I have often wondered what it is that propels some people from very ordinary circumstances to extraordinary heights.
J Sampath’s J.B Soft has grown phenomenally from the time he set up his business in 2001 with one staff. He now has 42 employees taking care of 1800 clients in India and abroad, from his two offices in India. He also owns www.livechennai.com which attracts 600,000 to 10,00,000 visits every month.
I am doing myself a favour by studying Sampath’s climb – from nowhere.
First, the story of cascading changes with Sampath’s software.
I met Sampath when I was in Rotary, in 2007. We were just then looking for someone to help us with our website. Almost immediately, his company, JB Soft System, started taking care of our web site, www.servicesquare.com.
Since then, he has amazed me with his ability to keep his word pertaining to work and everything else. I also noticed, he exhibits a special knack for exploring ideas beyond the beaten track.
When our business was struggling and I was personally numb with fear, I approached Sampath in June 2013 to discuss about a software that would keep track of our customers. He suggested that we use the software he is using for his own company.
That software started it all. It had a cascading effect on many things we did in Service Square. We recruited customer care executives to stay in touch with our customers. Our business started improving. We introduced an external trainer to hone the skills and capabilities of our housekeeping teams. There is a new found energy at Service Square, these days.
Meanwhile, Sampath and his team were always ready to listen to our many requests for customization of the software to suit our requirement. They took their time, but always came back incorporating the changes we wanted.
I have often wondered, how does Sampath manage to have staff who speaks his same language – steeped in listening skills, politeness, exploration of new territories and more?
I called to request him for an interview and we fixed time to meet at his office on Friday, Feb 21, in the afternoon.
His words, as I listened to him, revealed what a huge man he is, in his short frame.
Small incidents, big impact.
Sampath’s father, Mr. P. G. Jayavel, was a provision store owner in Kalasapakkam then. He is an example of sacrifice and pushing against all odds to give his three sons the best he had from his very meager resources. He wanted Sampath to be an engineer and so sent him to an engineering college. Sampath had a few arrears to clear almost throughout his 8 semesters. Not that he did not want to study, it was just that he was in a constricting environment, with hardly a role model.
So, though he completed his engineering studies in 1997, it was only a year and a half later that he even learned how to use the mouse or open or shut a computer.
Sampath’s initial years after his studies were in servicing of weighing machines and he started travelling all over the country. He excelled as a salesman, too.
And once, he even made a lot of money, within a span of a few days, selling weighing machines. His father, still struggling for money then, told Sampath to get out of the selling job immediately – because so much of money so early in life would create a sense of imbalance.
Entering into software business was not by design. A few of his friends and circumstances led him into it. He is ever grateful to his friend Murugan who was mainly instrumental in this. Once he was in, there was no looking back or stopping him.
He does not think too hard to answer my curious questions. Words come out in a torrent, despite his halting English. He speaks about himself in a way that borders on arrogance, yet, knowing him I am certain it is his self esteem – being in his skin, fully himself. He is one of the humblest of persons I know.
He told me, his belief in and obedience to his father is total – even now. His mother Mrs.J Banumathy too, means a lot to him. He has used the first letters of his father’s and mother’s name in naming his company – J.B Soft.
Early in his career, Sampath was duped by someone of a large sum of money, promising him a job in the US. When his father learned about this, he just said – so what, you are going to make a lot of it, anyway !
And, one day, catching Sampath down and out, his father sat next to him and asked, “Am I troubling you, too much, son?”
Sampath has picked up lessons and values from these experiences and words. He believes they have shaped his outlook on life and business. He has associated big meanings to those small but poignant moments and words.
So, what are the values of J Sampath & J.B Soft?
He makes it a point to invest at least an hour every day, sitting and chatting with his wife and daughter in the kitchen in his house. He treats his staff like his own family – very proud that he has not ever told anyone to leave his company.
Incredulous, I ask him, how he manages a large team with such an approach. He says, having a standpoint is very helpful because he does not have to spend time debating such issues. Besides, if anyone develops a deviant attitude despite the warm relationship, it is an indication he is in deep mental anguish and needs help.
He works very hard, about 14 hours on a typical day – in his office and even from his house – and he is quietly proud that he is an exemplar to all his team members. And, every week, he invests at least 4 hours alone, shutting himself off from the world to plan and strategise.
Sampath is a master of check-lists. He told me his staff even knows when the doormat in front of his office will be changed or the office will be painted.
I ask Sampath what it is that brings prosperity to him. He tells me, he imagines an environment of prosperity and a feeling of surplus. Good people, clients and money flow from these feelings. He keeps enough of rupee notes with him and in his house, to give him that feeling of enough and more.
Despite the abundance, he admits, he manages the affairs of his home with a tight fist, like he has always done in the past. He is not one for splurging.
He has this beautiful attitude – I am at the crease now, and I have to play my shots and sixers are what I will hit.
In the motto of his company – Enable, Achieve, Celebrate – he imagines their unfolding everyday. Including picturing the victory lap.
Picking stuff from the ether and his teacher.
I am impressed and want to know from where he learned all these stuff. He simply says, from his master, Mahatria and some from the ether. Sampath is a big disciple of Mahatria. His teachings inspire him at all times. Yet, he tells me, he is also aware that faith rather than the object of faith is what makes the difference.
I ask him if he is driven by any goals he sets for himself. The answer comes immediately, he has a very good idea of where he is headed, but he is not consumed by goals. The milestones reached energize him immensely.
He forgets himself when he speaks about customers. He sees his role as helping his customers to grow. He tells me something very profound:
Customers connect with JB Soft not because of its wonderful products and services, but because of what he is and what the company is.
What Sampath’s company, J.B Soft does.
The services offered by him currently are, domain registration, web hosting and design, web application development, ERP, CRM, job portals, online shopping carts and online payment gateway solutions.
Very soon, he is scheduled to launch 3 different types of web sites – Presence, Freedom and Beyond – which he is certain will revolutionise web site offerings for their affordability and design elements. He is going to storm the markets with his products and is confident these products will be lapped up. Besides, those who will help market them, will enjoy financial prosperity, beyond their imagination. He has his plans and is constantly fine tuning them.
In three years time, his goal is to achieve a turnover of Rs.300,000, 000.
My conversation with him lasted more than 3 hours. The next day, I talked to one of his clients, Mr.Balaji of JKB Housing Pvt Ltd. He defined the relationship with Sampath in one sentence – Sampath is his partner, friend, guide and brother.
I also talked to his manager, Kishore who did his MS in the UK and subsequently worked in Infosys. He was drawn to JB Soft for the challenges it offers him to create and lead. He told me, he is relishing the opportunity to grow, in a value driven company with a man who is compassion personified.
I sensed a deep desire in Sampath to make people who crossed his way, rich – whether they are his employees or his customers. I came away convinced, he is already doing that.
Two days back, in an article written by Jonathan Fields, I came across this sentence:
“Entrepreneurship done right is not about building a successful company, it’s about building a successful life.”
I have not seen an entrepreneur who embodies this definition any better.