Meri kahaani, meri zubaani.
To those of you who have pushed me, thank you.
Without you i wouldn’t have fallen.
To those of you who laughed at me, thank you.
Without you i wouldn’t have cried.
To those of you who just couldn’t love me, thank you.
Without you i wouldn’t have known real love.
To those of you who hurt my feelings, thank you.
Without you i wouldn’t have felt them.
To those of you who left me lonely, thank you.
Without you i wouldn’t have discovered myself.
But it is to those of you who thought I couldn’t do it;
It is you i thank the most,
Because without you i wouldn’t have tried.
In the year 2000, www.sudeepaudio.com started off as a “part-time” activity for me. Yes, just after the dot-com crash!
i was termed as a ‘good-for-nothing’ by several relatives for leaving a risk-free and high income career path that i was already on.
At that time when one is in self-doubt, the ones who stood strongly by my side (and even helped me in several ways) were: my father (Nikhil), my elder brother (Sunil), my girlfriend (now wife – Prachi), and a few other people who believed in me (you know who you are).
For financial support, i took onto part-time volunteering, organising some “free” concerts, started selling music books and private albums (CDs) on the website (payment mode was ‘by cheque only’). To pay for my fuel and other basic costs, i also taught at a GMAT and TOEFL “classes” in the evenings, earning Rs. 300 per lecture x 4 a month. i took up data entry jobs getting me a princely sum of Rs. 500 a month.
The website was built (via self-taught coding) at various Cybercafes with hourly charges of Rs 15, since i did not own a computer. Food was free at home (for now).
In Dec 2001, i got the opportunity to handle the recording sessions for the RJ Auditions of Radio Mirchi 98.3 FM station at our Ahmedabad basement studio (that was lying unused). Recording skills were self-taught over the earlier 2 decades, where i saw my father work at his Mumbai studio. And yes, studio rental charges were paid for this audition job by me, as the studio wasn’t mine.
In Feb 2002, i was contacted via email by Mariano Etchepareborda of Swar Systems, Switzerland to help him sell his SwarShala software across India. It was in a very crude form back then, but the overall product concept was brilliant. i got deeply involved in the development of the product and then the plug-in on various aspects like market research, design, testing and more along with the Swar team.
My next idea of selling studio products online was mocked upon by the line, “who buys software?”. In the early 2000s, there was neither proper penetration of the internet in India, nor online shopping a business. Moreover, computer-based music production was in its nascent stages too.
i still wonder if i would allow my daughter marry such a mad, and a broke young man. But my father-in-law did! Thank you sir.
No more timepass / trials!
Eventually in the year 2003, i took the plunge and went full-time into this business. Now with a proper online payment gateway in place (CCAvenue.com had also just started then), and with just one software available (SwarShala), India’s first pro audio web-store was active! Ah yes, the website did have (and still has) a lot of artist profiles (was like a musician’s Facebook!), some music lesson sections, a list of studios across India, and other useful information researched from books and some friends. Google too was like un-heard of then. i already sound ancient.
For several years, i went door-to-door to recording studios in Mumbai (still do it actually), like those saree-wallahs – who visited our homes to show off their collection to the homely damsels-in-distress. There was not a single studio in Mumbai that i did not visit to tom-tom my wares. And then the physical delivery was done in person too, if i was lucky enough to bag an order. And the installation and updates were handled by me for free, when there were some service providers who used to charge per visit!
Bad business sense? Nope.
So, what happened next?
How did the survival and growth happen in this niche music-making market? Several companies (local and international) understood the potential of our website and joined hands with us to sell their products online (hardware and software). Exhibiting our products at trade shows like the PALM Expo did help but only to realise that piracy was rampant in India. Several helpful people who i came in contact with volunteered to help me out with the back-end programming, site design and more. God bless them all.
The team and product range grew over time. professionally, “i” became “we”. But in the initial 4-5 years (and even now at times), being on your own without any financial backing does give me sleepless nights, anxiety pangs and acidity attacks. Letting the mind “live in the now” is all good to hear in the Guruji-type videos. To implement the “mindfulness” concept in daily life is the real challenge.
One lesson learnt: Having a supportive spouse and a small circle of encouraging, helpful people is a must-have. Else no entrepreneur can continue for long.
And most of all what helped us carry on was those musicians and sound engineers who believed in helping a local company (wasn’t called startup then), instead of buying equipment from outside India. That generous lot of customers still exists.
Another division called #iMPRESSiONZ was added in the year 2009 at the Ahmedabad branch (our house basement). Here, a small freelance team works to design websites for musicians and recording studios. A formidable clientele has been built over the years only because of the faith they had in our products, services and intentions. Not to forget our affordable costs.
The web-store went through many design changes with the help of some equally crazy designers who now work with us on several projects. The back-end team of our associates – Thym Infoware (Ahmedabad) – ensures that the site functions well always. The front-end office team at Mumbai ensures that queries are answered on phone & email quickly, and that service issues are resolved with the least downtime possible. Sounds like a hundred people working in the company! We are just a handful. But each one of us is crazy in our own sweet way. And definitely hard-working and pro-active for sure.
Get to know the behind-the-scenes SA team better here >>
Even more craziness!! Wasn’t one plunge enough?
In 2011, when i thought of starting a YouTube channel dedicated to musicians and sound engineers, some liked the idea. Most didn’t. Who would be interested in boring and monotonous journeys of keyboard players, music producers (now who is that?!), knob twisters and the like? On getting such feedback, life seemed to have come back a full circle! But there are all kinds of people around us – the risk-takers, fence sitters, and mostly those who just don’t believe in trying the unchartered path.
i went ahead with my gut-feel… again.
My saree-wallah type rounds haven’t stopped even today in 2018, and now the visits are being done for generating our video channel content. Labeled as #converSAtions, this channel got tagged by YouTube as the 6th most watched channel by musicians! It is not making money like what you may think it is, or one would want it to. This effort primarily is my give-back to the music industry which has done so much for SA (our new acronym for the company).
converSAtions is a platform where lesser known musicians and technicians are featured. And yes, their stories are truly inspiring. Watch any one of them, and you will realise why i say so. Oh yes, i was also advised to bring in a hot actress to bump up the views. Hasn’t happened yet.
Today, the organic stats for the channel are: 450+ videos, 23,000+ subscribers, 4 million+ views. And yes, i do plan to take it pan-India in 2019. Sponsors are welcome 🙂
A lot of musical talent is sitting untapped in various cities, ready to be introduced to the music industry which is currently concentrated in big cities such as Mumbai and Chennai.
What else is going on nowadays? A LOT!!!
A usual question one expects to be answered, “kya chal raha hai aaj kal?“. Just like, “where do you see yourself 5 years from now”, was a typical question asked when my corporate career began in 1999.
Today, online shopping habits and experiences have evolved in India. Some distributors sell directly (and for much cheaper) on sites like Amazon. Some well-oiled (read heavily financed / funded) websites are making their mark too. My best wishes to them for a healthy growth as well.
For music software, SudeepAudio.com still remains the only go-to place for buying these wonderful music-making products in India, available at the lowest prices in the world!
Our motto has always been #BeOriginal #BuyOriginal… and now in the era of GST it is: #BuyLocal.
1. A new venture under the beta-testing stage is the world’s first pro-audio gaming portal: ProAudioGames. These are a collection of our childhood fun & educational games like hangman, jigsaw puzzle, solve the maze, daily quizzes, etc. that unlock the child in the players. This concept was born to help musicians and sound engineers spend their free time productively and also have fun on their phones / desktops. And what’s more? Each sponSAred game also generates discount coupons, lucky draw prizes, etc. for the players. Being an open and independent platform, SudeepAudio.com is also a sponsor on this new portal! More sponsors (local and international companies) will show up with their own game content on it soon. Hope is the only way forward.
2. Several authors, bloggers are now contributing to our #SAundCheck blog. Its primary purpose is to spread useful updates about the music business from across the world, product reviews and much more.
These are some ideas aimed at bringing the Indian musician community even closer. And there is much more to life than just achieving high sales numbers and discounts. We hope SudeepAudio.com can continue to survive and achieve the main objective of “creating a positive movement online and offline in the Indian music industry.”
Coming Up… (phew, does this ever end?)
#SAvings: this venture will guide musicians and sound engineers to invest their earnings wisely and take care of their finances in order to have a better, secure retired life. Ask any self employed professional and he/she will tell you how unpredictable the music business in India has become today.
A software and a booklet called FAMILY MATTERS is being developed by the #SAvings team that will become indispensable tools for every Indian citizen! Here it is>>
And now, The Thank Yous.
There are so many people to thank for several reasons when we complete 15 years of survival as India’s first pro audio web-store. i have written to many personally and thanked them for their support over all these years. i also apologise to those i may have missed out in doing so. But i still value each person’s contribution since our inception – whether it was a simple encouragement or even criticism.
Yes, we are not perfect, nor aim to be…
Our hope is to engrave SA in the hearts of every musician and sound engineer.
Below is a video and our journey timeline chart. i thank each one who took time off to record it and send it across, and for the warm encouraging words spoken to motivate our team.
Enough of this blabber. Let’s watch the 15th anniversary video now >>
THANK YOU ALL… FOR EVERYTHING.