Q. Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities.
Ans : We are located in San Diego CA USA.
American Custom Chemicals Corporation (ACCC) is a life sciences company specializing in catalog compounds, reference Standards and custom synthesis for chemicals, biologics and medicinal compounds used for discovery research and development. ACCC’s catalog of 10 million products reaches 700,000 scientists and procurement departments every month. This includes over 900 companies, governments, universities and research institutions spanning 95 countries over 5 continents. The site can be searched by product name, structure, CAS number, therapeutic area or indication. The products are for Research & Development only and not for human use.
Q. Kindly give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements).
Ans : Dr. Shamal Mehta
Dr. Shamal Mehta has extensive experience in the area of oncology research. He has 30 patents for his research work and his articles have been published in peer reviewed journals such as the Journal of Organic Chemistry, Nature Biotechnology and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Before taking up ACCC full time, he worked with Ambit Biosciences in their oncology and stroke program. Prior to that he worked in the areas of Myocardial Infarction, Ischemia, Aging and Telomerase Inhibition at Galileo Laboratories and Geron Corporation respectively. He completed his Master’s degree in Chemistry from I.I.T. Bombay (class topper and silver medalist). He moved to Columbia University on a full scholarship for an M. Phil under Dr. Gilbert Stork (Stork Enamine Synthesis is named after him). He completed his doctoral thesis under Dr. Katrizky at the Centre for Heterocyclic Compounds located at the University of Florida Gainesville.
Ms Rinku Bharadwaj has worked in the Information technology space in Enterprise Transformation Management strategies and online education for over 12 years before taking over the helm at ACCC. Her experience spans over multiple industry verticals. She worked with Tata America as a practice head managing this vertical and later moved to Tata Interactive Systems for a brief period managing projects in the online education and education management space. She holds an integrated Master’s degree in Physics from IIT Kharagpur.
Q. What inspired you to (start a new business venture) or (to make significant changes in an existing business)? How did the idea for your business come about?
Ans : ACCC was started by Dr. Shamal Mehta in 2007 out of a small laboratory in San Diego. The idea for the company came to him while working as a scientist with Ambit Biosciences (now acquired by Daiichi Sankyo). As a researcher working in the field of oncology, he realized that research time could be cut down drastically if starting materials could be made available to scientists quickly, reliably and efficiently. Quick turn around by suppliers and dependable quality were key for this process to succeed. He set up a lab and focused on building a supplier network with requisite quality process requirements.
Initially, only oncology APIs and Intermediates were supplied. As the demand grew, Biologics, Nanomaterials, Alternative Energy Materials and Radiolabelled compounds were added to the catalog. To keep up with the growing catalog and the need for presenting accurate information, the team in San Diego was expanded and a team was set up in India to help with data verification as well for contacting and building our supplier network globally. Ms. Rinku Bharadwaj joined as CEO in 2006 to manage the expansion.
This year, we have gone live with one of the largest online catalogs in the industry featuring over 10 million compounds in the categories described above. All compounds are available for sale directly on www.acccorporation.com – a full-fledged ecommerce website which gives key product data, pricing and current availability for the products. The product data is curated and kept up to date by a trained team of chemists working on a backend database. We have a supplier network of 5000 suppliers from the US, Europe, India and China.
Q. What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Ans : Innovate, word hard, never say no. The most important lesson we have
learned is to never give up and that every problem solved well is the stepping stone to
the next product and /or process milestone.
Q. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Ans : Ability to multi-task, hard work, ability to take risk, planning skills
Q. How many hours do you work a day on average?
Ans : 12-14 hours
Q. To what do you most attribute your success?
Ans : Hard work, innovation and optimal use of technology
Q. How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Ans : All our marketing is online and by word of mouth from satisfied clients. Our business has grown on repeat customers and referrals. We don’t have a large marketing budget.
Q. Where did your organizations funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
Ans : We are funded by our own profits. We have never taken any external funding.
Q. What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
Ans : Focus, ability to innovate , give clients what they need before they realise what they need.
Q. Where you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
Ans : Our aim is to build ACCC into the ‘Amazon’ of the chemical and biologics industry.
Q. Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Ans : Amazon for transforming the buying process
Disney -for the innovation they have nurtured in so many diverse disciplines.
Q. How important have good employees been to your success?
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: Crucial. We have had a great team all through.
Q. How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: As an entrepreneur, one is always thinking, adapting, creating. Some ideas have to be dropped right away, some evolve over time and some are ready to be implemented immediately.
Q. What motivates you?
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: To build something larger than ourselves, in the services of people other than ourselves.
Q. What are your ideals?
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: Integrity and hard work.
Q. How do you generate new ideas?
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: Keeping a clear and simple perspective and uncluttered, unfettered thinking.
Q. How do you define success?
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: A job well done – however small or big it is.
Q. How do you build a successful customer base?
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: By building trust.
Q. What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: To be able to build your own future .
Q. What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: Every time a customer calls with a repeat order.
Q. What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: The ability to take risks.
Q. What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: We have an open culture. Everyone contributes to the growth of the organization in terms of ideas and suggestions. It is critical that time at work is well spent and employees feel satisfied that they are getting both personal and professional growth from those 8 hours.
Q. In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: Complete.
Q. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: Got our ecommerce website up earlier and kept a tighter grip on marketing.
Q. How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: It actually allows me to spend more time around my family even f I am working .
Q. What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: I believe in the philosophy of cross the bridge when you get to it. There are no fears – only risks to be managed.
Q. How did you decide on the location for your business?
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: I live in San Diego so starting the business there was a logical decision. San Diego also happens to be one of the biotech hubs in the US.
Q. Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: There is none.
Q. If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: Charlie Chaplin- for an insight into a deeply creative mind.
Q. Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: My parents.
Q. What book has inspired you the most? (OR what is your favorite book?)
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: I don’t get time to read so I don’t have a favorite book.
Q. What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: Every mistake is an experience that has helped me get better so I don’t believe they are mistakes – they are life lessons.
Q. How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: Don’t make mistakes – check what you are doing, even if it sending a simple email. Take a moment to review reflect and then send it out. IF an error has been made, be truthful about it – don’t cover it with more errors.
Q. What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: I don’t have much time beyond work. When I do find time, calligraphy, painting, music, teaching children.
Q. What makes you happy?
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: My family.
Q. What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: I have no personal time at all to pursue some of my other interests more seriously.
Q. If you were conducting this interview, what question would you ask?
Ans : Rinku Bharadwaj: My questions would be based on the objective of the interview.