Our today's guests for special "eChai with Husband-Wife Entrepreneurs" are Sarthak Dudhara & Bhakti Padia Dudhara, Co-Founders, Aubergine Solutions - a specialized UI/UX Design Agency and Software development company.
Sarthak Dudhara is currently the Director/CTO at Aubergine Solutions Pvt. Ltd. He has a diverse experience of working with large enterprises like eBay to being a critical team member of a small financial startup (truaxis Inc., which got acquired by Mastercard). He loves engineering software products and currently is in the business of service clients to build beautifully designed and engineered products. Sarthak also specializes in Search Backend engineering and loves helping clients with their search problems. He has a Masters in Computer Science from University of Texas at Dallas and a Bachelors degree in Information Technology from Nirma Institute of Technology, Ahmedabad.
Bhakti is the director/Chief Design Officer at Aubergine Solutions Pvt. Ltd. Bhakti has a passion for designing user experiences that stand out. She makes sure that the product is designed to make the user's experience super smooth and makes using the product a pleasure. She has designed interfaces for consumer to enterprise applications and has a passion to continuously improve upon her work. She proudly leads the design team at Aubergine.
She has a Masters degree in Multimedia Design from DA-IICT and a Bachelors degree in Information Technology from Nirma Institute of Technology, Ahmedabad
Here is the insightful and candid conversation with Sarthak & Bhakti. Join the conversation to ask any specific questions to Sarthak & Bhakti.
Early Years : When did it first strike you to begin this venture and why? Your Eureka Moment (the moment you decided to be an entrepreneur).
We always had a dream of starting up our own venture. It was about timing it and when to start it. Bhakti always wanted to design for a variety of products and hence she decided to start her own UI/UX consulting firm. I was also motivated to do something on my own. Thus, Aubergine Solutions Pvt. Ltd. was born. :-)
Business Venture : What is your business model and what problems does it solve? What are market opportunities? How is it different from your competitors? How do you generate revenues ?
The business right now is Web/Mobile User Experience Design and Software Development. We managed to have a few clients from our previous contacts before we started the company. That helped bootstrap and have revenue from day zero.
We believe market opportunity for beautifully designed user experiences is huge. An algorithmically beautiful solution designed badly will never be very successful in this day and age. We've taken our learnings from building world-class products at Silicon Valley in California and offer it to startups/large enterprises.
World class UI/UX designers are a rare breed in Ahmedabad, event hough the nation's best design school is here. Same goes for writing a piece of code v/s engineering it. There are plenty of software developers out there, but not enough 'engineers'. We aim to fill these voids to build world-class products.
We are trying our hands with a product with a crude prototype and trying it out in Private Alpha with some customers.
Sales : How did you make your first sale and how much time it took you from starting up to closing the first sale ? How long is your sales cycle ?
Not really applicable for our consulting business. We have clients from day 1. In fact, one of our very first clients convinced Bhakti to take up his project.
For our product, we are trying it out in a Free Private Alpha with a few customers to gather learnings and improve it. Not really reached the sales cycle yet.
Company Culture : What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
We have tried to get all the positives from our experience working in California, USA. No restrictions on sites like 'facebook' or use of cell phones, no clock-in/clock-out, having a pantry full of snacks for all employees, playing indoor games in our small office, discourage staying over late at work or work on holidays, etc. We try to hire 1 smart guy instead of 4 average ones. Hiring A players is very important for any companies. This way the employees also feel that they are able to learn something from their colleagues, which is very important for the personal and professional growth.
Hiring - How did you hire your first employee ? And in general what's your hiring policy ? How important have good employees been to your success?
I was in the US then and Bhakti had already moved back to India. First employee was hired through a yahoo group (as 1990s as it sounds). Bhakti posted this requirement on a 'designindia' yahoo group and she got a few resumes. We really liked one guy from Bangalore, who was an Ahmedabad native. Had a couple of phone calls and design exercises and narrowed down on hiring him. He is into his 2nd year working with us.
Learning : How did you handle your disappointments and failures?
I would term not bagging some projects as failures, but that would be lying to myself. In retrospect, it was great that we didn't get it since the client was more worried about the cost factor than quality work. It is not fun to work with such clients. So, to answer your question, we try to take out the positives from the whole experience and be sure we don't repeat the mistake or try to identify the clients that are bad for us.
Vision: What's your vision for your venture. What do you want to accomplish in your life ? What are your future aspirations?
Future aspirations definitely include building a product of some value and contribute in some meaningful way. Rest will follow. Also, always deliver ground breaking user experiences for whatever projects we take up and stand out from the crowd.
Risks : Which was the boldest decision you ever made to have this venture work?
Leave our lucrative jobs in California, US for an uncertain future back in India. We trusted our guts and instincts to go through with this. We have been lucky to bag clients from our previous network right from day 1, so that reduced the risk a bit.
Also following questions are for both of you. We would love to get answers from both of you.
Partnerships: What are your views about having your spouse as the co-founder in your venture ? How do you overcome when you have a difference of opinion on work front ? How do you manage that :-)
Sarthak: Accessibility to your co-founder at any time is the greatest advantage. Difference of opinion is worked out by open discussions about pros and cons and sharing the insights. Important thing is to stay open to change despite a difference of opinion. Trust your partner's instincts.
Bhakti: Best thing is that we jump into any conversation spontaneously. This helps in avoiding delay of decision making. Difference of opinion is actually a healthy thing to have if you want to grow. The key here is to have an open mind, listen, discuss and then come to a collective conclusion.
Work-Life Balance: How do you find a balance between work family and social life?
Sarthak: Whether its work/family/social, we know that X needs to be done and we have a protocol about who is responsible for what. If The task priority is of utmost importance and has to be done, both come together and get it done. Having grand-parents help with baby sitting our 1-year-old helps a lot too.
Bhakti: Sharing the responsibility is the key. Getting it done is the goal. Who did it, doesn't really matter. Each one of us is responsible for a set of tasks but if one person is unable to finish it the other one picks it up.
Finding a partner is tough, let alone finding a Life partner - how did you meet up for the first time ? What' your story ?
Sarthak: Bhakti will tell it better. :-)
Bhakti: We were very good friends in College days. One thing we had in common is the definition and expectations of a partner. More than Life partner or Business partner we are Best Friends.
If you were to give an advise to other husband-wife entrepreneurs starting up together, then what it is ?
Sarthak: Be sure this is what you both want. Make sure your roles are defined in the new venture and the roles you choose complement each other well to take the business forward. Trust your partner and believe in him/her.
Bhakti: Start it at the right point in time. And that right time is when you both are in a balanced state in your personal relationship. Share your dreams with each other. Love what you do.