Manan Pandya, Minus 6
“The SMS platform in India is just emerging now. Although it will never outstrip mainstream media, numbers predict it to capture at least 3% of the total advertising spend in India by 2012. That’s a big number for us to be excited about” enthuses Manan.
Minus6 helps companies connect directly with relevant customers through a database of more than 750,000 people across the country. Apart from the fact that their database is highly extensive and deep, what differentiates them from the other players in the same category is the availability of specialty databases such as Super-Affluent Indians, Marketing Professionals in India and others that take targeted marketing to another level. It is also the first SMS advertising provider to be fully compliant to NDNC regulations governing SMS based advertising.
“Be it a local city businessman or a national brand trying to reach out to hundreds of thousands of customers; we saw SMS advertising as a huge opportunity to be that last push that could be leveraged by businesses to bring in customers” says Manan of his service.
From an end users point of view too, targeted SMS advertising spells benefits. Imagine receiving an SMS from a new restaurant in your locality offering a special discount to you on a Sunday evening or your favorite bookstore, inviting you to ‘meet your favorite author’.
Having begun in April 2009, Minus6 admits to have worked with only a few clients in numbers. However they want to use this time to build credibility for their brand in the industry they are in to establish customers who will give them real feedback and refer it to others.
“All that separates our clients from their customers is two beeps on their mobile! We want to work with people who want to participate in our growth story. Our pilot went off better than ours’ as well as our clients’ expectations and we’re now talking to them at a national promotion level as well as scoping repeat business with the five of the seven clients we have worked with.”
Manan has the path to the future worked out clearly. “We intend to shift from a solutions company to a products company as it will enable us to proactively provide our customers with ideas on how to complement SMS advertising with their larger marketing efforts as also help to reduce our minimum average order size and get more businesses to try us out.
The 7 member team based out of Vadodara can also be seen working on making their ordering process very simple where customers will be able to search databases online, generate e-invoices and make payments. All this in less than 10 minutes.
Their vision for 2010 is to see Minus 6 as an inseparable part of media planning presentations within ad agencies. Manan holds a strong belief that SMS as a marketing medium is powerful and personal and hence will work brilliantly to add value to campaigns, influence consumer purchase decisions and push brands all the way to the consumers.
That is the passion that caught our interest, where Manan explains that what drives him to go on is the fact that their clients like what Minus 6 does for them and know that they get more than their money’s worth.
“One of the biggest challenges that any entrepreneur faces during the start-up phase is to garner customer trust. We faced it when we approached our first big client –a large retail chain in India which took us three weeks to get started off on a small pilot.”
Manan admits that keeping the fire on through that time was the most challenging thing that he has had to face this far and yet he says knowingly that giving up is the easier thing to do. “Anyone can do a job, but not everyone can run a business. There are management people who excel in one part of a business – sales, delivery, HR, finance or something else and than there is a local shop-keeper who stitches together all the pieces and manages it with such graceful ease. I just decided that I wanted to be the guy who could do it all. I wanted to be the shopkeeper.”
The advice Manan gives to aspiring entrepreneurs, is to ‘get your idea off the drawing board’; “If you ever wondered how a product ever made it as big, the only way to find out is to experience the joy of creating something on your own and have it appreciated by someone who will also pay money to buy. A high that is unmatched.” Bootstrapping is another advice Manan has for start-ups. “It’s easy for you to lose interest in larger things which seem distant when tactical opportunities keep coming your way, but it’s extremely important not to lose focus on that one deal or client who will give you the volumes to sustain yourself in the longer run.”
On his tryst with entrepreneurship, the only thing Manan regrets is not having started 10 years younger because “I could then be interviewing with you for being the youngest entrepreneur in the country!”