Make a Customer, Not a Sale! | Getting candid with DS

Devendra Singh or DS, as he is fondly called within the IndiaMART family, shared glimpses of his much-revered journey of over two decades with the country’s largest B2B marketplace. This association dates back to the days when IndiaMART was still in its pre-natal stage and was evolving. DS recollects, how in the months of February and March of 1996, he was leading the digital transformation at Nirula’s, one of North India’s most popular fast-food restaurant company in those times. 

The Growth with Nirula’s

As the IT Head of Nirula’s, and reporting directly to the MD Mr. Deepak Nirula, DS had already successfully established the Payroll & HR Systems, F&B Controls System, Hotel Management System and Production Planning and Management on MSSQL / VB / Crystal Reports 7 platform.

DS with Mr. Lalit Nirula and Mr. Deepak Nirula.

To further explore the untapped potential of the IT revolution taking place in India, getting a B2C website looked indispensable to DS.

DS had invited quotations from website development companies in the Delhi NCR region. On the verge of launching his start-up, IndiaMART, Founder and CEO Dinesh Agarwal sent a fax to Devendra Singh. He was one amongst the few shortlisted to give a presentation to DS.

As soon as the meeting kicked-off, DS was impressed with DA’s vision of creating an Online version of Yellow Pages for India, and how he intended to spearhead the country towards digital transformation by getting businesses online. The idea instantly touched the patriotic side of DS, and he gave the online catalog order for Nirula’s to IndiaMART.

A famous customer service quote says, “Make a customer, not a sale,” and that’s what Dinesh Agarwal was able to accomplish! A month before the launch of the IndiaMART portal on 1st April 1996, DA had found its first customer who got its business online at https://www.indiamart.com/nirulas/.

The dawn of the Internet in India – 15th August 1995

An internet enthusiast, DS was drawn towards Information Technology since his early days. He shares, that though Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) launched the public Internet access in India on 15th August 1995, DS was using the Internet since it was a thing of the western world, and companies like CompuServe and AOL were operating out of the US. DS shares that only the rich and the privileged in India would have access to emails at the time, and they would dial-in to CompuServe and use the emails via ISD lines. No wonder, when the Internet era unfolded in India, DS was amongst the first users to get an early access via GIAS (Gateway Internet Access System) of VSNL.

The story behind DS & DA!

There’s no dearth of captivating stories from the enigmatic DS. 

During a candid discussion, he shares the story behind the acronym-nomenclature amongst the senior leadership team at IndiaMART. In 2003, when DS joined IndiaMART in the capacity of a full-time employee as a Manager Technical, his email id was setup as devendra.singh@indiamart.com. There was another employee by the same name in the admin department. Emails intended for DS would often be marked mistakenly to his counterpart and would land in his inbox. Not happy with the to-and-fro, and delayed communication, DS ended setting up his email id as ds@indiamart.com, and people started calling him DS.

DS brings in another fascinating instance here. He shares that during the startup days, DA would use his official id dinesh@indiamart.com to register the company at various Internet Directories, send proposals, and perform various other marketing tasks. With the passage of time, as IndiaMART expanded its wings, a larger team took over the functions that Dinesh Agarwal would do in the initial days of the company as a startup entrepreneur. However, as his email id was seeded at far more places on the world wide web, he would get 90% of spam emails on a daily basis. Dinesh sought help from DS to resolve the matter, and as a simple solution, DS created da@indiamart.com as the new email id for the CEO. The rest is history, no one at IndiaMART knows when Mr. Dinesh Agarwal came to be known as DA and Mr. Devendra Singh – Dee esS

DS with DA

IndiaMART’s Indigenous Anti-Spam Mailing System

The above instance led us to another milestone in IndiaMART’s technical progress. DA’s original email id was used as a guinea pig to bifurcate and filter spam emails. Testing and experimenting on his email id, DS was able to build the company’s first indigenous Anti-Spam Mailing System. DS counts his, this first project at IndiaMART as one of his greatest achievements. He had built a feature-rich Mail Server (based on qmail) with Antivirus / Antispam and webmail using completely open-source software. The Antispam solution used to learn from Spam samples submitted to the system using Bayesian algorithm. The solution also had capability to OCR read the spammy messages written over embedded images in Mails.

The mindset of doing Root Cause Analysis (RCA)

During the launch of the Email Solution at 4:00am in the morning, something went wrong and all the Client Mails started bouncing. DS panicked and intended to revert to the old system, but DA insisted to keep calm and try doing RCA. On getting this moral support, DS was able to find the bug in one of the open source components and wrote a patch for it. By 5:00am the Solution was up and running. Lesson learnt that “Evil computers sense you’re in a hurry and mess with your head”. When something goes wrong, do not panic, do the RCA and fix. Support and Trust your Team in adverse situation and the Team will do wonders.

For more such interesting conversations, milestones, and inspiring stories, stay connected with the IndiaMART Leadership Desk! You can also share your thoughts by writing in to us at marketing@indiamart.com.

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