Neil Patel

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Few stories are as remarkable as those of individuals who’ve carved their path to success against all odds. Today, we have the privilege of unveiling the captivating journey of Rupesh Sanghavi, a bootstrapped founder who defied conventional norms to build a thriving empire from scratch.

Rupesh talks in detail about his experiences building a company to over 400 employees on a $150M revenue. He also reveals how he maintained his focus on sustainability and culture when building, scaling, and financing his venture.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • From the bustling streets of India to the corridors of academia in the United States, Rupesh’s journey is a testament to the power of resilience and resourcefulness in overcoming adversity.
  • Balancing the expectations of his Indian heritage with the opportunities afforded by American culture, Rupesh embraced the challenge of navigating cultural crossroads to carve his path forward.
  • The serendipitous discovery of e-commerce sparked Rupesh’s entrepreneurial journey, leading him to leverage his engineering background to unlock the potential of digital commerce.
  • With unwavering determination, Rupesh took the leap from corporate stability to entrepreneurial uncertainty, embarking on a journey of self-discovery and innovation.
  • Against the backdrop of a venture capital-dominated landscape, Rupesh’s commitment to bootstrapping Ergode reflects his belief in sustainable growth and independence.
  • At Ergode, every employee is valued and empowered, with a culture that fosters innovation, collaboration, and personal growth.
  • Rupesh’s journey teaches us the importance of embracing technology and persevering through adversity, paving the way for success in the ever-evolving world of entrepreneurship.



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About Rupesh Sanghavi:

Rupesh Sanghavi is an accomplished entrepreneur whose journey embodies the true spirit of determination and hard work. With a humble beginning, Rupesh embarked on a path that led to remarkable achievements and established him as a respected figure in the business world.

From the early days of reselling a used book, Rupesh’s entrepreneurial instincts took flight. He founded Ergode Inc., a thriving e-commerce company that has experienced exponential growth under his visionary leadership.

With unwavering dedication, Rupesh and his team expanded the company’s catalog to offer over 3 million SKUs for sale in more than 150 countries, fostering relationships with over 2,500 vendors.

Rupesh’s entrepreneurial prowess has not gone unnoticed. Nominated as a finalist for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year award in consecutive years, he has been recognized for their exceptional business acumen and innovative approach.

Additionally, Ergode Inc. has earned its place among the top resellers on leading platforms such as Amazon, Walmart and Target.

Beyond his professional achievements, Rupesh is a devoted family person and takes immense pride in being a loving husband and father to three boys.

His passion for reading books and exploring the world has not only enriched his personal life but also fueled his insights and experiences as a CEO.

Alongside his entrepreneurial journey, Rupesh is committed to giving back and empowering aspiring entrepreneurs and startups. He readily embraces the role of a mentor, guiding university students and sharing his knowledge to help others make their mark in the business world.

With a down-to-earth demeanor and a genuine love for learning, Rupesh’s success story is a testament to the power of perseverance, strategic thinking, and embracing opportunities.

His biographical article stands as an inspiration for those seeking to achieve greatness through humble beginnings.

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Connect with Rupesh Sanghavi:

Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:

Alejandro Cremades: Alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the dealmakerr show. So today. We have a really amazing founder a Bootstrapped founder. You know he hasn’t raised any money but here’s the deal. He’s built his company to over four hundred employees on 150000000 topline revenue. So talk about impressiveness here. We’re gonna be talking about. Story how he went about doing it. Also we’re going to be talking about how really to go about running a business that is fully bootstrapped thinking about sustainability as well as how they’ve gone about building their culture to know again, you know building scaling financing. You know, not that much but we’re going to be talking about bootstrapping it. All the good stuff that we like to hear so brace yourself for a very inspiring discussion so without further ado. Let’s welcome our guests today rupeshang gavi welcome to the show.

Rupesh Sanghavi: Oh thank you. Thank you Alandro for having me I’m so excited to be here.

Alejandro Cremades: So born in India give us a walk through memory lane. How was life growing up over there.

Rupesh Sanghavi: Oh it was amazing. It’s literally how I would say how other side of the world lives literally and physically um had a like I mean from driving on the different side of the road to flipping a switch on the different side of the plate. Um I think it was growing up in India was quite an exciting time. It was a pre-internet pre touch phone era of we grew up in a very competitive environment. Um I like most of us were not blaged with lot of resources. So. We had to kind of ah we had to become a very um creative with the resources that we had and ah I’m very thankful for the way I grew up in India.

Alejandro Cremades: So then so then let’s talk about obviously in your case I mean in India there’s a lot of pressure. A lot of cultural pressure to to to study to to become either a doctor or an engineer I mean your case you was an engineer so you became you, you actually went into engineering school. Ah, but.

Rupesh Sanghavi: Um, exactly yes.

Alejandro Cremades: Like you say you know your mother was India and your father was the US so at what point does the mother and the father meet. Ah.

Rupesh Sanghavi: Oh ah, that’s fantastic. So yeah I mean I grew up in I grew up in India like you know, very um, limited visibility environment i. Perhaps learn to move my mouths like I move the mouse on the computer perhaps first time in 99 so at like at a very limited um, resources growing up. But I mean what changed my world and my trajectory is. That I applied for some universities in United States for masters and Texas a muniversity in Texas and muniversity invited me to do masters from there and here is the kicker absolute hundred percent scholarship and now on top of it. They give me some additional law compensation or money to just study change study there I was just blown like no matter us is one of the greatest country on this earth is because of what they do and how. They treat foreigners. There are not many cultural cultures that they do that I’ve been to more than a hundred countries traveling myself. But I’ve never seen and a country as generous and as open as us so that is how I think ah I think of us I was fortunate to do my masters. Um.

Rupesh Sanghavi: From Texas a and m and within eighteen months and then found my first job in California doing simulation engineering for a company called wonderwear.

Alejandro Cremades: And how was how was it like coming here to the Us you know the land of opportunity How how was it for you.

Rupesh Sanghavi: Oh my ah that you’re taking me to some very happy memories I mean even if I had to pick 1 year of my entire life like perhaps the first twelve months that I was in United States was my happiest year of my life I must say that with very limited resources. New country new, new everything. But just ah, life was a fantastic year at that time. Um, fortunately like um, start like I mean given that. We grew up in a very competitive environment I felt that um study here was a breeze I mean I was able to score 4.0 in a m I was able to work 20 hours a week ah was still cooking running a house for the first time because in India. Doing bachelors I lived with my parents I mean it was I believe it or not it was as common as the school student living with the parents at that time. So I was never by myself and yeah, everything changed here and changed for better. So had a fantastic experience. Great professor, great thinking and super good culture.

Alejandro Cremades: So that’s pretty amazing now in your case you know you ended up being going into the corporate world and you did that for close to 6 years you know it’s like you were waiting for something to happen. You know what? what do you think needed to happen because.

Rupesh Sanghavi: This that certainly.

Alejandro Cremades: Ah, what point did that whole entrepreneurial thing started to to incubate in you.

Rupesh Sanghavi: Oh that’s a I mean now thinking backxi perhaps I did not even knew the full meaning of be what it likes to be an entrepreneur. Maybe even I’m learning today but I can tell you this. That I used to do some small gigs all the time like selling um selling some stuff. Um, kind of doing some service jobs I like I was like that way tinkerer what kick started me was um, like I while buying a book. For my wife I realized that there is a book I can buy for go fifty bucks less than $50 and sell it for $1600 that to instantly 0 weight time. So I took the plunge did the transaction and it kind of got me hooked. Once I realized that it’s just not for money but the amount of opportunity in ecommerce at that time sounded enormous and that got me hooked then and there.

Alejandro Cremades: So then obviously you you started doing this on the side. You know for a little bit and they what was that moment where you were like hey I think that they it’s time. It’s time to get this thing done.

Rupesh Sanghavi: Um, that is correct.

Rupesh Sanghavi: Great! Great. So yeah I mean like once I sort of realized what I kind of stumbled on or what really my calling? Um I just I like I mean I just started spending time as in when I could ah work was my still first priority I still. Continue to rank 4 or 5 on 5 or 5 scale. So I was doing very well on the job. But then I realized at one point that look I mean I can only go so far I mean I I mean my real calling is from entrepreneurship and that’s when I took a plunge and that’s when. I sort of um, ah I mean started doing this full time.

Alejandro Cremades: So then let’s talk about that moment where you were like okay I’m going to go for this I mean how nerf rocking was when you gave your ah you know notice and and you went out this you know on your own for for ah for the first time.

Rupesh Sanghavi: Why you’re magical eandra you’re taking me to the right spot and right time let me tell you this I walked to my manager at least 3 times and like with the full intent of um resigning from the job. From giving that no taste could not do it. It was the fourth time that was a charm like I mean my boss really thought something weird resolve because I would just walk up to him change my mind at the last minute talk something about project or something else and then just walk back. Maybe a week to live a week or two later I’ll do the same thing until fourth time when I gathered enough courage to tell him and that’s it I mean he tried to retain me he tried to tell me that like look you will have a better future year which of course I respected it. But then at that time I stitched stood my ground and decided to step out.

Alejandro Cremades: So then let’s talk about the early days what were the early days like you know, really pushing the company pushing airgoat I mean what? what? what? What were those early days like.

Rupesh Sanghavi: Oh early days was a fun I mean talk about transformation transformation ah into business I mean I felt like for first six months or so I mean sorry first few years I thought that we are changing business model or evolving business model every 3 to six months so there was a constant um, tinkering and constant fine tuning of exactly what we want to do and it is almost like when you tinker with the ongoing business. It’s almost like changing a tire.

Rupesh Sanghavi: While car is in motion. So it was not easy, but it was a lot of fun um few other things I mean like from chemical engineer I mean we started selling books even though right now books are less than 2% of what we do, but at that time we started selling books so imaging a person doing a. Very well in chemical engineering chemical plus computer science and suddenly you start selling both so like I mean even if I tell my friends or family that I’m doing this full time that next question and sorry that next question was how would you support yourself I mean implying that. Would you even make enough money to support yourself compared to where you were and um I did not real like I did not understand working capital I did not understand profitability. There was no sophisticated system at least not that I know I mean luck and ah I did not add a exposure to it. So. I was even wondering that have I done the right thing because I did not realize that I’m reinvesting all the profits at that time back into business. So I was like I was just buying more items to sell and I did not realize that hey I’m making this invisible money I thought like oh. I don’t know why I’m working so hard and not making money. So ah, those were the earlier days um I was everything from um, strategy to accountant to cleaning the room to or shipping the books. Everything was done by me. Um, it was pardon.

Rupesh Sanghavi: Interesting exciting period Now when I look back.

Alejandro Cremades: So then for the people that are listening to get it. What ended up being the business model of her gold. How do you guys make money.

Rupesh Sanghavi: So at the moment. Ah our vision and ah I mean our vision is to transform great American brands from a physical retailing world to digital.

Rupesh Sanghavi: Digital landscape now from physical to digital involves a lot of the lot of work because the like spial. Yeah, so that is what we do. We? Ah, we work with various businesses and brands. And we buy their products and we sell their products online and we help them. We help them grow so we help brand grow not as a agency but as a retailer as a their retailing partner and as in when if we see a ah mutual opportunity. Acquire the businesses that we are working with either businesses ready to exit for some reason or we see ah potential to work together. We also acquired that business and become a hundred percent owner of that brand so we have acquired 15 businesses in last three years. Yeah, and. We we work with over finded brands as a reselling partner. So essentially we either help you grow your brand or we help you continue? Um, the survival of the brand for many many years or decades to come.

Alejandro Cremades: And we’ll talk about the acquisitions in in just a bit but 1 of the things that strikes me here is I mean you guys have built a really meaningful business. Why didn’t you guys ever think about raising external money because I’m sure that you’ve had like all types of people knocking on your door. You know for.

Rupesh Sanghavi: Should.

Rupesh Sanghavi: Thank you.

Alejandro Cremades: Helping you with giving you money or with whatever that was.

Rupesh Sanghavi: Absolutely so ah up until 2020 up until pandemic we were. We were just we were ah cash we were doing I mean we are still doing um, amazing job that we are. We have been a cash flow positive.

Rupesh Sanghavi: We have all the working capital has come out of our ah profitability over many years and because of like I mean because of that we never needed a cash to like run our business because our cash flow cycle. Was always um, ah positive in terms of we get paid before like um, like I mean we get paid much faster thanks to our real like thanks to over ranking and relation with some of the major marketplace like Walmart Amazon where they pay us much faster than. They pay to any other sellers so because of that um we we we never needed a money after Twenty Twenty um we when we started acquisition business at that time. Yes, we needed a lot of upfront cash and.

Rupesh Sanghavi: Up until the like by the time we ran out of our own cash to invest into Brand We realized that and actually we started thinking about raising money but then by the time we ran out of our own cash to buy Brands. We realized that those cash comes with lot of conditions. And those conditions may ah may limit our growth to an extent. So. That’s why we continue to focus primarily on um, growing the brands growing the profitability ah growing the vendors that we work with. Rather than being distracted by more brands and because of those profitability reasons and like that staying independent. Um, as long as we could led us to not explore um, many like I mean we had ah have had many. Um. Unsolicited. It seted inquiry to invest into our business. We have said no so far and as we acquire more brands in the future We We are open to it. But for now we we are we are going doing well.

Alejandro Cremades: So then let’s talk about the acquisitions. No so at what point does the whole idea of growing inorganically be ah acquisitions at that point at what point that’s that kind as ah as an option because I mean it sounds like now you guys have built more of an assembly line on the way that you’re able to plug those in and.

Rupesh Sanghavi: Chen.

Alejandro Cremades: And put them on there. The Umbrella So at what point does that idea come knocking and then how have you guys gone about really building that assembly line to make to ensuring that integration. You know of those transactions end up being a success. So.

Rupesh Sanghavi: Absolutely so that’s a keyword a landro very well said. So we have built an assembly line. Um, check the base part like bee part about is that because of the more than one and a half decades of experience. We knew. Like even when we acquired brand we were doing even when we were not owner of the brand so it became very natural for us that um now we have something of our own. We kind of take an extra care so we always have. Perfected and mastered this assembly line concept where we ever like we have a team of 450 people. Um, who do everything from search engine optimization to digital marketing to customer surveys to research and analysis to create a social media. Everything is done. Ah, in ours and because of that strong team when we added like and the one part I should say that when we add brands we typically like when we acquire company we typically want to see that their manufacturing is not in ours. So they are ah I would like to see they get their manufacturing. They have our manufacturing done from an outside either somewhere in Asia or Mexico or even United States but the manufacturing cannot be in ours so that is what we have focused on.

Rupesh Sanghavi: So when we acquired brands. We primarily focus on growing product lines we focus on um, ah, growing top lines and so on we usually typically don’t get ah, bogged down by manufacturing at this point.

Alejandro Cremades: So then so then in that case you know, let’s talk about to the um how you guys have gone about people right? I mean you obviously those acquisitions are all about people too and now as you said you have over 400 employees. What is it like you know to be an employee of ergo day and and and. And what are some of those values that you guys have built a culture on. Yeah.

Rupesh Sanghavi: Brilliant. Thank you? Um, so I think ah I mean I’m fortunate to have my first job in the in job job in California and imaaging a culture of California in early 2000 when company. Would give you almost like almost a resource treatment um inside the company and they will encourage you for from every perspective so I was I’m fortunate to have spent those years in California where they would. Give me, they would give me unlimited access to any training courses. Um, ah, access to gym various programs foods sports stuff like that I like and I’ve not worked anywhere other than. The United States so I’ve taken those values and those thinking back to my team. Our team is spread all over the world. We have some in Japan some in um, ah quite a few in India some in Philippines some in United States so our um our employees or our ah like people who work with us are all over the world now we like whatever is practical, um, like ah, whatever is practical. We offer them as a motivation and compensation. There are 8 different ways.

Rupesh Sanghavi: In which we compensate employ in terms of like various sports efforts sports ah sports rewards to obviously monthly compensation to on ours to incentives to all kinds of stuff that we offer in terms of compensation. They were unlimited access to um, ah, any course and company reimburses for them. Then we have a program when then we provide Eso even though as ah, ah as an independent company. We don’t have to. Give of a equityity but we have chosen to give eesop that is a little stock in our company to almost to all the employees and why why that because my fire goal one of the fire goal is to hack a create find it. Millionaires and I know we can do it. Um, if we continue to be on the path we are on so with such small equity I think we can have a lot of people. Um, benefiting from esop and then we have programs like mga we have programs like token of appreciation. Um, in in the like 1 of the interesting program that I can say is that like in token of appreciation we have ah clay chips made with the name or go and we actually give out that chips to um, somebody who is performing well or was performed well um, on given day.

Rupesh Sanghavi: And then like every week they get some awards and like starting from um, smartphone to who knows all kinds of awards we give out so those things keeps employee engaged. Of course we celebrate lot of Festivals. We Celebrate Birthdays. We have our all end meetings. All those parks are part of working in our good and here. Ah.

Alejandro Cremades: That’s amazing. So then so then I want to ask you something here then imagine if you were to go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world where the vision of the company is fully realized what does that world look like.

Rupesh Sanghavi: So. Great. Great question. So um I think um okay 1 is that um I would like to see I would I would like to see that we have we have we we we have worked with at least. 100 brands we have like we have some great branch stories that I’ll get to later but some of the brands that we have saved from oblivion is quite an amazing. So maybe a hundred plus of those stories that we are fully capable of executing is but my goal second is about. This finded million find it creating a finded plus millionaires. It may not be much but being a millionaire in some part of the world still means a lot and I would love to see that everybody who has been working with us gets benefit from um. This chundra output I know that money cannot solve all the problems but definitely it helps to reduce so alleviate some of the problems. Um, the the third goal in my my mind is to be a net exporter of the products from United States right right? now I mean as a us we export lot of um lot of stuff but not so much into this retail era. But I think as ah I mean our products the brands that we have acquired are from United States and we can actually um I mean like right now.

Rupesh Sanghavi: Our international cells are less than 20% but I think we can easily grow that to fifty sixty percent and that would be my vision to see that we our american ideas american products becomes popular worldwide.

Alejandro Cremades: So we’re talking about the future here but I want to talk about the past and with a length of reflection because I mean you’ve been at it now for close to 15 years which is obviously you know building a company 15 years is like in in corporate that will be like 200 years now in in dock years right? I mean absolutely unbolio. So.

Rupesh Sanghavi: Yeah child.

Alejandro Cremades: Imagine I was to put you into a time machine and and I bring you back in time you know maybe to that moment where you know you were now giving your notice. You know they’re in inventes and there you were like a having the opportunity of having a chat with that younger rope.

Rupesh Sanghavi: Ah, so.

Alejandro Cremades: You’re able to give your younger self one piece of advice. What would that be and why you know that piece of advice for launching a business given what you know now.

Rupesh Sanghavi: Fantastic I think um I I think as much as we adopted technology early on I think we did not do enough. There is no reason we could not have we could not have become another Amazon. Size company at that time only if we are focused more on technology. So the way I think about now is that every company is sort of a technology company. Um with that application in different areas like Healthcare Finance Retail who knows right? so. I think if ah only if I had invested more time into technology. Um I think we would have been even much better off. So I mean if there is a 1 advice yes technology second maybe ah I think lot of time. It’s a persistence because. Entrepreneurship is not about all the glory days when I get recognized rewarded or I feel a sense of pride in god like creating a team of the size we have okay, there are a lot of hard days that. Have to live through and persevering through those hard days when situation is tight when we are in a problem of not our own making it is hard to go through those days but a it’s negative of like I mean we just have to persevere through this. So I think.

Rupesh Sanghavi: Technology on the like actually um, a technology on the doing side and perseverance on the mindset side is what I can share with the younger myself.

Alejandro Cremades: So for the people that are listening. You know that will love to reach out and say hi Rupesh what is the best way for them to do so. So.

Rupesh Sanghavi: Linkedin is the base test way. Um I’m on text message whatsapp message as well. But Linkedin like I’m sure we can easily my name is through page songwi so you can just find me there and. I do respond to every message on Linkedin. Thank you, thank you? Elandra! Thank you for having me and it’s really a pleasure to be here. Thank you.

Alejandro Cremades: You see enough. Well rupesh. Thank you so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been an honor to have you with us.


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