I’m a big advocate of giving yourself few minutes every day to make space for new thoughts. This will not only improve your productivity but also do great good to your personal life.
For the past 5 years, Varun Sharma has been working closely with offline businesses as well as online ventures to help them write brand success stories. Before launching UpReports, he worked as Senior Content Analyst & Researcher, and closely studied business models, revenue streams, and growth trajectories of emerging online businesses to gain a deep understanding of digital ventures.
While completing his MBA from National School of Business, New Delhi, he showed a keen interest in brand communication, behavior psychology, and businesses run over the internet. To share his insights with promising startups and young entrepreneurs, Varun co-founded UpReports, a consultation firm that aims to help new startups and young entrepreneurs with growth and profitability.
Presently offering consultation and marketing support to local startups, UpReports has also started assisting brands with UX design, development, and brand building. Varun and his co-founders want to set an example for new businesses in terms of corporate social responsibility by making differently abled members of the society an integral part of their team.
Contributing as Growth Manager, Varun is making sure that UpReports enters right strategic partnerships with global service providers to facilitate long-term growth and also drawing the branding roadmap for next 5 years.
Where did the idea for UpReports come from?
The idea of UpReports emerged from failures. Everyone in our consultation team has seen online businesses struggle with growth and eventually shut down operations. This is something I hated while working closely with startups and digital ventures.
Big-shot business consultation firms help even bigger brands with strategy, growth, and decision-making but there are very few consultation service providers that cater to young entrepreneurs. UpReports wants to be the leader in this ignored yet growing category.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My day is an unending struggle to strengthen the voice of UpReports. Presently, I’m looking after inbound marketing efforts of the company. So, half of the day is spent with the content team planning blogs, whitepapers, PPTs, and visual media. The other half flies away studying performance matrices, holding discussions with the marketing team, interactions on community channels, and of course delivery of projects.
I depend heavily on digital post-it notes for creating task lists, prioritization, and execution. I turn off mobile notifications as soon as I step into the office and check emails only thrice in a day. This helps me focus on my tasks without interruptions. So far, this has helped me a lot in staying productive during office hours. One more thing, I never check office emails at home.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Personal experience has taught me that cooking up ideas is easy. Anyone with leisure time and thought can come up with a bunch of ideas. The tough part is execution. I bring ideas to life by making head-on collision with realities.
What does the idea require? How much efforts it will consume? Can I afford to spare resources to bring it to life? Who can help me and why he will? UpReports was just an idea in the head for many years before becoming a reality. And it took planning, partnerships, investment and lots of other things. So, it won’t be wrong to say that bringing ideas to life is a journey in itself.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Transportation related innovations happening right now really excite me. Autonomous cars and Hyperloop are technologies that will revolutionize mobility of people as well as freight. I think Elon Musk is trying to solve real problems and that’s why everything he is passionate about engrosses me completely.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
It has to be my obsession with making the most of the available time. I hate to sleep more than my body needs. This helps me hit self-imposed deadlines and puts me back on track whenever I realize that I’m indulging myself. There is a reason why they call time the most precious commodity in the whole wide world.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Dear self, start reading books sooner. I think reading introduces you to new ideas, perspectives, and in a way also makes you more empathetic. I’m voracious reader right now but I started reading fiction and business books after celebrating my 18th birthday. If only someone had advised me to pick a book when I was 13.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
That world is becoming a good place. People around me keep complaining that things are getting bad with each day but I don’t believe it for a second. Sure there are bad things happening across the world, be it the immigration crisis or slow world economy. But I think we are living in an era that’s very radical. Change is happening everywhere, and I see a lot of good out there.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Do nothing for half an hour every day. When you are loaded with tasks from dawn to dusk, your mind never gets the opportunity to run about and look at things differently. So, I’m a big advocate of giving yourself few minutes every day to make space for new thoughts. This will not only improve your productivity but also do great good to your personal life.
Do it and I guarantee you will come across great ideas and take better life decisions.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Bitter Truth Strategy. Entrepreneurs want to hear that their startup will raise millions in funding. Business owners want to know they will get insane sales by investing in digital marketing. And sales people know this. They speak half-truths to hit their targets. At UpReports, I encourage my team to say what’s right, even if it bites.
While the strategy does ruffle feathers, it also sends the right clients our way. By right, I mean the ones that are patient, understanding, and willing to face market realities. This has greatly added to our brand recall and value.
What is the one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In the effort to hit growth goals, I started cutting back on family time. This went on for some months until a close friend said it to my face. I guess this has been my biggest failure yet and I’m trying to overcome it by being more attentive to my loved ones.
If I skip a family gathering for work reasons, I tell myself to make it up for it later. And slowly, I’m getting good at it.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A collaboration platform where people will put skills on offer for projects that fascinate them. Tech industry can benefit greatly from such a platform. It will be like Kickstarter but rather than money pledges, people will contribute skills. Such a platform will encourage entrepreneurs to work on startups that are not just driven by profits.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I got access to some research data sites (3 months) at just $87 under a buddle offer. The best spend ever because data is crucial for our industry. Clients want to see latest statistics and I was not happy with the present data resources.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Evernote. I usually work with digital post-it notes but Evernote is the reservoir for my ideas. It is an amazing product with powerful tools to note down thoughts in multiple formats.
I use it to create to-do lists which are updated very frequently. Plus, it has impressive collaboration capabilities and Google integration which makes sharing easy for me. To tell the truth, I will probably end up in tears if I lost my Evernote lists.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Built to Last” by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras. I read it in my college and it gave me insights on great companies, business strategies, and organization values that course books never did. The book compares two rival companies in different categories and neatly explains why one excelled while the other withered with time.
What is your favorite quote?
A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption of our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider of our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to do so.