Paving Way for Future Freelanpreneurs- The Sunbex Consulting Journey

Vygr Host:Hello and welcome to VYTalks. I am Komal Seth, your host for today and with me, I have here sitting a person whom we can call a freelancer, one of India's richest freelancers or should I say entrepreneur or maybe both. Let me just say that India's first freelanprenuer. I am very excited for you to meet our guest for today, who is Mr Sairaj V Kalekar, who is a champion of B2B marketing and founder of Sunbex Consulting and has just completed over 100 plus consultations for B2B companies, especially in the IT sector. Hi Sairaj, welcome to the show.

Mr Sairaj: Thank you for having me here.

Vygr Host: We are very glad that you could join Vygr today. So tell us, before we get into a deep dive into your entire journey, I was very keen on understanding and knowing that you started this business from a very small point and let's say a dot on the map. And when you started this, what was your ah-ha moment at that time, the moment of realization that I have to do this, that bazooka moment, how did that happen? 

Mr Sairaj: Good question actually. I started my career in 2014 and at that time, I was working in an IT service company. And being an IT service company, it was you know, it was budding, I mean it was an emerging sector. A lot of things were coming up and lead generation was a greater part of it. B2B consulting was a very big part of it. So from 2014 onwards, 2015, 2016, and 2017, digital marketing really boomed up a lot and as it was in emerging tech, there were a lot of tools that were coming up in that particular sector, which we had to check, we had to see, we had to assess. And when we started, it was very raw and later tools came, so that it could be supported. And then it was 2020, the COVID moment. I think there were two types of things that happened in COVID. One, it was not good for some people, but it was very good for some people in terms of business. So from that moment, I realized that a few things were on hold. Here, there are a lot of companies who actually want to have digital marketing as a sector because now it is even more difficult for them to reach out to the people. So there was a lot of space, it was a low-hanging fruit. But in IT service companies, it was a very big space. People were building their companies, they had built up their companies. They spent on digital marketing, but they were not getting the returns. But they did not know what to do. And at that point, I started this. I approached a few of my ex-bosses and I told them that I was going to do this. They were very happy about this. So they were the first to give me some work. And this is how I started my freelancing venture. And this was after 9 to 5 that you do. So after 9 to 5, after 4 months, I used to work for them. And then I started. And gradually, after COVID-19 ended, in 2021-2022, things started to blast because of the service that we were providing, because of the things and the assets that I was providing them. Instead of these generic things. And there were results that these guys were getting. So that was the main buzz from when I would say 2020 was a time when I felt that I should start this. 

Vygr Host: So Sairaj, as you were telling me that you started business in 2020, when the bazooka moment was there, when you finally decided that time must have been very stressful, because a lot of companies were actually closing their businesses and because of the lockdown time, the entire world was going through such a disease that they have never seen before, he entire world was kind of in it together, so to speak. So at that time, I am sure it must have been very difficult for you. What kind of difficulties did you face? And this whole duration when you started, like you said that the ex-bosses gave you all the work to begin with. Who had been like that one, If I say a source of inspiration or one person that you could hold on to while starting your business and going through various difficulties?

Mr Sairaj: It was challenging. I would never say for any entrepreneur, as a freelancer or any person. I think when you are starting a business, it is always very difficult. It is very challenging. If it was not a challenge then everyone would have taken it. But coming out of that challenge. And I think despite these challenges, the most important point was how hard and how good are you in hustling. How much do you want to hustle in these things. As far as stress level is concerned, stress level happens normally too and what kind of stress is there for us, I think in personal life. I have been on this activity that Stress is for those people like you take a daily wage labourer, it is stress for him that he is not getting work. He will get 200-300 rupees per day. That is stress. But for us, it is a platform. You have a lot of things available to you. So we should be less complaining about these things. But that was an attitude. And if you want to hustle, if you want to do something different in life, then you have to take this challenge. So there was a challenge. There was a risk too. And in challenging situations. I would really man over. Because you read a lot of books. You come to know that certain people are your source of inspiration. My father is the greatest source of inspiration for me. So I have been seeing him working hard. Seeing him working hard a lot. So he is the source of inspiration for me. So that was it. This is how I could manage all these stressful and challenging situations. 

And on your second point, many companies were closed. But after that, a total parallel economy was started which was digitalized. So in these companies, there was a lot of scope and a lot of opportunity. Those who were not able to jump into the digital sector were left behind. But those who were willing to do those things will go digital, they were moved really forward, and they went ahead by leaps and bounds. So in this opportunity, it became quite easier to bank on those opportunities rather than you have to bank on with references, with networking and then you have to go full throttle. Until and unless, since I am only a one-person company so I had to keep in mind, how much I am enough. I don't want to increase more than that. And that was always there until 2021. Then I thought these were the times which would get me those records of money required and everything.

Vygr Host: I think you have said a very important thing. In this. While the entire world was going through. Such travesty. And a lot of companies were closing down. There were companies. Who decided to move forward. With the times and go digital. And lot of mergers and everything happened and a lot of companies got that inflow of revenue. Speaking of inflow, as you were telling me over coffee earlier, your company also has seen a magnanimous growth, within just two years. It has gotten a revenue generation of 2 Cr., of almost 15 lakhs per month, as you mentioned. So how did this Capitalization happen? And how did you manage to reach from one spot on the mark to this level of achievement?

Mr Sairaj: See I think. This is again. When I started doing it, I never knew that it would be so much but I wanted to grow till that much, that I knew. So it all started with one project. And then you are getting some few, 40-50 thousand rupees. You are already in a job so you are earning good. But after that you feel, let me have this and whatever EMI's and daily spending is done. But after that you feel, the EMI's are okay, there should be something ahead. On to the next. So, let's say my first assignment was around 40-50 thousand rupees. I am a very hard recurring revenue person. I am not into funding. I don't even know the big challenges. I am not into those things. So I feel and I believe that whatever is coming, is your revenue, you will enjoy that. So in that we started out with 50 thousand. Then I got a project which was around 2 lakh, 3 lakh, 4 lakh and then it went on and on and on because I started targeting international markets. So, there in international markets there was a huge scope because those guys had a different problem. There was no problem with resources or quality or skills, there was a problem that the skill sets that we were going to hire were more expensive than what they could get from India. So, for them, they had to spend 6 lakh, and 7 lakh on Indian INR and after that, they don't know if they are going to get their ROI. They don't know this. So when I pitch them that okay I will do the same work in 2-2.5 Lakh, it's a simple outsourcing. When I gave this pitch, they said okay. This thing is good. Let's see. I offered them to do the work for free for one to two months. And as you know, if you are doing the work honestly, you get paid. After that, the revenue multiplied immediately. So I thought of small projects but bigger ones. That all came into the picture. You know this is how you learn. You are in the business. You are hustling. Now you learn that okay let's not take this, Let's take only these kinds of projects. Now you are into that habit of choosing. Now you are the chooser. Otherwise, earlier you were not a chooser. You have to take everything that counts. But the only difference is that it all happened in a very short period of time for me. It all happened in one year. So that was it.

Vygr Host: One very important thing which you have told us throughout this conversation is that you know, No particular company or client is small or big if we cater to their needs. I think automatically there is some sort of a positive impact. That automatically there is a reversal. Of you know cash flow or income flow. And I think that is a very interesting thing. Because for solopreneurs or for freelancers who are also into entrepreneurial activities, they always kind of tend to look at the big turnover and the big picture and that's where they lose out into the minor themes. So I think that's very lovely that you. You know share this with us. And since you mentioned that you have had domestic clients as well as international ones, I am very sure that their operation system is different. So how do you balance these two?

Mr Sairaj: Before that, I will just address your other point which you said. First, we have to start small. It is true. See if you are going to say no to a project, nobody will come to you. You have to say yes to everything. I will give you a secret here. Many a time, I have said yes to a project which I didn't know. I didn't know how to do that. Once the project was in after that I went and searched around YouTube and a lot of materials were there. Then I did the project. Because what will happen at the max, he will say no, which is fine. I don't have any contract terms. So go for it. Any freelancer, starts with small, say yes to everything, don't say anything like ,this won't happen with me ,this is not my suitability. You are suitable is nothing. You decide later what should be the niche. 

Now I will go to your next point, how do I do the balancing of international and domestic? See, International clients come later. At first there were only domestic clients. And after that when international clients came, it became much more easier for me. As I told you the ticket size was much bigger and the work was relatively lesser. So I could take more and the time you can work, that is your custom period. After 9 to 5, you don't have to go to a bar, you don't have to enjoy, you don’t have to do Netflix at home, you can start working again.

I mean after 5, I know the period where I have hurried up and when the office used to close at 5.30, I used to go home, I used to start logging in again at 6 pm and I used to do that till 2 or 3 o'clock. So, that was the hustling mode. So the balancing used to be like, you finish your morning work, do most of the time passing in your morning job, then you come in the evening, pick up one more work and do it more. Do it so much that it becomes bigger. And consistency is the key. If you have a habit, you won't know anything. I mean 10 days you will have a lot of problems. You won't have dinner time. You know Indian families. So all this will be there. But if you are determined to do that, then you are to do that. I mean you shouldn't see anything beyond the level. You should see who is working. That's the only thing that you can do. I am not going to be tired.

Vygr Host: You know like when a person goes on a hike. Yes. And till he reaches the end of the hike. He doesn't feel hungry or thirsty. He will stop in between. But ultimately people stop at the end of the hike, then they have breakfast. And then that whole feeling of achieving something comes in. But at the time. And sometimes there is no network. At the time you don't have the leeway or the liberty. You can look at your watch. You know figure out what time of the day it is. And how much time has passed for you to reach. So, I think being a freelancepreneur is similar to that. It's like taking a hike. And until you reach, you just have to keep motivating yourself. But speaking of motivation. I think I was very curious to know this. Do you still function out from your very 80 square foot room? Or has the scenario changed after this entire you know episode of search?

Mr Sairaj: This is quite personal. So, the bedroom where I started, I used to work at a very humble 1 BHK home. It's my father's. So, I started from that bedroom and It's just 80 square feet, living in Bombay. I thought you know. Again, whatever I have to do, I have to do it from here. So when you start to take in a lot of projects, you already have a setup which you are using in your workroom. You have a pad which you are using on the bed. You just do it with that and yeah I continue even today from that. I don't have any kind of spending that will add up to my cost. So literally I would say in this revenue, whatever we were speaking about 2 Cr, I will tell you the figure. 92% is on which the net income, and profit out of it is 92%. I mean that's the margin. I don't have to pay anyone. Right. That entire income is for me. So, from there we of course, you know everybody has a dream to have their own home and a big home. So my that big home is under construction as I discussed and that is soon going to be May 2024 or something. So yeah we are soon going to move over there. So until that time. I am working from here and I am happy with that.

Vygr Host: So while even though you have already mentioned, another you know cue that I think I get from this idea is that our operations cost is so low, we are in so much benefit. But during this journey what has been like the most important thing for you. Has it been expanding the business or has it been maintaining a similar quality of work or has it been you know landing bigger big ticket clients to grow? What has been the most important thing for you?

Mr Sairaj: So, our cost of operations is always low. As I told you, my laptops are also second-hand laptops. They are those used laptops. I really never thought that if you are getting money then let's buy a one lakh laptop. I mean that's something which is bullshit because I feel when your work is being done, then you should always look forward to those kinds of stuff. And no such thing as a stupid expense. I didn't do it. But you know the biggest challenging situation was how to maintain it. Because I told you, for me I am not an accounting guy. I don't understand accounting. I am a marketing guy. But I understand only one thing, how much money are you getting per month. How much money are you getting per month? That money should be higher. That is the only thing I have understand and you pay a few of your taxes and that's it. So throughout the years, throughout the months, maintaining that recurring revenue has been my biggest, I would say concern and also the hustle that this should be maintained. And today it has always been on an improving side. It has been on the increasing side. It has never gone down. It has always been a growth. It has never been a bouncing moment. I am sure it will come forward but It has always been that it has to go up. So hopefully, by the end of 2024, it will be more. And keeping the cost of operations down, that's the whole idea.

Vygr Host: Also, you mentioned that you have both in your roster domestic as well as international. So this is my question what is your take in India or abroad which has been more juicier fruit in terms of your business?

Mr Sairaj: It's India. No worries. I mean you have to bet on India because it's high time. I think personally that it's stupid if you are flying off to some costly country like the US, UK, or Canada. I have seen people who have gone through these countries and they have come back in one or two years, it's a waste of time, resource and more importantly, it's a waste of yourself of what you have been doing. I think it's India. If you want to do business you can be export-oriented in freelancing you are not export-oriented. So you earn in dollars, when you spend in India , you are much far richer, you are far stable and you are faster. I mean , now this country has a lot more things than what even Western countries don't have nowadays. So, it has to be India in any terms. I think we are approaching a decade, not even a decade but a millennium and we are going to approach a really bright side of it.

Vygr Host: So tell us what is the business growth plan for Sunbex 2 years from now?

Mr Sairaj: It's not a plan or something. 2 years down the line is a fast time and I would want to maintain the revenue we are expecting somewhere around 20-30% of the growth each year. So once that happens we are right on the path. 

Vygr Host: So another thing since you have mentioned this and I think anybody who is watching this podcast right now is that you have started and grown this company all by yourself and many companies are similarly trying to do the same thing. So what is that one tip or that one piece of advice that you would want to give to them that you had encountered in your journey of growth which you think is going to be helpful to them of course.

Mr Sairaj: One tip would be to I think do the work in a fast manner and respond faster. There are hundreds of projects out there where people need help and assistance. But if you are not fast enough to respond to them and you are taking a lot of time then you are lost. You should be quick to address things quick to solve the problem, quick to take the project and finish it and all this without charging any money, that's the thing, without charging any money. Because if you do that the trust will be labelled and then once a client, always a client, once a customer always a customer.

Vygr Host: So basically reply fast so that you don't lose that opportunity. 

Mr Sairaj: When you are having tea, your food, there are a lot of people so freelancing and all the work is gone. There are hundreds of them, who come in and take their number and get a chance. In freelancing, it doesn't work like that. There are thousands of big websites, and social platforms where you have to be fast and you have to hustle again to reach out to them. I don't have a phone, I don't have their email, it doesn’t work like this. You have to attack from all sides that's how you do it. 

Vygr Host: You have to go into the war zone to be fully armed. 

Mr Sairaj: Yes, absolutely. If someone gave me that in the day, I would complete it by sitting all night. This is an inspiration. Everybody has done this way If you see Bill Gates's story. Bill Gates made the software, IBM gave him a project and he did it in three days and he was not sleeping for some five or two hours. That is an inspiration. Inspiration has to be applied

Vygr Host: As we start to move towards the end of this wonderful section that we have had there is just one more thing our seniors in the industry or in family life as well they will be like I did this mistake you never do this mistake. If I were to put that in terms of business what is this and what mistake can we avoid if you want to give this advice to other freelancers what will happen that this mistake that happened in your journey that you don't want to others to repeat?

Mr Sairaj: I think what we charge in freelancing it happens that once you fail then you start charging so in that if you will undercharge after a while your value will decrease your value will not decrease after a point your value whatever you are charging on a per hour basis per hour is more profitable than actual per hour basis but whatever you are charging you maintain it and keep that amount always intact do not ever reduce your value on that if you reduce your value then it will be fun the person will treat you as if everyone is doing this at that point you let it go but initially you take everything whatever you are charging, after that slowly improve it build a relationship then increase it then you also have the power to say no at one point of time because people are comfortable

Vygr Host: Well, I think it has been lovely to have had this conversation with you and as we got to know about your journey I think along the way there are a lot of business differences which I think has been just wonderful and if I were to say that if you want to do marketing consulting then Sunbex is definitely the way to go thank you so much, Sairaj for being here with us today and sharing all of your life stories with us it's just absolutely been wonderful thank you very much and thank you all our audiences for being here with us on VYTalks. I am Komal Seth , your host until next time take care, and have a good day

Vygr Host: So what has been the biggest achievement for Sunbex? If I were to say you can tell me a little bit in detail about what has been the biggest achievement for you

Mr. Sairaj: Biggest achievement for me has been my personal growth and my financial growth. These two things have been really , you know exemplified during these moments because as a lower middle class person what have you seen you are going to work, get a good job, come home and then go to sleep. So my whole perspective about this industry and hustling and doing it on its own and building it from scratch has totally changed completely changed and the financial growth that it has given me and the kind of achievements that I have done till now , are really proud of something that I am really proud of and I look forward to continuing with them. So I think personal and financial growth has been the best thing that you have really experienced and at the age of, I think my age has been 32 so, that is another thing to note at the age of 50s or 60s. So that has always been my forte

Vygr Host: But candidly speaking have you ever reached this height? 

Mr Sairaj: No. never I just thought let's start something but that is also one thing where I will say whatever you start do it in what you are doing you don't need to look at other things I mean read your own things do your own things whatever you are doing you can do that the idea is you should be working only for 3-4 years in a company and just checking out and starting on your own that is what I would say and I would change if I had the power to change something instead of 6 years what I have spent in my career in 9-5 I would do only 2-3 years and after that I should have started so you would have been much faster

Vygr Host: I think this is the biggest tip for anybody who wants to be an entrepreneur is that you go there you learn the skill sets you gather your armour and you just begin that has been just wonderful thank you so much once again for being here with us today it's absolutely been intriguing to have spoken to you today.


Disclaimer- The purpose of this interview piece with Sunbex Consulting's Founder & CEO Mr. Sairaj Vikrant Kalekar is to shed light on the company's history, core principles, and future goals. The interviewee's opinions and experiences at the time of the interview form the basis of the information included in this article, some adjustments have been made to enhance readability without altering the interviewee's intended meaning. This text does not provide financial, legal, or professional guidance. The opinions expressed by Mr. Sairaj are solely his own and may not necessarily reflect the views of the Vygr Host or the platform.


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