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Vishal Sampat: Founder: Convonix

Vishal caught the entrepreneurial bug early in life. While still in his teens, he launched his first venture, a streaming online music radio service featuring Indian tunes. His latest venture, launched in 2003, is Convonix. It is an Internet marketing firm with more than 35 employees that helps clients enhance their online traffic and get better placement in search engine results. The company has also developed its own Web analytics and campaign management programs.

Adjudged the fourth best young entrepreneur from Asia in Sept 2006 by Business Week, Vishal speaks to Newmedia in an exclusive interview:

What are the range of product and services which” convonix” offers?

Convonix is an internet marketing firm offering search engine marketing (search engine optimization and paid search marketing), web analytics and website usability consultancy.

How & when did you start on your entrepreneurial journey? Please elaborate on your journey so far.

I started at the age of 17. The first venture that I started was an online internet radio in 1999-2000. I started this venture because I felt that there was a huge audience abroad who would be interested in Indian music and, for that matter, in knowing what’s happening back in their own country. We got around six and a half million visitors to this website. This was then followed up with an online teens’ portal khopcha.com, during the dotcom com era.
Convonix Inc. was the result of the research that was carried out to market these first 2 ventures online. In 2003, Convonix Inc. became India’s first dedicated search engine optimization firm providing internet marketing consultancy services to companies in India and abroad.

How did you finance your business?

Convonix was self-funded and profit making since its first year of operation.

Being an entrepreneur, what are the challenges you faced and how have you succeeded in overcoming them?

A few challenges that we faced were mainly regulatory in nature. The lack of transparent procedures and the lack of clarity in information on various laws and regulations made it very difficult initially. Another challenge that we faced was finding the right talent. Being in a very niche field, we require people with a multitude of qualities, which becomes a little difficult to find.

Would you like to highlight people who have inspired you in your business?

Self starters, who started at a very early age and carved out their own path, have always been an inspiration to me. These include people like Bill Gates, Michael Dell and Richard Branson among others.

What are your future plans?

Convonix is one of the very few internet marketing consultancy firms in the world. We cater to a slew of different businesses, ranging from mid-size companies to fortune 500 companies to the new age e-commerce firms. We have partnerships in the US and UK through whom we operate in those markets.

For Convonix, our future plans include adding more of high end value added services such as usability consultancy, custom web analytics and other intelligent platforms that will give an edge to our clients over their competitors.

We also plan to branch out into other domains online and be a facilitator of e-commerce businesses on the www.

What is your methodology of recruiting people and what are some of the key qualities that you look for?

We first conduct a written test for the applicant. This is meant to test his/her communication and logical skills. This is followed by 2 rounds of interviews. The primary qualities that we’re looking for are – passion for what they do, responsible nature, ability to think out of the box, the fire to achieve what they set out to do and perseverance towards the task at hand.

According to you what makes a “Successful Entrepreneur”?

Belief in oneself, perseverance and a great team that can be banked upon in times of crisis.

• What is your outlook on the present economic condition? Has it affected your business? If yes, how?

I guess everyone needs to be careful and take calculated risks at all times, more so when the economic scenario is unpredictable. I believe attrition rates that were plaguing the industry will come down and salary rise expectations will be more muted. That is positive in the overall scheme of things.

We’re seeing clients pushing back plans for new projects. However, we haven’t seen a major slowdown in our niche and haven’t seen any substantial impact on our business thus far.

The Government of India claims to have taken several initiatives to promote SMEs. What are your expectations?

My expectations and hope is that there be more clarity in the schemes announced in terms of regulations and processes. Often, the schemes look great on paper, but are impractical to implement. We also see that many a times the concerned government departments are themselves not clear about the benefits that are offered under a scheme and this results in benefits not being passed down to those it was intended for.

Please share the lessons learnt from your business for the benefit of our new entrepreneurs.

1 – Believe in yourself and your dream. You cannot convince other people to believe in your dream if you cannot do that yourself.

2 – Build a great team. Identify the right people whom you can trust, share your ideas and have the fire to achieve and then get them onboard.

3 – Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Play to your strengths, get others on your team to fill in for your weaknesses. You will achieve more that way

4 – Persevere – There will be days when the entire world would seem to be against you and everything that can go wrong will go wrong. That is when you need to relentlessly keep working at your goals.

5 – Keep things simple – Grand business plans and fancy capital raising ideas are not going to get you anywhere. Initially, take one step at a time. Start small, keep it simple and keep building slowly. Capital is easy to raise once your venture gathers steam and gains momentum.