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Mind & Matter

Intelligent management of the 'yes' and the 'no' leads to the best decisions.

One would think that technology and law make strange bedfellows. But when they do come together, it is the beginning of a great business idea. So realised Shaleen Raizada (Ph D in Physics) who has harvested rich benefits from this communion. Having dabbled with intellectual property rights (IPR) for over 10 years, she knew there was scope for a service to bridge the gap between the legal and technical side of patent issues. The moment of transition from scientist to business woman was when she realised—Why don’t I? And she did.

SHALEEN RAIZADA, 38
Education : Ph D (Physics)
Last job : IPR consultant with Samtel Industries
Last salary : Rs 5 lakh a year
Business : Technical consultancy on patents and IPR
Idea occured : While working on IPR at Samtel
Age at starting business : 35 year
What is new : First service firm to deal with IPR exclusively
Initial investment : Rs 15 lakh
Sources of fund : Family and angel investor
Company : Sanshadow
Annual fee : Rs 1 crore
No of employees : 35
Shaleen Raizada used her education, experience and skill to spot knowledge business opporunity and now she is building it into an enterprise

Start-up Strategy: Raizada’s association with IPR began with her stint as senior scientific officer in the Patent Facilitating Cell of the Ministry of Science and Technology. She continued working in this field till motherhood brought a pause in her career for three years. After this break, she joined Samtel Industries as IPR consultant, helping them set up the IPR cell. It was here that the immense potential for a service exclusively for patents and IPR grew on her. Raizada decided that the timing couldn’t be more perfect—her husband was doing well in his job, there was always someone at the house to look after her toddler and she had credible experience to fall back on if she failed. With the support of her family behind her, she quit her job and took the plunge. The name came first. ‘Sanshadow’ was a physicist’s inspiration. “The only thing without (sans) a shadow is the sun. So the name,” she grins. The business plan came next. At the very outset, Raizada wanted to clearly define the exact nature of services her organisation would offer, the kind of research and data base that would be required and the profile of potential clients.

Right People at Right Cost: But all this was mere paperwork which in any start-up is almost always the easier part. The first challenge was finding the right people. Raizada went back to her contacts from her first job in Lucknow University. She adopted a two-pronged strategy of enlisting specialists as associates and hiring a few full-time employees to work with her in office. “Due to the nature of the work, I knew we would need people of great expertise. It did not seem viable to get them together at a single place. Thus the idea of having some work as associate consultants in different cities,” she says. This also proved to be cost effective. Interestingly, Raizada laid a lot of emphasis on roping in women who had completed their post-graduation or studied even further in the science stream. “Women make better researchers,” says Raizada, who today has over 15 employees and 20 associates (most of them women) working in fields as diverse as biotechnology and electronics.

What I learnt
HAVE FAITH IN YOUR TEAM People reciprocate and do little extra for the organisation
BE HANDS-ON
About everything including cleaning up the office
THINK BEYOND MONEY
Focus on business vision. Monetary success will follow
REINVEST IN THE BUSINESS
Avoid har vesting the initial profits for self-use
DON’T FRET
Problems will be sorted out as they show up
Capital Challenges: Sanshadow’s first office was in Raizada’s apartment in Delhi. The idea was not to sink in a lot of money initially but scale up as the company grew. Still Raizada had to pour all her savings in the start-up. Putting together the sole proprietorship required an initial investment of about Rs 15 lakh staggered over six months. Her husband pitched in with money whenever her own funds dried up. Sanshadow Consultants was formally launched on August 27, 2004. The basket of services offered by the company included the entire gamut of patent searching, drafting, filing. Her last employer—Samtel Industries was her first client. After some legwork, institutes such as IIT (Kanpur), National Horticulture Board, etc, became her clients. More private companies followed, details of which Raizada cannot reveal due to strict privacy clause. With not much money earmarked for marketing, the projects initially were small. But quality work based on thorough research helped Sanshadow build its brand equity and get more clients. The journey was not without bumps though. There were delays in submission of reports and sometimes clients simply did not like the finished work so the whole project had to be redone without any extra charge.

Business Basics: Raizada learnt the ropes of managing a business the hard way. “In the beginning we were so excited at getting work that we never thought of asking for advance payments. But after a few setbacks I understood that this was necessary to affirm the credibility of the client. Plus you always require a regular flow of money to keep the business running,” she says. There were several such lessons to learn and as Raizada grew to be the astute businesswoman she now is, so did Sanshadow.

Today the company, a private limited firm, is handling international projects. They have taken their second aggressive step—(the first was moving into their present office, which “cost the earth”) inviting external funding to ramp up the services offered. Raizada got in touch with BOA, India’s first network of angel investors, through a chance meeting with one of its members, Mohit Goyal. He took keen interest in her project and is one of the angel investors and mentors of the company (see column Guardian Angel), holding 30% stake in the company.

Raizada has her eyes set on bigger goals. “But more than the money it is the process of evolving which is so gratifying,” she says.