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Work experience is essential before MBA

  ..Says, MEHUL GUPTA, Co-founder & Director, SoCheers, a digital marketing agency. This Narsee Monjee alumnus shares with Alolika Banerjee, how his entrepreneurial dreams took shape right from his B-school days.


Q. Can you share with us your journey, before you began your own venture SoCheers?
I have always been a typical Bombay boy completing my schooling, engineering and MBA from the city of my birth itself. However, before my engineering, I went to Kota to prepare for my IIT-JEE. Those two years helped me to get an idea of what a rat race is. It was so intense that I felt I was being swept away by it. It was then that I decided I had to do something with my life that would make me stand out in the crowd. I didn't want to be part of the pack. I wanted to make a difference in whatever way possible.

During college, I took up my first internship at J. Walter Thompson, where I understood the nitty-gritties of an agency. I worked closely on accounts like Mahindra, DSP Blackrock and Ceat Tyres and realised that this could be probably an area where I could make a difference. After college, my first job was at Naaptol, where I had begun my close association with my co-founder at SoCheers, Siddharth. Even though we were in the same college, we became friends at Naaptol and realised that both of us could work together to convert our dreams into a reality. And that's where and how SoCheers was born.

Q. Why did you decide to start your own company in the first place?
Curiosity! I've always had this curiosity to learn more, which was somewhere getting stalled at the companies I worked in, be it my first internship in J Walter Thompson or in the Strategic Alliances Manager role I had at Naaptol. I realised there was so much I wanted to do and give back to the society but couldn't find any avenues to do that while I was confined within a job. I had to get rid of that helplessness and respond to my inner call. I took up the challenge and quit my well-paying job to chase my entrepreneurial dream. Sharing a similar vision with Siddharth added to my confidence in taking that bold step.

What added on to our zeal was the fact that digital industry was booming at that point in time and the market conditions were favourable for start-ups. In such a scenario, re-launching SoCheers in 2013 was one of the best decisions that we took.

Q. What is SoCheers all about?
We initially came up with SoCheers in 2011 as a social networking website - a mash up between Facebook and Google docs for college students to share their projects, connect with friends and share pictures. However, because of certain reasons, we had to shut it down. In 2013, we revived SoCheers as a digital marketing agency.

When we started off, we just had two clients and today, we can boast of a clientele that includes brands like Global Citizen Festival India, Marriott Group of Hotels, Zee, Mahindra Rise, Development Bank of Singapore, Audi (Gurgaon & Delhi Central), Apple (iZenica Delhi), Deltin Group of Casinos & Hotels, Dremel, Phoenix Marketcity, Pensol Engine Oils and a lot more. SoCheers services clients across the globe catering specifically to London and UAE.

Recently, we have forayed into offline marketing by providing services right from designing offline advertising to buying media for radio, hoardings and majorly video production.

Q. What's the USP of SoCheers?
Our first USP is the quality of our service. I think it's this trait that has brought us wherever we are today. No matter how hard we had to push ourselves, we never compromised on the quality of work that we did, from the very beginning. We had challenges during our initial days. There was money, manpower and resource crunch. But we could overcome everything only with our sincerity and commitment to the work that we did.

At this point in time, we promise to give our brands the best, no matter how big or small it is, and meeting their business goals is our only motive. So far, 90% of our clients have come to us through recommendations on the work we've done for our brands. Hence, word of mouth has so far been our most powerful marketing tool.

I feel our second USP is our team. We have an excellent team that executes every idea to perfection. If it hadn't been for our team, I don't think it would have been possible to do half the things that we currently do.

Q. How do you handle the pressure of competition? What's your mantra?
The digital industry is a very cluttered space, yes, but there's always scope for someone who provides quality service to make it to the top. That's what has worked for us and that's something we try and make our teams believe in. High quality service plugged with innovation has helped us handle the pressure and create our own space.

Q. In this business, who are your biggest competitors?
It actually depends on who you count as competitors. For us, we are our own competitors. Whatever we do today, we need to do better tomorrow. That's just how we work.

Q. A day in the life of Mr. Mehul Gupta...
Besides numerous cups of black coffee, my life is all about adding value, even in the smallest of things. I love waking up every morning with a purpose, a list of things to do and to do them differently.

Q. How did an MBA from NMIMS help to shape you as a professional?
Pursuing MBA has taught me to juggle between things that have majorly helped build the company that SoCheers is today. During MBA, I realised the essence of the digital world boom and that in the long run made me conceptualise SoCheers.com.

Though people believe that textbook theories carry least importance in practical world, we've actually sometimes gone back to the MBA textbooks to tackle some situations in our business. Beyond the MBA course curriculum, managing projects on deadlines, passing exams without studying taught us how to outperform in stressful situations.

Q. Do you think MBAs are better equipped to face the corporate challenges than the non-MBAs?
It's all about the perspective. We have some of the best people at SoCheers who are not MBAs. In fact, we don't see scores or mark sheets when we hire people at SoCheers. We see how they perform in different situations and that is the deal breaker for us. However, even then I feel, the two years in a B-school is very essential to provide a corporate training to the budding professionals, to get ready for the real world.

Q. Why do you think this trend of entrepreneurship is catching up lately?
I feel everybody these days is keen to respond to their inner calling. Everybody has that zeal to pursue or become something. I believe this generation is more curious to learn and explore. And their advantage is that their parents themselves had struggled and saved enough to give them a cushioning in case they fell. This is the reason, a lot more people are willing to take the risk and plunge into entrepreneurship. And, I feel, today there are innumerable avenues to explore before we stick to just one domain. On the other hand, the evolution of technology has eased the professional network and ecosystem giving hands to VCs and investors to invest in conventional ideas. A lot more people have a lot more exposure to everything globally and when you look at it from a perspective on what would work in the Indian market, there's a lot that you can bring back.

Q. Your words of advice for the MBA aspirants...
These are some of the best years of your life, make the most of them. Make them count. Do everything possible and if need be don't fear even to fail. And when you fail, learn to keep an open mind - it gives you a perspective which you wouldn't have otherwise gained.