The Founder's Journey

Conscience has a lot to do with professionalism and being successful in the corporate world. Venu Sharma has pioneered in amalgamating conscience with professionalism. At present he is the CEO and Founder of two leading organizations; one a brand consulting company and another advertising agency, having its presence in Mangalore and Bengaluru since 2006.

Life, lessons and mind-mapping

Venu Sharma carries the legacy of Kashmiri pandith by roots; his ancestors migrated to Karahad in Maharashtra; then again during Aurangzeb’s time to Kerala. He was born in Kasargod village, in the border district of Karnataka and Kerala (India). He comes from the family called “Uppangala”, which belongs to the Karada community, which migrated from Maharashtra to Kerala during the organized time. The milieu of Marathi speaking priesthood and an agricultural joint-family of above fifty members helped him in experiencing different dimensions of life. Venu’s father Shri. Narayana Sharma was a Revenue Inspector in Collectorate Office, Kasargod. He could not digest the unhealthy system of corruption and opted to quit his government job to become a lecturer. He did his masters degree in Kannada & Sanskrit and went to St. Aloysius College - Mangalore, to become a lecturer. This place gave Venu & his entire family an opportunity to get the education in Century Old Jesuit Institution. This college transformed Venu’s thinking.

Venu was an average scoring student from a middle class family who struggled, failed and learned with every passing day to find value for his existence and humanity.

His father wanted him to choose between the most admiring professions of that time either engineering or medical; and join any one of those. Like every other student he went with the flow and opted science stream for his PU education. But Venu found difficulty in digesting the technicalities of mathematics, but still managed to first division in 12th standard, and was waiting for his entrance test results. He missed the seat by few ranks and the Border Kannadiga Reservation Quota also didn’t work on his favour.

That was the moment when he was in a dilemma about his career and next steps towards life. He had plenty of time to understand cricket, smoking, playing cards, beach holidays, and campfire, but hardly thought of his future plans. “Infact what I learnt those days..., is what I am today", says Venu.

This was the time of transformation and the only intention of Venu was to rebel his father’s decision that Venu should study BSc in computer application. He took a decision and went with his uncle to his village to work in shops and agricultural fields. This Uncle changed Venu’s mindset. He taught Venu to look at his life differently. This uneducated uncle was rich in thoughts, philosophy and had great leadership quality. Venu got an opportunity to acquire lot of insights of life from him. Venu’s father was struggling to make him join BSc course, but by that time Venu decided to do BA (Arts) course. At last father agreed to his son’s decision, but suggested him to prefer Kannada. With an unclear mindset and just to go against his father, Venu opted English literature. Later he completed his PG in Mass Communication & Journalism from Mangalore University. He developed lot of leadership qualities and network.

Venu recalls, “I was not worried about academic scores but I wanted to contribute a lot to the society through social works, working as a leader; even though I hardly attended the classes, some of the lecturers like Shri.Sunny Tarappan, Smt. Padma Kamath and Shri. Nada helped me to get rid of my kiddish sins and directed me towards inspiration.”

Conscience and professionalism (The Voice of ‘My Antharathma’, a lesson that he learnt and explored it beyond…)

Entrepreneurship was in his attitude. The confidence was impressive and he was offered to join a newspaper as journalist. But he did not accept because he felt that he couldn’t be honest to his heart (myantharathma). Later he got another offer to join a start-up advertising agency in Mangalore. After working for a short span of time he accumulated a good exposure to the industry and added some experience and managerial skills to his profile. Then, he joined Manipal Group as an Assistant Manager for Corporate Communication & Advertising. Lot of innovative works was initiated by him. Public relation, advertising campaigns, corporate presentations and crisis management were the major parts of his work, and he loved was to work as a crisis manager. He started working on public relation for Cogentrix. He was also offered to join Cogentrix, but could not decide because of his conscience.

Venu had an integral part in Manipal Group’s success and he also stood with the group, during the crisis; for almost 11 long years. He managed to convince the MD to shift him to Bangalore, to handle the crisis and also setting-up an advertising company, in support to the brand Kurlon. Venu managed Kurlon’s brand management & advertising, along with the crisis in Manipal's finance companies. Venu was able to develop lot of media friends and created a wide network of well-wishers. He was a part of the growth and success; working very closely in the inner circle, at Manipal Group.

“I always wanted to be the leader at my workplace. But my promoter was not confident about my ability, nor could I make him feel that I can do it better. I always felth that “If I could not convince anyone it is my failure”. I tried communicating this to him indirectly. What could be worse, when an outside professional (who hardly knew about the business but was close to the promoters) would question your integrity for all the efforts and successful works you did…..... It happens to many, and it happened to me too.” – Says Venu

Venu was able to acquire lot of managerial and marketing knowledge and started teaching as a guest faculty in many reputed management schools such as BIM, Kirloskar, SDM, St Aloysius, Christ, IIPM.

At a sunshine morning a civil dressed policemen came in search of Venugopal U N, (Venu Sharma), director of one of the companies of Manipal Group. Later, Venu found that there was a criminal case lodged against him. He spent ten days of tension holiday and was able to arrange for an anticipatory bail, because of his good network with Police Circle and his lawyer friends. I can’t forget one my collage friend Naveen Ammemebala who helped me during this crises.

Venu found that he was cheated and later he took the decision of resigning for Manipal group. After clearing all the directorship of three other companies of Manipal Group; Venu decided to step ahead for a new beginning. He started a creative agency, in Bangalore. If this incident would not have happened, I would have been a professional, loyal employee of Manipal for many more years. It was my conscience (myantharathma) which pushed me to take the decision of starting my own company, says Venu.

Conscience and entrepreneurship – The new beginning

With the philosophy of ‘Value - Transparency - Teamwork’ his very own creative agency came into existence in the year 2006. As a CEO & Founder He had to indulge himself in understanding the potential clients, customers, market, management, competition, finances etc. It is only his passion and conviction that has made him reach this height; and nobody can replace the works he had done to build his organization. It is his risk-taking ability and his team’s support, which gave him a chance to develop it step by step.

It is your network that gives confidence to you, but you need to manage it rightly and create TRUST. One needs good percent of LUCK too and if luck is with you, TIME is yours; says Venu.

Conscience and professionalism came into reality when considering the police issue and his questions, Manipal Group's MD allowed him to start his organization’s office and its operation in a corner of Kurlon office, with the condition of giving royalty of 20% gross profit; also subsidized the rent and gave lot of facilities and monthly retainer ship for Kurlon creative works. Few Manipal Group's employees joined him and many others believed his insight and supported him. This was the achievement following the conscience in the world of professionalism.

People believed him and joined his organization to create values. The company grew in multiple folds for first two years. Knowing his strength, Manipal Group gave him company the business of Kurlon and few other group companies.

I will have life-time respect towards Sudhakar Pai sir and thank him for this help during the initial days of my entrepreneurship. We still talk for 2-3 times in a year…. I had to play multiple roles for the take-off of my own organization. I played a role of a CEO, brand strategist, copywriter, visualizer, client manager, accountant, team leader, office boy etc. and later I slowly adopted management and administrative changes to build the team, professional ethics and transparent work culture. As the corporate politics is everywhere; knowing the upcoming success of my organization, few key people from Manipal Group managed to move me out of that office. Probably Mr. Pai wanted to help me, but could not take decision. Then, I had no office and it was too difficult to get a new place in just four days. I couldn't sleep for few days thinking of my unwanted farewell and my walk from that office by maintaining a happy face. Once you elevate in the ladder of business it is people management & decision-making that matters – I learnt these two from Manipal Group; says Venu Sharma.

Many companies over-invest but one must be aware of their roots. If you are a start-up; you have to be extremely transparent and honest. Reputation is very important for attracting talents. Another lesson learnt was, the company that is growing at 100% speed has to introduce new processes and bring newness in the team to get into the next level. He felt that he had to react on it ASAP.

His company managed to reach reasonably good profit, which was shared with the team too. Understanding the changing market demands many additions were made in the departments and management. The team never had to look out for business; business came to them through references. They remained low profile because they believed that, only references and client’s word of mouth works for them.

The question aroused “do I need to stay happy with this much of professional achievement or do I need to grow?” These were the two different paths and I had to choose one; I decided to scale-up towards taking my organization among the innovative communication companies where at least 50% of Indian literates should know the existence of me and my company. It is the attitude that makes things happens. I had to have it and I have to create it within my team too. My philosophy of transparency and teamwork gave me rewards and I slowly built a good clientele. I wanted to see my company as a Private Limited Company, so that I can take the it to the next level. My only concern was “it will help me sleep better”.

Crisis management was my expertise and an emotional crisis came in my way; my father passed away and within few months I lost my mother as well. All of a sudden I felt puzzled and in a situation where I was solving the maze of life, relations, emotions and ambitions. I shifted to Mangalore, with a thought of doing something for my people, my land, and my family. I was supported by my team and my family. I started another consultancy in Mangalore on a full-fledged way which was founded parallel during my days in Bangalore. I kept on travelling between the cities and was managing both the companies along with my team, Says Venu.

The dilemma chapter- Working in corporate environment; he always felt something wrong with the way things happening around. He saw the backbiting, forced buying, black money, bribe, political lobby, etc., and this led him to read lot of spiritual books. He wanted to go to Chinmaya Mission, but then realized it was not the search he was looking for. He tried to do some social works around his community, temple, and school. He met an underworld don who wanted to do some good work for the society, he met some politicians; worked with them as well. He found each and every place was not conscious driven. It was all a drama to maximum extent. Honesty was negligible, but hypocrisy was at its heights.

Venu says; the previous incident led me to develop the community or concept of I am more of a public relation or networking person. I never had / have enemies. I never cheated anyone, never bribed anyone, no intentional lies, I Never worked and will never work as commission agent. I have not hurt anyone’s emotion till now. I was clear; what am I up to. Anything I do, I do it straight. Transparency in relationship is my mantra.

My dream was to start something of my own, something new, something unique, something never before! And I started this. I wanted to exchange my views, share my feeling with the leaders. Inner-heart of a man can only make the man good. We all suppress our goodness and push so much that we do not have respect our Antharathama. All People in general are Hippocrates, cheats and they do not live for themselves in this changing commercial world. Relations are measured in currency and numbers. Give and take matters. We all wear mask. Life for majority of us is a smoke screen. We use people and relations. So how many days we can do this? Karma matters… is the platform to create a value called “think from your heart” to bring in white in you. The real you (not black or grey). I feel the corporate leaders has to go for the decision of “wealth creation or value creation”. I want this thought to slowly move towards adopting CSR or TRUST with active people participation.

I follow my heart because it can think from a humanitarian angle; it can give human touch to the belief and ideas generated by your mind. I wanted like-minded people to join together. I can’t do it alone; it is the WE attitude that can make this a successful living space. When I write this it reminds me of the popular quote..."miles to go before I sleep".

I want to work with broad game plan. Let the time put things in place for us. I would rather say it is like a serial, let the saga of the story go along with like-minded people. I will only manage to give the right direction and right time to as a founder. For few years let someone else or a group of intellectuals take it further.

I just keep doing things the way I feel to do. If you ask my inner-heart, I wanted to be a social entrepreneur and not the business entrepreneur. For me business is mutual success, ‘partner in progress’. I talk about passion and also on emotion. One has to offer clear and different advantage. You are coming into the business where there are already big existing players and you being less expensive, doesn't make the difference. You need to show them the value of 20%-30% more by doing something different. By offering them more for their money.

I enjoy every minute of my life. I was never an unhappy person in my life even during my tensed days. My antharathma gave me confidence of non-materialistic approach towards life.

I am not very good in running things on a day-to-day basis. Some feel that it’s my weakness?!. I get restless. My goal is to set-up a team within clients place , set-up systems and let the team and system work. Give them free hand to work, give them confidence and a bit of guidance, all with a clear process & check points in every touch point .

I can tolerate disobedience but not system deviations. My second task is looking for innovative opportunities. If one has to grow – he should be willing to work as a partner in progress with people. One has to be diplomatic and understand that you are not greatest, you are not the best, you are putting together the TEAM and you are co-coordinating.

Companies born and over 80% of them die. But, if your company is born with clear vision and values it will survive. Things happen, without you making them happen. That is the secret of myantharatama!

"Karmanye vaadhikaaraste, maaphaleshu kadaachana" (Do your job heartily, without expecting anything) Let the time prove its best