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Shiva Kumaar 0:13
Hey, what’s up everybody? Welcome back to another episode of driven ecommerce at work presented by DCKAP, and I’m your host Shiva Kumaar
On this episode, I’m gonna sit down with my boss Karthik Chidambaram. He’s the founder and CEO of DCKAP. He’s been running this company for almost 15 years and had both ups and downs like every other entrepreneur, but I’m not gonna pitch you about our offerings. I just want to tell you about how a small idea changed into a multifaceted company of what we’re today. So like all of you, I’m super excited to host him Karthik welcome to the Show and how’s it going?
Karthik Chidambaram 1:01
Thank you so much. Sure. It’s great to be chatting with you and congratulations on this podcast. Great to be joining you.
Shiva Kumaar 1:08
Yeah. Thank you so much Karthik. So it’s Friday morning. I think we’re getting ready for the weekend and other things, so, DCKAP was started like every other technology company, right. So when did this transition happened to more of eCommerce focused?
Karthik Chidambaram 1:22
Great question Shiva! So just like every other company, when we started, DCKAP was doing everything. So we started doing ad processing. We also started working on games. We did dotnet, we did Java, you name it, we did it. And later, we realised that it’s not a good strategy, and we need to be really, really focused on something and do that extremely well. And that’s when the transition happened. Sometime in 2008. We started working on a platform called Magento, which was very new then and around 2012, we said that, hey, we are working on too many things. And let’s just focus on one thing and let that be Magento. And that’s when we started working completely on Magento. Again, you know, we did a lot of mistakes. And these mistakes cost us a lot of money and a lot of experiences as well. So that was a great, great learning. Definitely happy about it. So around 2012 we said, okay, let’s just focus completely on digital commerce. And we started working on other platforms as well like Shopify bigcommerce, SAP hybris, and a host of other platforms.
Shiva Kumaar 2:37
Yeah, yeah. So while you we’re talking about Magento, I think Magento made the travel for DCKAP little easy. So we’ve attended so many events in Magento. And so travel plays a key role in DCKAP, right? So you always encourage people to travel. So why do you think that you know, that’s important or how that’s going to help the career for any anyone, any tech people
Karthik Chidambaram 3:00
That’s a great question too. Right? So before I get into the travel piece, you hit on a really good point in terms of Magento. So that really helped us. Fast forward as a company. You know, we learned a lot of things working with Magento, though, we were just partners with them, I felt like I was an employee of that company, learn so much from them, and we really understood, you know, what an ecosystem man and what a community meant working with that platform. So that was really, really, it was a rich experience, I should say. And, yeah, and coming to travel. Yeah, travel plays a very, very key role. Right. So we have been a big beneficiary of travel as a company I’ve personally gained a lot by travelling. And that’s one of the reasons why we encourage travel a lot within the company. Of course, the circumstance circumstances today are different with covered 19. But generally, right so we learn a lot by travelling the world and by meeting different people, you get a lot of exposure. And every time our people travel, when they come back, they are stronger, they are more smarter, and they have more exposure. and that in turn helps the clients and everyone
Shiva Kumaar 4:15
good. So one of the problems that I travel, so I wasn’t sure you know how to compensate between the personal life and professional life. So how do you take care of that? I see, you know, you’ve never taken so much off for the work, right? So how do you manage, especially when you you know, travel for the business trips, the, how do you compensate and how do you balance between your personal life and the professional life?
Karthik Chidambaram 4:40
That’s a great question. Shiva. I’m not too sure if there is something called a balance between personal and professional life, but then I certainly enjoy the work we do. And I don’t think you know, it’s fair to say that I don’t take any off actually I do take off, but maybe it’s not too visible. So, yeah, I mean, but I do enjoy whatever I’m doing. And also definitely get to spend time with family as well, because I think that’s equally important. I try my best, but you got to ask my wife.
Shiva Kumaar 5:14
Okay, okay, good. So how did this Magento so since we talked about it, so we’ve been doing Magento since 2008. And I’m pretty sure that we did that for almost like four or five years, and then we completely understood that. Okay, so this is, this is the way that we want it to go moving forward. And then we completely transitioned into eCommerce company in 2012 or early 2013. So how do you think that the Magento community helped us to, you know, transform to what we’re doing today? DCKAP community?
Karthik Chidambaram 5:45
Oh, absolutely. Right. That’s a very good question. See, when you work for
a smaller company, you learn a lot, right? And Magento is like that. In fact, I’ve been to these Oracle OpenWorld and Dream forces which are organized by Salesforce way back, right. But there are about 100,000 people or more. And maybe for me it was difficult to understand or comprehend what was going on. So I didn’t really get that so much. But when you work for Magento, or when you partner with Magento, the time we partnered with them, they were just about 200, 300 people. And they were just starting up right in terms of organising these events and getting the developer community together. So there was so much learning from that company. And that was actually an inspiration for us to do the DCKAP community as well. But the more important thing is we learned and we understood how a business works. And we understood how great companies are built and Great companies are built on great ecosystems. And that’s what we are set to do as well. Right? So we want to be a great ecosystem where everybody benefits.
Shiva Kumaar 7:11
Yeah, yeah, exactly. So how was your first experience the first time attending a Magento, Imagine, I think that was in 2013. Or 14, I guess.
Karthik Chidambaram 7:20
Yeah, no, I mean, even before magenta, right, So I’ve gone to a lot of conferences and all that. But 2013 was definitely a very, very difficult time, in a way. Like I said, right, so we made a lot of mistakes. And we also ran into issues where we could not even pay the payroll. And so that was a lot of learning. And you don’t want to be in that kind of situation. But I’m very thankful for that experience in a way because that taught us a lot of lessons. And that’s when we scaled down a lot of other things we were doing and just started focusing only on one platform. And that’s when you know, we attended the First imagine in Vegas, so it was really good, right? I mean, the ticket was about a little over $1,000. And I wasn’t sure if we really want to pay $1,000 to attend this conference. But like you said, right, so we invest in travel and everything. So we said, okay, let’s just go for it. And we actually paid over $1,000 to attend the event. And I was actually great, right? So there was a lot of learning. It was a very small community. And we got to understand why smaller events are more interesting than a bigger event, and things like that.
Shiva Kumaar 8:36
Yeah, yeah. And I think if we really looked back, I think we travelled to several countries to attend these Magento events and one interesting fact is. We actually launched one of our product Productimize on Magento. Australia, right.
Karthik Chidambaram 8:48
That’s right. So yeah, so we actually were fortunate we got an opportunity to speak there and we launched our product. Productimize, which is a product configuration solution out there. Yeah. So it’s great experience.
Shiva Kumaar 8:59
Okay, so If I have to look after all these product companies, so one of the major challenge that I see is I’m not sure how they’re identifying the problems, because that’s what the SaaS product is all about, right? So you can define the success of a product only when you define the problem. So let’s say if I look after all our product lines, so I see there is a problem behind every product. So for Cloras you know, it born from a distribution industry challenge, especially the Epicor P21. And the same goes to Productimize as well. So how do you identify all these challenges? Especially, you know, when it comes to the b2b distribution and other things
Karthik Chidambaram 9:37
so great question. Shiva. So we love problems, because problems are opportunities to learn. And every time we have a problem sometimes say we don’t like it in a way but we really see that as an opportunity and to solve it. So we enjoy the learning part of that, since we have the services component to the business as well. we get an opportunity to work with a multitude of clients and working with these clients, we understand the challenges. Again, we have to give full credit to the team, right? So they are extremely good and what they do. And they work with these customers. In fact, a lot of these solutions, right, so you talked about Cloras and you also talked about Productimize. Another product is QA Touch. So we have a very, very good QA team. So we kind of brainstorm together, hey, what can we do? Right? So what is the problem we can solve? See, at the end of the day, it all boils down to people, if you have smart people, you will be able to find problems and you’ll be able to solve them. So that’s exactly how we do it right. So for instance, you know, we have a very good QA team as you know, and then you know, we talk to them, hey, you have very rich experience, what can we do with your experience right, because, see, one of the things is to keep people motivated, right. So are the purpose which you talk about. So what is the purpose Otherwise, if you don’t keep more people motivated, it’s very difficult to retain the people as well. So we brainstorm together and they came up with a problem, and they came up with a solution. And that’s how the product was born. Like QA Touch and the same thing with Cloras, you mentioned about profit 21 or not just profit 21. We started with profit 21. But now, Cloras is a multi integration platform, right? So it can integrate any two systems. So again, full credit to the team, right? So if I were to sit and do it, I’m not sure if the product would be that good. But the team did an awesome job.
Shiva Kumaar 11:34
Yeah, yeah. And also I, I like the way that you do the account nurturing, and then especially the customer success part, so you don’t wait until a problem pops-up. So that’s something that I learned from you. So you know, even when there is something right, I mean, if it’s, if it’s going very good. So you always try to meet with the customers, right? The management folks, the CIO, CMO’s and just talk to them to see how things are going and what else can be, you know, handled better. So I think that’s that’s something helps us to, you know, stay ahead before something comes in, even in the next couple of days or weeks, right?
Karthik Chidambaram 12:09
Oh, absolutely. Right. So that’s a great point. Yeah, we believe in meeting clients. And again, that’s not to say that we are perfect, right? So we make mistakes. Okay, and, but then we also learn from these mistakes, but definitely we like meeting clients face to face. But now we have to figure out new ways to meet with them or nurture them at least for the next 12 to 18 months. But yeah, so I think these, travel and the relationships see we’re all about relationships, right? That’s what this is all about. It’s about relationships. And these relationships go a long way. But even when there’s travel and meeting clients, it wasn’t easy, right? Especially in the start. Let’s say I want to meet the client. Hey, why do you want to meet me? Right? So we didn’t really have anything to talk about. But then slowly we figured it out
Shiva Kumaar 12:56
Yeah, yeah. And do you want to talk about something on the line of the distribution community, so you said that we established, two, three years ago, or maybe four years ago, on the epicor p21 space. So are there any other communities especially like AHTD and other stuff that we’re exploring or to get into that on the Cloras space?
Karthik Chidambaram 13:16
No, we are always exploring, right? So we always are looking for new opportunities, and with respect to distribution. See we believe that that’s actually a big opportunity. And there’s also a big need there. So because we already do a lot of work in b2b, and that’s one of our strong assets, and we also have products in that line so one of the things we want to do is we want to make it easy for distributors to go online or to interact with their customers or we want to help in their digital transformation journey. So it’s like taking baby steps, right. So we have partnered with a lot of different communities and helping them you mentioned about Epicor’s Prophet 21, We also work on other platforms like Eclipse. We also do a lot of work with distribution one. And SAP, you know, we do a lot of work with DDI. So these are some of the ERP’s we work with. But when it comes to domains, you know, HVAC is another industry we do a lot of work on. So yeah, this is constantly evolving, right? So it’s not like one thing or the other. It’s everything together, and it needs to work together.
Shiva Kumaar 14:25
Yeah. And I think you always say, just don’t wait for things to get perfect. Go ahead and do that. And if even if you fail, just make sure that you fail fast. So we can learn from that experience. Right. So especially, you know, we’ve been hosting meetups and attending events and other things. So hosting an event or something like a dream for DCKAP couple of years ago, we never thought about it. But I think we’re here and we even launched our virtual event a couple of days back and we had 300 plus attendees. So how do you think launching Our own event is gonna help our goal like building the DCKAP community.
Karthik Chidambaram 15:05
Yeah, absolutely. Right. So DCKAP ecosystem or community events is just one part of the strategy. Like you said, it was definitely a dream. But having the right team in place makes a whole lot of difference. dreams do come true. And that’s something we learned by those events as well. So we did the first event in Cleveland. And we also did another event in Los Angeles. We called it the DCKAP summit. We were gonna do an event on April 28, at the Ritz Carlton in Cleveland, but then unfortunately, that could not happen because of COVID-19. So the team really acted very, very fast and they converted it into an eSummit. They’re able to pull it over 350 registrations was really, really amazing. I mean, full credit to the team. But again, you know, it’s just a part of the overall strategy. I don’t think just events is enough, you have to do events is just one part of the game but we We learn a lot by doing these events. And we are also able to nurture our partner community. And a lot of partners come to our events. And we want our partners to be successful. We want anybody associated with the DCKAP ecosystem or the DCKAP community to be successful. And that’s when we can be successful.
Shiva Kumaar 16:20
Yeah, yeah. And while we’re talking about customer success and taking care of the customers. I think a good company isn’t just about it. So we need to equally make sure that we take care of the employees as well, right. So if we really look back, we never had the sort of pantry or offering free food and other things. But I think we’re doing it right now. So it’s been two years we’ve been offering free food like breakfasts and lunch. So when we were small, I think it was good. So we were able to manage like 50 plus employees. So we’re at hundred and sixty plus employees right now, and taking care of employees is going to be one of the hardest thing, especially in 2020. So was there any thought process behind doing This or how do you currently manage that?
Karthik Chidambaram 17:01
Yeah, see, I mean, food is, just a simple thing. So more important is the culture. Again, we have a great team. And if you have a great team, I think things do fall in place. And, and so the culture is very, very important for a company, right? So for instance, we were reading this book or called how Google works. That’s an amazing book to read. And they talk a lot about culture. And our culture has evolved over a period of time. It’s not like we were doing all this right from the start. So when we started, hey, why should we really pay for food, let them bring the food and let them pay for it? Because, you know, we’re already spending, you know, it’s gonna be an expense, you know, we don’t really want to do it. So that was our thought process, and slowly it changed. Hey, why don’t we try free food and see how it works? We just started off with free lunch and that was really, really well received. And then later on, we said, okay, let’s do it. free breakfast as well. And so that makes it a little easier. And that worked as well. So people enjoy it. But again, it was just one part of it. And I don’t think it’s that big a thing or anything. But yeah, definitely feel happy about it. Yeah.
Shiva Kumaar 18:16
Yeah. So one way, I think it helps people to spend time on other things like staying fit. So they can just go and play games instead of, you know, waiting for their, like, one hour or two hour in the restaurant so they can just have the food they can spend the rest 30 minutes or 40 minutes on playing or spending time with the colleagues. Right. So speaking of fit, so you cycled to the office, right? So how that came in. So and you also encourage employees to just go ahead and do cycle don’t wait for, you know, don’t wait to make decisions because you’ve been sitting there for like 8 – 10 hours. So this is the only thing that you can do to your body, right.
Karthik Chidambaram 18:53
It’s cool, see again, good ideas needs to be shamelessly copied and I will admit that It’s not like I invented this cycling to work or whatever, right. In fact, a lot of people cycled to work. But then I got inspired by a cycle at DCKAP. So I was just getting into the DCKAP building and I saw a cycle. And the security was saying that, hey, you know, this is actually from one of our employees. And that inspired me. I thought, okay, maybe I should even try it. This pretty looks pretty cool. And, and then Initially, I was hesitant. I was thinking about it, like for a week or two. And then I said, hey, it’s okay. Let me just go and get a cycle. And that’s essentially what I did. And once I got the cycle, okay, I thought, Okay, let me just take the cycle to work. When I started taking it, I was a little shy. I wasn’t too sure how people would react or whatever. But then I didn’t really think too much. I started doing it and once I started doing it, I definitely enjoyed it a lot. And I also save money on gas. I don’t really have to put any gas or whatever. And I don’t need an extra car. So that really helps to write it also helps in saving some money. And like you rightly pointed out, it helps you stay fit as well. And that’s a great benefit and see, that’s the only thing we have, right? So in order for you to work, you need to stay healthy. And if you’re not healthy, no matter how smart you are, it really is not gonna work.
Shiva Kumaar 20:25
Yeah, yeah. So speaking of staying fit, I think one other thing that we encourage employees is, so we also encourage them to read books right, readers are the leaders. So you’ve been reading a lot of books for the past couple of years. So how do you think that, that changed the face of the company or changed the way we ran the business and how that helps tech people to, you know, build their experiences as well.
Karthik Chidambaram 20:51
So definitely right before I get onto books, I’m also really proud that a lot of lot more people are coming to work by the bicycle so, that’s something Which is really interesting. But again, I’m not sure how long we’re going to be locked at home. Hopefully things get better soon. But then with respect to reading, reading is very, very critical component. I was actually in Aliso Viejo, I was just in an elementary school. And I saw this slogan called readers are leaders. I thought that’s pretty cool. And then we just copied that and we put it in our office, right on the reception. But yeah, I’ve been reading for a while now. And read has really helped me transform as a person for instance, and I never have had a habit of saving. Then I started reading this book called the only investment guide you’ll ever need by Andrew Tobias and then that really helped me think of life differently, right? See, no matter who you are, never take things for granted. And you have to start saving right. So I mean, especially when you start saving. It may look very, very small. You may not have a lot of money, but over a period of time it compounds and it adds up. So that’s something I learned from reading. And how Google works is another book we read, or I read, and that really transformed our work culture. Right. And the Netflix story is another interesting read as well. So these things really transformed me as a person. And, and it’s really, really important, right? It’s not just one person needs to be transformed, the entire company needs to be transformed. And that’s something I truly believe in. Right. So in order for us to be leader, or in order for us to progress really well as a company, everybody needs to be transformed, and we need to up the game. And that’s one of the reasons why we encourage people in DCKAP to read. In fact, we make it mandatory if you do not read, then we, I will even say we don’t want to work with you. So it’s like that. So it’s very, very important to read. And I’m really happy that people are really supported and they also find the value in it. I’ve seen people Within DCKAP transform because of their reading. And that gives me a lot of joy. In fact, we have a lot of business leaders within the company, and I would contribute reading and learning
is played a very critical role in that.
Shiva Kumaar 23:17
Yeah. And I think you never said that, just like that. So you really meant it right. So we, we have a full complete set of library right now. And then so we also had this opportunity to sponsor the chennai book fair. And so DCKAP as a company is also trying to contribute for the other things like offering free books and other things like the new initiative that we started is Novel Nation. So how do you put them all together and get this into a initiative? Finally?
Karthik Chidambaram 23:46
Absolutely. So the chennai book fair sponsoring is just something we tried and the reception was really amazing. Because we believe in breeding as a company. We thought we will meet like minded people. We wanted to promote the cause of reading. And that’s why we sponsored the Chennai Book Fair. And that was extremely well received more than what we had anticipated. And from there, we said, let’s take it one step further to Novel Nation because it’s not just important that only people, see I mean, I told you DCKAP is a community and ecosystem. And we want everybody to benefit I think everybody in this world or deserves to read deserves to learn and they deserve to have a better life. And we want to promote the cause of reading and we want to empower people. And that’s one of the things you know Novel nation is gonna try to do, again, it’s in very, very early stages. I’m not too sure if there’s much to share there. But that’s one thing we definitely aspire to do. Right. So we want to change we believe that we are living in a land of great opportunity, especially people in India, they are extremely talented. One thing Which is missing a little bit or missing a lot is the opportunity, not the opportunity. It’s the exposure. Right? And reading gets you the exposure. And that’s something we try to do. And then there’s a large portion of the society which is left behind as well. And that is not fair. Right? In a way if, let’s say, I mean, we feel very fortunate to be working in tech, you and me, we are able to work. But then what about millions of people who don’t have that luxury and opportunity to work? I think all of us working in tech have a moral responsibility to take care of people who are left behind, and the entire nation will progress that way. and that’s one of the things we try do with Novel Nation.
Shiva Kumaar 25:45
So and also, I think the next level of the reading is, you just need to make sure that you transfer that knowledge to someone else. So it doesn’t stop there reading just you know, it’s not just about reading books and other things. So you also encourage people to you know, just go ahead and do the webinars, just see how you can help others to whatever you learn so far, right? So you also do webinars and sessions for on the entrepreneurship for the kids and other things. So you’ve been an entrepreneur from the early stage of your career, right? So if you wanted to say one thing to the entrepreneurs out there, so what are some of the mistakes that you wanted to you know, let them know, Hey, this is something that you need to make sure. And what are some things that you want? You want to let them know that just take care of this? And just be sure that you act fast and other things.
Karthik Chidambaram 26:34
Absolutely right. Before I get into that, to talk about reading, I will add one more point too, right. So it’s not just important that you read, but you transform that reading into work, right? So just try whatever you read, try, right. So I think that will implement things implementing and executing is even more important, right? It’s equally important as reading. So that’s something I want to add. And we talked about entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs and everything. See, I mean, as you know, we believe that Everybody’s an entrepreneur, so and everybody needs to think entrepreneurial, and they need to be business leaders. So if you talk about not sure advise is the right word, but a few things I learned, or we learned as a company is being transparent and whatever you’re doing, and communicating, and having a really, really strong work culture. I think this is my this has been my biggest learning in the last few years. And that’s actually helped transform the company as well.
Shiva Kumaar 27:31
Yeah, right. I strongly believe that being transparent is one of the finest things, the decision that we’ve made. Like, if we really look back, like 10 – 12 years ago, this this was never there. But I think even our retention rate is very good. So you talked about the entrepreneurship is there, so we need to be make sure that even if you’re an employee for the company, so the entrepreneurial skills are there, right. So I’ve been an employee of DCKAP for more than like nine years. So if I had to really look back. And if we think about the percentage that at least like 30 – 40 percentage of our current employees are, you know, with DCKAP for more than five years. So why do you think that you know, people love DCKAP or like DCKAP?
Karthik Chidambaram 28:13
Yeah, maybe you should tell me an answer to that question. But again, see?
Let’s be honest, right? So we made mistakes, okay. And it wasn’t like this, as you rightly pointed out, let’s say eight, nine years ago, but then we have learned along the way. So one of the things we noticed is people used to work and then we have this commitment or like a bond kind of thing, where you have to at least work with us for a couple of years. And after that, you’re free to leave. So people used to work for two years. And then exactly after two years, they used to leave, right, exactly the day after they finished that commitment period. So we asked ourselves, hey, this is is this really what we want? Then we completely removed that thing, hey, you know, you’re free to do what you like. And that in turn, improved our retention. Again, we’re very thankful to the people, people are the strongest asset for any company. And that’s very true for DCKAP, we are really, really proud of the team. And very thankful for that as well. Yeah, so we want people to try different things and definitely very thankful that thankful for the trust, but the most important thing I believe, is how to keep them motivated, right? See because people need to be given challenging things to work on. See, I mean, I can be there but then if I’m not motivated enough, and you have to have a purpose, and if you don’t do world changing things, then you know, it’s difficult to retain people, and that’s probably our next phase of DCKAP, right. So we really wanna do world changing things that way we can keep people motivated. And it’s just not a one person thing, right? So everybody needs to work together. And it’s at the end of the day, it’s just one company, you know, we might have different teams, you know, we could have different products. But we have to work together. And it’s one company and one DCKAP.
Shiva Kumaar 30:13
Cool. That’s good to hear Karthik. So one last question before we wrap this up. So it’s a COVID, and it’s a pandemic situation, right? So what we’re doing as a company, especially, so how DCKAP is gonna be for the next three or six months. So just to make sure that our customers and partners are aware of it and so what are we actually doing to the community as well?
Karthik Chidambaram 30:36
Oh, that’s a great question. Shiva. So first thing right, the safety of our employees is
the number one priority and we made a seamless transition to work from home. Again, we feel very thankful and fortunate that we are able to do this not everybody is able to do it, right. I mean, I actually feel guilty also, you know, we’re here, right? Because Hey, we have we are able to stay at home. We are able to work, we’re able to eat. But what about a lot of people are not able to do that? So that’s a big question. We don’t have all the answers, but we want to figure out or contribute in whatever way we can. But with respect to whatever we are doing as a company or as a business, obviously we want to do whatever we can in terms of ensuring business continuity. And that’s something which is going really well right, because I think we will continue to work from home for a longer period of time. Just reading what’s happening across the world. This is not does not look like it’s going to end anytime soon. So we’ll continue to work from home continue to serve our customers and continue to do whatever best we are doing.
Shiva Kumaar 31:47
Okay, cool. Yeah. Thank you so much for your time. Karthik and I’m sure I’ve asked you a couple of questions that I had in mind.
Karthik Chidambaram 31:55
cool. Thank you so much. I think it’s been great chatting with you and definitely enjoyed this conversation. Thank you for having me.
Shiva Kumaar 32:01
Yeah, you have a good day, Take Care.
Karthik Chidambaram 32:02
Shiva Kumaar 32:16
All right. That was a great conversation with Karthik Chidambaram CEO of DCKAP. I hope you all enjoyed it. If you have any comments on the show, just go ahead and hit that mail me button in the podcast description. Thanks for tuning in. Catch you guys very soon in the next episode. This is your host Shiva Kumaar signing off. Stay safe, stay healthy.
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