Shamit Khemka 6:19
under, essentially. So I think age is always a huge factor in I was young, I was what I think 26 at that time. So it was easy. And, you know, it was a risk worth taking. So that’s one second. You know, like I mentioned, I’ve been in technology since the year 1994. So I did have the confidence that we can try and build something afresh and, you know, bootstrap technology companies. So that definitely played in the mind. And luckily for us, while we were running the.com, we still had a lot of inquiries coming our way. So this was nascent days of internet commerce in India. So we had a lot of inquiries coming our way. While Can you help us with website, can you help us with setting up some sort of a commerce online, so things like that. So we knew that there was a demand, we knew that there is a growing set of engineers in India? So that’s something that we can, you know, create and take it further. So that’s what we did.
Jeremy Weisz 7:25
Is there something that you think about internally to bounce back, because even though you’re seeing inquiries, you’re seeing some positive responses? You know, when you say belly up, how do you bounce back? Maybe today? I mean, maybe there’s still things that happen in the business, how do you kind of just get past those things in your own mind.
Shamit Khemka 7:50
So I think the reinforcement that inherently, there is demand, that’s one second, the, the belief in oneself that we can or we can accomplish, you know, something that we are passionate about. So I will, I’ve always been very, very passionate about technology. So I knew that I can create an I can, you know, take technology and make a successful business. And third, I think, support a family. That’s very important. And we were young, you know, I had one kid who was, you know, six months old. So there wasn’t too much to be spent on that front in terms of education, or, you know, home didn’t demand much at that point. So it was easy, it was easy to tie this out. And, you know, luckily, it was successful.
Jeremy Weisz 8:42
What did your family say about you going out starting your own business? Because I think, you know, back then, I don’t think entrepreneurship is as sexy it is now. What was it like, then discussions, the family say, Hey, I’m going to go out and start my own business.
Shamit Khemka 9:01
So we, so we come from a community in India called Marbury’s. My rallies are so they are the day. So most businesses in India till the year, you know, I would say 1980s 1990s were run by Marwadi. You know, families. So it’s traditionally been a very business oriented community. And I think they would have been very disappointed if I hadn’t tried to do something myself. So they would rather have me do something and fail, rather than you know, get a job and not even try doing something myself and I and I’ll say that. I’ll say the same thing for my children. So two daughters and a son and I would like them to at least give it a shot. You know, try for a few years. If they can’t make it then, you know, they get a job. That’s fine, but you know, at least they should try.
Jeremy Weisz 9:58
Let’s talk about big As you know, a lot of companies, they don’t end up doing what they started doing. Right, and even the agency world. So it started off as this company
in the web world that went belly up. And then you were getting inquiries for web development. What were some what was more, if you continue on the evolution of your services, what was next.
Shamit Khemka 10:26
So the first game simple websites and hosting. So that was the first thing that we started off with, then came web based software. So we started developing small software that would pale in comparison to what is achievable. Now, you know, it’s probably something that you can get off a SaaS model for $1 to, you know, ready ready to use as of now. So we started with those. And then we actually did some very interesting projects, there was actually a company based in the US who had its franchisees in India, and they, they were using an, if I can call it a ERP, their back end system was on clip and debase. And they wanted to build a web based front end, which would connect to that for the dealers. And we were successful in creating a module, which would extract data out of the database, and present it on the web. So that was very, it was quite ahead of its time. And, you know, so we did a lot of Indian word, it’s a very common word in India, especially in North India called Jugaad. I had no feel heard of that before. So, you know, Jugaad is, it’s really difficult to really explain, it’s like, when you see somebody who’s taken a diesel generator that generates electricity, and put it in front of in front of three wheels, and made a car out of it, so that in the evening, I’ll give him electricity and the day eloquent right to the city. That’s, that’s what is Jugaad. And so Indians are very good at yoga, and Indians are typically, you know, born entrepreneurs, the way I, I’d like to see it. So, you know, that allowed us to find solutions were non existent. So at that point in 1999 2000 2001, these solutions for connecting your back end to the, you know, web didn’t really exist in India. So we were able to, you know, do that, do that Jugaad and come up with those solutions. So that was fun. It was really exciting at that point.
Jeremy Weisz 12:27
And then what about is the IT outsourcing?
Shamit Khemka 12:34
So IT outsourcing. So, you know, slowly, slowly and steadily, we started moving, you know, between technology between solutions that we offered. So, you know, going from web to mobile application. So the first EU application was built by me and the 2007, or 2008 2008? I think so, you know, at that point, I was on the EEO technology committee. And, you know, we used to keep talking about how difficult it is to access the database to search for members and such. And, you know, there was obviously no mobile app at that point. So I took on myself to hire a mobile application developer, got him to, you know, connect to the API on the EO website, and develop this app, which is still, it’s still functional, even now, if you search for your global you’ll find it. And so that was the first mobile application project that we ever did. And since it was successful, and since people started using it, we said, hey, why don’t we get into mobile development as well. And that’s where the mobile division took off. And we now have about 35 People just doing mobile applications. You know, been evolving organically. Um, I talked about
Jeremy Weisz 13:49
some of the clients you’ve had, you know, in the US and across the world 3am, IBM, Microsoft, Adi, Pay Pal, Steve Madden. There’s different stigmas around using Indian companies based companies. Right. So I love for you to talk about that. How do you overcome that? We were talking before we hit record is sometimes people view it is cheap labour.
Shamit Khemka 14:16
And it is it’s inexpensive. No doubt. I mean, it is less expensive than many other countries. But the way I would set us set us apart is one. A lot of people don’t understand that. We actually have probably one of the better spoken and written english in the world. So you know, we probably speak better English, you know, more or more more sort of fluent English than the English themselves at this point. I’ve noticed you’ve heard English speak nowadays, the British speak nowadays. So that’s, that’s one and second. You know, the talent. The ability or the availability of talent in India is huge. It’s immense. You know, we are a country of 100 40 million people. And I would say there would be at least a million great engineers in the country. So we have immense talent. And to waste it away by not exploring the software industry would have been a shame. So I’m glad that, you know, the earlier entrepreneurs in India 3035 years back started software as an industry in India. And, you know, we, we, we contribute to it, I think where we come in is just the ability to scale, which I don’t think any other country has, in terms of manpower, in in the technology field. So that’s where we excel and, you know, fast learning, fast adapting. Dzhokhar like I mentioned, is a huge talent for Indians. So that really sets us apart. And typically, the, the downside is that we don’t know how to say no, you know, that’s a huge challenge for most Indians. So even in our company, when we onboard people, we have to teach them. It’s alright to say no, you know, when you can’t do something, so yeah. Talk about
Jeremy Weisz 16:09
objections. So when you’re initiating conversation with a US based company, what are some of the objections that you
Shamit Khemka 16:17
get? So I think the biggest downside is the timezone. So the timezone is always, you know, something that people can compare us to Mexico, or Colombia, or even Philippines to that matter. But luckily, for us, the way I see it is, we sort of overlap three and a half to four hours, with the East Coast, and couple of hours with the west coast on the other side of the day. So that allows us to be insufficient communication with our customers understand, you know, or deliberate on a project in a collaborative way, and then work ourselves. So you know, software is not something that necessarily needs collaboration at all times, you know, there’s, to and fro, but that can be achieved, and then a person can sit and do the work themselves after that. So I think we have that advantage where we have a few hours of overlap, and we make the best of it. But that is something that most people worry about when outsourcing and the second is communication. Like I mentioned, most people don’t realize that India is most people in India, English is almost their first language because they are educated in it. So most of our education is in English. So, you know, you’ll rarely find engineers that don’t know how to communicate in English. Software Engineers. Yeah.
Jeremy Weisz 17:46
Any other objections you get business wise, or culture was?
Shamit Khemka 17:53
Not really, I think culturally, we are very, very adaptable people. So I don’t think we get any objections culturally, but business wise, maybe for the initial years that we started off, there was always a stigma to, can we send money abroad? Would it be safe? You know, will the work actually get delivered? So that was always the question. But as you build, you know, the depository of sort of portfolio as you create that, you know, will in the market, then I think those questions sort of disappear.
Jeremy Weisz 18:31
Yeah, it’s a trust thing. Once they understand you’re ready to I mean, that goes with across any country culture, you know, it’s it’s always a trust thing is this company, trustworthy, and you deliver what they say they can deliver. I want to talk about, you know, this is a very people centric business. So I love to talk about recruiting and hiring. And some of the things you found as best practices are big mistakes as far as recruiting and hiring goes.
Shamit Khemka 19:01
recruiting and hiring has always been the toughest thing in our industry. You know, since day one, attrition has always plagued this industry. It’s and it’s primarily because we’ve grown really fast, particularly in India, especially in the last 15 years, and of late the last four or five years, between COVID enough to COVID. So that’s always been a huge challenge. I think for me, the one game changer was this program in the MIT in the MIT batch where they had top grading, so that really helped us improve our recruiting processes create sort of process oriented recruitment, rather than just subjective. So it became very objective compared to a whole lot of subjectivity. So that really helped.
Jeremy Weisz 19:53
By the way, I’ll just mention really quickly show that I had the the CEO of Topgrading Chris Mursau on the podcast, you could check out that episode. And that’s what their book is about. That’s what they do is talk about how do you hire and attract and retain a list? A player’s So, okay, so keep getting
Shamit Khemka 20:16
dragged smart in our class teaching us about top reading. So that was wonderful, you know from the horse’s mouth. So that was really wonderful. And I think that really helped. And then along with that, you know, of course, we adapted, you know, the forum in EO really helps because we learn from best practices of your peers of different than other industries and verticals. So that really helped in terms of understanding what other companies are doing to retain best talent and, you know, even recruit best talent.
Jeremy Weisz 20:47
So what has worked for you with from a retention standpoint?
Shamit Khemka 20:53
As of as of now, right now, I mean, if you ask me, it’s been a huge challenge after COVID. You know, everything is just gone topsy turvy, because, you know, people have left and mass IT companies, they’ve, you know, we’ve had the IT industry, just going through a lot of turmoil. So what had worked in the past is definitely not working right now. But I think it’s, it’s a, it’s a balance, it’s going to come back, you know, there will be some sort of sanity to this soon enough. But, you know, it has been very, very challenging. In the last year and a half, we lost a lot of people who’d been with us for 1520 years, in fact. So that was a huge challenge that we had to overcome. So we had to stand on our processes more, we had to be less people dependent. So that was, you know, good learning. And, you know, I think we are changing how we work to some extent, based on that,
Jeremy Weisz 21:53
how do you explain that? Because it’s happening across many industries, but but how do you explain, you know, someone’s been with a company for 15 years?
Shamit Khemka 22:03
You know, that’s a long time. It is it is indeed, and, you know, it’s interesting, because I recently met a huge MNC, who was mostly into manufacturing in India, and they, for them, their timeline for most employees is five to seven years, they literally just hire with the mindset that the employer is going to be there for five to seven years, and give the best in those years. And then they’re not looking for something longer term than that. Whereas I guess I’m a little old fashioned that way. I like to, you know, grow with the employees, I like to grow, you know, the business around them. So that has been particularly challenging due to COVID, and the attrition that came after COVID. But I think I would like to stick to that, I wouldn’t want to change that entirely. Although we have moved a lot of our processes, like, you know, things that we can, for example, using ChatGPT for a few of our, you know, copywriting and portfolio management and things like that. We have a lot of objective HR processes, versus, which are things that were very subjective in the past. So we try to accommodate with time, and, you know, try and be lean and mean, when it comes to employees primarily, because it’s tough to really recruit at this point,
Jeremy Weisz 23:31
what has worked in the past? Show it because, you know, retaining staff member for 20 years is pretty darn good. Right? So what has worked?
Shamit Khemka 23:41
You, you’ve asked me that question again. So I’ve
Jeremy Weisz 23:45
come out with the I know, there’s something so this, you’re being used, don’t be modest.
Shamit Khemka 23:51
No, we were innovating if we were trying to find things, or solutions that were a little different than what we had seen in the industry. So for example, and I’ll give you two examples, we have something called loyalty leaves and loyalty bonus. Now what we came up with is that for each year that the employee had been with us, we would give them an additional day, apart from the mandatory statutory needs. So so at the end of 10 years, an employee would get 10 extra days off in a year. So that was one. Along with that, we had a lot of incentives to take a holiday paid holiday with additional incentive for your anniversary for your body for for kids, when they were born. So you know, we would incentivize people to take off and also send them on holidays together and things like that. So that really worked initially. That changed during COVID, I think, but at least till COVID It worked brilliantly. Then the loyalty bonus is something that we came up with way back in 2005 where we said for each year that you had been with the business, we would pay an extra amount per month. So, if you if you’ve been for longer you, it became quite a considerable amount. And we were paying that out each month to imply so that’s for 1520 years. So that added, like a nice, you know, bonus packet at the end of each month instead of the end of the things like that, that really had, we also came up with the industry first, like, you know, complete medical insurance, which is, which is not typical in India, you know, a lot of lot of things like that, you know, the innovative things like that.
Jeremy Weisz 25:41
I love it. Thank you, I knew it was in you, I know you have it. So I appreciate you sharing that. You know, from the standpoint of companies you’ve worked with, right? You’ve worked with some incredible companies, like I mentioned, 3am, IBM, Steve Madden, do you remember the first one that you were especially proud of? Like, wow, we made it from a standpoint of, we’re really attracting some amazing companies.
Shamit Khemka 26:15
And I think, so we worked with some large companies before, but I think the one that I’m definitely the most proud of is EEO. You know, having worked with the your, you know, being a member of you understanding the, you know, the the sense of the organization, organization, and then, you know, we ran maintain the original website since 2010. To even now we do some maintenance work for years. So that’s definitely been something that we’re very proud of. And that logo goes up, first and foremost, with any client logo that we put up.
Jeremy Weisz 26:52
Love it. And I was, you know, I was reading an email from you the other day. And in the signature area, there’s a quote from Steve Madden. And they’re a team’s very professional, I would 100% recommend it to anyone that looks for a solid partnership for their e-commerce projects or mobile apps. What kind of work did you do with Steve Madden.
Shamit Khemka 27:17
So we still run and maintain a lot of their e-commerce portals, and we, we work with their back end as well. So they have an ERP system that we integrate, and we run with the Shopify store. So we work with the Australia team, we work with the South Africa team we work with Middle East now, we just recently completed the project for Middle East, they partnered with a third party. So the way that Middle East is structured is that they need to have a local partner there. So they partnered with somebody locally there, and we just completed the site for them as well. On Shopify,
Jeremy Weisz 27:56
lets you worked with and if you’re watching the video, you can see right now I’m on the SynapseIndia.com website. So if you want to learn more about what they do what they’re working on, you can go to SynapseIndia.com. And there’s also you know, a case study page where you kind of walk through some of the things that they’ve done, but I want to talk about one of the ones you have was an oncology lab. What do you do with them?
Shamit Khemka 28:24
I see oncology lab is also incidentally owned by your member. And so they reached out to us right, when COVID had, I think, six months into COVID. And the government of India had mandated certain reporting through their COVID site. So you had to run through the COVID. Website to verify the proximity alerts and things like that. And they so they had these two lab machines, which didn’t talk to each other to completely different manufacturer based machines. And they needed to consolidate it, consolidate these reports, and run it through the API of the government website. Now that entire process was taking them several days at a time to do so we were able to create robotic process. So we use RPA a unique path as the back end. And we were able to automate that entire process of getting the reports from both the lab machines, consolidating it, checking it against the government COVID website and then producing the PDF that would go out to the end consumer.
Jeremy Weisz 29:38
Shopify seems like a popular request from you and the company. You also worked with pure cosmetics 100% Pure Yeah. What did you do with them?
Shamit Khemka 29:54
So we run and maintain the Shopify sites as well. So we do a little bit on e-commerce marketing for them, we, you know, do coding in terms of the apps that they have on the Shopify website. We do some backend maintenance, we do a lot of creatives for them. So they basically DTC direct to consumer brands. So we do a lot of their, you know, social media, their branding, things like that. What have you seen
Jeremy Weisz 30:28
as mistakes people make you You’ve obviously I mentioned over 10,000 projects, what a mistakes people make with their Shopify or e-commerce site.
Shamit Khemka 30:45
I guess the one mistake that I see a lot of people making is trying to build something custom, when there are modules or ready made software which is available. So the advantage of ready made, and you know, especially if it is by Shopify themselves, if there are modules that are available, then they are a little more faster, more efficient. And, you know, you don’t have to go through the rigmarole of any kind of testing and things like that. So I would always encourage people to pick and choose from what is available and plug and play rather than build custom apps. But every once in a while we have to we have to build something custom because the checkout requires it or you know, some sort of functionality that is not available on Shopify Oh, plugins. So
Jeremy Weisz 31:34
what kind of what are your favorite Shopify plugins?
Shamit Khemka 31:39
Journey? Hopefully one will to answer that question. But, you know, I know that we’ve built a few plugins like loyalty. So we’ve created loyalty plugins ourselves, which we, you know, freely distribute to our customers. So when they have have asked the developer Shopify site, we give that free of cost. And then there’s a couple of other checkout integrations with three PL, you know, third party logistics that we built for ourselves.
Jeremy Weisz 32:11
So most of the custom plugins, you would say, you don’t make them readily available on the Shopify app. So people can’t get them, they can’t, you know, because a lot of them, you know, there’s a subscription, obviously, but if someone hires you, then you will actually deploy the the custom ones that you’ve built.
Shamit Khemka 32:32
So the custom ones that we built are very niche. And that’s the reason why we haven’t put it up on the store. But more often than not, customers also come to us for their own requirements, which is, then their intellectual property. So we will build that app and we’ll hand it over to them, and then we don’t have access to those
Jeremy Weisz 32:53
customers where it makes sense. Speaking of apps, Sana phi
Shamit Khemka 33:02
I was very interested to solidify was an interesting client. So solid, I initially had come to us to build an app for hotels, and you know, they were they were using the app for guest rooms where you could control your TV and control other amenities using the app. And then they later pivoted to health. So if you search for a certified health app, you will find it where it’s now deployed in about 135,000 rooms, across hospitals across the US. And the app actually allows pretty much maintaining all your technology in the room, in terms of the television, you know, calling for any kind of support or, you know, ordering meals, you know, your schedules in terms of medicines and other activities. So things like that.
Jeremy Weisz 33:57
Um, you know, Shamit I have one last question. Before I ask it, I just want to point people to check out your website. And to learn more, you can go to SynapseIndia.com, to learn more about what they’re working on there. And the last question I have is about leadership, you know, you lead a pretty large team, and I love to hear some of your thoughts. what’s worked for you, as far as leadership, what maybe mistakes should other people avoid, as they grow a larger team from leadership
Shamit Khemka 34:35
perspective? Some, most of my learning has been from other peers, right? I mean, whether it be in you or other organizations that I’ve interacted with, so I’ve had, you know, a lot of learning that I’ve got from them and I can just share some of those, you know, in the brief time that we have so, one thing that I know, really help task is that we would relook at our processes, our systems, our technology every five years. So that really helps. Because as we grow as an organization from five to 1010, to 5050, to 100, things change and, you know, we need to relook at technologies and the backends that we’re using. So that is something that we did very diligently every five years. And that really helped specially when COVID hit India, most of our technology, most of our servers were online, on the cloud. So we were able to escape, you know, doing too much of micromanagement at that time. So, that’s one. Apart from that, I would say, having outsourced a lot of our activities, such as, you know, so we, before COVID, we had lunch catered in the office for everyone. So we would outsource anything that was not inherent to our business. So anything that wasn’t really, you know, actual activity for our business, we would outsource. So that’s something that I strongly, strongly believe in that, let’s not try and get into every kind of activity in our business. And third is, you know, as as a policy, we, at least, till COVID. And now again, we would have one retreat each year, where we’re going into invite the entire office, so everyone was invited, and couple of them was even with the families and different places each time, you know, we do driving distances from Delhi, like two hours, three hours, four hours away from Delhi, where we would hire big buses and cars and you know, just take the employees out for a good time and, you know, do some activities that fun activities, you know, sports, things like that. So, that’s really worked well for us. First of all,
Jeremy Weisz 36:54
I want to be the first one to thank you. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, expertise and journey. Everyone should check out SynapseIndia.com And thanks again.