Listen to the podcast to learn about
02:00 - Falling in Love with Manufacturing
12:00 - Finding Founder Market Fit
18:00 - How to Choose the Right Idea
31:30 - Making India Attractive to International Manufacturers
40:00 - Don’t Be In a Hurry to be a Large Company
Read the complete transcript below
Amit Somani 00:45
Welcome to the Prime Venture Partners Podcast. This is your host, Amit Somani, and I am delighted to have with me today, Amrit Acharya, co-founder and CEO of Zetwerk. Welcome to the show, Amrit.
Amrit Acharya 00:56
Thanks, Amit. Thanks for having me.
Amit Somani 01:00
Hey, Amrit, I think really, really excited to talk to you about Zetwerk, because you are basically making brand new inroads into an area that has otherwise been largely, if I can say so, old world economy, and actually bringing it to the new ages. Maybe you can tell our listeners just a little bit about the founding story of Zetwerk and the inspiration for the idea, as it was back then. We’ll talk about the evolution later. What inspired you to start up in this area, maybe a little bit of your background as well?
Amrit Acharya 01:30
Yes, I grew up in Bhubaneswar, and so I come from a small town environment. After I graduated from undergrad, my first job was with ITC, which is a large consumer goods conglomerate. And within ITC, my first role was to build a new factory for them. I was basically 21, 22, straight out of college and when I joined, they had just bought the land. And over the next two years, built all the buildings, bought a lot of machines, and hired close to 1,000 people. I really fell in love with manufacturing. I also ran the factory for a brief amount, before I handed it over to the operations team, but that was my first love affair with manufacturing.
I took a detour after that, I spent two more years at ITC, I spent some time in the US and decided to come back to India. When I came back to India, both me and another co-founders, Srinath, were just reconnecting and looking back at our past lives. For me, when I went back to my colleagues who were still at ITC, the way I was managing this entire process of almost 400, 500 crores of spend, all done through Excel, Google Sheets, nothing had changed, even though five years had passed. I felt that this is an area which we and when I came back to India, there was a lot of… This is 2018, there was the whole startup wave also just really cresending, Swiggy had just become a unicorn. There was a lot of conversation around building for consumers, but we felt that we had seen a blind spot, which had not been addressed, it also helped that we really liked the space. So we thought we’ll start something in manufacturing.
Amit Somani 03:25
Sounds great. So I’m just curious and double clicking on, what does it mean to fall in love with manufacturing? I know you went to, I think you did electrical engineering, if I’m not mistaken, but are you tinkering or just this notion of, there’s nothing, there’s a design and now you get a product which will… Because unlike a consumer product where you can touch and feel it, I guess, manufacturing also, you can, but not necessarily the end thing. So just curious about that.
Amrit Acharya 03:50
No, I’ve always been like that. I think I grew up loving Lego’s, because you could use it to build things. Even in undergrad, we were a part of this program where we actually built a running vehicle from scrap and we won a prize where I got an internship with Bosch in Bangalore, during my second year and that’s where I actually saw the whole Bosch manufacturing process. So I’ve always been that person who loves tinkering with machines, building things from, bare hands in some way and it was a weird coincidence that my first job at ITC also required me to do that. So in some ways, the dots connect backwards and it was a great fit for me.
Amit Somani 04:45
Fantastic. Switching just a little bit to your personal journey. You said you went abroad to do your MBA at Haas in Berkeley. What was the incentive to come back? What was the motivation? That’s another, because China has gone through this whole journey where people have gone out, stayed there forever, gone out, come back. I, myself, came back to India 14 years ago, but I was a minority, now it seems to be happening more frequently. So what brought you back?
Amrit Acharya 05:10
I mean, it’s a combination of personal and professional reasons. I mean, more importantly, I was at McKinsey and after graduating, I spent a year there. I liked McKinsey, but I realized that I need to work in the US, I needed an H-1B visa, you need a certain non-immigrant visa to work there. If I had to start up, at some point, I didn’t really have full control of my destiny. The only way to do that would be to have more permanent solutions, which meant that I would have to stay at McKinsey for four, or five years, six years possibly, to go through that entire journey, which a lot of people do. I felt that in my prime, I was in my early 20s, there was a lot of action back at home.
A lot of my friends were starting companies and they were doing really well and I could see these people and feel that this is something which I can also do, but it required that leap of faith. That I’m going to give up this entire thing that’s going really well for me. My father didn’t really understand it. When I came back to India without a job even, I quit McKinsey and also, that was the year when I was getting married. So three things happened at the same time. I was getting married, moving back to India and starting a new company. So it was a little too much for my dad, but I felt very strongly about it, that this is what I need to do at this point in time. I gave myself a year, that if it doesn’t work out, then maybe I’ll go back or something like that. But I was fully committed that I’m here, I’m here for a reason.
Amit Somani 07:00
That’s very heartening to hear. So hopefully if there are people listening to this in the US, India is abuzz with opportunity and lots of interesting things to do. So maybe your early journey at Zetwerk. At least what my recollection is and you can obviously tell it better. That initial, the focus was and the foray was largely around software and automation, basically if I may say so, SaaSifying the whole… Can you just talk to us about both the early days and how it has evolved to what it is now?
Amrit Acharya 07:30
Yeah. So initially, again, I was just looking back at my personal journey. When I was at ITC doing this big project, I was managing hundreds of vendors all on Google Sheets or Excel, managing almost $100 million of spend at one point in time. I just felt that there can be a better way to do this. There were softwares like Ariba, which SAP had acquired, which was really good at solving this for a normal purchase process. But when you’re buying something very custom, the process is very different. So we thought we’d build Ariba for custom procurement, when you want to buy something, you don’t want to buy a laptop, but you want to buy a process that has a lot of back and forth on iteration on design, or be able to find many vendors.
So we thought we’d build that software which felt missing and we spoke to a lot of customers. We spoke to companies, L&T, GE, some of the largest companies and everybody said, “I need this yesterday.” So that gave us a lot of confidence and a little bit of naivety was there, which you require as an entrepreneur, we said, “We’ll build this business.” We raised a seed round from Kae and Sequoia and we started immediately building the product, whatever we had in our mind. We took a couple of months to build out what you call MVP in startup parlance and we went back to the same set of customers who had said, “I theoretically love this concept.” When they saw this, they actually liked it even more, they said, “This is exactly what I was looking for. Can you do X, Y features?” They were very participative in the company building process.
But when the talks became more commercial, that’s when we hit a big roadblock, we heard all kinds of things. Some people said, “I don’t make this decision, our IT makes this decision.” When we went to IT, they were like, “Oh, is this cloud software, or can I host it on my servers?” This was 2018, when people were still talking that language. Some people said, “I don’t make this decision in India. I can introduce you to my CIO in the US or Switzerland.” Then we quickly realized that the feedback loop in building this business is a very slow process and we realized it is not a good fit for us as founders. We were a little bit more impatient and we were also hearing from our customers, “Can I use the software to discover new suppliers?”
So that came up enough times. People were not saying it very explicitly, but if you listened well enough, that was what they were saying and we said, “Let’s try this out. Let’s go for the more transaction first approach, then a complete change management approach, which is what SaaS is.” That pivot really worked for us. In fact, we made the pivot before we had closed our seed round. You may know this Amit, between term sheet and closure, it takes three months. We had not even received the money in the bank, but we went back to investors and said, “Look, we are changing the business.” But we got good support and that really worked well for us and we started getting a lot of strong interest from customers saying, “Hey, can you make this? Can you make this? Can you have software for X?” We had not looked back.
Amit Somani 11:00
That is terrific. I have at least four or five follow on questions. I’ll try to pace myself on each of those. I love the first one, the comment that you made, which is one, that you were doing customer discovery and talking to people even before you started building your MVP and then during and post the MVP. So that alone is quite interesting, but the second, which is less done and I think it is such an atrocious waste, which is not just doing the discovery like, “Hey, is this nice? Is this interesting? What do you think?” But willingness to pay and back it and make the decision and sign the purchase order. Not enough people do it early enough in the journey, because people are like, “No, they’re loving this, they didn’t want me to leave the office, et cetera.” So what, what gave you this, beyond your impatience as you cited, this insight to say, “Let’s figure out, boss, are you going to pay for this and are you going to do it quickly?”
Amrit Acharya 11:45
But to be fair, we did try, we did engage in good faith with all of these needs. We were at one point contemplating, even going to Switzerland and meet the CIO, this large company where it could have taken, getting that meeting itself is sometimes difficult. I mean, I don’t know what to call it, you can call it intuition, you can call it just visual. I guess we visualized it, what is the best case scenario 12 months down the line? We felt the best case scenario at 12 months down line is four or five customers at max. I could not see a situation where we would have anything better than that.
Were we satisfied with that outcome? We felt we would not be satisfied with that outcome. We would feel restless, we would feel uncomfortable fundamentally, that after spending close to one, one and a half years of our time, this is what we had to show for it. So it’s interesting and today we have gone back to that. Today we do sell, we’ve built a lot of software, so we’ve packaged it and sell it back to the same customers. Today our business can absorb such large sales cycles, but we did feel that we wanted to get to revenue faster and it could be just fit as founders also. So some of the people I really respect are founders who do enterprise SaaS, because I’ve seen personally how tough it is to sell that in India.
Amit Somani 13:10
Excellent. So I think willingness to pay and really figuring out intuition plus some data, as to how long that cycle will be, was one good learning. The other one that you said, which was music to my ears, is if you had listened well enough, the market and the customers and the overall vibe will tell you potentially where the pot of gold is, or where the interesting opportunity to solve is. Can you further, can you double click on that a little bit, both as a practice and how you applied it at Zetwerk?
Amrit Acharya 13:40
Yeah. Again, nobody will say it explicitly, that this is the business I want, or there’s this classic analogy. If you ask people in the 1900s what they wanted, they would’ve said, I wanted a faster horse, versus automobile. So sometimes your customers can mislead you in directions, which you did not necessarily take, but often enough, and this is where you need to be clear on what business you are running.
Are you fundamentally creating something completely new, reinventing a new product which does not exist? In which case, listening to customers sometimes can not be very helpful, but in our business, we are not inventing a new product, we are making a business that already exists more efficient. In which case sometimes your customers will have amazing insights and even today, we learn a lot from our customers.
We learn a lot from our suppliers, we learn a lot from our employees, because they’re often closest to the ground and then they can share things, which we may get to that answer anyway, but it’ll take us three months, six months, or much longer and we will make a lot of mistakes.
That’s what we did well, our customers kept on asking. They were asking them in the form of feature requests, “Can you build a feature which can do X? Can you build a feature which can do Y?” Which ultimately distilled down to discovery of suppliers and we felt that, okay, discovery is such a big pain point. Why don’t we attack that first? Just orient the conversation around us being a discovery company, which also does all these other features. Versus the other way around, where we have so many features of which discovery is one among them. I think that was the key insight for us.
Amit Somani 15:30
That’s absolutely fantastic. I definitely encourage people to pay attention to the early signals from the market. One other trick that I have often used and recommended to startups is, go figure out if the problem you’re solving on an unsolicited basis will be one of the top 10 problems for that client or that customer. If it is not, what are your top three or five problems for 2023? If it doesn’t show up, it’s probably not going to be top of the stack for them to do it.
Amrit Acharya 16:00
Yeah. In fact, I remember one more example, when we were meeting one of our customers. We had a meeting at 9:30 AM, he showed us his inbox at 9:30 AM, he had 100 unread emails, he says, “I cannot navigate this. I have no idea what each of these emails is for.” It was all from various vendors, who had various problems and they were communicating via. The problem with email was, every row is one context. Whereas when you’re actually outsourcing manufacturing, every project should be one row, if I can articulate it well enough.
All the communication should be around that one unit, so the unit itself was, there’s a big mismatch between what customers wanted and the existing tools that could serve. So almost it was very explicit, but people showed their problems to you and as entrepreneurs, sometimes that is that art, which you have to distill those problems and create solutions, which can address that impact.
Amit Somani 17:10
One last question on this topic, which is just your conversation, reminded me of the Andon Cord, the Toyota manufacturing system, a famous point. Which is to say that anybody can pull the Andon Cord and stop the manufacturing process, if they notice some aberrate or abnormality. Which is your point about, look, we take ideas from everywhere, could be customers, could be employees, could be partners, et cetera. The flip side of the question is, you will have a hundred ideas at any given time and now even more so, as you’re a bigger company than you were, say, four years ago. So how do you distill and distinguish which of these has potential and which of these is just another random, not random, but I mean, it’s a creative idea, but maybe the time is not right yet?
Amrit Acharya 17:50
So it’s a constant challenge and I think it’s becoming tougher, as to your point, as the company becomes larger. One thing we have done as a business, which has really worked well for us and this is more for scale issue, is the way we have set up the company’s org structure and in some way, the culture of the company. We have a very decentralized way of working. So we have at any point in time, 20, 30 leaders who all take their own decisions. So some of these challenges we have delegated to others, and the reason it works is because within their lens at which they look at the business, they’re able to take these decisions faster. Now the flip side of that is you end up building some flab in the org, there’s some functions, which you have redundancy, you could have maybe been more efficient. Instead of having five sales teams, you could have had one sales team, which looked at the entire business.
But what we have gained is speed as an org. So the time between an idea, to whether it’s being a yes or no, is very fast in our company. There are certain ideas which transcend the scope of that individual and that’s when those come up. So we see at my level, I see a very filtered version of all the things that ultimately get generated from the business, but a filtered version does not mean that the things that get unfiltered, get killed, they also get the right amount of love. So that is one thing we have done and I strongly believe in it.
Now we are having different challenges when we have reached a certain scale, we want to combine some functions, so that we don’t make the same mistakes twice. The problem with that structure is sometimes you can make the same mistake twice, which is something of course as an org you want to avoid. But at least at the beginning, this served us really well, that as much as possible, as founders, we took ourselves out of the equation. That this decision, we are not taking, you have to take this decision, basis the inputs you’re getting from the market.
Amit Somani 20:10
Great. Switching gears, Amrit, let’s talk about the other part of this, which is the supply side, which is what you’ve taken up the audacious step of trying to first, digitize, then partner and now I saw some news articles that you’re even investing in some of that. So how did you go about streamlining that? Because that’s a pretty, if I may say so, a serious endeavor, because I’m assuming many of them originally were all mom-and-pop type of manufacturers and they’re doing what they’re doing, but you are here trying to make a internationally scalable business. I mean, starting with India, but eventually you want to go international. So how did you go about doing that and following into streamlining that?
Amrit Acharya 20:55
I mean, here I’ll come back to excellent advice I received from somebody and it was very simplistic, but I felt it was really applicable to us. In any business there is, let’s say quote-unquote a demand side, there is a supply side and then there are internal stakeholders or your employees. At some point it’ll become extremely clear which part of the business is the constraint towards growing the business. In some cases, demand and supply are sorted, but you need to build that right set of talent pool. You need to have enough engineers, as an example, that you could build everything as fast enough. In some cases, getting customers is difficult. I could say that for SaaS, getting customers is never a solved problem.
In our case, demand is solved for in some way, our business is very similar to, build it and they will come. If you have enough great supply, there is infinite demand for our business and this equation, getting to this equation. At what point in time, what are those characteristics of supply if you have in your business, demand tends to infinity. I think that’s the constant discovery process we are on. In some cases we realize that there is and in majority of the cases we realize there is enough depth in the manufacturing ecosystem in India. For historical reasons, they have not been tapped to the fullest potential.
I can give a very simple example, a supplier who’s sitting in Trichy in South India, views everybody above a 100, 200 kilometer radius with suspicion. A, they don’t speak the same language, if there are any disputes, they have to physically travel a 100, 200 kilometer to solve these disputes. They have historically felt that I don’t want to do this, but when they work with us as a platform, all of these trust issues are solved for. India being one country, but really 20 countries, through us, they can navigate the rest of India, which was historically challenging. So we are able to do that for our suppliers. Second thing we are able to do, we underwrite a supplier from a technical point. They have 10 machines, each of those machines can do X, Y, Z and hence, these are the wide range of products they can manufacture.
Historically, this supplier would have a typical background, like my co-founder, Srinath’s father is a great example. He was an employee at BHEL for 10 years, he said he left BHEL and set up his own small manufacturing unit. BHEL was his only customer for the next 10 years, because that was the world that they were part of, that was a network they were part of. But he did not know that the same set of machines he had, could serve 20 other customers, we are able to know that. So a lot of times we know our suppliers better than they know themselves and we take a lot of pride in that. So that we can help them navigate the entirety of the market, versus the market that they were historically familiar with.
Lastly, we sometimes see, rarely, that for various specific manufacturing requirements, the supply does not exist at all. The way it has been solved, India is importing products, if you take the entire consumer electronic supply chain, very little is manufactured in India. Mostly everything is imported from China and then we take a position. Are we going to wait for 5 years, 10 years for that to change, or do we want to change that today? Because we have the ability as a company to do so today. So in those cases, we are more than happy to invest in creating new supply though it is a very small part of our business today. Our general belief is there is a lot of depth in manufacturing in India. Through various technology interventions, through various culture interventions, you can make that available to a wider range of customers.
Amit Somani 24:50
So Amrit, I can totally buy the point that the suppliers you could have with just one keyword, which is demand. Give me demand, I’ll work with you, true for any marketplace really. I really appreciate the nuance point about the same set of machines or the same set of manufacturing capability can give them multiple different products that they can get into, not just multiple different buyers. So that is amazing, but just for you as a company, to undertake that mission of getting that quality control, getting the management of the supply, getting reliability, et cetera.
Because your clients, meaning the demand that you are generating, they don’t really care, they’re relying on Zetwerk, that this is going to happen. I think you mentioned something called cultural interventions, I don’t know if that is the one. How do you bring that up to snuff? It’s very different than even an Uber driver. You’re just, look, you eventually need to transport from point A to B and maintain a certain level of quality of service. Here it’s a little bit more complicated, to say the least.
Amrit Acharya 26:00
Yes. No, it is complex, it’s a hard problem and that’s why I say, sometimes you need a little bit of naivete as a founder. I don’t know if I knew all of this, would I have been still as excited during our seed stege, maybe no, but there would have always been enough reasons to say, “Oh, this is too difficult.” But today, what has happened is today, nothing feels too difficult, because we have such a strong backbone infrastructure that we have built, that the incremental problem does not feel that tough to solve. That being said, as I said, for every business, ultimately there has to be one or two things which you do really well, which eventually become moats.
For us, and we really go very deep into this. When we onboard a supplier, we collect 200 data points. Who are they? What machines do they have? Which customers did they work with before? What quality systems do they have? Who is the founder? Is it their main business or a side business? We really deeply profile from a technical lens, it’s not like how a bank underwrites from a financial lens. We felt that this is completely missing, you can’t get this information on Google. If you ask 10 different companies how they profile vendors, they will have 10 different processes.
So in some way, what we are doing is we are picking the best from every company and building that master list, which is applicable to every company. It is to begin with, a one-time exercise, but you need to refresh it as you do more transactions. Over a period of time, what happens is that we have the bird’s-eye view of who are the best manufacturers in the country and who are, quote-unquote, not the best. Who are, let’s say tier two, tier three. At some point our business becomes finding the best manufacturer in the country and providing them with all kinds of services. It starts with demand. Today we offer logistics, we offer working capital, we offer procurement.
So the idea is to become the best business partner of choice, for the best manufacturers in the country and over a period of time, we will also have the tier two guys become as good as tier one. If you do that well, we don’t have to spend any energy in customer acquisition as a business. Our customers will come and in some way we have seen that play out for us over the last four years. So then the problem statement becomes very simple. You have to just find the best guys in the country and offer them the best services. So that they become partners to you forever, if they grow, we grow with them. So that’s a simple one line equation for the business.
Amit Somani 28:50
Excellent. Very heartening to hear. That also leads me to think aloud a little bit with you and brainstorm. To say that perhaps what you’re saying is, whatever capabilities India has, whether it’s in the manufacturing sector, or the agriculture sector, or any kind of other services, which are unorganized, but they’re there, they’re all mom-and-pop. I loved your example about the Trichy supplier. If there were platforms that could help bring them demand, bring them some level of quality control, some level of technical prowess, et cetera. They could all really help India leapfrog, just from being very point solutions, or focused on certain corridors. Would that be a fair statement across other industries? Would you look at anything other than manufacturing? I know you’re-
Amrit Acharya 29:40
Our first job, I always say that, we looked at agriculture very strongly, both me and Srinath, we started our careers at the agribusiness division at ITC. So agriculture is still, I would say a very strong passion area for me, we just felt and this was our bias, that sometimes when you’re too deep in one sector, you look at some of the negatives also. We just felt that it would take a longer time to build a scale business, because the unit is much smaller. At least at the manufacturer, we are talking about businesses who do one crore to five crore of revenue, those are our suppliers. When you’re talking about a farmer, it comes to one lakh, so you have to work with 100 farmers to generate the same equivalent revenue. That just felt even more daunting to us and we felt we’ll do it at a later date, but to your point, I generally agree.
We have seen this at ITC and ITC had a brilliant strategy. At some point, ITC realized that there are not enough people who are getting into agriculture new, because the economics of agriculture is not working out. So if you look at most farmers, the children are not becoming farmers, the children are going into software or something else, which is completely fine. But then who will become farmers in the next generation? Economics have to work. So ITC as a business, this is an important problem for them and they have a huge program on how do you improve the cost of economics of farming as a profession. Out of which maybe ITC will benefit maybe half of it, but it is a more industry initiative. I feel that the same thing does apply to various other non-service businesses. They have to become, quote-unquote, sexy again, we are playing a small part in that and what has historically been not a very sexy industry.
Amit Somani 31:45
Fantastic. Just switching gears a little bit and talking about, making India attractive to international manufacturers or international demand. You were citing the example earlier when we were chatting about how software has been exported to some degree and tech has been exported. Can we do that with manufacturing? So can you talk a little bit about your own journey to take Zetwerk international, now that there is some meaningful revenue that you’re driving from the international part of the business?
Amrit Acharya 32:20
Today, almost one quarter of our business, 25% of our business comes from international markets. What I mean by that is the customer is outside India. Most of the manufacturing still happens in India, though we have shifted that also. Today almost 10% of our supply is also outside. We are present in markets like Vietnam, Bangladesh, Middle East, on a supply side and primarily, North America and Europe on a demand side. We have done this in a model where still 99% of our employee base is in India. So we do have employees outside India, but the majority, by and large, this business has been built outside of India.
Some of it has been, we have been again, at the right place at the right time, especially in the last one year and last two years, during COVID. What the world realized is that they can’t rely on a single destination for all of their procurement requirements, which historically used to be China. What China’s done really well, is they offer an end to end solution. You just give your specs, everything is available in the 100 kilometers radius. If you want to buy, let’s say a TV, all the raw material, all the components, all the electronics, everything you can find in a very confined geography and they work really well in sync. There is a lot of transparency in how they operate, which ultimately leads to reliability.
India has historically had a challenge with reliability, but what the world has realized, that they can’t depend on a single country. Today we can take that as an example, China is pretty much shut for the last few months, because of their encounter with COVID. A lot of companies are struggling to source the same components, and that is leading to inflation, that is leading to all kinds of other issues. So the world decided that they will apply China plus one strategy last year. Which means that they will still have China as a main sourcing destination, but they will find another country which can be at least a meaningful percentage of their procurement.
When you look at the world like that, there’s only two or three countries in the world who can satisfy that requirement at scale, India being one of them. There’s no country as large enough, who has that kind of depth into that manufacturing ecosystem. Of course, we are not there yet, we can’t compare ourselves to China, but we have started a journey as a country. There’s a lot of regulatory support also today, there’s a new incentive scheme called PLI, which incentivizes production, for every unit you make, you get some additional incentives. All of these things are steps in the right direction.
I feel that over the next 10, 20 years, we will see a lot of make in India push, a lot of make in India for the world push and while today it’s 25% of our business, it can easily be the other way around, where we become primarily, the world is very untapped that way. So we’re very excited about that. I think of course, our hearts and minds are in India, but I think when you build a global business, those global standards ultimately become part of the same Indian standards. The way you look at quality, the way you look at timelines, the way you look at contracts, there’s no process for a US customer versus a different process for an Indian customer. They’re all the same and I feel that the country benefits.
Amit Somani 35:55
Absolutely. Even if you think of somebody like Apple, one of the most sophisticated consumer tech companies in the world, I see all their products saying, “Designed in California.” It’s manufactured by somebody else and actually India is just a hot bit of creative talent. So I think it could also be designed in India and manufactured in India, but sold globally, who knows. Eventually not just the parts, but the whole.
Amrit Acharya 36:20
That ecosystem is extremely exciting and in fact, while we don’t work for Apple, but we do design the hearables, Bluetooth headsets for a wide variety of customers whose primary business is in India. If you look at these customers, their options, before that were to pretty much buy it from China, they had zero options. This is an example where we felt that there is no supply at all in the country and we are happy to create supply. So we have set up, we’ve invested in a manufacturing unit in Noida, which makes Bluetooth headsets, speakers, et cetera. Initially it is to service the Indian market, but the idea is to use it as a hub for exports as well.
Amit Somani 37:05
Wonderful. Amrit, as we come close to the end of the podcast here, one final sort of set of questions, which is about your own journey as an entrepreneur in particular, to make it more terse. What are one or two lessons that you have learned along the way of things that you would do again and again, and anybody listening in, you would advise them to do? What are maybe one or two things that you would caution people and say, “Hey, maybe this is a mistake I made and hopefully other people at least skip this one and make a fresh mistake?”
Amrit Acharya 37:35
A lot of this is so personal and you get shaped by the experiences you have in some way. So I think some of the things we did well, I think we were very intentional about culture from day one, we did want to build a company. So we looked at companies whose cultures we admired and we tried to get people from those companies. We also tried to understand what exactly it was about them and have a point of view. I think the most important thing to have is a point of view on everything. Your point of view can be right or wrong, but going in a very predefined manner is the most dangerous thing in my mind and then your culture gets decided on your behalf, versus the other way around.
So we have a culture which is highly transparent, every metric in our company is visible to every person in our company. We try and operate in a very decentralized way and we have a very strong bias to speed, we prioritize speed over perfection. These are the three broad tenets and we have some derivatives of that. I feel it is important to be intentional about it in the beginning itself, because these things can otherwise just be decided on your behalf.
I feel the second thing is, we are profitable as a business. In fact, we turned profitable last year when that was not the flavor of the season. There was a lot of emphasis on growth, while we did grow as a business, we also became profitable. I think profitability is also a button that you can’t decide, you will be profitable tomorrow, it doesn’t work like that. It’s a multi-year journey and again, if it is baked into your culture, that you look at profitability as an important reason for your existence. Then you start prioritizing that on day one itself and you make less irrational decisions on hindsight.
My personal journey has been, this is my first time as an entrepreneur, first time as CEO. I think I’m making more mistakes than anyone else can imagine. I think I’ve made every mistake possible, but I think it starts with, what is the intent? What is the vision? If those things are clear, then the mistakes don’t hurt as much, because you know why they’re happening. Then as an org, can you make sure that those mistakes don’t happen again? I think if these things can be done well, then that’s… I got a very good advice, which I would love to repeat here. I think the advice was, that don’t be in a hurry to be a large company. I think everything requires patience, but as a founder, are you still plugged into what is happening in your company? I think the longer you can say confidently that the answer to that question is yes, I think the more likely you are to be successful.
Amit Somani 40:45
That is fantastic. I don’t think we have anything better to wrap this podcast with, but Amrit, really delighted to hear your and Zetwerk’s journey. I think that a lot of interesting lessons learned for founders that are listening in. So thank you so much, Amrit, for being on the Prime Venture Partners Podcast.
Amrit Acharya 41:05
Thanks so much for having me. Amit, great talking to you.
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