Started by Shantanu Jain and Shubham Mishra, Sterling Media Labs is an IT service-based company located in Bangalore, Karnataka. In an exclusive interaction with Revolutionary Startups, Shantanu reveals how he built his business.
At a glance
Startup: Sterling Media Labs
Founder: Shantanu Jain and Shubham Mishra
The year it was founded: 2018
Shubham Verma representing Revolutionary Startups (SV): Why does Sterling Media Labs focus on small businesses?
Shantanu Jain (SJ): Every other company is focused on catching the big fish. No one is focusing on small and local businesses. Our aim is to help MSMEs grow their presence online. Today, traditional business cards have been replaced with websites and small businesses need to have a website that’s professional and actionable in order to survive. We assist them with designing their website, hosting their website and improving the website from time-to-time.
SV: Shantanu, eCommerce solutions is one of the most competitive markets. There are big names like Flipkart and Amazon which are trying to bring the local business online. How do you face these competitors?
SJ: Yes, Flipkart and Amazon are trying to bring local businesses online but it’ll be a long time before all of these businesses are ready to trust these brands. When you have a small business, you’re generally managing everything on your own. Sometimes the owners don’t even know how to use the internet properly. How do you think they’ll just trust giants like Amazon and Flipkart? They feel comfortable in working with us—we’re physically present to solve their problems, answer their questions and provide them with the knowledge they need. Are you aware of the fact that 97% of shoppers search for local services/businesses online? That’s almost all of your customers going online to search for a value that you can provide. If you’re not online, you’re already losing clients to your competitors.
SV: There are several companies that offer the same type of services that you do. What makes you different?
SJ: It’s common knowledge that every product and service that exists today can be replaced. To retain customers you can only provide them with excellent customer service. We do this in many forms. For starters, our clients are not expected to pay us anything until their product is delivered to them. From buying the domain name to designing the website, building the hosting portal, and logo design—we bear all the costs. Even after the project is delivered, we will not accept money if our client is unsatisfied. Additionally, we host their websites for a period of 6-months so that they can see how their websites are performing and make any required changes along the way.
SV: How did you come up with this business idea?
SJ: Like my friends, I enrolled myself in college. I had no plan and I used to think I’ll see where life takes me. However, it only took me a few days to realise attending lectures all day wasn’t my cup of tea. Fortunately, 2 of my classmates felt the same way. It wasn’t before long that we became fast friends and started exploring our options.
SV: What happened next?
SJ: All three of us didn’t want to rush into anything. We continued to study half-heartedly until a year later, we decided to launch our own company.
SV: What was your biggest challenge?
SJ: Since we started when we were still in college, none of us had any prior knowledge about how to run a business. To compensate, we missed lectures and slept for 4-5 hours to gain more knowledge. We stayed awake discussing strategies and brainstormed on how to proceed further. It was a constant struggle to manage both our studies as well as our future plans. When we had finally managed to secure a client, we decided to work for free. This client was reputed and well-connected. If they liked our work, we’d be recommended to a lot of other clients. We thought of this as a marketing expense and gave our best shot. By the end of the project, the client was overjoyed and helped us secure more clients.
SV: How is your company performing financially?
SJ: It’s only been a hear and a half since we’ve started our company. Our company’s revenue for the previous year was 10 lacs.
SV: Shantanu, how has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business?
SJ: Our business has been directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since we only cater to small and local businesses, we are unable to meet our targets. All the small stores have been forced to closed and some of them are unsure if they’ll be able to survive the pandemic. Since they have limited savings, some of them, I’m afraid might be wiped out.
SV: What inspired you to launch a start-up and not opt for a traditional job?
SJ: I belong to a business class family. Both my father and my brother are renowned businessmen so I believe it was in my genes. I was confused after high-school finished and even went to Kota and got enrolled in an IIT institute/coaching. It didn’t work out for me and I decided to enrol myself in BMS Institute of Technology and Management, Bengaluru.
SV: What do you think of your team?
SJ: We’re a small but powerful team. Shubham Mishra handles the technical bits while Divyanshu handles the creative bits. I’m fortunate to have team members that have the same vision as me and are ready to work for hours at a stretch. Nothing comes before work for any of us.
SV: You must have a diverse client base. Any luck with foreign clients?
SJ: Absolutely! We’ve managed to fetch a couple of projects.
SV: What about the future of your company? Where do you see it in, say, 10 or 20 years?
SJ: We always wanted to segment ourselves into the product-based market so we will definitely be transitioning towards products in a few years.
SV: Who’s your favourite leader?
SJ: I’m inspired by Elon Musk not because of the way he is but because of his management styles.
SV: Before we wrap up this interview, what’s your advice to young students who have ideas but hesitate in implementing them?
SJ: My advice to such students is that it’s the correct time for you to put your wheels in motion. You don’t have to support your parents now, you aren’t married, you basically don’t have any responsibility. Experiment and explore as much as you can because you will never find the time later on.
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