First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Karthik Ramaswamy: First of all, I want to say I’m grateful that almost everyone I know is safe from the Covid situation. Most that were exposed to it recovered promptly. As most people know already, Houston continues to suffer some of the worst new infection rates for COVID-19 in the country. At one point in June, half of our staff were impacted directly by COVID-19, causing a ripple effect in our production.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined UZ Marketing.
Karthik Ramaswamy: My personal journey with UZ Marketing started in 2012 when the company was about a year old. The owner/founder Quan Luu scouted me through a mutual friend after discovering I was actively involved in Network Marketing / MLM. Being a relatively new company, he was looking to build a revenue generator from the ground up. Fast forward 9 years, we’ve developed a multimillion-dollar company with 70 employees offering round the clock customer service & production in two countries. As the brains behind the operation, Quan laid out the company’s framework through a well thought out roadmap and vision. Following his vision, I set sail on what I consider the greatest adventure of my life. Along with a team of young inspired go-getters, we have the opportunity to see this vision come to life through our own efforts. It truly is one of the most miraculous things I’ve ever witnessed.
How does your company innovate?
Karthik Ramaswamy: To be quite honest, innovation is fundamentally necessary for us to survive and grow in this industry. We certainly don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. Walmart just innovated the way retail business works. Amazon did the exact same thing; innovated the way retail consumers shop. Successful printing companies have been around for generations now. Even more recently, behemoth companies like Buildasign and Vistaprint have innovated and brought great value to the industry. The disruption they brought put them in an advantageous position because of their innovation. If we want to earn a piece of the pie, innovation better be in our DNA. The point is to focus on the customers. A lot of other businesses focus their attention on what their competitor is doing and trying to one-up them. In our opinion, that’s not the way to operate. If we follow our customers’ footsteps and listen to their every concern and request, we’ll succeed by default.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Karthik Ramaswamy: Because of the pandemic, we entered into an inopportune situation since half of our staff were out sick. Regardless, we saw a massive spike in orders from an industry that historically never ordered print products previously. Instead of having graduations in buildings in groups, the pandemic forced 2020 graduates to celebrate in another way. Quarantine Graduations were held remotely, so seniors decided to order yard signs with their class and school printed on it. This was a nationwide demand which spiked directly due to Covid. Covid caused industry-wide supply chain shortages of corrugated plastic and metal wire stakes, which made sourcing production supplies much more difficult. Increased Demand + Staff On Sick Leave + Supply Chain Shortage = LOTS of upset customers.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Karthik Ramaswamy: We had to make some really tough calls. We had to source material elsewhere if we wanted to stay in business, so we did. We had to open up our production to 2 shifts and hire a bunch more production staff, so we did. We learned that at the end of the day, customers do not care what is going on with our business, how we were impacted, or what issues we had to deal with. They just want what they paid for. We opened up our cancellation policy during this time to try to ease the bad experience people were having and slow down the rate at which bad reviews were hitting us on all platforms. At one point, our Facebook advertising account was at risk for deactivation because of a low customer feedback score. Our Amazon seller account was at risk for deactivation because of the late shipment rate. We had all these things hitting us at the same time, and the situation looked grim, to say the least.
Your final thoughts?
Karthik Ramaswamy: At the end of the day, we just have to focus our efforts on the customer. Successful businesses do not falter in the face of adversity. We admire those companies that came before us that faced adversities on par with ours or even worse. The way companies handle failures says EVERYTHING about their character. We pay respect to the brilliant minds running those organizations that overcame even the worst difficulties. If we want to continue moving forward, all we have to do is listen to our customers. Everything else will fall into place as it goes, as long as we ensure our customers have an experience worth writing home over. Innovation is the name of the game, and customers are the star of the show.
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