Arjun Narayan is currently the CEO at SalesDuo, the leading omnichannel solution helping brands grow on Amazon through its Business Intelligence dashboard. Arjun is an Ex-Amazon business leader with 17 years of experience, 10 of which have been an Entrepreneur and CEO. Arjun has successfully built and exited two companies, demonstrating his proven track record as an executive and expert in business development, growth optimization, logistics, and retail technology.
Check out more interviews with entrepreneurs here.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO GET FEATURED?
All interviews are 100% FREE OF CHARGE
Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Arjun Narayan: My name is Arjun Narayan, I am the CEO SalesDuo where we help brands strengthen their eCommerce presence. I have been an entrepreneur for 15 years now and have founded two previous companies, both of which were acquired. In between my entrepreneurial ventures, I did a stint with Amazon where I led their Vendor Program — my team managed 100,000 brands, closely studying their evolution in the Amazon ecosystem and what parameters triggered their growth.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your view point, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Arjun Narayan: I think it is a bit of both. Right from the beginning, entrepreneurs must demonstrate an ability to make decisions independently, not worrying too much about the social mirror, questioning the values and beliefs that are bestowed on them, and adopting what they think is right. They can amuse themselves with their own innovative ideas and have an inclination to solve problems, identify patterns and connect the dots.
While all of these traits may be in you, they need to be applied the right way — the skill has to be honed and that is where the “made” part comes in, i.e. how they apply every experience to nurture themselves is where the “made” part comes in. A combination of nature and nurture makes a well-rounded, successful Entrepreneur.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Arjun Narayan: Very strong on the execution side — I’m very open to trying out new experiments, constantly trying to make the envelope larger, and believe that technology can solve a lot of problems. Most importantly, I want everyone to win — SalsDuo’s customers, the entire team at SalesDuo. My goal is that even looking back a few years later that everyone (clients, employees, vendors, anyone who touched the business) should be happy that our paths crossed.
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Arjun Narayan: SalesDuo is an omnichannel software solution helping brands grow their eCommerce through a Business Intelligence dashboard. When we first started, we knew that brands could do with a helping hand with their online presence but we weren’t too sure how to specifically assist in all the areas associated with an omnichannel eCommerce presence. We had a few programs like Account Management, Operations, Marketing, Catalog, and Content when we started; but later realized we could do a whole lot in the EDI and Order Management Space.
We then added an innovative piece on the Warehousing front. Next came our Business Intelligence Dashboard, and our core offering to date, which gives our customers detailed sales analytics and insights into their competitive landscape.
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Arjun Narayan: There are going to be several challenges, from getting your first customer to putting up a team together. As someone had rightly said — Entrepreneurship can almost border with masochism. You will have to enjoy the pain that comes your way as much as the fun that comes with it.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Arjun Narayan: None that I have realized yet in this venture, but in my earlier one — yes. By choosing a market that was declining and as such small, I think we limited our scope for growth. We pivoted out of the situation eventually, but we could have saved ourselves a few years by spending more time in the planning stage and listening to people who were giving advice.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain
Arjun Narayan: Immaterial of what size of a business you run, the effort that is needed is going to be the same. You are better off by making the plan larger, choosing a large and growing space to operate in, going behind the harder problems, and building your team very carefully.
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Arjun Narayan: I cannot recall a time where I received the “worst advice,” to the contrary I have always received advice that I appreciated in some form or fashion. Advice always comes with its context, before you consume it — you have to be very careful in assessing the context in which the advisor delivered it or would have experienced it themselves to give you the advice. If it applies to you and to your context, take it, or otherwise ignore.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Arjun Narayan: Things are changing dynamically — don’t get too tied to any particular way of doing business. Who even knew that companies can run as well with everyone working from home as they would with everyone at the office? Every phase teaches new things, be open and flexible to adopt new ways. What has not changed is the need to be as customer-focused as possible — the fundamentals of building and growing the business remain the same.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Arjun Narayan: “Entrepreneurs don’t have a personal life”. — Well not really so. You get to choose which 16 hours of the day you want to work in. You have the luxury to choose the remaining 8 hours however you would want to spend 😉
“Entrepreneurs don’t quit” — To the contrary, you should know when to quit.
“Entrepreneurs don’t have a boss” — Well any kind of leadership comes with responsibility. Your customers and your team are your bosses. They pretty much control your existence.
“Entrepreneurs take extreme risks” — There is no need to take any extreme risks. Take calculated risks and clearly define the criteria to define whether things are working or not.
“It is all about the idea” — No, it is all about the execution.
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Arjun Narayan: I think it’s the ability to identify a large enough problem in a large and growing market. Make yourself a detailed business plan with all assumptions, dependencies, and timelines. The ability to get yourself a co-founder with complementary skills is also very important. This is a tough journey, you are better with someone than going solo. Run the plan, try it out, add a few customers yourself, set everything in place, and when it is all set — start building a team.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Arjun Narayan: Be very aware of what’s going on in the world today. Things are changing rapidly with new technologies and opportunities are abundant. I have only one source of whatever is happening around and how things are changing— that’s my Twitter timeline and all the people I follow there. Whatever I pick from there, I do my research on that and then consume it and apply the information. I do read a lot of books, mostly about businesses and autobiographies but I do not have any specific list to recommend.
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Arjun Narayan: Anything to do with driving. I can drive 24/7. Do they still have driver openings for Amazon logistics?
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Arjun Narayan for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Arjun Narayan or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
Did you enjoy this article? Check out similar stories:
Disclaimer: The ValiantCEO Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.