Rishabh’s interview was recently featured on EOIndia in their 23rd Episode. The original article and interview has been published here.

1) How did you get your idea for this business?

Before I started up on my own, I’d worked with multiple clients and agencies. Then, once bitten by the startup bug, I co-founded and consulted multiple startups. Through the course of my work, I realized that there was a gap that was lying largely unaddressed by almost all major agencies and clients. This gap would often result in a less than optimum brand experience for the consumers, and as a result, reflected on the brand’s market performance.

Perhaps the reason for this was that the clients were looking for results, and the agencies, in their rush to satisfy the client, were not able to advise them strategically enough to ensure that their work resulted in a lasting impact on the client’s brand presence. Mapplinks was established to fill that gap and be a strategic partner to the clients. We promised ourselves from the beginning to never be satisfied with being just another agency offering a list of mundane services that helped sell the client’s products. Instead, we put all our focus and energy on creating and delivering a brand experience that was visible to everyone, and made a long-term impact on the client’s business bottom line.

But we saw a problem in this vision – getting the right talent for the job. We work with a diverse set of clients ranging from established brands to startups. We needed to build a team that could handle this diversity with ease, and deliver the results each time without fail. That’s when the idea of Mapplinks Academy & Growth Hacking Institute began to take shape, where we could train people in growth hacking. Growth hacking is something that we use for our clients across the board, whether it’s a startup or a big brand, because no one told us that only startups need cost-effective solutions for building a strong brand presence.

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2) Why is now the time for your company to exist?

The economy has shifted from being a localized entity to a global behemoth. Everything is connected, and the digital ecosystem is the backbone of this structure. Technology has evolved over the past decade at a lightning speed, adding to the ease of doing business in a much larger market than ever. Being online is not an option for brands anymore, it’s a necessary element of success. At present, digital marketing spend accounts for nearly 230 billion USD globally, up from 160 billion in 2015, and this figure is expected to go up to 340 billion by 2020. That’s a huge market and a big change in the way businesses are reaching out to their consumers. Through this change, a need emerged for companies that can deliver a digital brand experience that embraces this change and helps establish a meaningful communication channel between business and consumers that delivers value to both sides of the equation.

Mapplinks has been that game-changer for its clients, enabling them to take on the challenges of change and connect them with their consumers in a meaningful way. Of the things that we are extremely proud of, growth hacking has to be the top most. It has helped us deliver value to each client in a way they’d never expected from an agency. Then, we started the Mapplinks Academy & Growth Hacking Institute where we train the next generation of digital marketers, complete with the knowledge of growth hacking in their arsenal.

 

3) What was stopping you from becoming an entrepreneur?

As an aspiring entrepreneur, the biggest barrier are people close to you, especially your “mothers”. Parents, friends, and family would always want you to play it safe and get a well-paying job, settle down in life, and take it easy. And even though, to some extent, they have their heart in the right place, they often don’t realize that you are not meant to play it safe. There’s a fire inside you that only you can quell. So, the trick to get past this challenge is, ‘STOP listening to your mothers.’

Of course, there will be a resource crunch in the beginning, among other things, but you can get past those challenges easily. You can growth-hack your way to the top without money, but you’ll have to start first, irrespective of what your parents or your friends think.

 

4) What was the reaction from your family when you first decided to become an entrepreneur?

That was the easy part, I didn’t tell them at all. I told my family about what I was doing only once I was a successful entrepreneur. If I’d told them earlier, it would’ve resulted in a lot of discussions on how it wasn’t the right choice for me, or how I should learn from a fifth cousin of a neighbor’s aunt from a distant universe many light years away on making better life choices. So I decided not to say anything at all. That way, I was able to focus my energy on building my business, and once I was sure with a certain amount of success under my belt, I told them about it.

“That was the easy part, I didn’t tell them at all”

 

5) What was your biggest failure in business and what did you learn from it?

In the first year, we made a classic rookie mistake – we failed to keep a close watch on our finances. We started the year with high levels of motivation and hustled towards securing clients and acquiring the right talent. But we completely disregarded our financial projections, accounting targets, and goals for the entire year. As a result, when the books were opened, we saw less than optimal effect on our bottom line.

We took this as a learning, and within the next financial year, we were able to scale our finances by approximately 203% by implementing what we’d learned the hard way. We learned quickly and implemented it immediately.

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6) What habits contribute to your success?

Waking up early and starting my day when my mind is at its creative best is something that’s been with me for a very long time, even before I started on my entrepreneurial journey. Within the first two hours of waking up, I never read my emails even if the world’s about to end. Instead, I set my goals for the day. I plan my day so that I can manage my time effectively and make the most of each day. And before all this, I work out. Even if it’s only a 30-minute run, I would never miss out on it. That’s the time when all the plans for the day are made inside my head before being penned down on a piece of paper.

At work, everyday for me is a new day to strike a balance between clients and employee satisfaction. I believe that it’s the most essential component of success for an agency owner, to be able to give equal attention to clients and employees. I also believe that my ability to find the right talent, training them to learn constantly, execute immaculately, and help them grow has had a big role to play in my success. I’ve succeeded because I built a team of the most talented people.

 

7) If you had to start your business again what would you do differently?

I would learn to assign equally strong focus on finances of the business. Entrepreneurial drive is incomplete without an astute financial acumen for an aspiring entrepreneur. Doing what you love, creating something new, and making a difference by solving real world problems for clients is good thing. But all of that without focusing on revenue and cash flows is useless, because if you don’t, then one day you won’t be able to do that any longer.

 

8) What is your favourite inspirational quote?

As an entrepreneur, I relate with Sun Tzu’s Art of War. Of all the things he’s written about, his quote – “He who wishes to fight must first count the cost” – has been quite an inspiration on how I envision the path for Mapplinks. This quote has been the guiding force behind the concept of growth hacking for me – keeping a check on my costs every time I step into the entrepreneurial battlefield. I’ve always kept these words in mind even when I advise clients. It helps me give them solutions while keeping in mind that even the biggest brands and businesses need to save costs wherever they can, without having to undermine the results.

I also like Miyamoto Musashi’s words from the Book Of Five Rings – “You must understand that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain”. These words speak the whole essence of entrepreneurship as well as growth hacking, that you can’t be stubborn about your approach at any time and there is always a faster and better way to achieve the same results. Always be on a lookout for options, and take the one that suits your needs without compromising on your core values.

“He who wishes to fight must first count the cost”

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9) Where do you find inspiration?

There’s inspiration in everything. Samurais, generals who led armies in great wars, history, travel, religionculture, architecture, food – everything has something to offer as an inspiration. I’m a big admirer of war strategists. They see things that no one else would think of. They are responsible for people’s lives, and follow a code of honor and integrity in their everyday conduct. Even food has something to offer as an inspiration for an entrepreneur. All it takes is to have a keen eye for detail and a hunger to learn.

 

10) What is your favourite book?

Art of War by Sun Tzu. It’s the perfect advisor for an entrepreneur. Everything written in that book about war is applicable to the modern day battlefield of business where the general who is a better tactician wins with even the smallest of teams, while the general with a weak strategy and a strong team loses. Every word written in that book about war and strategy can be implemented to other aspects of life, business, and growth hacking, and it’s my go-to resource whenever I’m stuck with a difficult situation. I would also recommend The Prince by Machiavelli to understand how to build a personality suitable for business.

 

11) What advice would you give to someone starting out?

If you’re really serious about starting up, then you must follow these three rules without any deviation.

#1 Don’t listen to your mothers

I’ve elaborated on this earlier that the people closest to you want to see you safe. They will do everything in their powers to dissuade you from following your heart. So you need to stop listening to them, especially your mothers, when it comes to following your entrepreneurial dreams.

#2 Start for the passion, not for the fashion

Before you start, equip yourself with the right knowledge and skill set to some extent. Remember this quote from the Art of War – “Know your opponent and you will never lose, know yourself and you will always win.” So start if you have the skills, not because someone else did.

#3 Know your tribe

Know the people who would stand by you in adversity, and respect them. Your integrity, your honor will open doors for you that you never even knew existed.

Know your clients and your employees. Know your competitors and your market too.