What are the things you could do on a long drive? Well, you could stare at the horizon, count the cars that pass you by on the highway, take a nice nap (if you are not driving!), or, according to Gaugarin Oliver and Eric Hill, start a company!! Whoa! How did that happen? Meeting up on a windy afternoon, we settle into chairs on the fourth floor of the RedEgg office, where interior furnishing is still under way. The smell of fresh paint on the cool breeze wafting in from as yet un‘glassed’ windows fills us with a sense of excitement as we discuss the birth of RedEgg Solutions.
Well, the story starts with the meeting of two men from very different backgrounds with the same vision. Gaugarin Oliver, a native of Kanyakumari district, has a diverse education with degrees from prestigious Indian and American universities. He began his career in Chennai, and then worked for various American startup companies like Mobixell, Cymfony, Voice Control Systems, Ultiverse, and Lojalis. He even came close to relocating to Japan to start operations for one of the companies. “Cymfony became a turning point for me”, says G. It was here that he was first introduced to media products, and where he first met Eric Hill, who then worked for MediaMap (now known as Cision).
Now a little background on Eric Hill. Armed with a degree in accounting from Assumption College, Eric began his career as an accountant, and then a consultant, in the fossil fuels industry. Following this, he volunteered for the Peace Corps. “I moved to the Dominican Republic where I helped poor people run businesses and improve healthcare and their commerce. I learned to speak Spanish while working with my colleagues.” He later returned to the fossil fuels industry for a few more years before switching to technology.
Sharing similar experiences of struggling to sell imperfect media products in a competitive market, both Eric and Gaugarin started thinking about the quality issues in the products they sold. The discussion resurfaced one day when they set out on a long drive from Washington DC to Virginia for a sales call. Describing the drive, G says, “Eric and I were really frustrated about selling these flawed media products. Eric suggested that we could easily start our own media intelligence company, and sell high-quality and well researched media products that could really satisfy customers.” Both men agreed it was an idea worth pursuing. Days passed and the idea took a back seat.
One fateful day in 2006, a few weeks before Gaugarin was to visit India, Eric brought up the idea of the new company again, over lunch. G agreed that they should definitely start working on it. Both men carried out the market analysis, contacted people, and laid the ground work. When asked how long it took for the concept to turn to reality, Gaugarin exclaims, “It happened very quickly!” dragging out the “veeerrryyyy” to express his own amazement at how quickly everything happened! 2 weeks in India was all it took to hire the first members of the RedEgg family. “I must commend the first few guys who joined us when there was no real infrastructure or system in place. They believed in our vision”. “It took us another month to find a place, put up an office, streamline the backend, find the right consultants and work on our first product!” “And MyEdcals was launched 7 months later!” adds Eric.
Why the name ‘RedEgg’? Gaugarin has an interesting story for that too! The ‘E’ is from ‘Eric’ and the ‘G’ is from…well…G! Deborah (Eric’s wife) suggested the ‘red egg’, which is a symbol of prosperity and long life in Chinese culture, which is a part of her ancestry. “But why”, we ask him, “Why the sudden urge to start your own company when you already had a great career?” “Well, Better to be the head of a cat than the tail of a lion, right?!” quips G, quoting an Italian proverb. “I might have been more prosperous if I had gone into… say… investment banking. But, hey! This is more fun! Creating something your own, and more importantly, creating job opportunities for the people in a small town like Nagercoil…it’s very satisfying!” Gaugarin quickly adds that Nagercoil was always the first option to set up the company. “I believe in the potential of the Nagercoil. It has untapped prospects and resources that the world knows nothing about.”
The journey here was not easy, although both men give each other credit for supporting the other through tough times. G says, “Eric’s strong background in sales and marketing, his valuable contacts, and his fault-less know-how were the backbone of the creation of RedEgg.” Gaugarin’s wife Madavi sold the first licensed product since they did not have enough sales people on board. “But we had an advantage. The giants were watching the market grow and not really paying attention to little start-ups like us”, reminisces Gaugarin. “We were selling our products for as little as $500, which the competition just could not beat! We had the element of surprise. Low cost and ‘Made in India’, was often viewed with suspicion and that is where the market knowledge, US Sales team and the quality of the product came into play.” And now, MyMediaInfo has come a long way from there.
We asked G and Eric, both strong believers in team work, what their expectations from us were. Here is their response: There are basically 3 principles that will perfect the way we work- ‘Zero Tolerance to Defects’ attitude, ‘Strong and Super-responsive communication, and , the most important, ‘Taking ownership’ where each person makes themselves individually responsible for the success of a project and does not expect detailed instructions from some quarter.
Eric points out, “When you are in the middle of starting a company, in the mad rush, sometimes amazing moments can come and go without being recognized. There are many in RedEgg’s short history, but some moments stuck with me. Seeing MyEdcals come up in a Google search for the first time was amazing! Through RedEgg, we were able to provide for our families as well the families of those who worked at RedEgg. That was a cool feeling! Finally, seeing our first NSF scholarship winners getting the education they dreamed of, and the hard work of our RedEgg volunteers in India, the joy was priceless!”
Gaugarin expresses his happiness with, “We made the right decision in starting RedEgg. The company has exceeded our expectations. 100+ employees is a pleasant surprise! I’m certain this floor will be filled to capacity in no time! It is exciting, but also nerve-racking…You know, now I have to write out paychecks for 100+ employees!” he laughs. With his joyous laughter, and RedEgg’s inspiring story ringing in our ears, we continue our long drive on the road to success!