SRV Media was founded by Rohit Prasad and Vikram Kumar in 2011, with zero external financial assistance. The duo launched SRV with the aim of delivering comprehensive digital solutions to optimize business performance across a diverse category of industries. Over the past five years, they have expanded to serve 120 clients with a team of more than 65 focused digital marketing professionals. They boast of a 99.9% client retention rate today.
In 2016, the duo also launched ‘EaseBuzz’, a payment gateway that permits easy setup and access for online entrepreneurs, with minimal documentation.
This is an exclusive interview with Vikram on The Times Blog, as a part of the #TimesStories initiative.
From left to right : Mr. Rohit Prasad, Co- Founder & Director, and Mr. Vikram Kumar, Co-Founder & Director, SRV Media and EaseBuzz Pvt. Ltd.
What brought you and Rohit together in business, and what prompted you to start SRV Media?
Rohit and I met during our second year at Symbiosis. Both of us hailed from middle-class families in Bihar, and we were both equally ambitious. Neither of us had any familial business pedigree, and we wanted to do something memorable with our lives.
Back in 2012, we had the idea to launch a tech-enabled startup which would help other businesses in growing. We saw some of their major problems first-hand, especially for startups in the education sector. We understood the gap between their target audiences (youngsters who were feverish about social media) and their brand (they were extremely digitally agnostic at the time). We felt we could bridge this gap with a mix of the right content and digital marketing solutions. We would help these businesses with insightful data that allowed them to understand their audience’s digital footprint. We launched SRV, started with a few customers, and saw enough value to propel us to 200% scale soon.
When did you launch SRV Media, and what challenges did you face initially while going about it?
SRV Media was launched in April 2011. There were many challenges that we faced as entrepreneurs. One of the biggest challenges was creating a good team. Since we were bootstrapped, we had limited funds to hire the right talent from the market. Reliability was another major issue. A vast majority of the digital marketing firms in Pune didn’t have a complete solution, and many of their customers were skeptical before releasing big ticket-size projects. Another major challenge was the deployment of technology solutions amidst a lack of external funds. But we fought through it.
How did your family react when you told them you wanted to start your own business?
Since most of my family members are from a non-business background, they were not okay with the idea of me launching my own business. They were afraid of what would happen if my business failed. So I didn’t tell them about my plans initially. I told them I was working for a different startup that had offered me a ‘hike’. When I had a decent revenue stream with a regular set of clients, I told them about it and they were happy once they realized I was financially stable. It took them about 7 to 8 months to get adjusted to the fact though!
How important was the acquisition & targeting of a niche audience segment in your category? How did you go about it?
Our audience acquisition was defined by the industry that we had chosen to serve. The education sector is pretty niche, and we focused on reaching out to differently sized players in the market with a trial-and-error campaign. We learnt along the way, made improvements to our pitch, until both us and our clients were comfortable with the proposition.
It was an amazing learning experience for us.
Was there ever a time when you felt overwhelmed and unable to continue? What made you continue? What kept you motivated at your worst moments?
Yes, of course, there were times when I felt we couldn’t do this anymore. The penetration of digital services in the education sector was very low, and often our efforts would go unnoticed completely. Sometimes, the fruits of our labor were credited to print media. We didn’t have the right infrastructure to track conversions for our clients, and their budgets wouldn’t budge! We went through cash crunches, fell low on motivation, but never ran out of faith.
Even when we were faced with ardent losses, we kept our focus strong in delivering exceptional work to our clients, seeking referrals among them (which worked a long way for us!) and ensured that there was no shortfall from our side.
Are there specific influences who have inspired you in your entrepreneurial journey?
We have been inspired and mentored by Dr. Ramakrishnan Raman. When we were studying at SCIT, he was the director of the institute. He is presently the director of SIBM. He guided us whenever we showed signs of losing hope of being an entrepreneur. He has immensely contributed towards the establishment of SRV and EaseBuzz, and our respective success stories. Even now, his words guide us in our operations, recruitment and expansion.
What are the Top 3 Business Takeaways that you did not know when you first started out?
At the start, I used to believe that you needed business pedigree of the likes of the Birlas or Ambanis to make it big. Over time, I learnt that this isn’t true. The three things I now know to be true make-or-break elements, are:
1. Hard work
What advice would you give to your ten-year younger self, if given an opportunity?
Dear Vikram Then,
Don’t give up! Things might look tough now, and you might feel that it won’t work out for you, but it will. Just keep trying till you can see your ray of hope.
Any advice to aspiring education entrepreneurs?
You need to stay updated about the tech in your business at every point. Don’t rely on existing tech and keep researching! It’s okay if you don’t know something. When we started, we didn’t even know about AI or Data Science, or the concept of custom analytical tools. But we caught up. The business of running a business… it teaches you everything. You will always keep learning, and the only thing you can’t do, is "give up".
What kind of businesses/services do you wish were available in the market today, to help you reach your business goals faster?
We need newer display ad-networks (other than Google) that can monetize content for publishers better.
How much of a role does consumer marketing/publicity play in your business segment? What are the key challenges that you have faced so far?
Publicity plays a major role in any domain. It can take you from scratch to zenith. A great brand repute adds value to any business, and you will be flooded with requests and recommendations if you have the right share of voice. But there are challenges such as media polarization, arbitrary monetization of media platforms, etc - which still plague us. Everyone needs a good media outreach solution with discernible returns and targeted footprint.
Is there anyone whom you want to thank?
It has to be Dr. Ramakrishnan Raman. We never thought we would make it big, and he always knew. He also gave us our first client (Symbiosis) and led us onto platforms and events where we would find the right audience for our business.
Aside from this questionnaire, is there any heartfelt insight/story that you wish to share with our readers?
During the second paid assignment of our lifetime, we were supposed to convert leads for an Executive MBA programme. The target was clear, to convert digital leads to 25 of the total 40 seats in the programme. We secured about 15 paid leads initially, with a bad drop ratio. With two days left, we closed at 22 leads and felt miserable.
We were called for an explanation by the director of the institute, and that point we asked for a short extension, and expanded our campaign to include offline BTL activities. Rohit and I, and a few of my colleagues personally pitched in (standing) outside Cognizant, Infosys and other IT campuses to hand out brochures that linked back to the campaign. Within a 10-day extended effort, we were able to reach 130 candidates, 75 of whom showed up for the interview.
For the first time ever, the institute was actively rejecting clients, as they had just 40 seats to fill. That will remain one of our most glorious memories. Bottomline? Try your hardest when it seems you’re just about to fail.
The Times RapidFire
Name One book that you would recommend today, without blinking.
Answer: Secrets Of Karma.
An original quote for your loyal customers?
“I would like to thank all my loyal customers through this platform. Had it not been for them, this journey and growth would not have been possible!"
Do you operate with goals, or systems? Pick one.
Cricket, or no Cricket?
Print, or Digital?
And finally... what comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘The Times Blog’?