, that means it’s always ‘work-in-progress’, in continuous improvement. It helps us get better with our culture and the way of doing business, and keeps us on our toes.
The driver for all this is the idea that we spend 8 to 9 hours a day at work, and we should be spending that time feeling the joy of work, not spend it in petty squabbles and politicking.
What are some challenges that you faced initially when you started out? Please share specific examples with advice to other women on overcoming their challenges?
- One of the biggest challenges was the recession in 2008-09, and we lost nearly all our clients. I had to reinvent the business model to survive, and then rebuild the business all over again.
- I had co-founders leaving the business as well as new ones joining. Being careful about what I want to build and being steadfast on values helped me find the right partners and team members.
- Having inefficient teams that pulled down profitability. We coached a few people and those who couldn’t be coached we eased out. And we also hired really smart and efficient people.
What are all the things that an entrepreneur in your industry needs to keep in mind? Apart from your great idea, what do you need to be armed with?
You need to be able to learn fast, unlearn and relearn fast. Things change a lot in Martech, so keeping yourself in the know is a great advantage.
If you’re planning to be an entrepreneur, have a bigger reason than money to build a business. Because when the cash flow is hit (and it will), you need to have your vision driving you forward.
You need to have grit and staying power. Entrepreneurship throws a hundred challenges at you, sometimes on the same day, and you will need to have the groundedness to go through them and sustain and grow the business.
Did you have a mentor to guide you through your journey? In your opinion, what does a mentor bring to the table?
I signed up for a unique entrepreneurship program run by CIAM. I found some great mentors there, and I am grateful for them. A mentor can ask you the right questions and persist in the questioning to help you uncover your blind spots.
A good mentor helps you see how your belief systems are being a hindrance to the business, and helps you uncover solutions as well, without being prescriptive.
How did you recruit your first team? What advice do you have for building and nurturing teams in your startup?
We posted a job on one of the job portals. We shortlisted a few people from the resumes that came and called them in for interviews. We hired two people from that lot.
Hiring is the most important job for an entrepreneur. A good hire will move things along well, a great hire will help you redefine the business growth, while a bad hire will put you behind by months.
Ultimately you are hiring people not skill-sets, and they can impact the culture in ways you cannot foretell. So while a great skills-fit is good, culture-fit is even more important.
Please describe some successes and failures you have experienced.
The biggest failure was when one of our clients went bankrupt, thus wiping off lakhs of rupees from our receivables. We could have gone out of business, but we pulled through.
The biggest success is our culture. People stay with us for 3+ years because we are focused on their growth – personal, professional and financial.
What are 3 key lessons that you have learned?
- “This too shall pass,” is a handy motto to remember. Whatever the success, whatever the failure, remember that it’s not going to last forever, so just keep working towards the vision.
- Have fun. The only reason I get to work is that I enjoy my work, I enjoy being with my team.
- Find pause, so you can see the business from an outside perspective. When you’re in the thick of things, you won’t be able to think for the future.
About the author:
Priya Florence Shah is the publisher of Naaree.com. Set your Thermostat to Success with her Free Entrepreneur Toolbox. Get a step-by-step road map to Go from Unknown to Well-Known in her Free Personal Branding Email Course.
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