Bharat Sethi

Bharat Sethi is a start-up enthusiast with a lot of interest in building marketplaces, content led platforms, and online communities. He started selling art on Ebay at age 16 while still in school. He founded PosterGully in early 2012 as a side project to continue with his interest in solving the monetisation problem for artists & designers. Since then, he’s played an integral part in building a cult brand within its target audience, getting over 8 million users to the unique marketplace.

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My Indian Company Got Acquired: What Did I Learn & How Do I Feel?

Find out what your buyer really wants from the go. People and organisations buy companies for a number of different reasons, and if you can figure out what the decision makers desire as an ultimate outcome, you can position this to your advantage.

I remember getting on a call with one of our investors — Gautham Radhakrishnan late last year and there’s something simple he mentioned which stuck with me for a long time and somewhere made it easier for me to make a decision to go down this road. He said — “Bharat, you need a strategic partner who connects emotionally with your brand more than anything else at this point”

Cutting to today, Sumit Gandhi and Manish Gandhi, promoters of Asian Business Exhibitions and Conferences (ABEC), last week, publicly announced the acquisition of PosterGully in their individual capacity. PosterGully, as a platform, will continue to operate under a new leadership and will be actively looking to strengthen its brand presence.

I’m truly inspired by what the Gandhi brothers have today built into an empire and are still hustling hard everyday. Their hunger to succeed is infectious and that’s where I first related to them in the initial calls and meetings. ABEC has ~12% market share in India, making it the largest private exhibition organiser in the country. In 2010, Qatar’s leading Investment bank QInvest acquired minority stake in ABEC, which was followed by an exit in favour of ITE Group which enhanced their stake to majority in 2015. ITE Group is one of the world’s leading exhibition organisers. ABEC organises over 25 shows across 10 verticals in 19 major cities pan India.

It took almost six months for us to close the transaction from the first call. I have condensed some of my key learnings below —

  1. Embracing change is the most important part of the entire puzzle. You may have liked how things were till now when you operated as a majority shareholder in your company. There’s no sense protecting that turf anymore. Those battles have already been fought.
  2. Find out what your buyer really wants from the go. People and organisations buy companies for a number of different reasons, and if you can figure out what the decision makers desire as an ultimate outcome, you can position this to your advantage.
  3. Completing an M&A transaction is a long process. Make sure you play your cards right and very strategically, more so when you have as many investors in the cap table as I did. It can be extremely stressful and nerve racking at times. You really need to ‘up your ante’ to make an acquisition successful. Know that you have the buyer’s support and a smart advisor with prior experience in similar kind of deals. This stuff doesn’t just happen overnight.
  4. Your business is much more valuable if it can run without you. To know that the company you founded will continue to thrive even after you no longer own it, is a particularly happy and victorious feeling.
  5. Its all about the people. Ask your buyers the right questions in the first meeting itself and see how they connect with you and your brand. In our case, our buyers were customers also and that made it easy to start conversations. We share a similar vision for what companies should be built like: aggressive, challenging, rewarding with a keen eye on profitability. They made an offer that jived with my professional and personal goals both, and showed just how much they valued our team.It’s never about you alone, it’s always about your team.
  6. Always stay humble. You can only try and plan out your life as much. In the end, you have less control than you think you do. Markets can be disrupted time and again. Economies can implode. Laws can get changed. People can change their mind. For the most part, its rather impossible to control these things. The only thing you can absolutely control is how you respond.
  7. Find out what’s coming your way; how to get shit done; and what’s the real motive behind it all. And you’d better learn it really fast.
  8. A couple of years back, I remember Bal from InnerChef & Di Ghent Cafe talk to me in a mentorship session and what he said has stayed with me forever. He said — “Don’t let your emotions distract you while building a company. It’s an asset that will find its right place.” The entire acquisition process can indeed take an emotional toll on you. Your company is something you’ve nurtured since it was a mere idea in your mind. It’s a reflection of who you are. Setbacks along this journey can feel like a punch to the gut. Stay focused and as unemotional as you can to arrive at an outcome you desire.

I believe, over the years, we’ve been able to build a fundamentally sound business and this deal is a perfect match that has use for all the skills the core team of PosterGully has garnered, especially around growing online communities and blending content with commerce. We literally created a new category for Indian e-commerce related to digital art and complimentary products with innovations in JIT printing and a highly profitable asset light model. I’m pretty confident that PosterGully’s customers, community, and partners will benefit from these exciting new developments. We’re going to have a bigger team with bigger resources and solve bigger problems.

An era has ended. Another has begun. This time 100x bigger and better. I’m now building iDecorama which is launching at our design show on 2nd Sep on Web, Android & iOS. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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