Dbase4media: Aankho Dekhi of the Man Who Sold Switzerland on Palace on Wheels

CIO Vendor From selling Aankho Dekhi, a popular TV show in the 90s, to selling packages of the Ultra-Luxury Train in India- ‘The Palace on Wheels’, to selling Switzerland as a travel destination, Sudhanshu Srivastava has been the one who doesn’t wait for the opportunity to knock the door, but breaks the door of the opportunity. His peers and seniors called him the sun’s eighth horse for his ability to seal the deal quick and straight, and his talent for identifying gaps in the market and filling up the same adeptly doing whatever it takes.

Having more than 15 long years of experience in media selling, Sudhanshu founded DBase4Media in 2006. Built on the foundation of Sudhanshu’s experience, DBase4Media has emerged as an information-based global network for media solutions. The company today is providing highly specialized services for virtually every aspect of media management. “Our core objective is to help our clients as consultants. Be it for media marketing and promotions, travel & tourism, fashion and entertainment or as content aggregators. We work with all sizes of businesses usually with a hybrid combination of marketing strategy, purposeful brand development or enabling people with marketing skills,” says Sudhanshu.

A Hardcore Salesman

Sudhanshu was surely born with the ‘selling strings’ in his DNA. From early college days, he used to sell college festivals, inter-college competitions to well known educational institutes. Further, as an assiduous sales professional, during the day he was involved in the sales and promotion of Aankho Dekhi, anchored by Nalini Singh, one of India’s finest news readers. At night, he used to sell packages for ‘The Palace on Wheels’, working with Sajivve Trehan, the CEO of The Luxury Train. Sudhanshu worked consciously with several well-known media groups like Fashion TV, Eenadu & Prabhatam to name a few.

Breaking the Cocoon

Sudhanshu was going through a successful run in his career, but it wasn’t the job he was destined to. “During my job tenure, I experienced a sense of vagueness with respect to job security in the service sector, especially in the travel and media industry. As it’s an unorganized sector, it’s not easy to climb up the ladder due to a high degree of politics and games involved. In 2004, my father was detected with mouth cancer and passed away a year later. As this happened, my feelings of insecurities grew further. I was sure that I need to use my skills to do something much bigger than I was already doing. I did not ignore a single opportunity that I could explore. I looked for the gaps and the gray areas that could be turned into business opportunities,” he explains.

Sudhanshu did not want to confine the scope of his industry and was open to doing any thing that meant business. For instance, at one point of time, he sold Diabetes care packages to Sitaram Bhartia Institute of Science and Research in New Delhi. In 2005, he left both his jobs and traveled across the country for about nine months. That was the time when he saw a huge scope in outdoor advertising and was keen to explore opportunities in the area. “Being a media enthusiast, I saw tremendous potential in outdoor advertising but I did not have enough financial resources to buy media space. How ever, I was determined to find out a way,” he adds.

Surmounting the period of gloom, Sudhanshu was all set to enter into a new venture. He focused on banking, insurance, and telecom sectors to begin with. When he approached few clients and told them about his plans for establishing a company, the name which instantly came across his mind was Dbase4Media (The Base for Media). The name indicates database for all four directions (East, West, North, and South) to power media.

Sudhanshu articulates further, “In the beginning, I wanted to explore Trains as a medium of outdoor advertising. I approached a few banks that initially expressed their reservations, but as I further explained to them the immense marketing potential present in outdoor the medium, they started to show interest. However, the biggest challenge was that I did not have media space nor I could buy it at that point of time.”
Sudhanshu identified certain agencies that were already operating in train media space and made a deal with them that he would take 15 percent commission and bring them clients, and they would utilize their spaces to promote the clients’ ads. “Maybe it was too less, but they agreed instantly. Within three months, I sold worth 8 million of services which was way more than the average business those agencies were getting” he reminisces.

The journey of DBase4Media has been a roller coaster ride but is an inspirational one

As the cash inflow started coming in, Sudhanshu started building a team for Dbase4Media. He hired an assistant and a field boy to take care of the daily chores. In his constant expedition to explore new avenues in the outdoor media, he came across a strange phenomenon across numerous public and private sector companies. He saw that the senior executives in these companies would spend their first hour in reading competition news in news papers. That was the bulb lighting moment where he saw a huge branding opportunity for Dbase4Media. He met numerous executives and offered to update them with press clippings every morning through Dbase4Media website which they could access using a username and a password. The idea was well accepted by many companies. Though the monitory gains from this activity were nominal, the company built a considerable edge in terms of brand recognition.

The Hunger Game

Sudhanshu was not the one to get satisfied easily. His hunger to do something bigger and better kept on driving him to the same question again and again- ‘What Next’. This was the time when he thought of exploring Cinema advertising. In 2007, there were many brands that did not see cinema advertising as a powerful medium. Dbase4Media was still a small player in comparison to some of the already established players. But Sudhanshu wasn’t the one to easily give up an idea. He approached some of the biggest multiplexes such as PVR and INOX and persuaded to sell certain media space on behalf of them.

At the outset, it was a huge task for Sudhanshu to convince clients about how a 7o mm would help them market themselves better, but eventually, it came down through the funnel. Dbase4Media did have resource constraints in terms of expertise and the people who could conduct surveys and implement strategies. To overcome these challenges, the company hired a survey agency and outsourced processes that needed expertise. Between 2008-10, the company closed several deals with Kotak, Future Generali, BSNL, Bank of Rajasthan etc.

Speed Breaker Ahead

Sudhanshu’s journey has been full of thorny roads, ups and downs, and speed breakers. Due to Internal Management differences with the promoters, things were not going smooth. This was another setback in Sudhanshu’s journey which severely affected his confidence.

The next phase in Sudhanshu’s continuous discovery of business opportunities made him to work on a website. The Web application allowed people from media, fashion, and entertainment connect with each other. But some how all wasn’t still going well. Eventually, Sudhanshu had to lay off his team of 27 professionals in 2011. He then started focusing on the small travel company he started in 2008 to sell cultural tour packages to International educational institutes.

The Kiss of Success

In 2012, as Sudhanshu wanted to venture into something which was more stable, he and his small team moved into consulting. They decided to exclusively focus on five clients and serve them with all their needs. “I decided to focus on few clients and commit to them a certain amount of business. And if I would not achieve the target, I would pay from my own pocket. This was a huge risk but that’s an inevitable part of business. Our consulting business finally paid us huge returns and since then we have been making sustainable profits,” he says with a smile.

The journey of Dbase4Media has been a rollercoaster ride but is an inspirational one. “As far as the team is concerned, I learned an important lesson early on that it is not important to build a large team, but the best team. I have been involved in building a team that fanatically puts their fire in bringing innovation into how outdoor media can be used to serve clients. Simultaneously, we have also been working towards offering marketing services via exploring newer opportunities involving technology associated marketing for better results. Whatever we have done since inception has been done putting in a lot of energies. We failed, we succeeded, and we conquered,” Sudhanshu concludes.