"Competitive Advantage Evolves From Disadvantage" - Suuresh Ramachandran


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     1.  Tell us more about your company and your journey.

I was a topper in school so the pressure on me to get into a conventional career was very high. Hence there were a few turbulent years when and after I dropped out from college. 

After dropping out in 1993, I drifted for a while before taking up a job at a printing press. I worked there for 3 months. Then I worked at a Marwadi Export House for about a year and a quarter. 90% of what I know about business I learnt in that approx. 1 year of working at that export house. 

Then, in 1996 a friend from Mumbai came to my hometown Udaipur for a common friend’s wedding. So I casually asked him to get me a job in Mumbai as a copywriter or something. Actually, at that point I wasn’t too sure what copywriters actually did. In a few days I forgot about it. 

Then one night around 12 that same Mumbai friend called and said he has already spoken to a few people about me. So me and another friend we came to Mumbai and I joined this Agency called Touche Communications. 

I worked there for 3.5 years. Then I joined RK Swamy/BBDO and worked there for another 3.5 years. Then I quit in 2003 and came to Mumbai intending to get into Films. I freelanced for a bit as Copywriter.

Around 2005, I formed a Production House which was renamed as Eye-Q Films in 2009.

Highlights of my career and Eye-Q Films:

I have Produced-Written-Directed Corporate Videos for the best and the biggest brands, among 250 odd Projects, at near 100% approval rate.

I am both Business Head and Creative Head, with a sound understanding of the money side, the people side, the creative side and the technical side of the business.

My core competence is Commercial Creativity, striking a balance between Cost and Quality.

Throughout my career, I have created a competitive advantage not working with big names, delivering value instead through unknown gems, the Eye-Q Films Team.

Part of the writing team on David Dhawan's 'Partner' starring Salman Khan, Govinda written by Mr Sanjay Chhel.

Co-wrote a screenplay and script with Mr Sanjay Chhel

We are proud to be a backend team of the Govt of India. Our 'OneNationOneCard' Film has been adjudged the Best Digital Campaign for a Socio-economic Program at Masters of Modern Marketing Awards 2019. This was a single-vendor Tender. The Tender was sent only to Eye-Q Films. Final approvals came from the PMO.

• We're Registered Vendors with Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), NIIT, Reliance Industries Limited. DIAL-GMR (Delhi International Airport) has a 2-bid system and we're one of those two.

2. How did you come up with this idea and go about executing it?

 I grew up with notions of romantic poverty and setting in Greenwich Village, New York, known for writers and poets. I never thought I would become an entrepreneur. 

My journey as an entrepreneur has evolved over time. Yes, I did start with copy writing because I thought it had something to do with writing. Then entered Films. 

We are in a ‘creative business’. So what we do are certain creative activities and the business angle is obviously linked to it.

3. What has been your biggest challenge that you faced and how did you overcome that?

In our kind of business, people will ask you, “What work have you done?” So how will a person do his first Project ?

In my case, what happened was that while I was freelancing, one script of mine for an Ad Film for an ad agency called Dazzal got approved. I decided to direct the film myself. 

Till that point I had not assisted anyone as a Director. I do not come from a Film family. I have never gone to a Film School. Till date, this is among the most audacious decisions I have ever taken.

Before I delivered the master tape of the first Ad film, Mr Henrique Dsouza, Director, Dazzal Advertising, briefed me on the next Project. Sure, he just wanted me to put a card and put a voiceover. 

The suggestion is that there were hardly any budgets for the film. Still, I made an idea using only words which could be done at a very low budget. Then Mr Dsouza briefed me on the third film, again where there were no budgets. 

Again, I created an idea using only words. This third film still forms part of our House Showreel of Corporate Films.

4. What do you think are the most important qualities of a successful entrepreneur?

In my case, what has worked for me is No Plan B. Call it process or call it patience, it essentially refers to the same thing. 

You will send a mail to 500 people. If you are lucky, 2 will reply. If you have a Plan B, at some point you will lose patience and exercise the Plan B.

My learning is that entrepreneurship does not work as positive capability, mostly it works as negative capability.

Negative defined as the following:

Allow me to explain. See in any business there is a conventional way of doing things. 

If you are NOT constrained, you will follow the same convention. 

Only if you are constrained, for example, we cannot do it like this therefore we do it like this, we don’t have the money to do it like this, therefore we do it like this, we don’t have the confidence to approach these people, therefore we will approach it in this manner (all examples of negative capability).

This brings me to my belief that competitive advantage evolves, perhaps necessarily, from disadvantage. Therefore, the advantage in entrepreneurship lies with the underdog.

I was surprised when I read Richard Branson’s ‘Losing my Virginity’. All he talks about are his failures. It never picked up to a point where one could sense his supposedly roller-coaster journey with Virginity.

5. What are some of the most important factors for running a successful business?

Relationships and Trust.

6. What are your tips for first time and aspiring entrepreneurs?

I would say there is nothing glamorous about entrepreneurship. Frequently it works only when you have no choice. It can get excruciatingly difficult. 

Examine your motivations and become an entrepreneur only if you actually want to. Also, another of my learnings. 

Success is a matter of chance. Failure is more mathematical.

I think there is a relatively simpler way to figure out whether one is cut out to be an entrepreneur.

As we know, the Harvard Business School defines entrepreneurship as ‘the pursuit of opportunities beyond resources currently controlled’. 

Alternatively, ‘proceeding without having the full resources at your command’. 

Also worth recalling, Reid Hoffman’s quote, “'An entrepreneur is someone who will jump off a cliff and assemble an airplane on the way down.'.

In the light of the above, people must examine their childhood, school and college days with ruthless honesty.

Can you recall a large percentage of events and programs which actually happened vs events and programs which simply remained as plans because you kept planning and planning and nothing actually happened. 

Events and programs can be anything – a picnic or outing, a play, a trek, some trip out of town, a get-together, a plan for combined studies, anything.

Since the subject is so important and there is so much at stake at a personal level, there might be merit in examining this route.

I wish you all the best. Rise and Shine.  

7. How can one overcome a hurdle of lack of funds when starting up?

I am not expert at funding, yet I do have a point of view. There are some business which necessarily must have funding/capital before even kicking off. 

For examples, if you are starting a news channel, you have to start with funding. A bank must open with 100+ branches on the opening day. 

Even today you can be a Karsanbhai Patel (Nirma fame) who started making washing powder in his backyard, selling it to shops on his own, and then building the mammoth Nirma. 

However, suppose you want to get into building ships, you cannot start by making a nail in your backyard, selling that nail, then selling boxes of nails, eventually growing organically and setting up a shipyard to build ships. 

You have to start with a shipbuilding yard, which means you will necessarily need funding/capital.

Luckily in our kind of business, we have not needed funding till now. However, now we are considering the possibility of taking external funds, to fuel the kind of growth I have suggested in the earlier para.

Therefore, in a nutshell, you must examine the kind of enterprise you want to get. If you do need funding, you must make a powerful confident, pitch to investors.

8. Which is your favorite book and why?

If it has to be one book, it is The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran. I have owned multiple copies over the years.

Suuresh Ramachandran
Eye-Q Films
Integrated Video Agency