Shankar Prasad: An Entrepreneur Guided by Principles

Shankar Prasad,CEO“Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders”. This famous quote by the business management maestro, Tom Peters has lost its meaning in today’s world where fawning is preferred over free thinking. In a corporate world where herd mentality is more rampant, Shankar Prasad is an inspiration who believes in helping his colleagues grow & lead rather than just survive. Harbouring decades of professional experience, Shankar articulates some of the best business advice that would even turn the name sake corporate gurus green with envy. For him, hard work and honesty is of essence. If business is fire, then absolute transparency is water and mixing these two polar elements is a knack that Shankar believes is essential to run any enterprise, especially his healthy & nutritious food startup, Snaxsmart. This unconventional venture rests upon the foundation of honesty and good health, something that the entrepreneur is extremely proud of.

However, the inception story of this enterprise is not all roses for Shankar who endured the death of his young nephew and an ex-colleague succumbing to lifestyle diseases. This tragic experience opened Shankar to the world of unhealthy food habits & lifestyle of the corporate population and led to Snaxsmart that today offers busy professionals with healthy snacks option at their workplace. By tweaking the usage of the good old vending machine, Shankar’s Snaxsmart dispenses healthy snacking option like dry fruits and nutribars instead of the conventional option of junk food. Shankar modestly states, “This is my way of contributing to a
healthy population in whatever small way I can to address this herculean problem”.

Prioritizing Ethics
Always a man of principles, this XLRI alumnus worked along the same ethos of transparency & leadership during his numerous stints with high end companies like Airtel, Tata Communications and many others. It was during this time that he learnt the art of professionalism & systematic ideology that continue to help him operate Snaxsmart efficiently. From telecom to retail, Shankar never lost focus of what’s right. His experience as the Airtel COO in one of the northern state of India stands as a testament to his resolve and determination where he was entrusted with the responsibility of building the company’s branch from the scratch. Many conflicts like threats & obstructions with the local goons never deterred Shankar from challenging those who would constantly try hindering with their illegal tactics. He recalls, “I was very clear that we have certain processes and we will not digress at any cost. I soon realized that if you stick to your principles, you will eventually earn the respect of these powerful people as well”. Also, the processes made for every activity in UP East circle for Airtel was documented and later adopted as the processes for the entire country by Airtel.

I realised that now is the time for me to start something of my own and if I don’t do that now, I will never do it

While managing the seasoned notoriety taught the entrepreneur a lot about people skills it also displayed his sense of fair judgment and guts to abide by his ethics. 25 years into the corporate world with several laurels to his name, it would have been fairly easy for Shankar to continue with the comfort and assurance of a salaried job. However, bitten by the startup bug, he ventured on a quest to start something of his own. “I realised that now is the time for me to start something of
my own and if I don’t do that now, I will never do it”, recalls Shankar. Eventually in 2011, he plunged into his entrepreneurial journey by engaging with startups like RedBus (as COO) and Medybiz (as CEO) where he learnt firsthand the difference between the new age startups and the conventional pre-existing businesses. This led to the humble beginnings of Snaxsmart in 2013, with a shoe string budget and Shankar’s residence doubling up as the warehouse as well as the factory. With no airs about the menial tasks, he would get up at four in the morning, refill all the machines and then start with his sales calls. This economic approach and hard work enabled Snaxsmart to achieve an organic growth and is today automating its functioning through PayTM and company specific smart card to efficiently impart its services.

A much admired CEO, Shankar never considers his employees as his subordinates. Every employee is delegated with respective responsibilities and offered a free rein to operate however they wish to, without any interference. “I discuss issues at hand with them and encourage them to come up with solutions. Nine out of ten times, the solutions that come from these people are far better than what I would have thought of,” expounds Shankar. Additionally, while he imparts a fair share of judgement based upon the candidate’s technical or managerial knowledge, his expertise & accurate people skills taught him to believe that it is the attitude of the candidate that makes or breaks the deal. Therefore, Snaxsmart boasts of an ethical as well as a professional workforce. An avid scrabble player, work-personal life balance is very essential for Shankar. In order to maintain this order, he tapped into his innovative persona and proposed unconventional office timing from 6 AM to 3PM that spelled no traffic and more leisure time at hand which was highly appreciated by his colleagues. Shankar believes in expanding his knowledge & growth curve and can often be found reading about food & telecom sectors, and interacting with the experienced along with the novice entrepreneurs to stay abreast of the industrial trends.