Info.: He’s Co-Founder / Creative Head, Hats-Off (A Rich Media Co.). A BCOM Graduate.
Past: Nokia Worked as sales & service executive.
Q1. What is Hats-Off ?
Hats-Off (Rich Media) agency is a young and dynamic digital marketing company from Pune, India. We are dedicated in creating, building and energizing brands. The strength of our company lies in the cocktail blend of purpose-driven creativity, brand marketing acumen, mobile, research and digital media prowess. We deliver RESULTS. We deliver programming apps that builds a powerful connection between people and products. For every client challenge, we customize teams to best deliver success. We create programs that are pitch-perfect, eliciting each brand’s mission and charm.
Hats-Off provides its service to small, medium and big scale organizations, regardless of industry. We help our clients grow and find success through the medium of age- the Internet. All this is done with thorough expertise and talent in Internet Marketing and SEO Optimization.
Q2. How it all started ? Who all helped you out ? What is the story from ground level ?
So on 12th Oct’2011, 4years from now is when 3 college going, common young folks, busy in their own lives happy with whatever they were doing, not to forget childhood buddies who came together to form something that would change their lives completely.
This was when I was busy with my focus set to be the master in telecom industry working his ass off at Nokia. Husain Habib all set to turn out as a film director & photographer while Taher Mandiwala happy with his Networking skills working with Cisco. That’s when Husain one fine day realized that working as an employee would just be a 9-6 job, that too for someone else to give them a happy & wealthy lifestyle.
It was 6months before 12th Oct’11 when Husain called me up asking if I would be interested in starting a business along with him. Working at Nokia for almost 4years by then I had my focus intact in sticking with this brand & all I did was give Husain some fake promises of working together & that’s when he started researching on Business that would do wonders for us & I had no clue what was coming in. Few of the business ideas we dropped before getting into Digital advertising were – Cutlery, Hardware, Glass Manufacturing.
Now this was when Husain calls up Taher asking if even he would be interested in joining us for a new venture & Taher jumped up as a baby all excited & boosted because this was something what he always wanted to do but had no idea how to take the first step. Now this is when the three of us started hunting for new ideas & venture options, during all this while I was still least interested to make a switch from the technology world to a boring & rusty product buying, selling world.
Husain, was giving his everything to find out the best business which would excite us all equally & bingoo! He found out that digital advertising was the next big thing that India would shift onto & he shared this idea with us & this is when I finally decided that yup I should now make a move from my ready-to-achieve dreams to struggle-to-achieve ones.
Q3. Being a BCOM, BCA Graduate and an IIT pass out in Management, you all three Dived into the sea of Unknown , why ?
It was all need of the hour, at our early twenties when most of other folks who belonged to a well settled family had nothing to worry in their future & the rest had their MBA’s & PHD’s to focus on & get a degree to work in some MNC & be satisfied with their job profiles, It was then when we thought of not letting this stage of our life go in vain & take a risk with whatever we had, this was the time we could make a bigger decision in life & not look back again, we still look back & feel proud on our decision & we finally sat together figuring out what genre in digital would be the right thing to start off with & we found out SMM & SEO where the key players during those days with a very few agencies trying their hands onto it 4years back.
Q4. What was most challenging for you personally during the journey of Hats-Off ? And how you tackled it ?
For me personally the most challenging part was the initial capital, it was just a sum of 10,000/- I couldn’t afford to have that in my account (Financial crunches) & the three of us never wanted to involve our families into our idea of starting up a digital advertising agency, yes we did inform them but never asked for a penny. Taher & Husain contributed a sum of 10,000/- INR each & I having no money asked my nana (grandpa), he wasn’t my real grandfather though but he always took care of my family since we were kids & went through the lowest phase of life, he had a small 150sq.ft of shop space in Pune which he then gave to me for a year & asked me to use that space as my capital for Hats-Off. I don’t know where would I be if my late Grandfather wouldn’t have come forward helping me in it, he expired a month back & I miss him, he was one idol I knew, he was a god figure to me.
Q5. What do you think, is digital marketing changing the way people look and feel products? If so how ?
There is no denying that digital is now a part of the three basic necessities we knew in our schooling – Food, Clothing, Shelter & Digital. I don’t remember when was the last time I bought anything without reviewing it online or not purchasing it from the major players on digital. From news to sport to something as worst as Taher Shah’s Angel is spotted, watched & discussed not personally but on digital. We do not buy from stores any longer, physical stores work as a product trail tool, where the end consumer visits to just try their hands on onto the product they wish to buy & they later purchase it online from a portal that offers them a deal they can’t ignore.
Q6. Do you agree, if anyone wants to be an entrepreneur, he doesn’t need to have a related degree?
I strongly agree that you can do anything if you wish to, degree of-course is a plus point in anything you want to do today, some don’t just go for degree to earn money but they make the most out of their education & implement them in their lives too, but again I don’t see anything you preach in your schooling or college coming to life until you get into streams like Engineering, Medical & a very few. Otherwise it’s all your self-upgrading that takes you places. Have seen the best of brains during my schooling & High schooling doing nothing great with their lives, a few proved me that book worms is the term that exists while a few other ones proved me that they are lazy to be anything in their life. The problem today is that you find something easy you do it, when challenges knock the door they find the easiest exit to it. I belonged to a Co-Ed school, was never good with English communication as nobody at home spoke English & after I joined Nokia I realized what was I lacking & I learnt it all by myself by communicating with my customers.
When we started off with Hats-Off I took social media, designing & creative segment of my company because I thought I was pretty good at it until I was disappointed with myself when I realized I was a zero because my school always taught me the wrong stuffs in first place. Everything I know today from communication to discipline to management have learnt it by observing & self-belief.
Now let’s get onto our qualifications while we started this digital advertising agency –
Husain Habib – Commerce Graduate with no clue about digital, marketing or sales.
Taher Mandiwala – Networking expert but ‘0’ at SEO, Web development.
Shabbir Hussain – Pursuing 1st year BCOM while having never heard of SMO, designing or even the tool Adobe.
Qualification now –
Husain Habib – Champ in marketing, you name the brand & he will tell you the name of the last employee of the company (we call him Wikipedia)
Taher Mandiwala – You cannot mess up with him for anything that’s technical, you name the issue he has the answer, the master’s in development & SEO ask him their doubts.
Shabbir Hussain – I poop designs & ideas now, they keep flooding out of my head, designing is now my favorite hobby.
Q7. Share some of your School/College learnings that you applied in Hats-Off.
Frankly school & college has taught nothing more than how to read & write, everything else has been self-achieved, everything that we have seen as grown-ups around us have made us what we are & helped us take Hats-Off a step higher, We do not hire employees on the basis of their qualification or some base percentage criteria to be eligible, we hire them on their skills of the job profile they have wished to join in for, we see their skills & confidence over education.
Q8. What is your office culture ? How many employees are there ? Do you take interns ?
We are a team of 20+ all below the age of 30years & everyone is a master at what they do. We have kept our culture simple yet sweet – work & play as much as you like, Music, Jokes, Dancing, Yelling & Screaming on top of our voice which makes our neighboring offices & residents wonder what are we upto. Yes we also hire interns & fresher’s & train them, but we always see them leave disappointed because we set them a working culture so free & high that they feel uncomfortable working anywhere else after they have to leave us.
Q9. What are the major roadblocks in this kind of startup ? How you tackled them ?
Roadblock for a startup which is self-funded & started by three guys who hardly knew anything about digital is the lack of knowledge about the stream & capital limitations, While we had 20,000/- INR in total to begin with Hats-Off in 2011, we lost around 10k while we ended up paying some wrong electricity bill assuming that was ours & which never was refunded by the MSEB. With a sum of 10,000/- we managed to sustain ourselves for a year with 1-2projects in hand for the entire year without any employee hired. This 1 year worked as a learning session for us in terms of understanding the clients, their needs, what we had to offer, what were we missing out from our end & a benchmark plan. From 2012 we bagged in some amazing projects like Nokia Priority, Toonz Animation & hired employees & shifted to a better workspace & things kept changing ever since.
Q10. What is your favorite Quote and by whom ?
Love. Live. Life. – #Myquote
Jo kuch nahi karte woh kamaal karte hai – SRK
Degree se sirf certificate milta hai, akal nahin – SRK
Q11. Being in this field, if you like to conclude a lesson to the upcoming entrepreneurs, what would that be ?
Just go find your Self potential & do not wait for the right time to come, make it happen, always have people around you who criticize you or don’t believe in you, this will act as an encouragement & boost up module for you. Take up challenges & never think how just say wow & go for it. Digital has a lot to offer the world in coming future, you are still not that late to begin with it.
Q12. List some of your learnings/Mistakes from Journey of Hats-Off.
1- Do not hesitate.
2- Worry less about how & more about why, that’s where you will have your answers.
3- Never over deliver, most of them do not like it.
4- Don’t take them as your client, take it as your brand, and you will work on it as yours.
5- Great service is all it is about.
6- Take your own decisions & be firm at it.