Learn from & Laugh at your failures. The entrepreneurship journey is riddled with failures with small moments of happiness. It is essential to celebrate failures, learn from them and laugh at them. I think if, as an entrepreneur, you are unable to laugh at yourself and take things with a grain of salt, you won’t be able to survive for long.
Satya Kalyan Yerramsetti CEO of Telebu Communications is a dreamer, a storyteller, a serial entrepreneur, a visionary, and a man on a mission. Satya has a unique ability to look at things with a child’s curiosity. Learn about them, identify opportunities, pain points, etc. and focus his energy to make them better for users & consumers.
In his 18 years of entrepreneurship, he has founded multiple companies, scaled them, sold them & had the courage to walk away from a few when the companies that were set out to solve a problem lost track of their objective.
When you talk to Satya about his successes, he will tell you stories about his failures. He strongly believes the journey makes a man, not his successes.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, 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?
completed my mechanical engineering in 1996 from Osmania University, Hyderabad (India), and aspired to do a master’s from the US. Next, I wanted to land a corporate job and get married without taking a dowry. But destiny had other plans for me. Unfortunately, my visa for the US got rejected, so I moved to Australia to pursue a master’s in Business Management and completed it at the University of Western Sydney.
The Telecom sector was flourishing at the time, and I was ecstatic to see many startups popping up that managed to create a significant impact in the industry. Having an inborn entrepreneur trait, I decided to start from scratch. There were times; you could build a business only if you had capital, but today, if you have the determination, an innovative idea, and can put together a good team, you are good to go.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
I embarked on my entrepreneurial journey with A2ZExams.com that was an online examination portal. But within two years, it got shut. After that, I ran operations for a UK-based telecom company and managed 40 developers for two years. While working for the telecom company, I got fascinated to know how messages get sent to thousands of people, from laptops to phones.
I felt that businesses did not have an affordable, quick, and easy way to connect and communicate with their customers. In 2003, I finally decided to quit my job and pursue entrepreneurship full-time. That’s when I started SMSCountry Networks. We were an SMS gateway service provider that enabled businesses to send personalized and customized SMSs in bulk. Later in 2018, we named the organization “Telebu Communications”. “Tele” stands for Telecommunications and “Bu” stands for Business. The name also perfectly resonates with our core expertise and our mission to use Technology to simplify communication for Businesses. Today, the organization has audio conferencing apps, a video conferencing app, a Doctor consultation app, even a booking app, and the list is long.
I am a firm believer that communication is the key to building strong relationships. Therefore, I worked to build a tech company that bridges that gap between customers and businesses.
In your opinion, were you a natural-born entrepreneur, or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
My Dad was a successful entrepreneur. I learned a lot by observing him. Among the many lessons he taught me, the one I remembered was building businesses that impact the lives of people & society at large.
I always keep an eye on the big picture, but I don’t forget to remind myself that small steps in the right direction will lead me to my destination.
From the very beginning, I have been flexible in adapting to changes and problem-solving. I don’t give up easily. Over time, I have learned to accept rejection with a smile, learn from my mistakes, and take failures in my stride. These experiences have fastened my resolve and made me a better man.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
I get inspired by the smallest moments of wisdom, bravery, courage, honesty, and determination shown by people around me. If I had to pick one person who has influenced me the most, it would be my Dad. I grew up watching him work hard. He didn’t flinch in the face of adversity and moved forward without fear. He didn’t demand respect; he earned it.
Growing up, he was the one who taught me many valuable lessons. He taught me to be generous and never give up. I learned from him that results are a byproduct of your labor, processes, and faith. These simple yet essential lessons have shaped my life in its entirety. I attribute much of who I am to my loving father.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our understanding of our target market, our products, our team & the work culture we have established across verticals helps us stand out from our competitors.
We carefully tested our products across different demographics, industries, and buyer personas to zero — in our challenges. We believe Product-Market fit is an iterative process, and our product must continue to evolve with time to stay one step ahead.
As an organization, we have been choosy in our hiring process. We don’t necessarily hire the best, neither do we focus on hiring people based on success stories. Instead, we focus on hiring people based on how they have overcome failures and how they are suitable for the job we expected them to do.
Last year has been brutal for most organizations. Some went out of business, some laid off their workforce, and some lived to fight another day. We thank our stars that we are amongst the latter.
Telebu didn’t lay off a single employee from the organization. Instead, we had a heart-to-heart with our team, spoke about the challenges that lay ahead, and rallied together. And, the journey has been enriching, filled with learning and growth. Yes, we beat the odds. We grew month on month in revenues, usage, and new business generated.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Haha, I still don’t think I’m successful; there is a lot to be achieved. I believe all great leaders have these three traits in common:
The road to entrepreneurship is full of hardships and paved with squirrels. One has to be persistent & decisive. You will lose clients, people, revenues, deals every other day. One has to be thick-skinned, forgiving, and not let success or failure get to your head. One must have an unwavering belief and the courage to stand back up even after getting knocked down.
Trust in your team
Trust is a fundamental building block. Give your team the license to express, communicate, debate, and question decisions. If you do, they are more likely to give their best, develop innovative ideas, or offer out-of-the-box solutions to your problems.
I see myself as a colleague, friend, mentor & student around my peers. I share everything, listen to everyone, and don’t shy away from expressing my distaste or displeasure. I feel organizations focus too much on diplomacy rather than transparency. I am a firm believer that ‘Sunlight is the best disinfectant’. A transparent work environment will always yield the best results.
Often, leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about the advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
To date, I have no regrets in life as I have always followed my heart. However, what I can share is the list of advice that isn’t worth it’s salt.
a) Academic Results & Grades make or break your carrier
Yet, there is no correlation found between academic success & being successful in life.
b) VC money is the answer to all your problems
No, it isn’t. If you aren’t ready or prepared, it can easily add to your woes.
c) Build to Sell
No, build to last for long-term. If I can’t build an organization that will outlast me, competitors, and makes an impact, why build at all.
d) Hire Successful People.
No, hire hungry people. The fire in their belly makes all the difference.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
Regardless of what industry you work in, you will always have employees who love to come with out-of-the-box ideas. Good leaders identify their team’s strengths, provide guidance, channelize their energies & give them wings to fly.
Give your team the license to fail, experiment & bestow them with responsibilities. Involve them in decision making, discuss strategies, explain your point of view, teach them what you know, acknowledge their efforts & reward their wins.
If you can build such a work culture, you have won half your battle.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Well, this is interesting! I’d advise them to:
Never take shortcuts: They are never a long-term solution. Eventually, they lead to disappointments rather than quick success. Instead, progress steadily.
Own up to your mistakes: There will be a few darkest days when things won’t go the way you expected them to be. Remember that failures won’t make you an awful person. Similarly, the success of your organization won’t make you superhuman.
Accept constructive criticism: Especially when you get it from your customer. When you take feedback positively, you grow as a leader. Feedback & criticism leads to development, growth, and improvement.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
We live in a world where the consumer is spoiled for choices. Every day, thousands of brands are vying for their attention. It’s becoming impossible for the brands to stand out.
I believe the best way brands can be successful is by turning their consumers into brand advocates. The simplest way to turn your consumers into brand advocates is to deliver on your promise, build trust, and own up your mistakes.
Consumers are forgiving & empathetic; if we are open, honest, and transparent in our communication. Brands can no longer hoodwink users into buying from them. Acquiring new users is just one piece of the puzzle. The real challenge is to offer a truly immersive & delightful experience for your consumers throughout the purchase process. In order to deliver such an experience, brands need to be willing to listen.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Businesses don’t last because they don’t have a long-term goal. They should aim to retain & delight their customers. Customer Retention & Satisfaction are our top objectives.
Be open, direct, and honest with your customers. It will help you build transparency, develop a connection & relationship that will last.
Not being aware of the global market: You should know who your competitors are, their strengths and weaknesses. Learn about the market gap; it will help you identify the opportunity. Never limit yourself to your industry, either. Look at comparable companies across verticals.
Have a great team in place: Having a solid team is essential in today’s multidisciplinary world. It’s important to note that everyone has different skills. The trick is in knowing the missing pieces of the puzzle. Nothing is more gratifying than working together as a close-knit team to meet goals.
Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
As an entrepreneur, you have to be comfortable with risk. Life is full of excitement and adventure. Brainstorming innovative ideas will give you goosebumps. Managing clients and taking up new projects is an everyday task. Some deals turn out to be million-dollar success stories while others end up as drastic failures. One has to accept everything and learn from mistakes. Besides this, an entrepreneur is responsible for paying employee salaries, which in turn helps support their families. It is a lonely job. You are working 24/7 in one way or another.
On the contrary, when you are in a regular job, you have fixed work hours, you get exposure to skill development, leaves, task completion, deadlines, and other benefits.
Bottom line: The entrepreneurial journey isn’t for the faint-hearted. You have to be prepared to burn the bridges, walk that extra mile, take failures on your chin, and always move forward. It doesn’t have room for doubt. Either you believe in what you are doing, or you don’t. There can be no half-measures. The only way to be an entrepreneur, in my opinion, is to give it you all.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
During the ‘HUDHUD’ Cyclone that ravaged Andra Pradesh’s coast, we deployed a fully functioning call center to help the AP Government in 12 days. Understanding the need for a call center setup that is deployable quickly, we began working on our cloud-hosted call center software. Our Cloud Contact Centre would unify all call center essentials and systems into a single-view software solution, and thus TelebuHub, a cloud office platform, was born. The government set up helplines, grievance redressal systems and kept tabs on the ground realities. We are proud to have worked with the government & be of service.
Today TelebuHub has evolved into an end-to-end virtual office platform. TelebuHub empowers organizations to run call centers, make outbound calls, offer support, manage contacts via its inbuilt CRM, raise tickers or automate your knowledge management system.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Yes, I still remember; the year was 2011. As a CEO, you do have a fair share of challenges when you run a business. The biggest ones are hiring the right people, funding, getting the right product in the market, to name a few. Oh, yes, I failed to mention, these challenges keep on changing over time. We were growing steadily after the launch of our SMS service 160by2. In a short span of four years, we managed 8 million messages per day. We had extended our presence across India, built a larger team, and continued to grow in revenues too.
But in 2011, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) implemented regulations where no company could send bulk messages. It was the turning point in our journey. Suddenly, we could no longer make money due to compliance issues & policy changes.
At that point, we had a 700-people team in 40 offices in India. The worst part was, we had to scale down to one office to survive. It was devastating both for my faithful employees and me, so I wanted to do it in the most humane way possible. In 2 days, I visited all the offices and explained to the teams why they needed to let them go. I offered severance pay to every employee amounting to two months of salary in advance to get much affected financially.
I know failure is inevitable, but there’s a seed of success in every loss. You eventually bounce back and become stronger.
Based on your experience, can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
One of the harsh truths of life is that failure can sometimes push us into depression. As an entrepreneur, you taste more failures than successes. It’s best to accept the situation, learn from your loss and move on.
I was also depressed. I wanted to take a month’s break, so I flew to the US to meet my friends. New surroundings and experience helped in resetting my body and soul. I met new people, and my friends motivated me. My visit & some ‘me time’ helped me positively channelize my frustration. I got new ideas, bounced back with a bang, and introduced a few new innovative product ideas.
What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
Entrepreneurs are a unique species. They are often associated with terms like innovators, creators, visionaries, dreamers, etc. However, what society fails to mention is Entrepreneurs are also stubborn, risk-takers, and optimist fools.
Entrepreneurship is like walking a tightrope on the tallest building in the world; one misstep and your whole world can come crashing down. Behind the multi-million dollar deals, unicorns, fancy cars, etc., lies a journey that is never fully brought to light.
I will be sharing five things every entrepreneur needs to learn & inculcate to walk the journey that’s lonely, tiresome, painful, nerve-wracking, and thankless for the large part.
Focus on the process & stop worrying about the result
When you build a skyscraper, the key is to focus on laying the foundations and processes instead of worrying about when the tower will be ready. Focus on finding the materials with strength that will offer the skyscraper the power & flexibility to hold its own against the winds.
Blueprints may change; you will run into trouble sooner rather than later. But if you have laid the right foundations, it becomes easier to build again.
Be Prepared to feel like a failure every single day.
The early days of your entrepreneurship journey are the most brutal. Most of your colleagues will be vacationing in the Maldives or will be driving fancier cars than yours. They will get to spend time with their families, party on the weekends, or take it easy. In contrast, you will be toiling hard to survive. You will have someone in your circle remind you that why haven’t made it yet? Every day you will lie in your bed, questioning, is it all worth it? Don’t let the pressure get to you. Remember, you are building an organization so that people who work for you get to travel the world & close business deals for you.
I have traveled to more than 40+ countries, but I can’t honestly tell you how beautiful these places are, where to shop or what should be on your itinerary.
Keep your friends & family close.
As I said, entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey. You will have self-doubts, have delusional ideas, lose track of reality, and get carried away chasing things that are superficial and mean nothing to you. It is vital to keep your family & friends close. They will serve as your moral compass and will not be afraid to call you out when you lose sight of your ambition.
Find ME time
Entrepreneurship is a Hustle in more ways than one. As an entrepreneur, we tend to focus on the present and get busy firefighting, instead of concentrating on the future. It’s essential to take some time off every day for yourself. Use it to read, listen to music, work out, meditate, or pen down your thoughts. In my experience, spending time with oneself helps you internalize your emotions, channelize your energies, and allows you to reflect or look forward.
Learn from & Laugh at your failures
The entrepreneurship journey is riddled with failures with small moments of happiness. It is essential to celebrate failures, learn from them and laugh at them. I think if, as an entrepreneur, you are unable to laugh at yourself and take things with a grain of salt, you won’t be able to survive for long.
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Resilience, in my opinion, is the ability to fight the odds. No, matter how hard life knocks you down, you always have the will to get up. During the last year, we came across many inspiring stories about resilient people. The Doctors & Frontline workers never ducked their responsibility, and some individuals lost their jobs. Still, instead of giving up & resigning, they figured out different ways to earn some money & survive.
We have read stories about the millions of people, students, migrant workers, who weren’t able to move back to their hometowns, and felt worried sick about their family back home, yet they showed up to work without a fuss and carried on. We had colleagues who doubled down on working harder, hustled even on weekdays to ensure that we as an organization pulled through.
Moms showed resilience. They have always been the strongest species to ever walk on earth. We had colleagues who would start their day at 5 AM & work till midnight every day. They managed their children, cooked, cleaned, worked, took care of their family, and never took a day off.
To sum it up, resilience comes from the will within. It’s a trait usually found in fighters who value things, who have a fire in their heart, and, no matter what will always give their best. Resilient People don’t look for excuses, don’t throw a pity party for themselves, instead, choose to focus on the problem and channelize all their energies to best tackle the problem.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
Deliver exceptional customer experiences. Whether it’s improving responsiveness, consistency, convenience, or personalizing experiences, businesses need clear and professional communication.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
Being an entrepreneur takes a lot of hustle. I start my day with a morning meditation and a jog. I have recently taken up boxing; it gets my adrenaline going and prepares me to take on any challenges that might come my way. Reading is my all-time favorite leisure activity. Most importantly, I’m an ardent believer in the power of positivity and spirituality.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
As a leader, I know that I’m also the company’s public face, which happens to be a role I enjoy. But simultaneously, I appreciate the work others do, how their talents contribute to the business, and what I can learn from them.
What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
I draw inspiration from others who are successful. There is no substitute for hard work. Besides that, I feel “heart work” plays a more critical role in my entrepreneurial journey. I am someone who is an ardent believer in the power of positivity. If you genuinely want something, the whole universe conspires, and your dreams do come true.
New clients are essential to drive growth, but having a solid relationship with them even more so. A life philosophy I live by “Give, and you shall receive in unknown forms.”
I’ll share a story. Once I was in Dubai with two more friends and asked one of my friends, Murli, to give me 10 dirhams. I told him to forget about taking the money back and think that he had donated it to someone. After three days, Murli received 40 dirhams from someone who owed him money. Money that he had written off as bad debt. Then I told him, see the Lord works in mysterious ways.
How can our readers further follow you online?
The best way to connect with me is via Linkedin.
If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, please join the Facebook community:
Our Company Website: www.telebu.com
Business Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/telebucommunication/
Businesses Linkedln: https://www.linkedin.com/company/telebucommunications
Businesses Twitter: https://twitter.com/telebucomms
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!