Rocket Singh Salesman – Can Startups Really Hire Him?

Rocket Singh Salesman of the year – Can startups really hire him as their salesman? Being a small company, can you really hire somebody who is ethical and ‘fails’ to close deals?

I just watched Rocket Singh Salesman of the Year movie and couldn’t help, but related to one of the articles earlier published @pluggdin (Ethics, Startups and the case for being ‘Practical’).

First a little bit about Rocket Singh Salesman movie.

The movie is about Harpreet Singh Bedi (Ranbir Kapoor), an average student blessed with charming personality. After trying out his luck with MBA, he decides to get into sales and surprisingly, he actually cracks it. But after a certain point in time, question of ethics come in – like any sales person, he needs to decide between ethics and ‘practical’ aspect of business. While what he does is a no-brainer, the movie takes the cake with great sense of humour and honesty.

Rocket Singh Salesman of the year
Rocket Singh Salesman of the year

Reviewing movie @ isn’t something I am here for (heck! they won’t let me do that), but being a startup in mobile vas space, we have faced similar ‘ethical’ challenges and wanted to share my experience with the entrepreneurial community.

To give you certain context, we build vas services and without operators we are like fish without water. Operators do not care to speak to small companies like us and one needs to really pursue them for a meeting (that’s where Rocket Singh’s persuasion skill helps).

What sometimes works is when you show them some “real-but-somewhat-fakebig numbers, when you show them ‘big names/advisors’ in your company advisory board (who are just name sake and have allowed us to put their names in our presentation for percentage equity) – and even though we feel a little ‘unethical’ about this, this is how business seems to work (yes, we cracked one deal and will announce the details when the timing is right).

Coming back to the movie, Rocket Singh Salesman of the Year is an awesome feel-good movie, but if you are a startup/small business, do think whether you want to hire Rocket Singh as your salesman.

Extracting from another article (Startups and the ‘Blurred’ line of Ethics – Where do you draw the line?), there are enough examples from Silicon Valley where companies like YouTube/Orkut have crossed ‘that’ thin line of ethics and practicality – and like it or not, it has worked for them.


Case in Point – YouTube’s Growth

If you thought YouTube’s initial success was purely a result of UGC – get ready for a shock.

The tipping point actually came from Lazy Sunday, a hilarious Saturday Night Live skit (from NBC Univeral) which exploded on the Web in January 2006, generating over 5 million views for Youtube.

Lazy Sunday @YouTube

Lazy Sunday @YouTube

Even though lazy Sunday was available on iTunes (on subscription basis), people hopped to YouTube for free videos. And that set the viral growth for the product.

Was it legal to put up a subscription-only video for free on the Internet? Did YouTube ever tried track down the piracy? Not actively.

They essentially followed the “wait-till-we-get-DMCA” approach, and it worked. It did set the traffic numbers and adoption right.


Infact, once you start a company you actually outsource a lot of unethical practices to service companies – for example, the bribe one needs to pay for registration (well, you can always waste time in getting it done yourself) is actually outsourced to a CA (who sells a packaged service).

What I am trying to say here is that businesses do have their notion of ethics and sometimes it’s really a difficult choice to choose between ethics and practical solution.

And if you have Rocket Singh as the salesman, you might lose out to your competitor who is far more practical and has a ‘cozy’ relationship with clients (call it short-sightedness, but I do get goose bumps every month end, when I have to figure out how to pay salary to my employees)

Question to entrepreneurs – what has been your experience doing business with big clients?

100% Ethical or somewhat practical?

Note from Ashish – Guest article by Ashwin, whom I have known for several years (and seen his struggle with operators) and trust him for his experience.

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