Be prepared to protect your intellectual property, and pay the legal fees associated with it.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Suresh Menon.
Dr. Suresh Menon is a serial entrepreneur and Founder of Menon International, Inc., a holding company with subsidiaries. Dr. Menon founded Menon Renewable Products, Inc., U.S., to stop the global use of antibiotics in animal feeds, save our planet from waste practices impacting precious natural resources, and promote health for humans and animals. He has dedicated a majority of his life in innovation and philanthropic activities that improve food sustainability, preservation of endangered species, and enhance human nutrition. He founded Menon Biosensors, Inc., which provided confirmatory technology for detecting bioweapons for the U.S. government. This technology is currently expanding applications to population scale testing for COVID-19 and other virus and bacteria in animals and humans. With more than 100 patents and trademarks, Dr. Menon succeeded in creating ground-breaking technologies with a recognized brand making the world a safer, cleaner, and more sustainable place to live. Creation of these technologies have resulted in capturing more than 30 markets for various products that he created. Dr. Menon has led several projects in the past that required close collaboration between universities, government entities and commercial clients. Dr. Menon hails from Kerala, India, from Vengalil Calicut and Meempat Malappuram families. He holds a doctorate in engineering science from Pennsylvania State University and Bachelor of Science from Mumbai University in India.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My company received a contract from Department of Defense to investigate the use of agriculture waste products to make jet fuel. During the course of this research, we found a way to convert the same waste products into food for animals and humans.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
The most challenging thing for us was product validation. To prove that the product works, we were required to scale up production. I had to pledge my home for a business loan to build my first factory.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
The support that I received from my family and employees gave me the trust and drive to keep going once the product was validated. As a team, we knew for sure the technology is positively disruptive and can protect animals.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Our product has been adopted by some of the world’s biggest companies to take care of their animals. We also have a product being designed to enhance immune functions for humans. Through support from our investors and shareholders, we managed to offset the risk of capital to continue the research to validate our products.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In the early stages, knowledge of how shrimp feed is formulated and manufactured was lacking. We decided to investigate pelletizing our ingredient to feed the shrimp to see if it will survive. The entire pellet broke down in the water. However, the shrimp had best survival compared to the control group! Immediately, I engaged in hiring the world’s most experienced shrimp feed formulation and nutrition experts to help with pellet construction and innovative formulation.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We work in an industry where formulations for animals like chicken, swine, shrimp and others are already optimized. Yet, we are able to garner attention from the world’s biggest companies because we know something that they don’t. The world takes shortcuts via use of antibiotics to treat animals. To help boost immunity in animals, we used peptides to overcome the need of antibiotics and chemicals.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
One must have a product that sell itself and not depend on sales team. Faith in yourself and your product must be established with credible, independent data. Once you product is established as disruptive, enjoy the roller coaster ride to success!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful toward who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Our parents are the earliest investors as they place their faith in our education. My biggest supporter is my family. When the product worked, my wife permitted me to pledge our home to get a loan from a U.S. bank to build our first pilot factory. It took me nine years to pay off that business loan.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Our team contributes equipment and funds to groups responsible for safeguarding endangered species and animals in the wild. Giving back to the community brings about a satisfaction unlike any other.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
The five things I wish someone told me before I started my company are:
1. The protectionist measures and trade barriers in place by various government entities around the world are tough.
2. Tax policies adopted by different countries are inconsistent.
3. There are many logistical details to get a product from one part of the world to another.
4. Clients do not always have the capacity to take risks, despite having strong balance sheet.
5. Be prepared to protect your intellectual property, and pay the legal fees associated with it.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Assuming I had the position of power and funds, I would make an impact on how we take care of urban versus nature conflicts. On one hand, we must protect the needs of human population for food and nutrition, but we must prevent extinction of our precious plants and animals in the wild. Reducing waste and even going further by converting the same to fulfill the need for humans and animals should be top priority.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Please visit our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/menonrenewableproducts/