It has taken Indian-born migrant and entrepreneur, Sagar Sethi, a tick over 3 years to grow his digital agency Xugar to over a $1 million in revenue. While gratifying, Mr Sethi sees his agency as being the bottom of a growth J-curve.
It’s a meteoric rise for Mr Sethi who arrived in 2005 with just $500 in his pocket, $80 of which he blew on a cab ride into the western suburbs of Melbourne, not yet conversant with the currency conversion rates.
Mr Sethi didn’t arrive in Australia as a digital native, as one of the thousands of Indians who study IT and digital media and who Bill Gates prefers to hire to avoid the rise of an Indian Microsoft.
Mr Sethi was in a whirl after the death of his mother and his father’s spiral into the world of drugs, then death.
In fact Mr Sethi spent almost a decade in a personal wilderness and professional haze. His party lifestyle was something of a vocational risk, Mr Sethi being employed for years in hospitality.
He admits to partaking in too much of a hedonistic lifestyle. But following one too many wild nights, Mr Sethi had an epiphany.
He was tired of squandering his life in the same way his father had and decided to get serious about IT and the world of digital which was then, and perhaps still is, in its infancy.
He had always had an interest in IT and the world of digital but decided he was going to master it and make it his career.
It’s a decision that has been vindicated by the figures.
With revenue trending toward a million a year in such a short time frame, it was a vindication of not only the hard work Mr Sethi put into the business but the results he was able to generate for his clients, which in turn led to word of mouth referrals which comprise 90% of his business.
All seemed to be going well. And then coronavirus interrupted.
Business revenue initially dropped 30%. With every business running a ruler over costings and each line item, one of the first expenses to go for many of his clients was digital. But not for Xugar.
‘For a lot of small businesses, and that’s a lot of our client base, overheads are tight and anything seen as not being an essential cost is struck off,’ said Mr Sethi.
How has Xugar adapted to COVID-19 restrictions?
‘But we’ve seen over the last little while with social isolation, that there is still a lot of demand and that an enormous amount of it has gone online. So in fact, if you want to survive in the COVID-19 environment, you have to have a digital presence.
‘We help connect our clients with that demand. We help them get found, rather than their competitors and that’s what we’re emphasising to old and new clients. Digital done well should be the last thing to drop off. Digital done poorly the first.’
Asked if he is concerned by Xugar’s drop in revenue and if he sees it as being a long term issue, Mr Sethi suggests COVID-19 will separate the digital wheat from the chaff.
‘There are a lot of sharks operating out there on a “churn and burn” model. They make a lot of promises and by the time people realise that there’s no improvement in their digital footprint, the engagement is over.
‘We’re interested in long term engagements and proving our value. That’s how the revenue’s grown; keeping older clients and bringing in new ones.
Our growth is a pointer to our retention capacity, which reflects our ability to generate leads and digital impact for clients,’ said Mr Sethi.
So confident is Xugar in its ability to deliver the digital goods it created something during the COVID-19 crisis called the ‘Trust Package’ which guarantees no further payments until Xugar delivers results.
‘That’s a marker and what digital clients should be asking of their prospective agency. Can you help us achieve our goals and if so, can you put your money where your mouth is and guarantee it,’ said Mr Sethi.
Mr Sethi sees Xugar as one of the digital pros, not one of the digital Joes and has ambitions in the next three years to spin out of COVID-19 as one of the most influential digital agencies in Australia.