As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Siddharth Sinha.
Siddharth Sinha is the CEO of Dresma Inc, a start-up enabling the democratization of visual content creation by disrupting the way in which eCommerce images are captured. Siddharth is a 4th generation entrepreneur from Bihar, India and this is his 3rd venture. He has over 20 years of experience in building management systems, compression technology and traditional brick and mortar businesses in industries like cement manufacturing. Siddharth has done his undergrad from Cornell and has an MBA from INSEAD.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Well, I am a 4th Generation entrepreneur from India. Creating and growing businesses is in my DNA. Before we envisioned Dresma last year, I had been a part of 2 other start ups. Interestingly, Dresma got conceived from a problem my wife and her business partner were trying to address. They came to me in early 2019 to discuss the problem that existed in creating eCommerce images at scale. I found the opportunity to be able to bring technology into an underserved value chain very interesting. And that’s how my journey with Dresma started.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Well, as I mentioned, Dresma came about from my wife’s experience in her previous company. After 18 years of a happy marriage, we were working together professionally for the first time and in June 2019 incorporated Dresma and became Co-Founders. There are quite a few stories of the initial days of learning to work with each other. Before Dresma, I had been the primary decision maker in my previous roles. Here, we are 3 Co-Founders and my style is usually to internalize my ideas and then act on them. Often, I would have already started executing product ideas before discussing them with my Co-Founders. Fortunately or unfortunately for me, my wife, Nishka and Abhishek’s (our 3rd Co Founder) style is the opposite and they derive their energies from externalizing thoughts. Nishka of course didn’t take too well to my approach and didn’t make any bones about it. In hindsight, this was great because it helped build a clarity in the working style for all 3 of us and has been instrumental in setting the strong leadership foundation that Dresma has.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Actually, it was a real world example that later I also happened to read about in a biography. My first job was with Lutron Electronics, a US based lighting controls company. Our Founder, Joel Spira was a great leader to learn from. His whole philosophy was customer comes first and that success in business necessarily means your customers are happy and their business is succeeding. That has to be the driving force of how your organization runs. Steve Jobs biography also highlights this principle of having a laser focus on the customer and how he/she sees and uses the product. This is one learning I have strongly imbibed and I am excited by real world problems and solutions and products that customers can truly benefit from. The DoMyShoot product that Dresma has just launched too developed from our close interaction with online sellers and the pain points they face to get visual content to sell their products online.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
There is a strong transformation of people moving from offline to online retail and in this entire process a lot of benefits can accrue to sellers all over the world. We realized that currently there are a lot of inefficiencies in this transformation which is tilting the benefit of online selling to larger sellers with deeper pockets or simply sellers that have access to a better ecosystem. This does not have to be and in fact the whole premise of ecommerce and the online marketplace phenomenon is to level the playing field for sellers all across. From the very start, out vision has been to support the democratization of visual content creation. The whole purpose for Dresma to exist is to enable sellers anywhere to sell anything on any platform they choose.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
The one thing that has to remain constant through the ups and downs of any business is the ability to constantly innovative to bring value to the customer. In up market times there will be more competition and you will constantly have to keep up and out do the competition. In slower times, your customer’s business is impacted too and you have to find ways to keep adding value. Innovation is the only constant for any business to survive.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
The pandemic has most certainly affected so many around us in different ways including people we have personally known and are close to. As a family for us the pandemic has brought us even closer together and made us have the strong realization that time spent together has to be valued and cherished. While we were all at home by force, as a family we made sure to give each other space and for most part of the day, we stayed in our “zones” yet we would come together at meal times or planned activities. So while we have been in lockdown for almost 5 months in India and have been entirely at home, we ensured that the children and us we create memories and experiences we will always cherish. For example, we are big foodies and eat out often. I love cooking, however, I would often not get the opportunity to do as much of it as I would like. These 5 months, dinner has been cooked by me almost every night and it’s been wonderful to see the joy its bought my wife and kids to have me cook them meals they love. We create a restaurant like atmosphere and actually haven’t missed eating out much.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Offices in India were locked down overnight. We were a complete work from office set up and had to instantly find ways to adapt to working from home. The challenges were many- employees did not have the kind of systems they needed to work off, their home internet connections didn’t meet the requirements and most challenging of all was the electricity outages that they would have in their homes. Our first goal was to ensure that the team starts feeling comfortable about working from home. From basic inputs like how to remain focused on deliverables while being confined in a space with a lot of distractions (lots of our team members live in small homes with large families) to finding solutions for internet availability, it took us a month to create a system that I must say has started working well for us. The teams are much more settled with the remote work culture and constant engagement and keeping everyone informed about developments has really been important at this point.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
One of the things people are missing most at a time like this is going to a variety of spaces-meeting people, going out. That us not there currently. It is restricted. So there have to be other ways to bring those stimuli into your lives. Simple things like more cooking, zoom calls with grandparents and friends. Really, one has to substitute one kind of outlet or stimulus with another. Our kids taught both sets of grandparents to get comfortable with zoom and we have been keeping in touch regularly on zoom calls to ensure they don’t get anxious or feel lonely.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
Definitely opportunities are emerging from the post Covid economy. For one, the industry we serve, ecommerce has been seen a spurt in growth with online transactions on the rise. This enables smaller businesses-handicraft sellers, those in under developed geographies, to now look at online opportunities to showcase their products to the world. This is being enhanced by COVID. The post COVID world will also force high inertia industries like Education to think of doing things differently. This has resulted in forcing us to look at new ways of learning. Also, one of the biggest positives coming out of this will be the manner in which the world restructures work life balance. The whole notion of being in school or office for a set number of hours has gone out of the window today.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
Societal expectations have changed overnight. It needed something like COVID to push us out of our post industrial work-life structure where success was identified by the office you went to or the school you studied at. Going to office by default was associated with contributing to society. That notion is breaking and people are feeling freer to reorganize their work life structure and still feel like they are contributing.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
We are definitely going to have a much more distributed workforce. We will permanently not have people come to a designated office. We are very much a part of this transition to an online movement and we want to leverage technology to conduct our business as much as possible online whether internal or customer facing processes.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
I think I would encourage others to reduce dependency on transporting people and goods as much as possible. This is not just better post COVID but is also a more sustainable way of life for all.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I am a big believer in the old fashioned saying of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and I have truly tried to lead my personal and professional life by this belief.
How can our readers further follow your work?
I don’t really put myself out there much so I guess the best way to follow my work would really be to follow Dresma on social media: