Interview with an Entrepreneur

Sai Sudha Nunna interview Abhilash Dasari of smartnerd group

A short introduction

Abhilash Dasari is a the founder and mastermind behind the smartnerd group of companies. He ran the one man show for over a year before we, the other founding members, believed in his vision and joined hands to make it true.

Smartnerd is a home automation company providing the best solutions from across the globe, that money can afford. It now has strong revenues, strong order pipeline. Smartnerd is right now executing a INR 8 Crore deal with one of the top real estate builders of Hyderabad, Aparna Constructions. Its a prestigious project for them and us alike.

Back story

Me: Abhilash, tell me the story behind smartnerd and you.

Abhilash: All this of course did not happen overnight. Nor was I always planning to do this. I had a spectrum of interests and I tried and experienced them all. As you know, I quit my engineering to go to USA and learn aviation. I am a license commercial pilot. If we rent a plane, I can right now fly you to any place you want.

I returned to India but the job market for commercial pilots has at that exact moment, crashed badly. Kingfisher pilots were attempting suicides. That was definitely a bad time. So I tried for coast guard and cleared all tests with flying colors except the medical. My skin was not suitable to fly over the ocean in the high humidity. You see, coastal guard is a serious job and seemingly insignificant issue as skin is still a big deal. I lost the job.

I then decided to turn my attention to another of my core interest, Security Markets. I went to Mumbai and joined NISM. Learn a lot about finance, made amazing friends who are now in big positions.

I joined Canara Bank securities after the course. I built it up from scratch and left the company once I made it a well oiled machine which can run itself.

After that came smartnerd.

Me: That’s quite a journey. Very movie like too. You always had an eye for the top class in everything. So tell me did you have any mentors.

Abhilash: Honestly, I never really had any mentors. Though I had a lot of people which great knowledge around me (my parents included), I never listened to anyone. In fact, right from my childhood I acted as a mentor to people around me. You know, how all my friends look up to me for direction in career and life. That is how it has always been right from my childhood.

So though I might have learned a lot from many different sources, I would say they are mostly secondary resources and I never really had a solid mentor.

Me: Would you say, your journey might have been easier if you had a mentor yourself?

Abhilash: That is speculative but may be it would have been. Having a mentor is definitely helpful. I guess the question is to find a mentor that you really really look up to. For me I did not come across anyone as such. I admired people like Steve Jobs but hey, there is no way he is going to mentor me one on one right. And I wasn’t interested in anyone who fell short from him. 🙂 Kidding but its definitely something on those lines.

But to answer yes, to have a great mentor always helps and cuts the journey and the pain by at least half.

Me: Now you are a mentor to a lot of people like your employees, colleagues, friends and even your investors. So tell me as a mentor, what is the most important trait a mentor should have

Abhilash: A mentor should really be interested in the growth of the people around. If you are just acting like you are interested, it definitely shows. Being a mentor is like being a family doctor. The family doctor knows all your health history, knows which medicines work best for you, knows how you have grown and all other circumstances. He may not spend all his time with you, he may not even spend an hour every month, he doesn’t need to. But he knows all the important facts and YOU know that you can run to him every time you have an issue and he will provide with the best suited healing for you.

Thats how a mentor mentee relation should be too.

Me: Wow! Thats an awesome analogy. Clears up so much. But tell me, would you accept everyone as a mentee or do you screen them and choose only a few. After all, you also have only 24 hours in a day.

Abhilash: I am very very picky. I am definitely a patient person but only to those whom I feel deserve it. They have to have the enthusiasm to grow, they have to be proactive without being annoying, they have to take and run with the advice they get, they should be determined to grow. If they are determined to learn and grow, I do not mind giving any number of chances because sometimes things beyond your control happen. So I do believe in giving a lot of chances once I pick my mentees.

I also do not reject people or shut them down if they are looking for advice of course. But I just do not invest too much time, effort and thoughts on people not in my inner circle of mentees. That’s all.

Me: That was a very insightful and interesting interview. I think there are a lot of take away for me or anyone who wants to be a mentor or a mentee or an entrepreneur or even simply to grow in whatever they are.

So just one last piece of advice. single sentence advice to wanna be entrepreneurs.

Abhilash: To go from the ‘what has been’ to ‘what can be’, you need to put a conscious and mindful effort.

Me: Thank you Abhilash! That is a wrap for now.