What's the definition of a serial entrepreneur? If you look it up in the dictionary you might just see a picture of Sanjay Dalal, the subject of today's interview. Sanjay is the founder and CEO of Ogoing, a social network exclusively for businesses.
Prior to starting his current venture, Sanjay founded the India Business Network, a network dedicated to helping companies in India do business around the world. He also founded Bharat Market, and online shopping network for Indian made goods. On top of all that, Sanjay has a consulting services company, called InnovationMain.com, and he's authored more than 350 articles on the state of innovation in business as well as an eBook on innovation that has been used by more than 650 corporations and organizations worldwide. Some of the companies that have implemented his recommendations are HP, Pepsi, Hallmark, Best Buy, UC Irvine, Nokia, and more.
With a plate as full as Sanjay's, we were lucky to catch him long enough to answer a few interview questions, and the interview is below. Enjoy!
Ogoing is a great idea that combines a lot of the best features from several popular social media sites. For those of our readers who aren't familiar with the company, can you give us a quick overview?
Ogoing is an exclusive social network for business. On Ogoing, a small business can immediately build online visibility, promote their products, attract new customers, and jump start sales using the latest social media. Ogoing is extremely easy to use; a business can setup a powerful profile, share specific updates about business news, events, deals, services and referrals, make new connections, and find local clients. It literally takes less than five minutes for a startup, entrepreneur or business to get started on Ogoing.
How did the idea for Ogoing come about?
The available landscape of social media services for business were limited and complex. Further, small business owners do not have time, resources or expertise to create and launch their social media marketing on these available platforms. I wanted to create a powerful social network that provides small businesses instant online boost, is very easy to use, and drives new leads.
You've decided to launch a business in a pretty competitive space. What were your primary concerns before launching, and how have you handled the challenges?
The social media market space is new, emerging and will undergo seismic shifts. Ogoing wants to become the exclusive social network in the small business market segment that has over 25 million businesses in USA alone. My primary concerns were whether I can build a scalable Ogoing social media platform, and at the same time, make it very easy to use for the small business. Also, whether Ogoing will be able to make a dent in the markets dominated by LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and more. So far, we have stuck to our game plan. We have created Ogoing from the ground up to scale and it is working beautifully; small businesses are joining Ogoing and sharing with ease; and we remain focused on helping them with key tools they need to grow their social media presence.
What has been the single biggest business challenge you've had to face, and how did you overcome it?
The single biggest business challenge was to get the first 1,000 customers to sign up on Ogoing. I am pleased to share that we just hit that milestone this month! Â In order to achieve this, I used a variety of grass roots marketing approaches – face to face networking with local businesses, following up with these businesses and asking them to join Ogoing, helping them with their Ogoing presence, showing them how Ogoing can help them grow, local marketing using some of my networks, and online marketing using Google and Facebook. Our goal is to help businesses use Ogoing frequently and engage with other businesses. Now that we have over 1,000 businesses on Ogoing, my next goal is to grow the Ogoing community to over 10,000 businesses by next year.
The other big challenge is funding. I have been bootstrapping Ogoing so far with my own money, time and resources, and now, I am actively looking for funding from angel investors or VCs to build an Ogoing team, and help accelerate customer acquisition and marketing.
What three pieces of advice do you have for young entrepreneurs interested in starting their first business?
1. Have an unlimited drive. Be very passionate about your product or service that you building. You have to believe in what you are doing, and not lose sight of the big picture – why you started doing this in the first place! As you grow the business, begin forming a team that helps you grow and achieve your vision.
2. KISS – Keep it simple stupid. As entrepreneurs, when we listen to lots of inputs from the marketplace, we may end up creating products that are way too complex. Simplicity sells. Think Groupon; Think Apple iPad; Think Google Search; Think Facebook and Twitter when they started.
3. Make sure you don’t run out of money. This is huge! Many a great ideas can fall short if they don’t get funded adequately. Bootstrapping is good to a point. Beyond that, the entrepreneur must look for outside help to get the business going.
How do you define success within your company?
When a business joins Ogoing, and is able to use the social network to attract new customers. This is my ultimate definition of success. If I am able to create a viable social media service that can help a business grow repeatedly and consistently, that would be huge! Â I started Ogoing in the depth of this recession in summer of 2009. I have survived the first two years and am able to grow Ogoing social network to over 1,000 businesses. This is quite gratifying. I want to make sure that these businesses are seeing value from joining Ogoing, and are able to promote their products or services effectively using Ogoing. To me success is creating a meaningful solution that works! And if I can make Ogoing work for tens of thousands of businesses in the future, that would be even more gratifying.