From being an introvert interested in coding to becoming a sales expert and dealing with customers was a life-changing journey for Vinay Shetty, regional head of Asus Technology Pvt Ltd – India and South Asia. In an exclusive interaction with Baishakhi Dutta, he shares the highlights of his professional journey as well as his views on the evolution of Indian businesses.
I was born and brought up in Mumbai. We are three siblings and I am the eldest. I have two sisters— Vidya and Veena. All of us live in different parts of the country. We were well taken care of by our parents who did their best while bringing us up. My father worked in the accounts department of Parke Davis, a pharmaceutical company, and my mother was a homemaker. Throughout my childhood, I excelled at sports and enjoyed athletics a lot. Currently, my mother stays with us, while my father is no more. My wife, Shreya, is a homemaker and we have a child who is 13 years old.
I did my schooling at Our Lady of Good Counsel (OLGC), a convent, in Sion, Mumbai. After that, I did my BSc in physics from Guru Nanak Khalsa College, Matunga. I wanted to pursue engineering, but for some reason or the other, didn’t get into it. Back then, an MBA was really not a big craze. Very few people pursued it. After my BSc, I did my MSc in psychology via correspondence, purely out of interest. I also did a course in software programming from Aptech.
Starting out on my professional journey
I started working way back in 1993 when I was still in college, just to understand the work scenario better. I had no interest in how much I got paid. I used to do surveys for a marketing and research group in order to be able to forecast upcoming trends and demand expectations, primarily among college students. I completed my graduation in 1995. While I was in college, I also learnt software programming. However, I was not sure whether I wanted to become a programmer, and was uncertain about what my next step ought to be in case I wanted to follow this line of work.
To ensure that my fees and all other expenses could be met, I joined a company called Shubhada Enterprises, a clearing and forwarding agency for the pharmaceutical firm, Duphar Interfran. There I worked as a data entry operator. Having had previous training in software programming, I used to rewrite code and rectify any technical issues on my own.
In 1997, I joined another firm in Ghatkopar called Garodia Sons. I worked there as a software programmer, creating medical software. The work also involved training people, understanding how a product worked and then ensuring corrections and rectifications got done. The firm also had a PC division that developed medical software for doctors, or what today would be called applications for running a clinic. So doctors would buy the software and then we bundled it with the PCs. In order to do that, I had to completely understand the technical specs of a computer.
This experience got me interested in PCs and I started selling them. In an end user roadshow that was organised by Garodia Sons, I managed to sell my first set of 12 PCs on the first day. Those days, PCs were sold along with financing options that people wanted to know more about. That’s how I got into PC sales. After a while, I noticed that the software division was not growing as expected. So, I shifted from software to sales.
In 2000, I joined the distribution house, Rashi Peripherals, as the product manager. I had very little understanding of the overall peripherals market but had a good knowledge of the Mumbai market. At that time, Rashi Peripherals was just setting up its Mumbai sales operations. From 2002 to 2004, I worked at the firm’s Mumbai sales division, doing consultancy work for PC sales and service. I then left for the US, as a consultant to set up the service division for a friend’s company that did AMC work.
In 2006, I joined Asus as a product executive. Slowly and steadily, I grew to the position I’m in currently. This is my 24th year as a working professional.
When I look back on my professional journey (over 13 years in Asus itself), my career choices were not based on the need to work, nor on a well laid-out plan. Things just happened and I kept on adapting to the changes.
Witnessing the transition
Earlier, when we used to go out into the market, we did not have cell phones, but pagers. So, the moment you got paged, you had to get out of the bus or at the next train station, find a PCO and call back the person who paged you. By today’s standards, that seems like a difficult situation for communications. But still, that way of doing business was beautiful. And I think it still continues.
As consumers, we carried around heavy laptops with very limited memory (my first laptop weighed 5.3kg). Internet speeds were also very slow. Nowadays, at a click of a button, we expect things to work. So I think that since we transitioned from that slower pace of communication to the fast pace we’re used to today, I still have some patience. Even if things go wrong, I believe we will survive.
I think that, over the years, most aspects of doing business remain the same. Earlier, we had to take printouts because if things were not available on paper, in black and white, then people really didn’t do anything. So information delivery was very poor back then. We were all dependent on the sales guys, who would interact with the customers. Today, despite the speed of information-sharing increasing, the kind of people that you deal with and the ways of working with them are still the same. True, the speed of business has also increased, whether online or offline. That’s the only major change. Buying patterns have not changed; we still negotiate on prices, we still focus on where we get better offers and better resources, and we still invest where we get the best ROI.
My strongest memories
The time when I was learning programming, and my achievement of selling 12 PCs on my first day on the job, remain etched in my mind even today. I was poor in negotiation and communication since I was an introvert. And, typically, sales requires people who are extroverts. My initial plan had been to get into programming so that I could sit in one corner and get my coding done. Back then, I had realised that coding could be mastered even by someone who was not tech-savvy.
From being an ardent introvert to joining the sales division and dealing with customers—this massive change was possible because of my father, who was my mentor. He told me to always do what I felt good about. I know that this sounds like a very generic statement, but he never questioned me about why I changed my path from software to sales. He always backed every decision I took.
I would have preferred calling myself a self-made man. However, things do not happen that way. If not a particular person, it’s many things and systems that actually play a vital role in guiding you to the position you’re in. There were many people who just accepted me for the introvert that I was. They never silently pointed out my mistakes whenever I fumbled and made mistakes. They just let it go. That accepting attitude encouraged me tremendously during my early days in the work place.
Standing out in the crowd
I would probably be the last person to choose a particular career or chase a designation. Titles don’t define me. Whether you call me a sales executive, a product executive or an MD, it doesn’t matter to me.
I joined ASUS at a growing stage in my career. Having said that, most senior roles in ASUS are predominantly from the home country – Taiwan. During that time I multitasked in my role to instil trust in my company to take on additional responsibilities. Over the years this gave my seniors the confidence to approach our HQ in Taiwan to appoint me in this new role to guide and take care of the business here.
Regarding my contributions to the industry, I hope my example motivates other team members and fellow Indians to work hard and be patient. In the long run, building that kind of communication and trust with an organisation can have a lasting impression.”
People management: The key to success
For me, every day and every year in Asus has been challenging. In the past, we had multiple distributors so handling each of them was a challenge. As the team grew, with marketing and service coming in, the number of people to deal with also grew. The most important thing to learn in order to face such challenges is people management. Other than that, everything else is in place.
Five years down the line…
On the professional front, I would like the country to be successful in its ‘Make in India’ initiative. Just as China has grown to become a big manufacturer of components, I want to see that happening in India. We still have a lot of things to offer. And we haven’t even scratched the surface in terms of what we can achieve. So, I think there’s a lot of potential for us. If in future we do consider opening a manufacturing plant in India, I will be well prepared mentally to be able to work according to the changing scenario.
Books are my constant companions
During my leisure time, I enjoy reading a lot. I flip the pages of all possible non-fiction, management and spiritual books. I love spending time learning about new things since that opens up new horizons for a human being.
My message to entrepreneurs
I think one should be driven by passion. There will always be uncertainty and you are surely going to fail. So, always take calculated risks and not be so flamboyant that it will sink you. If you don’t have a passion and don’t enjoy doing something, you are unlikely to succeed. Entrepreneurs need to be self-motivated. You cannot expect someone else to motivate you. That’s the only way anyone can succeed, though, and not just entrepreneurs.