Last Week our marketing executive Rashmi Padhi managed to corner the elusive CEO and President Ajay Prasad of GMR Transcription Services for a brief interview. Here’s the transcript.
Rashmi: You are now running a successful transcription business and are poised to generate revenue of several million dollars this year. It's been a long ride, how does it feel
Ajay: Fantastic. We have spent 1000s of hours of hard work and strategy to reach this level. It feels good to finally see positive results of hard work.
Rashmi: How has the ride been and how long did it take to get to this point
Ajay: Just like any business, it has been up and down. This business has many pieces, and it took us several years to get all the pieces working well. It took us four years to hit $1m revenue. We made too many mistakes to even count, which slowed down our growth significantly. Now we have the momentum and have enjoyed close to 100% year-over-year growth for the last three years.
Rashmi: It is rumored in the company that you started with just 1000 dollars. Is it true?
Ajay: Yes, it is true. I was doing marketing consulting work and I taped a client interview (4 hours of it). Instead of spending four hours to listen to the tape, I decided to get it transcribed. I received a sticker shock when I was quoted over $1,500 for transcription. I figured that I will start my own transcription business, charge 1/4th fee and make decent money, plus employ transcriptionists who want to work from their home. Internet made where they lived irrelevant. I obviously spent lot of time planning the business (I fancy my thinking rate at $500/hr) and figuring out how to build/launch it. But yes, I spend $1,000 hard cost to start this business.
Rashmi: What were the basics tenets that you laid down and have followed till date for the success of the company?
Ajay: This will come as no surprise -- 1) fanatic quality control of transcripts, 2) beat customer expectations on delivery time, 3) best customer service, 4) take care of your independent contractor transcriptionists -- pay them a fair wage, pay on time for their work, and reward good ones with more work and occasional gifts/kudos, 5) make a decent profit for the company, 6) focus on long run, not immediate profit 7) manage cost without sacrificing quality -- for example, majority of our transcriptionists are located in small town USA/Canada where wages we pay go a long way. We thus manage our cost and also have satisfied and happy workforce. Our wages in large cities would be on the low end of the spectrum, whereas it is on the middle range in small cities.
Rashmi: It is said that long before transcription was a truly online business you anticipated it and till today your online strategy dominates your marketing strategy.
Ajay: When I started this business, technology needed for success of this business (access to broadband, computer usage, website security, transmission of voice files to transcriptionists and final transcripts to customers) was used only by internet savvy people. So I planned to recruit transcriptionists through internet and find customers through internet. These people found it easy to adapt to the new process, and appreciate convenience and lower cost benefits of internet usage. The strategy worked even when a very small percentage of population had access to broadband. Now the penetration is much higher and there is no reason for us to change our strategy.
Rashmi: Can you share with us some of your statistics? They will serve as an inspiration of others wanting to set up their own transcription business.
Ajay: Anyone can build a transcription business. I had never thought of it and yet I own a successful transcription business. Just like any business, start with the needs of your target audience and beat their expectations with your product/service. Well executed plan should generate 1/2 million revenue during the 1st year of operation. A transcriptionist can easily start her own transcription business and double their income working the same number of hours as they are doing now.
Rashmi: What resources were useful for you.
Ajay: Since my business was internet based, website design and web marketing were the most important pieces required to start the business. Operations were the next challenge; especially getting quality transcription completed consistently. It frankly took me longer to succeed because I had never been a Transcriptionist and had no idea about the operational needs. I had a much easier time identifying customer needs and bringing customers (now you know why I fancy myself as an expensive strategist). A good transcription supervisor helped set the operations right.
Rashmi: What is the scope of transcription business
Ajay: HUGE -- IT IS A $20BILLION BUSINESS
Rashmi: Do you think your management background helped you?
Ajay: Yes and no. I have always worked for large companies before I started this business. In those companies people are self motivated and do not need hand holding. Here it different. I meet too many workers who do not see beyond their paycheck when recruiting for small business. They need different management style. I tried big-company style and ended up with too many deadbeats as my employees. It took a lot of firing and adjustment from my end to finally figure out the right style and processes.
Rashmi: Lastly, have you ever transcribed an audio?
Ajay: Never tried. It is too difficult for me.