'Hire, Retain, Motivate And Grow People In Your Startup' - Sandeep Mittal, MD - Cartesian Consulting
Being an army-kid, Sandeep Mittal spent most of his childhood days travelling across the country and enjoying the cantonment life to the hilt. After completing his engineering from VIT Pune, Sandeep went for an MBA in Marketing from IIM Calcutta. He wanted to take up a job at a TELCO, as it was a good offer for a Mechanical engineer, but B-school seemed a smarter choice. During his IIM-C days, Sandeep set up a startup with a friend and therefore decided not to take up the job offer through campus placements.
Sandeep always found his parents to be really supportive. He recalls that at one point he refused to take studies seriously as he felt music was his calling. Even though he still plays and composes music, he realised that when his friends were landing plum jobs, he was busy piling up the debt to pay salaries of the folks at his first startup.
Getting into Analytics was also an unplanned move for him. Sandeep joined DIREM (now Direxions), because the founder had a great CD collection. He took up the analytics division because “how hard could it be”, and, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, decided to build a domestic-market centric Analytics firm.
Since 2007, Sandeep is the Managing Director at Cartesian Consulting - a global analytics services firm specializing in customer, marketing and business analytics, that helps brands across the world improve revenues and margins by helping them better utilize their data for business decisions and marketing interventions.
In an exclusive interview with CrazyEngineers, we got Sandeep Mittal to talk about how Cartesian Consulting came into being, where they are headed, how they hire,
Managing Director, Cartesian Consulting
CE: How was your experience working for – Direxions.
Sandeep Mittal: Formative, in every way you can imagine. Direxions really took care of me – they recognized I was an entrepreneur at heart and gave me ownership of what I did early and generously. The place taught me direct marketing – the traditional industry that still is more relevant than people can imagine, taught me a whole bunch of things to do and not do when growing an organization, even the perils of new investors coming on board. I ended up donning many hats there – at various points of time I headed business development, new products, analytics, client management and once even creative too. The agency life – much disparaged as the term may be – is one that builds character and teaches plenty.
CE: How did Cartesian Consulting happen? How did you come up with the idea?
Sandeep Mittal: Direct marketing companies “get” customer data, and do plenty of analytics, but they’ll never get invited to analytics pitches, which is why Cartesian was created in 2009. We set it up when it was a tiny division of the Direxions business – perhaps 6% of the revenues, but the sense was it would grow well. And it did!
We decided we would help marketers be “data driven and customer obsessed”, a theme that resonates very well with the people we meet.
We launched at a time when there were practically no domestic market focused analytics firms – and that number is still sparse – as we really did believe we can do a better job of it than the global names in the business. We’re more in tune with the client needs here, we really get how to make a business impact, we share in the results, and we have a great team that loves to see the impact they’re creating!
CE: How does Cartesian system work?
Sandeep Mittal: Clients bring us on board to do one or more of three things: 1) embed analytics into their customer and marketing initiatives for the long run, develop a data driven culture in these departments. 2) Take on a very specific brief and solve for it and 3) Assist them in actually setting up their own COE.
We enrich the data, build models, figure action plans, measure the impact that’s getting created. And in the process we end up, ever so often, changing the way brands in the country view and use their data.
CE: How did you make your first sale?
Sandeep Mittal: It’s a pretty interesting one – we wrote to this brand, and then marketing head noticed our strapline – The Precision Practice. And they had just about created a new role in their organization which was “Precision Marketing Manager”. So something resonated and he called us in for a pitch. Now, we were really late in the pitch and 3 other agencies were about winding up their presentations so we were given 10 days to turn around a POC where the others had been given 3-4 weeks. We did a really good job, landed the client and haven’t looked back since!
CE: Who are your biggest competitors and how do you differentiate yourself from them?
Sandeep Mittal: We hear there are about 600 analytics firm in India, but our sense is a majority of them are establishing their foothold in the American market. Some of them are now looking towards the Indian market too with analytics taking off here. So yes, there’s competition but we really do have a fantastic client list and solid chops so the biggest differentiator is often just that – the fact that we are a proven place that does good. Another point of differentiation that is more subtle is just our Direct Marketing DNA. It’s a rare one, and most people won’t appreciate what it brings to the table – till you’re sitting across us and asking us how we’ll help.
CE: What is the hiring process at Cartesian Consulting?
Sandeep Mittal: We take a fair number of people from campuses. Our needs are modest - this year we’ll recruit around 30 people from various campuses. In addition, we end up with lateral hires all year round as and when there is a requirement.
We find that while we’re taking a lot of people from Stats and Engineering streams, sometimes the off-beat ones do very well, so what we look for is smart, logical reasoning, creativity, the ability to communicate ideas well, the ability to be a good culture fit.
CE: How big is Cartesian Consulting team at moment? Where do you operate from?
Sandeep Mittal: We are a team of more than 150 people with offices across Mumbai, Gurgaon, Bangalore, Singapore and the US.
CE: What talents do you possess that have helped you in your business?
Sandeep Mittal: Three things:
1. Creativity – I really believe this is key to problem solving.
2. The ability to “get” what is needed, and then get to the point quickly.
3. A bullshit-filter that saves me from talking (or taking) crap.
CE: What are the expansion plans for Cartesian Consulting? Are you looking to spread overseas?
We are already in the APAC and US markets, with clients in both contributing to a good chunk of our business. India continues to be our lead market but we’re happy to spread across the globe as 1) It teaches us plenty and 2) It helps bring good practices to this market.
We’ve got an eye open for Middle East and Europe, but those will happen when we have the bandwidth to do good by them.
CE: What are the most important traits and talents to have in starting and running a business.
Sandeep Mittal: I can’t think of anything more important than people skills.
Hire, retain, motivate and grow people in your startup and you are sorted. If you’re in it to build something solid and lasting, it’s going to be built on people.
CE: Thanks for your time. Any message for your readers?
Sandeep Mittal: Make art of whatever you do. It’s hugely more fun.