Alex J V graduated with a Dual Degree in Engineering Design in 2012. He was the Head of C-Tides and was a resident of Godavari Hostel.
How would you describe Makeystreet in the briefest of words?
It’s a community for people who makes things, especially physical hardware. It builds on the fact that there lies a maker in everyone. It’s a platform for makers to engage with other makers.
What were your greatest challenges so far? Don’t you find it hard to market your products, like tangle?
I would say, marketing. We tend to think like engineers. We identify products and solutions and most often gloss over the marketing aspect. This has been one of our greatest challenges. The crux here is to identify your key propositions. With Tangle (A novel and simple solution to coiling earphones launched last year) Arun Srivatsan and I had quite a few. It was a new product and we were doing online sales. When we are already an established brand and product, online sales are easier to navigate through. But the challenge arises when it’s a new product that you’re trying to sell. People would want to touch and feel it before they give in.
In a sense Tangle was an experiment of all sorts. Most of our ideas and solutions remained at project phase and we wanted some to take it to the market and then Tangle happened. We expected people to flock us after the product launch. But that didn’t quite happen.
It was a learning experience. Among other things, we realised that there is a different approach to marketing your product. One needed to begin months before and had to align oneself in definite ways in how you approach media, build up product information etc. People just had to remember your brand.
On that note, could you comment on how it was armed with your tech skills venturing into business?
Well the whole question was whether it was an expensive hobby or something more serious. We had to make it sustainable. You come to realise that one needs to prioritise.
Looking back now, would you have taken the same decision to go off on your own rather than pursue higher studies?
Well that’s hard to say. I never did realise that it could be this hard. That realisation struck much later. I believe that I still have a long way to go. In that sense, it’s also been a humbling experience and that too in the simplest of matters; you would expect something to finish by a month when it would actually take 6.
For someone who is on the look to follow similar paths as yours after graduation, would you advise the same?
That could be very subjective. But in general, anyone who could survive the beating should go ahead. As Sylvester Stallone says in the movie Rocky, “Life’s not about how hard of a hit you can give… it’s about how many you can take, and still keep moving forward”. Well, if you are sure you can stand those lashes, go ahead!
How did being an IITian help you out? Did you have any mentors?
The IIT tag does help a lot. One greatest strength is the alumni network. It helps you connect with some powerful mentors. It obviously opens a lot of doors for you. But all it’s up to you to use that tag responsibly.
We were incubated by IITM and had some really towering mentors. Prof Ashwin Mahalingam, is one who has been a guiding spirit through the years.
Among many others, Hostel life was an enriching experience. The random conversations that boil up to technical discussions and much more, are very crucial. It creates a social engagement. Also, it’s the mixing that works wonders. You realise it’s never one set of ideologies. Working at CFI and C-TIDES, Shaastra, Saarang , time spend at rooftops were also good memories.
What is insti do you think you could have taken up or done?
As you can see, I was more focussed on technical stuff. I had done a lot of work with CFI and C-TIDES (Speaker is an ex-C-TIDES head). I wish I had taken up more Sales or Marketing profiles as well. Sponsorships for example is one avenue that could have helped me go a long way.
We were bootstrapping. IITM funded us and that’s how we got started. But we also had a fair share of experience crowd sourcing as well.
Word of advice to all keen ears.
One crucial factor is the Team. A company is always a success of many members. I am lucky to have Siddardha Garimella (IITM 2012 CS) join in as a co-founder. One learns to align oneself with others and also to adjust. Luck also does play a crucial part in this journey.
If you think you are creative and love making things, let your creativity show . Tell us about your work at www.makeystreet.com. Let the world know about it.