It's a story of success, story of love…story of struggle and story of victory!
Swati Goyal Oct 29, 2018 989 Views 0 Comments
Forty years ago, two business students came to US with an American dream and desire to excel. No money, no resources but united in their dream and united in their vision. Together, they conceived the idea of their business venture in the halls of a business school and 40 years later here they are as CEO and director of SB International - a leading supplier and manufacturer of steel pipe and tubing products in US and Canada and their generous gift of $12million made possible the state-of-the-art SB Hall, home of the college of business at the Univercity of Dallas in Irving, Texas. We are talking about our cover story heroes, the then students and now entrepreneurs & life partners - Mr and Mrs Satish Gupta!
We had the pleasure of having a candid conversation with Ms. Yasmin and Mr Satish Gupta and getting to know them up close.
Swati: You guys were neighbors back in India and then decided to pursue MBA in same country, same school and around the same time. Was there some planning and maybe a love story in the backdrop?
Yasmin: Satish is from Sonepat, Haryana and I grew up in Chennai. Satish had come to Chennai to pursue his undergrad and was living on the same street as us. In a street full of girls, he was easily the more popular guy (Satish blushes). I was still in boarding school and very focused on academics; on the contrary Satish came from a business family with little interest herein. It was very unlikely for us to come together but we did and this imbued in Satish interest in academics. Back in our times, families were conservative in accepting inter faith marriages. We knew the only chance we had together would be if we went to United States to pursue higher education. And that's what we did, and rest is history.
Swati: Satish, when you decided to pursue MBA in US, did you have a clear vision of being an entrepreneur or is that something that evolved while doing MBA?
Satish: Traditionally, I come from a steel business family; business is deep rooted in my blood. I was 20 years old when I came to US to do MBA (1979). I would say, at that point, I had some dreams, some ideas but wasn't sure how those would pan out. But yes, within 6-9 months of landing in US, I was already looking for business opportunities. I would say, having an association with business family definitely helped. They had connections which I could leverage but I quickly realized how different the business dynamics and economies are in US when compared to India. So it was definitely a learning curve, but yes to answer your question, I always wanted to be an entrepreneur.
Swati: What deterrents you faced when you initially launched your venture? Any failures you recall?
Satish: Yes, definitely but I wouldn't call them “failures” rather “challenges. We were exporting copper, brass products to other parts of the world and one of our suppliers (whom we had given substantial advance) faced financial difficulties. All our earnings until that point were invested with this supplier and we had no legal document to support the agreement. That was a great learning for us, that in this country handshake agreements are not viable and everything in business must have a legal representation.
Another challenging time was in 2015, 2016 when the oil & gas prices dipped below $30 which impacted several groups within our organization. But from this downturn, we learnt the importance of technology in enabling real time, accurate information which can be compromised or misrepresented if you rely on people around you for its transmission. Until this point, we had not integrated technology that well with our business and this was our biggest learn from this downturn. We made changes, did multiple strategic acquisitions and bounced back with double the speed!
Swati: Yasmin, Satish and you have known each other so long. How have you seen each other change through all these years?
Yasmin: I have seen Satish grow from a sixteen-year-old to who he is today. Yes, he has changed but I would like to say that he is very passionate about what he does and that hasn't changed about him till date. Satish is also passionate about sports and yoga and through all these years he has managed to balance them with his work. No matter how long the day is, end of the day, his office desk will be clear and you will see him heading out for his tennis game or yoga! That's something that has remained the same about him, through the ups and downs in business, through raising our children and through all these years!
Satish: I come from a small town in Haryana where we deal with lot of farmers. Growing up in this environment, my language and attitude sometimes comes across as rugged and rough. On the contrary, Yasmin has a very polite tone of voice and demeanor. So it was quite a change for me to adjust our talking styles but a change in a good way. And something I am still working on!
Swati: What activities do you enjoy doing together as a family with kids?
Yasmin: Our kids growing up were active in Girls Scout and Boys Scouts. This got us active in outdoor activities Satish went for camping with the boy scouts in New Mexico at Philmont, where they were out camping in the wilderness with no technology, no phones for 21 days and food/water supplies hung up in the trees to avoid bears! As a family, we loved hiking, skiing , mountains and nature. When our children were younger and Satish traveled for business, the whole family would tag along so that we could spend quality time together whenever we got a chance. When life gets busy, you need to be creative in finding ways to bring together the family as often as you can.?
Swati: Yasmin, how difficult was it for you to be an entrepreneur and a mother?
Yasmin: Honestly, it's a challenge! As a mother you are always in a dilemma on how to fulfil your role of a mother and at the same time not lose your individuality. For me, life changed after having my second child. Before that, I was working in a bank – I was learning, in large group enviornment, I was flourishing, it was great! However, after the second child it became increasingly difficult to balance my job commitments with my family responsibilities. Watching kids grow with baby sitters was not satisfying, I would be constantly flustered and impatient. That's when Satish and I conceived the idea of setting up a specialized import/export company/family office (Y.A.S. International) which I could operate from home and be around my kids. That was a win-win situation, so yes being a mother and an entrepreneur is challenging but can definitely co-exist.
Swati: Talking about kids, who were they closer to growing up? Who played the bad cop?
Satish: I think I played the bad cop (Yasmin laughs). We are blessed with great kids and now that they are grown up, we try to get together as a family at least once a month. While kids always had an option to join the family business, we let them pursue their passion. The eldest son decided to go into family business. One of our daughters is a Pediatric Physical Therapist and the youngest one totally surprised us by going into HR Management with Google.
Swati: Satish, if you were to start over again, what would you do differently?
Satish: Through our experiences in life and business, we learn and we implement. But sometimes, we are slow in learning and slow in accepting change. We are too stuck in our ways and this impedes our ability to adopt new ways of doing things. Technology for instance has changed every aspect of doing business. In the coming future, Artificial Intelligence will make decisions for us by using historical data and mapping it with current data points. This is new way of doing business and we should be nimble in adopting these changes and integrating them in our lives. So, yes something I would do differently would be to be more flexible and nimble to change.
Swati: Which charity project is closest to your heart?
Yasmin: Satish has a big heart and has always believed in giving back to society. I personally find it very fulfilling to be able to give the under privileged children a platform for education and to be able to see them grow up to be financially independent individuals. I am doing such projects in India wherein I sponsor education of kids right from their childhood to adulthood, and identifying talented kids in the US who would benefit from sponsorship of specialized college education.
We both strongly believe in “social responsibility” and would like to encourage the young generation to take the baton forward, and to think how they can give back to the society and make a difference. We are trying to imbue this concept in our kids as well wherein they figure out a way to give back to the educational institutions that helped them build a strong foundation and hence helped them be what they are today!
Spirituality, health, family and work – these are four pillars of life and need to work together in harmony. When you initially start any venture, the first few years are tumultuous and may call for a compromise with family time or with the things you like to do. But very quickly, you'll need to find a balance and figure out a way to assimilate all these components in your life; this includes getting a good night sleep, exercising and spending quality time with family. If you deviate too far and too long from these fundamentals, you won't be happy in the long run and would pay a price for it very soon. Yasmin and I practice yoga thrice a week and take long walks. This has helped us maintain a healthy life style.
Also, a message to all the budding entrepreneurs is to think BIG and think DIFFERENT and be willing to take risks. Don't follow the rat race and jump into doing what everyone else is doing, instead think out of the box and that's what going to lay the foundation for a successful business and a successful life.