|Entrepreneurship doesn't come easy. One has to shed 'blood, sweat and tears' and really work your socks off to earn those spurs. It's not just about collecting a paycheck, have a fancy office and drive the latest BMW. Not so easy, unless of course, you have a compassionate Banker or Venture Capitalist. Tell us, if you know of any.
"Work is my hobby," says Subramaniyan ('Subbu' to his friends) and that isn't an understatement. For one who toils till the wee hours of the morning, goes home to catch 40 winks and is back at the office, as fresh as a daisy, that's really something. His wife cribs that he isn't spending too much time with the family, something he hears as often as he does 'Suprabhatham' each day. He admits 'it's true'. But then, what does a man who has to wear many hats do to keep a delicate balance - that of a family man, an entrepreneur, a leader, a motivator, and very often as a sort of team counselor just to take the stress off . So, what drives the likes of him to work, work and work?
Here goes; and verbatim.
"I'll answer that from my perspective. Initially when we started this whole thing, there was no choice. I was the tech guy and I was accountable. We had to work late into the nights to roll the solutions out. If I committed a date, I made sure I stuck to it. If I tell my customer, you'll get this on such-and-such date, believe it or not, that's the date on which he will get it. And the customer is going to get what he asked for or what was agreed. It's not that I'll say, 'Hey, I got 8 out of 10 ready, so I've done 80% of the job.' No. I'll deliver 100%. That's something I'm very rigid about. This has been the reason for my success or my failures, which ever way one looks at it."
Now, don't imagine him as some sort of cane-in-hand-taskmaster. He's not the pushy type. In reality, Subbu is in pursuit of excellence; which means involving each one in the development process and to face the tasks ahead. He's inculcating in them the same amount of discipline, the same amount of accountability to meet delivery dates. The responsibility needs to be felt collectively. "Problems will be there. One has to think, identify the problem, break it down into multiple pieces and start looking at each piece, till the solution is found. I tell everyone, never to leave a task incomplete. If they are going to be there till 3 am, I'll be there too, till 3 am," he explains, not one to shrink from the decisive battle. Going that extra mile is the way to grow and scale greater heights.
There was no question of doing a U-turn during those turbulent days of the economic slowdown. The cash crunch was there, alright; but no way could they go to their families for support. "Luckily, we had good credit card limits and we started using them up," he says. Many projects were in the pipeline and somehow they managed to pitchfork ahead despite 'encounters of the bad luck kind' such as the modem not pinging because the ISDN lines were down and running helter-skelter to find a friend whose Internet account they could use to 'deliver'. Worse was when on many an occasion they had to defer paying salaries or pay less than what was agreed. That's when they had to reach out to all and explain the hardships. Build trust. What's remarkable is that they weren't bossy, sitting at a different level telling people to do this and do that. "We were actually involved at the same level as the others. We had this ability to stay put, think ahead and motivate everyone that good times were around the corner," Subbu says. His trips to Goa and Bellary on 'onsite work' were by public transport and everything was pretty frugal.
At the end of this terrible adventure, the smiles were back. Significantly, the bond between Prashant, Srivatsa and himself, was now much stronger. "We were all optimists, known each other for 15 years; lived, worked together and believed in each other," says Subbu and continues, "We had built up a good product framework. That's one thing I never gave up. I had this vision and I never let it drop from focus, project or no project in hand. I remember the days when I used to give 70-80 demos a month and wherever I went, they all said your product is brilliant, the framework is brilliant. But they just didn't have the budget. I felt disappointed at times, but I never lost hope."
"There's a strong vision I have for everybody in Syntax," Subbu says. "If you look at the business operations thread, we do business development, we do off-shore development, we customize applications development, we sell software products and we are also setting up this banking management services competency centers. So there's a great opportunity. I tell everyone, make use of this, make value for you and make value for the company. Use the experience to meet your next goal"
There was a time once, when Subbu had many hobbies. He'd watch a lot of sports, read a lot. Now he's moved towards technology reading, listening to religious chants because it "Takes a lot of stress off me," he says. What about sports?
Well, he does manage to get fleeting glances of a cricket match on TV, but otherwise, Subbu's into a different ball game altogether.