What inspired you to become an entrepreneur? Why should the younger generation aspire to be in this role and what would be your message to people aspiring to become an entrepreneur?
It was during the time I was studying at IIT-B that I attended numerous lectures by entrepreneurs who visited the campus. I used to speak to them about their journey and understand why they chose the path of entrepreneurship. One question that I have perhaps asked every entrepreneur is if given a choice would they have opted to become an entrepreneur sooner or later. Most of them chose the former response. It was during one of these interactions that I got a chance to speak to Mr Narayan Murthy, the founder of Infosys. It was from him that I understood the impact that an entrepreneur can really make. He mentioned very clearly that a business provides the resources required to bring the change we want to see in the world around us. This is what inspired me to become an entrepreneur and continues to do so even now. I have the same advice and words for the next generation today. If they really wish to change the world, they should take the path of entrepreneurship. This way, rather than asking others for resources, they would be able to build their own enterprise and use their own resources to bring about a change.
What is the USP/competitive advantage of Superpro.ai?
According to statistics by Gallup, about 85% of employees worldwide do not flourish at work. A Smartsheet report indicates that over 40% of workers surveyed spend at least a quarter of their workweek on manual, repetitive tasks, with email, data collection, and data entry occupying the most time. In addition, only a third of workers currently have access to appropriate collaboration tools or AI applications. Superpro.ai is here to change the landscape.
We are the “Future of Work” wherein we help in marketing your services using video and delivering them using video calls, globally, without the need for a real office. It is free to get started for independent professionals. The landing page is akin to a “video business card” which provides the same impact as a real one when you speak about yourself to a potential client.
With Superpro.ai, professionals can easily charge for their time, even if it is a 30-min consultation, without spending any time or effort in price negotiations, scheduling, collecting payments, follow up emails or sending invoices. We use tech to automate a lot of manual, repetitive tasks with email, data collection and data entry, thereby helping professionals increase their billable hours, resulting in more money for them. We are in line with the Hon’ble PM’s call for Aatmanirbhar Bharat, and as of now, there is no super tool like Superpro.ai in the country that bundles so many advantages together in the domain we are in.
Would you like to throw some light on the startup scenario of the country?
The startup ecosystem in India has grown tremendously in the last 15 years. From having no angel investors, today there are hundreds of them. There are also dedicated schemes for startups, even at the governmental level. It has become very easy to start and operate a new business in India now than it was 10 years ago, with early-stage startups having access to the best of global accelerators with a focus on India. On a lighter note, the younger generation also finds the idea of startups as ‘cool’!
During the late 2000s, Indian startups modelled those in the USA and tried adapting their innovations to the Indian market. However, now we can see newer models emerging from India itself. I recommend startups to utilize the numerous opportunities available today to improve their chances of success. With platforms like Superpro.ai, it is easier for mentors to take out time for founders who need their advice and guidance as well.
How has technology enabled you to scale up your venture?
As I mentioned earlier, Superpro.ai is leading the “Future of Work” trend where professionals will get easy access to the technology, tools, insights and intelligence that has been available only to big businesses till date. Technology forms our DNA and we think in terms of tools. Our aim is to save the minutes that are spent on repetitive tasks and use data to enable professionals to improve their performance and grow their business faster. From the perspective of company operations, we are probably one of the few startups who were working remotely even before COVID-19 forced everybody to function from home. Infact, I am based out of Pune while the rest of my team is from Bengaluru.
Tell us more about your journey so far.
Born in Varanasi, to a lower-middle-class family I am the only son to my parents. I moved through several smaller towns across MP and Chhattisgarh, finally landing in IITB. I credit my worldview to this place where I studied. It was also the place where I caught the startup bug at the age of 19 and since then, there has been no looking back. I was more of a “tinkerer” and had to learn programming to solve the challenges I faced. This is when I realized that I had the knack of picking up “cool” technologies very early on which helped me a lot in all my ventures. I have been lucky enough to pick up key technologies even before they got the fancier buzz words.
I worked with video in 2005/06 hacking gaming GPUs to encode them, and handled sensor data in 2008 when it was called telemetry and later got the name IoT. From 2009, I also worked with tools which were later christened Big Data. While building Innoplexus, we had to solve the challenges of making sense of terabytes of crawled data and analyse images to get meaningful insights. We turned to machine learning around this time and it was in 2016 that we began being called an AI company. We utilized AI to help pharmaceutical companies save the time and effort that goes in drug development by automating repetitive tasks and generating insights from a humongous amount of data without them spending too much time.
Today, at Superpro.ai, I am just continuing the same mission – to help professionals get rid of the repetitive, redundant and boring tasks by using AI. We are helping professionals get control of their data, which is currently spread over different tools, making it impossible for them to measure and improve their performance, and grow their business.
Who has been the inspiration of your life and what were your key takeaways from them?
The biggest inspiration in my life has been my father, who never compromised on his values and integrity to get ahead. He worked hard, helped everybody, faced personal and professional challenges but never let that affect him or his responsibilities towards the family. The next person I look up to is Mr Narayan Murthy, who built a business on strong professional values and made Infosys a global brand. Then there is Elon Musk who has shown how to make counter-intuitive bets work in business, in multiple areas. He is an inspiration to startups worldwide to dream big and execute even bigger.
My key takeaways from all these entrepreneurs is that one should not be self-centred but try to always see the bigger picture. I have also learnt that it is important to focus on how one can serve their team, organization, people and humanity better. Another learning has been around the building and working with a long-term strategy, rather than winning small battles with short-term tactics.
What are some of the challenges that you face on a daily basis? Would you like to share your thoughts on work-life balance for entrepreneurs in general?
Challenges are a part of entrepreneurial life and are important for the growth of the business and the entrepreneur. There have been difficult times in my journey and which continues to do so even now. For instance, there is the challenge of keeping the team motivated in the current times, when everybody is working remotely. I need to ensure that I keep the communication alive while not spending the whole day on calls. There is also the constant dilemma of balancing perfection and progress apart from short and long-term goals in line with what we are doing today and how it relates to where we want to be. Delegating responsibilities efficiently can also become difficult sometimes.
When it comes to ensuring a good work-life balance, I prioritize everything in the following order – Health, Family, Work. I learnt this the hard way after I saw many people around me facing a burnout during their startup journey. We must understand a very basic thing. Forming a startup is a marathon and not a sprint. If you don’t take care of your physical and mental health, it will impact your decision-making ability and affect your relationships, in turn becoming a vicious cycle in the process. All this will ultimately have a bearing on everything you do, including your business.
What are some of your key priorities for your people?
Just like Steve Jobs once said, “Musicians play instruments, I play the orchestra.” My priorities as a leader are to get the best out of every person. I strongly believe that a leader’s job is to build an “A” team and not simply work with one. The difference lies in how a leader can turn an apparent average team member into a superstar. I have done that myself. I can proudly say that I did not just give a job to those who are working with me, but rather helped them build a career. I made an effort to tell them which opportunities to look for, what and how to learn, and always encouraged them to give interviews in the best of companies to help them understand where they need to improve.