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How big are you?
Sachin Dabir I Founder & Director, Ashnik
“How big are you?”
My team tells me that this is most frequently asked question during initial meetings with customers- and a perfectly valid one. A customer looking for a partnership wants to know more about us, and they rightfully should. I’ve answered such questions countless times throughout my professional career. The typically answers involved the number of people in the company, revenue, geographic spread, etc. Were customers entirely satisfied? Yes and no. They received basic information they asked for, yes. But did they get answers to the questions they implied? No. It, now, dawns on me that there is a true potency in answering such a question that can be fulfilled by addressing in a larger context.
During my time at Red Hat, all that changed. It was an entirely different story. Red Hat’s revenue, then, was less than $100 million and the company had less than a thousand people. Customers were making a choice of Linux against competitive offers from industry giants– household names like Sun Microsystems and Microsoft. These companies were multiple times bigger in every measurable aspect; their marketing budgets alone surpassed Red Hat’s entire revenue. As a result, the question “how big are you” often yielded noteworthy discussions and interactions. I learnt the art of articulating ‘small is big’. I learnt that it is ultimately not the number of people, but rather the extent of their leadership that mattered- even in a hardcore technology industry. I experienced that customers were more interested in knowing how Red Hat was changing the technology paradigm, how Red Hat was bringing the vision of open source to the enterprises and how Red Hat was committed to make right decision even if it means longer release cycles of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The revenue, geographic spread, etc. became secondary.
It has been now more than 7 years that we started our journey of Ashnik and not a single day has gone by when we have not faced this question. While talking to customers, we do not emphasis the impressive statistics – partnership with 8 leading open source companies, over 80 customers across 8 countries, offices or direct presence in 3 countries and a revenue size that would warrant an employee base of 100+ in a typical services and solutions company- all because we have learnt that the customer is looking for different answers.
The discussions become engaging when we share our vision and experience to help our customers adopt open source technologies for enterprise needs. They become engaging when we share our insights about technologies that we carry, and customers see the real-life work we have done. Customers start asking more about how we solved the problem, and feel reassured that we carry complimenting technologies. Most importantly, however, customers are willing to talk to us. When they realise that we are here to provide genuine advice and might occasionally disagree with them, a level of comfort is established. All this culminates in one powerful, yet simple idea: we are here to ensure our customer’s growth and success.
When our team has such discussions with the customer, the relationship changes from that of a vendor to that of a partner, making it a true joy to be in the business of technology.
So, I’ve learnt that the customer’s real question is never just “how big are you?”. It’s more about “What are you made of?”.
- Sachin is veteran in IT industry and brings over 25 years of experience in setting up new businesses, leading high performance sales teams and executing growth strategies. He is passionate about open source and is an acknowledged leader in open source in Asia. As a founder of Ashnik he is leading the growth initiatives and taking Ashnik global. His stints in Asia, UK and USA enables him to bring unique perspective to entrepreneurship and life. His interests in writing, reading and mentoring makes him an excellent networker. Currently he is learning to be a patient father to teenage sons and striving to be a good husband.