Changemaker Interview Series
In this regular contributing column, we interview online entrepreneurs who begun their life down the traditional path, but realize that something was missing. They decide to pivot, and strike out on their own, and forge ahead on their own path and never looked back.
This week, we feature Pavan Belagatti. Pavan went from failing at engineering and earning just $50 a month at his first digital marketing internship to becoming one of India’s youngest up and coming growth hackers. He is now a contributor on some of the top-notch websites around the world like TheNextWeb, Influencive, ThriveGlobal, Tech in Asia, etc. He blogs about different growth hacks and tactics on his website “Growth Hacky.”
In your own words, please tell us about yourself!
I am a growth guy, people know me as a growth marketing expert, and I help businesses grow exponentially through my growth hacking tactics. I have a bachelor’s degree in Engineering (Mechanical) and masters in MBA (Marketing and International Business). I am a contributor to some of the top-notch websites around the world, and I mostly write about digital marketing, growth hacking, personal branding, and DevOps.
Some people and websites quoted me as one of the youngest growth hackers from India. I love traveling and meeting passionate people. I made my decision very early to go into the online marketing field, and hence I am reaping some of the good benefits today.
You started out your career in digital marketing earning $50 per month. Was there a specific moment when everything changed for you completely?
Yes, I started my career with $50 per month, and all I wanted is doing things differently and growing exponentially. I used to work in the morning and go to my college in the evening. I hustled my way out, and I knew one day this would pay off. I was lucky enough in getting a job that I wanted in my first company as a digital marketer. I was allowed to handle the global Facebook page of one of the big brands in the world. I started learning how online marketing works and many other digital marketing aspects.
Then, I moved to a startup where I had to do everything from scratch, this also added a kind of career boost. The actual turning point was when I started out to build my personal brand. I started learning a lot in the growth hacking field, helping others to grow, then reaching out to the publications to contribute my articles. When people saw the way I write and how some of the articles go viral, others started taking me seriously.
What were the early days like? Was it difficult trying to get established?
Like I said before, I always wanted to do things differently. I am currently working as a growth marketing consultant and started off as a freelancer. I hated 9-5 jobs. Initial days were all rejections. I used to write so many articles and go to different publications, submit my work but many of the editors used to reject them since I was new and also because I was from this part of the world. So yes, it was difficult to establish in this industry.
I never had a mentor, all I tried is to self learn things through my work. But, some publications considered my work and really helped me contribute and grow when everybody was rejecting. Making people understand what you do and how passionate you are, are the two critical things to consider. Positioning yourself as an authority always takes time, and the same happened with me.
How are you earning money today?
I am earning pretty well today comparing to the way I started it all. All I can say is, maybe better than the people with my age in India who are in the same profession. I have created a brand for myself and I share things that give value to the people.
I get asked a lot of times about making money online and how to earn through social media. I am currently helping as a growth marketing consultant for a company and I am also a freelancer.
Apart from working as a freelancer and a consultant, I have my own website, and that gets a good traffic too. So, I earn kinda well from my website also. I am involved with influencer marketing and do shoutouts.
I write for different publications, some for free and some for paid. I make small courses for people who want to know more about growth hacking, digital marketing, and self-branding. I have a bunch of websites with different niche and I use them for affiliate marketing activities.
What are the biggest and best “growth hacks” or marketing strategies that you’re currently relying on to increase your client base and grow your business?
I am currently working on LinkedIn growth hacks.
I can suggest these five growth hacks for people/brands who want to grow on LinkedIn.
- Optimize your profile for personal branding with a professional image, edit your odd looking profile URL, use title and summary sections wisely.
- Use this link ‘bit.ly/alumniskills3’, to search and connect with your potential customers.
- Using this chrome extension. ‘Linkr‘ you can automatically send invites and personalized messages.
- Share at least one post everyday on LinkedIn. Try to tell a story. storytelling works perfectly fine on LinkedIn.
- Export your connections’ email addresses and use it to create your campaigns on different platforms.
Can you break your favorite marketing or sales process down into steps?
Since I am a growth marketing guy, I always try to approach things in the growth hacking model. We call it AARRR model (also known as “pirate metrics”).
The first step is always about using different tactics to get targeted traffic to your website, and you need to find your keywords and to get SEO done correctly.
Then it is about content and marketing through different channels. Engaging visitors with your channels and making them the brand advocates so they buy and tell this to their friends. All these steps involve a lot of A/B testing. The aim is to provide value and thereby to make sales and revenue.
If you could start over again as a growth hacker knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
Nothing much, life has taken a good turn now, maybe I would probably start a bit early. I wouldn’t have done my MBA. Instead, I would have focussed more on my dreams a little soon. Coming out of the comfort zone took some time for me. I wish I started writing for some publications early and met some of the great people who helped me early.
What are some of the various businesses you’ve involved with over the years? What have you learnt from them?
Starting out as a consultant has helped me a lot. I am currently working as a growth marketing manager for a software company, Shippable. I don’t usually take long-term assignments, but as a growth hacking advocate, I have helped a lot of startups gain their initial traction. I started my career as an intern and then moved to an MNC handling their overall social media strategy in India, it was my big break-through. Then, I wanted to see how a startup works, so I was involved as a growth hacker for a social media startup and now at Shippable, helping this organization grow through my growth hacking tactics.
Many people ask me to help them out with their marketing and branding. I get to work with different sorts of people, and all they want is not the typical Facebook ads, Adwords, SEO, etc., they want something different, they want growth hacks to grow their brands rapidly and exponentially. So, these challenges help me learn a lot. Creating my own website also helped me a lot.
What were some of the hardest moments? Did you ever feel like giving up?
Some hardest moments were failing in my Engineering subjects, getting humiliated in the college when I joined MBA since my English speaking skills were too weak, getting rejected a hundred times from different publications, people calling me a loser when I lost everything.
And Yes, I felt like giving up a lot of times but I always believed in this quote “Don’t quit, You’re already in pain. You’re already hurt. Get a reward from it!” – Eric Thomas. When I started out, I had less money, less support, no mentor and nobody was willing to offer anything. The only thing left was to give up and go home.
Many people chase after the dream of finding financial success and independence through online business but many people struggle or fail while a few stand out and thrive. What makes the biggest difference between success and failure, in your experience?
The most significant differentiating facts between success and failure from my viewpoint is patience and consistency. With genuine passion, belief and time, you are going to be the person you once dreamt of but have patience first. People want everything suddenly; they don’t remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Also, you can’t teach ambition to the people, while winners train, losers complain. It is not just about having an idea; it should be backed up with focused effort and motivation. Many people give up when they can’t take up the necessary pressure to win.
So, we need to ask ourselves this one question, Is this how I am going to live my life? If your answer is yes now, then don’t change anything but if you are not happy with where you are, make proper tuning of your life and start over again.
“With genuine passion, belief and time, you are going to be the person you once dreamt of but have patience first.”
What do you love most about being a growth hacker? What does your life look like today?
I love what I do. I should say, growth hacking is my girlfriend. When I open my laptop, I don’t feel like I am working at all, in fact, I don’t call it work, It’s magic. Being the early guy in the growth hacking field in India, I have an advantage. I love playing with different tools and experiment with various hacks. I feel I am blessed to be a growth hacker, and since this is still new to India, many people want to learn, and they contact me. I like being the boss as a subject matter expert, Ha Ha.
Before 30 I want to accomplish a lot of things, so I have still more to do.
I would like to inspire and show to the people who always complain that with constant focus and effort, everyone can pursue their dreams and win in their life. When a middle-class guy who used to spend $2 per day can do it, you can also do it. I get up early, do my daily tasks, go to the gym, read and sleep; this has been my routine. I try looking for new growth hacks, test them and document them in an excel sheet, I do this every day.
What are some common mistakes that you see aspiring entrepreneurs make?
Some of the common mistakes are:
- Poor idea
- Not being online or on social media
- Not talking about their product/service online
- Not making proper connections
- Not building a self brand
What are your future goals for your online businesses for the next few years? What are the best opportunities for the future of online business, as you see it?
My future goals would be learning as much as possible in the growth marketing field and experimenting my ideas with different clients. I would like to have my own growth hacking agency in India in another five years. And, that is one reason I am in the process of building my personal brand.
There are numerous opportunities in the online business, with the increasing entrepreneurs base in India, I see a lot of potential for the online businesses and owners.
What other dream profession would you take up if you weren’t doing what you are doing?
I am good in singing so I would probably be a singer in the Bollywood industry if I weren’t doing what I am doing today.
What’s one random fact about you that few people know?
I work around 15 hours per day and I once dated an actress, these two are the two random facts that few people know. You pick the one that interests you.
What advice would you give to others who want to create a business around their passions?
I just want to advise them all to start early and don’t wait for the perfect moment, because that moment will never come unless you create it. If you have a kickass idea, first try to create a hype around and build your self-brand first, people should know you well when you create a startup or any venture. That gives an initial boost to market your product. Be open and talk about the value you are going to provide through your product/service. Connect with like-minded people who can help you grow.