"My ideology of leadership can be defined as a hybrid of inspiring people and encouraging people to keep their eyes on the prize. Leadership is the art of being flexible and understanding every team member's carrot, as well as stick & lead them towards effectiveness, efficiency, and quality of output."
– Rohit Paranjpe
A problem-solver, Rohit Paranjpe is beyond the label of a serial entrepreneur. In his entrepreneurial career, Rohit has fervently navigated through solving problems with his start-ups, failing, learning, and resuming to hustle with solving his recently discovered problem.
His recent and fourth venture, SugarBox is a new beginning in the internet enabler domain, after he gained experience as a promoter in travel, retail distribution and E-commerce industries. Content Distribution Networks or CDNs are the backbone of the internet and today, is one of the fastest-growing industries in the internet infrastructure space.
With SugarBox, Rohit endeavored to solve another prevalent problem in this B2B-dominated CDN industry today – the unreliable internet connection. While internet consumers do not usually pay attention to the source of the data, they do face internet-related problems, from urban areas to the rural lands of India. And this is not just an India problem, but is consistent globally, even in parts of developed markets like the US and the UK.
"From the problems internet users like you and me face in the urban metro areas like irregular network speed and connection to the problems somebody faces in a village in Bihar – with 10 to 12 hours of internet availability and a total speed between 10 Mbps and 40 Mbps shared between 3,000 to 4,000 users, the internet is dynamic and sometimes, it barely serves its namesake purpose.
Irrespective of the areas, the major elements of the problem are coverage and the capacity of the existing networks. In reality, technology is not the constraint; the problem exists in the economics of the business. While the majority of internet service providers are targeting urban areas with a higher number of users and higher profitability index, we have endeavored to reach the overlooked with SugarBox.
SugarBox is a hyper-local CDN, which, unlike the various other CDNs around the world, is not "deployed behind the ISP" and hence, is essentially optimizing data for the Internet Service Provider across their entire network. Targeted at deploying Edge servers at the customer's premise, the brand is optimizing the user's Local area network to make the internet experience better, faster and more affordable. This counts as one of the major advantages of SugarBox." – Rohit
SugarBox takes the internet users as their key stakeholders and benefits them with the digital access available in places where the internet fails to reach them. While their urban consumers benefit from faster and reliable data, those in rural areas who cannot afford the internet enjoy affordable access in their villages through SugarBox.
The second critical stakeholder for SugarBox, are the internet service providers or ISPs whom they associate with to de-clutter their networks, deploy their technology across their entire network, and equip them to utilize the same network capacity to cater to more users and support incremental consumption.
Next, every internet based mobile application is SugarBox's stakeholder. They enjoy an opportunity to monetize a larger user base, with much better user experience as SugarBox enables easily accessible and affordable data for the App users, along with lower cost of ownership.
"In public transport, the connectivity either doesn't exist or is filled with several black holes. SugarBox's unique technology enables one to access their favorite OTT platforms, shopping apps, and most internet-based mobile applications and services seamlessly, without having to worry about the internet connection," Rohit emphasized.
He added, "Most importantly, wherever SugarBox's Wi-Fi is deployed, the data access across supported Apps is absolutely free and super fast. This is how we intend to make public wi-fi sustainable, reliable, and affordable for everyone."
SugarBox has navigated through innumerable turning points. The first took place at their nascent stage when they got acquired and geared them with the necessary resources to focus entirely on the technology aspect of things and achieve the unique position. The second turning point in the SugarBox journey has been the multiple patents that have been issued by the US Patent office.
It reinforced their stand as a unique venture and added significant value to the company. Third, and one of the most prestigious achievements SugarBox has embarked upon is the recent association with the Indian Railways. It is the largest public Wi-Fi deployment of its kind in the world. Once effective, it poses the strength to cater to 250 to 300 million unique travelers per month. "And I believe, this is not the end," Rohit asserted.
SugarBox was indeed impacted by the pandemic as most of their assets were deployed in public transport, which was unreachable. While they couldn't reach their assets, the business, like the majority of the global business, came to a standstill.
Amidst this, scattered and stranded at home, a hands-on and collaboration-led team like theirs takes some time to set the pace and become productive again especially the newly hired resources. SugarBox had to reinvent itself, not just at a culture and process level, but also at a product and tech level – as consumers were stranded at home and unable to go to SugarBox Wi-Fi zones. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention and pandemic forced SugarBox to reinvent them and come out with better solutions.
While the pandemic woke up a majority of the public to turn towards digital for more than merely social media marketing, it completely choked upon the networks. Pandemic made all three of SugarBox's stakeholders including internet consumers, ISPs, and the internet applications realize the need for the value they are providing. In the post-Covid-19 era, this realization has allowed them to easily access the aware clientele today.
"We worked on people problems and realized that while every office was shut, working from home prevailed as a culture, we reached people's homes and launched SugarBox at Home, which today has scaled up to about 120,000 households between Mumbai and Goa, one of the largest programs for our future. Getting all the ISPs to collaborate & declutter their networks and make the internet at home and office far better," Rohit reminisced.
SugarBox's engine is engineered with five simple principles. Ownership, being at forefront, is the understanding of their team to realize they are not working for someone but themselves. Thus, they must act as their boss to figure out their action plan, make decisions, and own the same.
The second value that is vital to every startup, innovation. SugarBox always looks at innovation through the lens of the first principle, i.e. for any situation that doesn't make sense, ask why because until you don't you will not be able to come up with a better, creative, smarter, and cheaper solution.
The third value is customer-centricity. Don't label fantastic to something you created, first identify a problem that a customer faces and solve that problem. Their fourth value is action-orientation. "Doing a good thing or a bad thing is better than doing nothing. Don't do nothing." Rohit shared. Finally, everything comes down to execution; generating value-adding results is the fifth value.
CHANGE TO BEAT CHANGE
"Change in itself is dynamic and transitional, if I have to answer how to approach change, my answer today may differ from my answer tomorrow. Given, it's also circumstantial, there is no one great answer to it." – Rohit Paranjpe