‘Building A Startup Without Money And With Little Time, Took Me Out Of My Comfort Zone’ – Boyina Sravana Venkata Raju, NITIE – Best30 – Class Of 2019

Boyina Sravana Venkata Raju was born and brought up in Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh. Currently, he is pursuing his PG at NITIE, Mumbai. He did his summer internship at P&G and was awarded a pre-placement offer after the two months stint. Prior to joining NITIE, he was working in Vizag steel plant as a junior manager for 3 years and was running a startup named fatafatfix.com. Before that, he has worked in Futures first and Tata motors as a market analyst and assistant manager respectively. He also did strategic consulting for some startups. He graduated from NIT Durgapur in 2012. These experiences were intended to accustom him with the ability to learn and adapt quickly and successfully.

His diverse work history has made him into a resourceful individual comfortable in many settings. He is a huge peoples-person. He loves meeting new people and learning new things. With exposure to varied fields of work and Handling multiple job responsibilities parallelly, he comes across exhibiting a wide area of experience ranging in Administrative, Business Development, Engineering and General Management. He worked for a Tollywood feature film in 2016. He led many fests during his undergrad & Tata Motors days. Being part of the college business fest organizing committee-PMG in NITIE, he got the chance to interact with many celebrities and top brass from the corporate world.

Name an instance where you wanted something and went out of your comfort zone to achieve it OR Tell us the biggest risk you have taken so far in your life.

I wanted to learn multiple things and try out different profiles after engineering. I belong to a middle-class family and couldn’t risk leaving my job and wanted to start my own venture. so, while doing a job, I started a startup which is execution oriented. After working 12-14 hours in job, I used to spare some 5-6 hours for my startup. I used to sleep only for 3.5-4 hours to fulfill my passion. Also having no money to invest, I went ahead with zero investment. I implemented different strategies to make it profitable and self-sustaining. One instance of how I did it was: When my on-demand handyman service start-up “Fatafatfix” was taking a hit because of better-funded competition, we were on the verge of closing our start-up. Without enough money, we had to find a cheaper and better way to connect with the market. 

With social media ads not generating the traction I wanted, I decided to use unconventional ways to promulgate my start-up. I decided to use paper napkins as ad space. I negotiated deals with few restaurants to use tissues/napkins with my start-up’s ads on them. In return, I supplied these tissues/napkins (bought in bulk) at very low prices. Similarly, I supplied disposable tea cups with my start-up’s ads to street vendors because in India, a tea stall is like a footpath Parliament where people come for discussions as much as for tea. These methods helped us gain our lost ground and get new leads without any significant investment. Building this startup from ground up without money and precious little time available, took me out of my comfort zone.

 

When was the last time someone relied on you? OR What did you do which was purely for someone else – a truly selfless act.

I am an enthusiastic trekker. Having participated in some treks across the Himalayas, I have scaled some mountains through the middle Himalayas. On one of these treks after summiting, our group started climbing down through the moraines in a stream. Suddenly the weather changed, and black clouds started hovering. Everyone in the group started hurrying as there is a chance of heavy rain which can lead to flooding in the stream. In the rush, our teammate’s ankle got sprained. So, we were helping her tackle the rough terrain. Then it started raining and the others who were helping also left. Meanwhile, the drizzle turned into a downpour and the water level in the stream started rising dangerously. There I had to choose between going alone quickly to safety and helping my friend with no guarantee for both our lives. I was confused because if something happens to me, my family has to suffer as they were dependent on me. I chose the latter and stayed back with my friend.  It became very difficult for us to go due to slippery rocks and the flow, but she showed immense courage and will. We trekked down slowly with her leaning on me, walking on a single leg and reached the base camp against all the odds and a bit of luck on our side. My friend’s smile after reaching safety made me happier than the thunderous applause I got at end of the trek.

 

Tell us about a time when you disagreed with an opinion/idea/decision. What did you do about it?

When I was working on a commissioning project, during the trial runs, some of the machinery encountered multiple bearing failures. The commissioning experts advised us to replace bearings only in the damaged machinery without doing a root cause analysis to avoid delay. 

But I was not satisfied with this and believed that the failures could reoccur, and production may stop at a critical time if a solution without proper analysis is implemented. My supervisor meanwhile asked me to sign off the job clearance to proceed. I put my foot down and took a hard stand saying that I was not going to give clearance without the correct solution. I had put my employment at stake. My boss was livid, but I stood for what I believed in. I took the initiative to analyze the problem and realized that this was not a one-off case. The design specifications of these particular bearings were incorrect in all the machinery and not just the failed ones. So, despite what had been recommended by the experts, I convinced our senior management to give the go-ahead for changing the bearings in all the machinery to avoid failures in the future. Though the commissioning was delayed by a month, my stand saved my employer a potential loss of millions of dollars.

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