Interviews with Entrepreneurs – Suresh Sambandam of OrangeScape

I have known Suresh for over 4 years. We hang out together in Chennai Open Coffee Club, TiE, NASSCOM events and coffee shops. He is the kind of person, I would like to have beer with. We chat about industry, companies, growth, marketing and many things entrepreneurial. It is always a pleasure to spend time with Suresh. He is one of the most positive jovial persons I have ever met.

OrangeScape is one of the most promising technology companies in Chennai. They build cool stuff and are continuously innovating. Suresh has a great team. His core team members like Mani Doraisamy and Dinesh are big contributors to tech ecosystem in Chennai. When Suresh agreed to do this interview, I was really happy. I think I caught him at the right time. He is back from US for a short while after a product launch and heading back again in a month or so.

So here is Suresh, definitely a source of inspiration to many of us, his fellow entrepreneurs.

What inspired you to become an Entrepreneur?

I started my 1st company with 4 other partners in Cuddalore ( my home town), way back in 1993. I was 20 years old and just got out of school. It was driven by my passion to work on computers and not about making money nor changing the world. We had to close that company (SISS) and I decided work in a corporate environment to understand “business”. Luckily for me I landed in Hewlett-Packard. It was intrapreneurship while I was at HP and it was intrapreneurship++ when I moved to Selectica. I quit Selectica in 2003 to create OrangeScape. Thinking about it now, I feel that there was a streak of entrepreneurship in me.

What products or services do you provide?

We have two offerings:
a) OrangeScape offers Platform as a Services (PaaS) for creating “Business Services and Apps”
b) OrangeScape offers KiSSFLOW a simple and easy workflow-as-a-service for Google Apps Customers

Who are your target customers?

OrangeScape PaaS is targeted to mid to large enterprise customers with $500m+ annual revenues and have an established IT team. OrangeScape’s KiSSFLOW is for Google Apps Customers and targeted towards “process owners” across various departments to build workflow in do-it-yourself style.

How did you get your first paying customer?

Technically, our first customer is Numeric UPS, India’s #1 UPS manufacturer. I owe a lot to Mr. Chellappan, MD of Numeric UPS, for the trust and confidence in us by granting the 1st order worth more than US$25,000.

However, the one that I am most proud of is the deal we closed with Chennai based auto parts manufacturer with 1000 crores of revenue – RANE Group of Companies. Unlike Numeric’s order, which came through personal relationship, this one was hard earned through sales process that too my 1st deal and it was for US$23,000.

What challenges do you face in your business?

Entrepreneurs tend to be natural salespeople and marketing is a discipline that appears as if you know it, but there is a lot to learn in marketing. In this digital age, mastering marketing is key to success. Hence I believe “Marketing” in a big way to our “target” audience with the financial constraints we have, is the biggest challenge.

How do you interact with your peers (both offline and online) ? Do you have mentors or coaches?

I read a lot of blogs of peers and thought leaders. I am a heavy networker and I regularly attend TiE, Chennai Open Coffee Club, NASSCOM and other local events in Chennai/Bangalore.

My first mentor is Mathiazhagan S, my manager at HP and then Ayee Goundan my boss at Selectica who was/is my mentor, coach and more. Half of the professional management skills I have today, I learned by working with Ayee. I owe a lot to him for what I am. Ayee is also the 1st investor in OrangeScape.

What lessons have you learned that you would like to share with others?

In my early career, or even as recent as 4 years ago, I thought “Technology” is the greatest thing. I am a changed person now. “Marketing” is the ultimate thing. With “marketing” one can conquer the world. Good technology is definitely needed but it is “Marketing” that makes good technology’s worth felt. Hence, I request young entrepreneurs to invest in “marketing discipline” (don’t mistake it for marketing activity). This is so important that you can’t delegate and hope things will fall in place. Remember, marketing decides the fate of your company.

Footnote

Suresh is in Chennai for a couple of weeks. I know he is always happy to talk to entrepreneurs. If you have any questions related to  Cloud Space, you can either leave a comment in this blog or contact Suresh.

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