Focus On Finding Your Niche
Devin MillerThe Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Focus On Finding Your Niche
The Inventive Journey
Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.
Get New Episodes
Get 2 brand-new podcast episodes sent to you every week!
ai generated transcription
um when you're starting a company you don't need to decide what you're going to be rather than you you should actually focus on what is really going to sell and can you really add value pretty much and in the process can you learn and it's obvious that you have dreams and aspirations and if they're very big uh you know to create like you know very large company then focus on finding basically something that is very unique that you're going to do and if you don't find it and if you still have that really great ambition stop like you it's okay to close down the business right if your ambitions but if it is not then know in your heart that you still have built a company and have gone through the same pain what you know probably somebody who built facebook or google has gone through [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host evan miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown several startups in the seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law where you help startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks if you ever need help with yours just go to strategymeeting.com and we're always here to help now today we have another great guest on the podcast nikhil joshi and uh nikhil was born in india and uh has a background in industrial engineering um started off in that industry and started working or started a company right out of college i think that was about 15 years ago and decided they wanted to grow so grew a team and then eventually moved to the us as a part of that growth the business model was heavily service based and made it a bit harder to sell so moved more to a product model instead of a service model and that has been able to increase uh the a bit of the revenue as and also a bit of the direction and then the kill has moved back and forth i think uh been himself between the u.s and india and i think he's now in the us but he could frankly wear wrong but by necessitation of how the company is grown and evolved so with that much as an introduction welcome on the podcast thank you thank you so much for having me absolutely so now i've taken a much longer journey and condensed it into a 30-second version so let's unpack that just a bit so with that you know tell us a little bit how the journey got started in india for you and getting your getting your background in in industrial engineering so i think i was in my final year of industrial engineering and i think there was an interview for a job that i'd applied for and it was a sales job they asked me all technical questions and it kind of didn't feel right so i said hey you know maybe we need to do i need to do industrial engineering myself and we just said let's start a company so back then it was uh a classmate and mine uh we we said just let's be contract industrial engineers and that's how the whole idea grew and we spoke to some of our professors uh some of our friends and nobody was really taking the entrepreneur route uh so everybody told us nice things on our face but i'm pretty sure everybody's saying like these guys have gone mad so that's how we started and i think pretty much in the first few months we realized that we had no experience so we kind of didn't know what we were doing but that sort of pushed us even hard to get back to you know going deep in terms of what we could do how we could work and what services we could provide and we kind of looked at the industry more with an eye of implementation rather than the eye of what we probably studied back in college and that's how it all started what yeah no that's definitely interesting now one one question to kind of follow up on that is you know when you're getting it sounds like you pregnant wrong when you were you basically graduated from school and said hey we want to start a business we think we can do it we're going to get going you know was that in retrospect you know give or i'll back it up just a bit so if i were when i graduated from law school i thought that would have sounded interesting and yet i would have been worried that i didn't have quite enough expertise or experience or mentorship or kind of seeing what others are to make that leap directly so is it more of just hey we you know we're going to figure this out along the way we really want to do a uh in a startup and do our own thing we don't want to work for someone else or is it more of just uh hey you know what else is out there doesn't interest us in the workfield we're going to do it or kind of what made you decide just kind of from hey we're going to get a degree and we're going to dive right into doing our own business it was a bit of both uh and primarily the latter that you mentioned that hey we're not really seeing uh what's out there in the market might be good uh like you know what i personally wanted to do but uh also the idea was not very big right like if you see today's startups uh you know the unicorns the funding there's a excuse me there's a lot of process uh that is attached to starting up a company and back then uh we didn't have any of that and our idea was pretty much so small to say that hey i just hope we can take what we know uh technically to multiple manufacturing companies rather than just you know uh being in one environment day in day out uh that's that kind of maybe sounded boring to us and we just didn't want to be bored uh maybe that was all up to it and i think when you're 22 you don't think too much you say let's try and see worst case you know you'll get back to whatever it is that everybody's doing and the today when i reflect back i think uh the ability to take risks that time uh was more about how much willpower you pretty much had and if you have been bought up in an environment where you've been thought like persistence willpower these kind of things you're not really going to shy away from taking risks and i think that was the foundation that whether it was our college whether it was family or it was our community we pretty much i at least grew up in that kind of an environment where nobody stopped me from taking risks and i think that that was uh instrumental uh in we just taking that decision so easily to say hey let's let's just try this no i i think that you know i first of all think it's admirable because you know too often you get out and you're saying oh i want to be risk averse or i don't want to do these things and then you always kind of it becomes kind of one of that putting it in the sunday pile in other words someday i'll get to it you never really get to it because you get bogged down with life or you have a family have kids you you become more risk averse than anything else and so i think that a lot of times do trying something out once you're just coming out of college when hey you have a lot less you know uh family to worry about or kids to worry about you don't have as many obligations if you fail great you'll pick yourself up you'll go find another job or you'll do a different business and it makes it you know gives you that ability to navigate and try things out a lot more than you might later on down the road so i think that definitely makes a great sense so you come out and you say okay we're going to do this we're going to try this if we if if it's successful that's awesome that's what we want to do if it fails so be it then we'll do something else and so as you're getting started out and as you're kind of building that initially how did it go was it something where you're able to start to get customers and get clients and you're able to build a reputation was it more of hey it was a long hard slog and it was eating you know the beans and rice so to speak and sleeping on the floor as you get it going because you know you're not making a lot of money you're kind of how did that progression go as you started to get going yeah i i remember uh this story uh or this incident you know which happened with me in the first two weeks of the business because that really shaped as to how i had to start thinking about the company right uh so uh i made a few calls and finally somebody gave me an appointment they made me sit outside like for an hour uh and then finally they called me and like it was almost lost that hey why are you here and i sort of gave him our company brochure and um you know uh he he he heard me for like 10 minutes and they said how old are you my son and that whole response like kind of startled me because he was not really taking me as a professional we just thought i am some kid who just walked in and was trying to do something that actually taught us a lot or at least personally taught me a lot that hey you know i need to go more prepared um so those early days like i used to even like keep like a french beard just to look a little old just because you know manufacturing uh is primarily basically a lot of very seasoned experienced people uh were there at that time as we see a lot of youngsters now uh you know taking to manufacturing and so long story short in the first three or four months our attitude was pretty much that hey we'll do whatever it is all we knew was that we need to be in that manufacturing environment because those are our customers and the more we could basically spend time in those environment um you know we would learn and uh with that attitude when we went uh people basically said that hey you know we don't have that thing that you're offering but we'd like we are we're looking for somebody to do something else but uh uh we are not finding anybody do you know i said we'll do it for you uh so it kind of started off like that and that sort of at least paid our bills in the first few months but we did not lose focus from what we wanted to do so i think it took about six months where we really landed our first deal which was like our core services product that we wanted to offer and that kind of got us going uh from there so uh but we did not uh uh the the only midnight oil that we were burning like was on learning uh so i would if i if i'm doing like you know six seven hours or eight hours of let's say either building a website or talking to customers or you know working on a project or trying to basically garner class which is your day-to-day recurring execution stuff i was almost spending eight nine hours uh reading studying getting back to my books trying to really make sense of whatever i'd learned and putting how do i put it into application given the fact that you know i started the company you know with zero industry experience um also uh you know we started uh snic solutions pretty much uh bootstrapped and uh you know we i took some money my dad gave me some money uh and he said don't ask again uh you but he did say that you know you don't need to worry about the house for like three years uh so that that was like a little bit of cushion that he gave but which allowed me that whatever we earned from the business we got an opportunity to invest back in the business so those were some good uh opportunities that we got which allowed us to focus purely on learning and growing the business and remain focused no i think that that definitely makes sense and sounds like uh exciting journey along the way now help me because i know we talked a little bit uh as you know as we were before the podcast and then talked a little bit about your journey but there was a bit of a a couple things a pivot in transition is things were growing to between you know being located in india versus being located in the u.s and there was also a bit of a pivotal adjustment from services to products so kind of how did that fit into your journey and kind of how did that go or how what necessitated that and how did that go uh that's a great question so then what happened was that when we started the company we we pretty much just wanted to be industrial engineers and essentially when we started uh the only way we could start off you know with the low-cost uh investment was you know just offer services because it's pretty much our time that we are offering when we started doing one of the understanding that we got was that it's too time consuming and uh it also if if we need to have some sort of a scalability you just can't basically have service models with human capital um also from the industry side like what was the need of the hour for manufacturing was that um things were becoming more and more complex in manufacturing for our customers uh like you know if you see today right like you want to go and buy a shirt uh 20 years ago you know your options were limited but today like you know right from the fabric to the color to the customization uh that whole customization for manufacturing has just made doing manufacturing more and more complex so our customers were expecting us to be fast they were expecting us to be efficient and that's where we kind of said that hey you know how uh what does what does our customer need and that kind of was the thumb rule that allowed us to you know make pivots in life or in the last 15 years that we have made and our first pivot pretty much came in the first year where the customer said that look uh when i budgeted the whole project i said we'll need one and a half years to do that and they said we don't have one and a half years you got three months and that kind of inspired us to say okay how do we leverage technology and we started getting into reselling software uh but as we started going like about three years into the business we realized that there are some rare really complex problems to solve in manufacturing and uh that kind of don't need just like plug and play software like you know how we just use windows excel or powerpoint we can just buy the license and start using it you kind of need more like platforms and then you understand the customers requirement and sort of kind of implement uh to their needs and so that business is that the business model there is more of a system integration business model it's still a services model but it requires a good amount of technical expertise to deliver what the customer is looking for so that was our first pivot and then as we started getting more experience and i sort of moved from being more of a hands-on person to having a team we had other problems too or challenges to tackle to say you know how do we keep the knowledge uh how do we make sure that you know we can do more of these and that kind of uh speared us into that hey uh we're using basically somebody else's platform we're giving these services uh it's all fine but uh companies uh are looking to do more of this and that's where we started pivoting to product to say that what can what is the intellectual property that we could build with just you know crashes the service time if we are taking today six months can we do this in like you know four months or later can we do it in three months so that kind of led to the next level of pivot to say that hey we need to have some intellectual property uh fast forward today to 2021 uh especially from post covid um the the challenge that uh is there like if you you must have been seeing in the news right about all the supply chain issues etc so the industry is pretty much uh fragmented in some people really needing some things very fast and some people don't mind waiting you know even if it is for a year and with the with that kind of case we are now going to another pivot where it's pretty much hybrid in nature where we would have intellectual property but we would also have to give services and some of them who have capacity in the hand they would just choose to just do it themselves uh given all this it allowed us to say hey we probably now need to take the next level of pivot to say that we need to decide on a business model that now works for us for the next 10 years and that's how now we are pivoting to say that you know how do we productize more of what we know so that the customer has the option to choose what they want rather than you know we telling them that this is how you need to work with us and that's how the pivots have been more from a technical side from a personal side the pivots have pretty much been like i was i was the i was the janitor and i was the ceo when i started the company and i'm now being asked that hey you can't attend this meeting you please stay away from this meeting you have to behave like a ceo it kind of it's it's it's kind of tough for uh uh someone like me who is like just being around uh being so hands-on uh but i think that's the learning and the pivot that as a small business entrepreneur i would give my two cents to any other business entrepreneur who is trying to scale or who's trying to grow his company that you need to basically let things go uh you know if you need to grow no and i think that that and we'll maybe we'll we'll leave that one as just the one piece of advice so we'll circle back to that when we uh do the the one or one of the questions at the end and we'll kind of as a perfect transition or segway kind of hit on those now because i think that that brings us really up just being you know an interesting journey and interesting how to you know how things progress and how products and services progress and locations and that all evolve as the business grows and as you have to adjust the adjust things to grow with the business so with that let's go ahead and we can jump right now to the to the questions i asked at the end of each episode so the first question i'm going to ask is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what'd you learn from it one of the worst business decisions that i made was uh more uh initial in my uh in my journey where uh uh there was a point in time where we got like a couple of large projects and then uh we said we are not gonna invest in a team you know we'll just do this by ourselves and uh we we didn't try to create an organization we were thinking more that you know if i am one person i'll just have like two or three other people just like me who would do the work uh and we didn't think of the entire thing more as an organization to d skill have a junior engineer have somebody senior overlook have somebody project manage um and and and those projects just overnight became tough because that's the kind of an organization and set up that it needed for us to do those projects as well as uh uh you know scale as a company and i think that was one of the worst decisions that i took because uh i was thinking more like uh a doer and not uh uh like a manager or a leader uh and it actually it actually put us back like a few years uh uh in terms of where we could have been today uh and i would say that's that's that's that's one of the worst things uh that happened in the past to me no and i think that you know that's an easy mistake to to make and one that we often do and i've made it with some of my businesses because you know one is you always tell yourself like you know one i can save money and i'll get it done myself or two i can get this done quicker than i do it would take to train someone else or bring someone else on and yeah what you end up doing is hampering the business because now you're putting your time and effort on the things that you could reasonably offload or other people could do or could assist with and you're not able to focus on other aspects of the business where you can really drive that value so i think that it's one where it's a natural hey having to step back and say how can i add the most value to the business and where is my time best spend then you're going to have to bring people onto off center to do those other things that maybe your time isn't best spent doing so i think that that's both a mistake that's certainly understandable and one that is a great take away yeah second question was asked which is what you kind of already touched on but maybe uh or we can dive in just a bit deeper which is if you're going to talking to somebody that's just getting into a startup or a small business what would be the one piece of advice you give them um i one of the things i've always uh like a lot of people write to me on linkedin they say hey fantastic story etc and then the moment i tell them that look you know it's uh we we are still small business after 15 years and their instant reaction is why are you still small uh why are you not like a unicorn etc and everybody who's starting a startup is kind of in the more that you know they really want to build a very very large business and i always tell them that uh you can build a large business you know if there's that much kind of demand and if you hit on something like you know which nobody else is doing but the entire business community is not made of that if you see the largest business community is made of small business entrepreneurs much like me and many others so one of the advices that i always hear people who talk to me and reach out to me is that when you're starting a company you don't need to decide what you're going to be rather than you you should actually focus on what is really going to sell and can you really add value pretty much and in the process can you learn and it's obvious that you have dreams and aspirations and if they're very big you know to create like you know very large company then focus on finding basically something that is very unique that you're going to do and if you don't find it and if you still have that really great ambition stop like you it's okay to close down the business right if your ambitions but if it is not then know in your heart that you still have built a company and have gone through the same pain what you know probably somebody who built facebook or google has gone through there's no drift difference uh so that's uh that's one thing i would say and the other other thing that i can share from my personal experience is um one of one of our customers uh ceo had sent had i told me at at a very early stage uh during my journey of entrepreneurship i think this was the first three years of our business and uh one of them said that you know nikhil my fear is that you started the business and you're going to probably quit in three years and go and join a job uh and another one basically told me was [Music] that uh you know take care of your business because 90 of the businesses fail because of bad financial management and both these basically have stayed back with me because i've always made sure that you know we managed our finances well as well as basically you know i did not give an impression to my customers that i'm just going to quit because i used to look young and i had so many aspirations so these two kind of stand out uh uh for me and i'd i'd really say that uh you know starting uh entrepreneurs or anybody who's getting into a startup uh needs to think of this in my case it's a funny story darren that the first three years when i was handling the whole business myself was very bad with finance and then i got married and i happened to have my wife who had you know a good background in finance and when she took over those responsibilities we we kind of could see basically the difference in you know we're starting to grow and starting to see money uh and i would highly recommend that if you're bad at finance then yeah get a partner uh who really complements you with the financial capabilities no i think that that is uh definitely a great uh great advice and a great takeaway that uh people can get started with so well perfect well now as we wrap up if people want to uh reach out to you they want to connect up and they want to be a customer they want to be a client they want to be an employee they want to be an investor they want to be your next best friend and you're all about what's the best way to reach out to you contact you find out more uh anyway uh our company is snic solutions uh so uh i am available on linkedin uh with my linkedin details being linkedin.com uh slash nikhil k joshi uh as well as you could email me just with uh nikhil.joshi at snic solutions.com if anybody is looking for any advice or any questions and i'm very active on quora to answer questions uh especially related to industrial engineering just for the larger community uh or even basically on startups or entrepreneurship so if there are questions that could help a larger community i pretty much you know take that question take those questions on quora but yeah this is where amy if there are customers i don't know uh a better thing rather than to reach out to me it's better to write to sales at snic solutions.com given the stage we are at uh my vp of business developments are going to tell me that nikhil you're not taking those sales calls so uh that would be nice that if they could uh reach out with their inquiries uh at sales at snic solutions.com all right well i definitely encourage people to reach out to out to you contact you and uh you know use your services uh become an employee and or just making your best friend so that sounds great so well thank you again for coming on the podcast it's been a fun it's been a pleasure now for all of you that are listeners make sure to uh if you first of all if you have your own journey to share and you'd like to share it feel free to go to inventiveguest.com we'd love to have you on the podcast and share your journey um also make sure to like subscribe and share and leave us a review for the podcast we want to make sure that everyone finds out about all these awesome episodes and the great journeys of all these uh entrepreneurs and uh and startups so um now with that uh if you also in addition to uh liking sharing sharing podcasts if you ever need help with any of your patents or trademarks feel free to go to inventor go to strategymeeting.com and grab some time with us to chat we're always here to help thank you again for coming on the podcast uh nikhil and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thanks devin for having me