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Dream Big. Work Hard. Stay Humble. The Story of Sriram Manoharan, MD of Contus

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In 2008, Sriram Manoharan was facing a dilemma that most Indian youngsters hailing from middle income families face without indifference.

“Should I stick to my regular well-paying job or quit and give wings to my dreams?”

He chose the latter and in the process ended up giving wings to the dreams of millions of e-commerce store owners and hundreds of employees.

The owners of e-commerce stores often need help getting started. Whether they go to Onramp Funds for funding, a marketing company to help build their presence, or get the assistance of companies like Contus.

Today Sriram’s SMAC company Contus is valued at 75 crores and is a frontrunner in digital transformation solutions.

Sriram Manoharan’s story as an entrepreneur is one that fascinates and inspires without fail. After all, his company Contus, which he founded along with five of his friends has successfully crossed the million dollar mark without any external funding!

At a time when anybody with a printed business plan was heading to Silicon Valley for venture funding, Sriram Manoharan and his friends stayed back in Chennai. The only capital they had was the perseverance and the will to fight out all the odds standing between them and success.

Here is what we learnt of him and his brainchild Contus during a brief interview.

It’s my life’s purpose (chuckles) and continues: “Contus is a SMAC companySMAC stands for Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud. We have two office; one in Sunnyvale, California and another in Guindy, Chennai. Our primary services include high end mobile and web applications for a niche segment of customers.

We have been successful in developing and delivering mobile apps on all mobile OS platforms like iOS, Android, Windows, etc. Our client base is spread across 40+ countries. Since 2008 we have completed close to 1000+ projects, delivered 300+ apps, and served countless clients. We have also doubled our workforce with whose efforts we were able scale rapidly.

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Our biggest achievements happened in the recent years. We perfected a mobile app that is used in every one out of three SUVs in India. India’s biggest pharma company uses our mobile app for their enterprise communication. We have even worked with Bank of Palestine to revamp the banking experience of their customers. Although many of these banks have already implemented some amount of technology in their brick and mortar facilities, such as digital signage for financial institutions that allow for a wide variety of quick transactions and a smoother experience, the same ease and convenience was to be translated onto mobile apps/websites for carrying out remote transactions as well, which is where we came in. Several other milestones were also achieved. It is a very long list actually.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contus_(company)

Why the Name Contus?

Contus (Greek: Kontos) in Greek is a long wooden lance. It was used in ancient warfare and was used only by trained warriors who could balance themselves on a speeding horse while using both the hands to wield the spear. The name Contus indicates strength, force and agility.

We consider ourselves as an organization that is spearheading success in the IT industry with exceptional digital transformation solutions.

The Birth Story of Contus?

I always wanted to be independent and on my own. So entrepreneurship became a natural choice. I was working for some global IT companies on various roles like pre-sales, technical

support, etc. before getting smitten by the entrepreneurship bug. It was in 2008 along with six of my friends, decided to take the final plunge. And thus was born Contus.

Thiaghu was the one who really pushed us into starting the first step of launching the business. He currently heads the HR and Accounts of Contus. Bala Subramaniam (CEO), Balamurugan (Creative Head), Prakash (Director – eCommerce Solutions) and Dinesh (Director – Mobility Solutions) are the others who were in the founding team. Later came a number of techies who really rocket launched Contus on a success trajectory.

How did Contus Grow?

The growth was gradual. We had humble beginnings before exponential growth followed. When we opened business on the first day we had only the founders and two employees on board. In the initial days we were working from a two-bedroom apartment as office. In 2008 we moved into a 100-desk office in Ramapuram. It was there our first project – HD Flv player (www.hdflvplayer.net) took shape and form. It became a runaway success and helped us gain a solid foothold. By that time our founder’s capital was close to a wipe-out. But then with HD Flv player’s success our confidence was restored.

We invested in a better workplace and moved to our current 250-desk office in Guindy. Our order book started filling up. We were able to satisfy all our clients. Business gained momentum. In 2013 Apptha was born. That marked another major breakthrough in the history of Contus. A major landmark indeed. On the same year Contus was recognized as one among the top ten small and medium enterprises in India by Google.

Today we have grown to be a 250+ strong company. Our turnover has also increased with leaps and bounds running into millions. It all started with an initial investment of 25 lakhs. I am proud to have some of the best intellectuals heading and functioning on all verticals of Contus. It is to them that Contus owes its success to. It is our employees who have made Contus what it is today.

How is Apptha Relevant to the Current Global eCommerce Scenario?

Apptha( www.apptha.com ) is one of our most popular and successful marketplace for extensions and themes. It is literally a storehouse of extensions, scripts, themes, etc. Any individual with an entrepreneurial interest in e-commerce can buy our readymade scripts and launch their store in no time. We have launched more than 200+ products through Apptha and more are in the pipeline.

Our other service offerings include mobile apps development, ecommerce development, cloud technology solutions and analytics. We have created mobile apps for Mahindra automobiles, Nato Otan, Cbazaar, Exemplarr and for some other known names in Indian business.

Contus also made headlines with its Contalog ( www.contalog.com ) launch. Contalog is an omni channel digital field sales management system that will help businesses improve their lead conversions easily. From order management to digital catalog, Contalog is embedded with a plethora of powerful features.

What Kind of Difficulties did you Face as an Entrepreneur?

Basically all of us in the Contus team, that is including me and six of my friends were first generation entrepreneurs. We were all from humble backgrounds too. To reach the pinnacle of financial freedom and personal success has been a personal motive since college days. In fact, me and Bala, my friend since fourth grade (who is also a co-founder) had nurtured plans of opening a business since college days. But there was nobody to guide or mentor us in the right direction. We ventured into several tiny businesses with no clue of finance, marketing or whatever. Most businesses were ventured into with a hit or miss attitude, misses mostly.

And funding was very hard to come by. We were young, naive and lacking in business experience. But, in the end I feel it was all for the good. We learnt from our mistakes. We persisted every single failure. We stood strong as a team. I think our attitude to see difficulties not as difficulties but as opportunities made us what we are today.

Do you Think Being in Asia (India) you Received/Lacked any Opportunities for Developing as an Entrepreneur?

Well, for a true-blue entrepreneur his location is not a matter of concern. He will be more concerned about his market position. Of course, there were issues that we had to face like any other Indian company. But there could be no other place like India where a growing organization will be able to find talented workforce within quick reach and at economic costs.

Contus has become what it is due to the efforts of our talented staff. That is the biggest advantage and strength Contus has received being found and based in India, or for the matter whole of Asia.

Whom do you Consider to be Your Mentors?

I don’t have any mentors as such. I always let my instincts lead my way. Moreover, It is impossible to narrow down on the name of one person who has influenced me, because there are so many from whom I have learnt many things. And there was unconditional support from all sides too. At Contus, our employees have always given us all the support needed to achieve success. I take this opportunity to thank them for their efforts in leading Contus to success.

How do you Define Success?

Can’t help but remember a quote by Steve Jobs. “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful. That’s what matters to me.” That’s success to me.

Word of Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs?

The whole world is celebrating entrepreneurship as a glamourous and glitzy affair. Everyday there is some news of a startup getting millions of venture capital funding, being taken over by tech giants and so on.

But remember that behind the scenes of these success stories are plenty of failures. If you want to taste success be prepared to face some failures before that. Entrepreneurship is for those people who will fall down seven times and but still have the courage to stand up for eighth time.

Don’t get distracted by what is happening around you. Stay focussed on your goal. Be prepared to take failure in the right spirit. Sometimes it takes decades of toiling to be known as an overnight success.

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