Like many engineers, Piyush Sharma had a path chalked out: Four years of college, followed up by work. He knew pretty early on that most of his batchmates were going to end up working for an IT company. An MBA would be somewhere in the picture as well.
But deep down, Piyush knew that a desk job wasn’t for him. The logical aspect of programming was enticing, but he enjoyed face-to-face conversations and solving problems while on the road.
Today, he’s the Business and P&L Head for India and the rest of the world (ROW) at Locus, leading operations in India, Middle Eastern region and Australia. He also enjoys planning the GTM for the new regions Locus can expand to and determining the ideal strategy for it factoring in cultural and business nuances. Most of his time goes in ensuring that the company is moving towards a capital efficient growth and closing the best possible deals in line with their values.
Piyush started preparing for an MBA in his second year of college. He knew what he wanted, and that to get a jump start in his career, higher education was the best route. “It’s a bit of a cliche, but I think that the real value of an MBA lies in networking. The life experience it gives you is also valuable. You get to meet people with varied interests and from varied backgrounds. I also learned what I wanted to do in terms of a business role. It helped me get my foot in the door. Once that happens, it’s all you,” he says.
Soon he learned that the nuances of B2B technology sales suited his style much more than B2C and marketing. “B2B is much more strategic, value-based and relationship-driven, whereas marketing and personal gratification plays a big role in B2C,” he explains.
His first and second jobs have validated this feeling. Piyush’s first job was at Cadence, an enterprise based out of San Jose in California. Cadence, with its Electronic Design Automation (EDA) Software Suite, served the Electronics and Semiconductor Industry giants, and Piyush was part of the Sales Team for India. . Being a part of such a company and one of the best tech sales teams in the industry was nothing short of a blessing. It was a chance to attend many meetings and witness great customer relationship management skills at an early stage of his career.
Was there anything he would have done differently? Perhaps, one. “I joined MBA as a fresher and was in the same class as those who had seen 3-4 years of corporate life. I have no doubt that they got much more out of an MBA than I did. An MBA would be more valuable if you know what corporate life looks like,” he says.
“As a fresher I had a lot to learn, but the idea was to adapt fast otherwise the opportunity would pass. So I tried my hand at a lot of things; took up different kinds of accounts and other initiatives,” he shares. Eventually, he grew more confident about doing tech sales. And then Locus happened.
Life at Locus
Locus is Piyush’s second job, and it has been exceptionally rewarding. Both workspaces have been vastly different from one another—one was a multinational corporation (MNC) and the other a start-up. “Yet it never felt weird. During the first few days, working for Locus felt like working with my college mates on an assignment,” he says.
He joined in 2016, and was the first person with a business background to be hired by Krishna Khandelwal, the then Chief Business Officer at Locus. It was a two-member team back then. These were early days and a lot of time would be spent meeting any and every type of customer to understand what made for a good product market fit.
At Locus, Piyush has experienced the hustle and bustle of a startup and witnessed it growing from a ten-member team to a 250+ member team in a short span of five years. They began in India and gained organic interest over time from Southeast Asia (SEA). Piyush led the first few engagements in the region, ending up signing our first international client. Soon, a local team in SEA was put in place to scale up aggressively, while Piyush picked up the mantle for India.
Now, he leads a talented Sales Team and works closely with the Inside Sales team along with marketing, solutions, partnerships, consulting, and customer success teams to ensure that the regional strategy is well aligned with the sub-org, and also to ensure that they’re closing capital-efficient deals.
On autonomy and first principles thinking
Locus’s gift to Piyush, and many who joined the company with him at its nascent stages, was that he could be his own boss. Thanks to his then manager, Krishna Khadelwal, flexibility, autonomy and ownership came with the job. “I was not just a part of the processes; I owned the processes and I could correct or even create them. In early months, I got to meet with the head of logistics of the top companies in India and that provided me with a lot of exposure and confidence,” he says.
This freedom at work also helped him develop his own problem solving process. It’s called first principles thinking and he has Krishna to thank for introducing him to it. You need to break down the problem to its very core. “When I’m interacting with a client, I don’t do it with the intent of force-fitting solutions, but with that of understanding their business,” he explains. By trying to understand the things that can drive optimization in this process, Piyush says that one can give out a holistic, consulting-led pitch to the customer.
He mentions that it is vital to understand the customer’s pain points and address them at their core level. “It is always a struggle to tell a business owner about their own business. They know it better than anyone else. As a salesperson, I always want to tell them something that they don’t know. The advantage that I have is that I know about ten other businesses like theirs and this exposure with other clients allows me to offer them the optimum solution in terms of best practices,” he says. Once trust is established with the customer—when they realise that the person making the pitch really cares—is when a good sale happens.
A word of advice
Saying no to certain prospective clients has been difficult for Piyush to do. At some point, they had to stop selling to lower deal customers as a lot of leads that they were getting in India were low scale. Once you get the momentum running, you want to close each and every deal but they are not efficient in terms of their metrics, profitability, acquisition and maintenance cost.
From a job perspective, if someone likes an aspect of technology sales, he would tell them that it’s a great opportunity and a very rewarding career path. Selling technology solutions that add value to a customer’s business is very rewarding. “If you want to make a career in this field you should be aware of the latest innovations in the industry, who is raising funding, what’s their USP, what’s their product—that’s a good starting point,” he says.
For someone who is just starting out, Piyush recommends they work with a start-up rather than a large company because you get to see the impact that your work can have. According to him, a year in a start-up is three-four years in a big company because you get to learn a lot. “Each blog that you write, each interview that you take, every deal you close, and every event you organise creates a tangible impact,” he says with emphasis.
What does the future hold?
When asked where we are headed, Piyush says that the future of logistics is in automating the entire process of decision making. According to him, we have tools that can handle and analyze massive volumes of data and now, the industry is moving towards optimizing the decision making based on this data, which is also where Locus comes in.
Of course there is AI, blockchain, drones, AR, etc. All of these technologies will start impacting logistics in a very tangible way—one that the industry will not be able to ignore. He believes that while there is now a lot of digital data accumulated by logistics stakeholders around supply chains, it’s how we use that data for decision making that will change the face of the industry.