Monday, August 16, 2010

Interview With Anu Lall, Snartak Solutions

Featuring Woman Entrepreneur
Anu Lall
Founder: Snartak Solutions

Snartak Solutions works in the niche of ERP – Human Resources and Payroll, providing a wide range of services. They understand the distinct requirements of this function, and deliver effective solutions based on experience, process knowledge and best practices that help your organisation choose a solution from a variety of alternatives.

Here is what Anu Lall, founder of Snartak Solutions, has to say about her venture.

Q1: A little about your background – education, past work experience, do you have entrepreneurial roots? 
Born into a family of Civil Servants, we often moved to different cities, which meant, I was often the “new girl” in class. Looking back, I think that gave me the ability to make many new friends, and appreciate differences in cultures very well, and gel into new environments very well.

Towards the end of my school, my parents shifted to Delhi, from where I completed my schooling from DPS, and graduation from Delhi University and later pursued management from XLRI, Jamshedpur.

I had thought about starting something of my own for a very long time before I actually started. Many factors shaped the thought process. I started my career with Ranbaxy Laboratories, which had a very impressive entrepreneurial history. The idea of creating something from scratch excited me, still does.

Q2. Is this your first venture? If no, then what did you learn from your earlier ventures? 
Snartak Solutions is my first venture.

Q3. What market segment and industry are you addressing now?  How did you arrive at this business idea?
Snartak works in the domain of ERP Implementation and add on services. I was working in a similar domain at 2 companies, prior to starting on my own.

Q4. Did you start this - alone or with a co-founder?
I started the venture alone, without a co-founder.

Q5. How did you manage on your own? When did you hire your first employee?
The idea to start and create something from scratch excites me completely. The ability to generate value, employment, and a company that offers differentiated service, and is recognized for reason for our existence

Hired the first team member 2 months after coming into existence. I did not have an office then, and the first hiring happened in the lobby on a 5 star hotel.

We maintain excellent relations with all the past team members, and the alumni network, proves to be an excellent referral ground for talent.

Q6. Was it easy to find a co-founder? What was your strategy in locating your co-founder?
Since Snartak did not start with a co-founder, there was no formal strategy that was adopted to have one.

In the absence of a partner, at Snartak we keep up the network and peer groups. My compliments to organizations like TIE, Nen etc that make you believe in the dream, by showcasing so many “poster boys” who are also living the dream.

Q7. How have you funded your business (right from its inception)? 
Some companies start with a Silver spoon, some don’t. Snartak wasn’t a business with the silver spoon.

At the very start, it was funded by my own savings. As is customary for all start-ups to say what was the capital they started with, so here it is- I started with 12,000 rupees as salary savings + a car EMI to pay, without a fancy logo in a “barsaati” office.

Even a website followed when I could afford a designer, which was after a few months. Thankfully clients never checked for a site !

Second round came from the proverbial – Friends, family and fools, and later we graduated to Bank overdrafts and funding.

There has been no formal funding, in exchange for equity till date.

Q8. What have been the challenges – finding the business partner, financing, recruiting, selling etc. Which in your experience has been the most difficult challenge to overcome? 
A new venture wakes up everyday and Sells – To landlords for office space; to partners for products; to clients for business; to marketing companies for creatives; to employees … Sell Sell Sell.

Snartak is an IT implementation company. There is a difference between selling an idea and selling based on a Me-too model. Ofcourse there are advantages of a Me-too business– that there is a proven business model.

One has to nudge on both sides and create space for oneself. Not just being another Implementer of technology was a challenge that was difficult to overcome, but we overcame it well.

A large chunk of business from repeat clients, with whom we had started working as a mere foot in the door. People changed companies and we moved with them. Companies changed and we moved with them. Repeat business in the consulting space is to my mind the single biggest indicator of good delivery.

Q9. Are you profitable now? 
Yes, we are profitable. Being in the Services domain, we had reasonable profits from Year 1 of existence.

Q10: Last, but very important, a little about your family – how did you manage to strike a balance between the home, kids and the new venture? 
Being single, I am perhaps not qualified to answer this question about children.

However I think, women in India have such a fantastic support system, something completely missing in the West. The availability of affordable domestic help makes life so much easier… The societal mindset is such that the ultimate responsibility of putting food on the table, and a child through school still rests with the father. Indian women, do not have any excuses for being absent from Boardrooms.

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