20 QUESTIONS: David Hathiramani, A Suit That Fits

Silicon Roundabout's most dapper entrepreneur on why computers are his only love, and why having a good finance director is so important.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 04 Sep 2015

1. If you had done something else, what would it have been?

I’m a bit of a geek so something [else] with computers. I’d imagine I’d have created something online. It’s a bit sad. I always wanted to have my own business.

2. What else would you have called your business

We wouldn’t have gone the traditional route and called it a normal name – I think we might have done a takeoff of Savile Row and called it something and something. Actually, that’s probably it – we’d have called it ‘Something & Something’ to take the mick out of the rest of the tailors. 

3. If you could be based in another city, where would it be?

I think, in terms of business, we’re in the right places – New York and London. But if I had the choice, I would love to live in Paris. It’s got a really cool way about it.

4. When you started, how did you raise money?

We started with me working another job as well as doing A Suit That Fits: that paid for us both to be able to continue. Since then, we’ve funded our growth through the business – but now is a time where we’re looking to accelerate our growth and if there are opportunities out there we may need to get external money.

5. What has been your most important decision?

Starting with a business partner was really important. Warren Bennett, my partner, is a complementary business partner – he’s got a completely different skillset from me. Being able to talk honestly with someone about how you’re feeling about the business at any given time has been a big thing.

6. What has been your biggest mistake?

In the early days we didn’t have much control of finances. We thought we knew what our margin was, then it turned out we didn’t know. There were all sorts of fees we weren’t keeping track of – so we learned early on that we needed to take on a really good finance director. Knowing exactly what’s going on – we realised how important that was. Knowing exactly where you are and being confident in it is so valuable.

7. What idea do you wish you had come up with?

There’s all sorts of ideas that look easy: I remember my friend a couple of years ago telling me that ‘we could have started Facebook when we were at college’. But it’s a lot tougher than you think. For every one of these huge successes that you hear about, 10 have failed.

8. How do you handle stress?

I’ve got a little rule – if I’m ever frustrated with anyone or anything, I make sure I feel good by the end of the day. Once you go home from work, I don’t think you should be taking any of that stress home with you.

9. What was your first job?

When I was a kid, my dad used to take me to the office: he used to tell me I was having fun but actually I was inputting timesheets on the computer. One day his payroll manager left and I was doing the entire job of paying 400 people. The people being paid didn’t realise they were being paid by a 12-year-old...

10. What was your worst job?

During one of my summer breaks I worked in a post room in a hospital in Cambridge. All the people there were relatively nice, but one day, someone told me what was actually in the packages. It was everything that can possibly come out of a human being. To think about the number of times I dropped things…

11. What was your best job?

Before we started A Suit That Fits I was an IT manager at a company called Eden Brown – it’s now owned by James Caan. I loved it: we had a really great team, and really great directors, and it was a really fun job as well (for me, anyway). I wouldn’t have left it for anything other than this.

12. If you were on the Apprentice, what would your team name be?

All these TV shows emphasise the fact that you have to be a idiot to be in business. Something like ‘Nice Guys Win Too’.

13. Which company would you invest in right now?

[Cab-hailing app] Hailo: it’s saved me lots of time in the part, and I can see it taking on lots of cities throughout the world. In lots of European cities, hailing a taxi can be a nightmare, so there’s huge potential for growth.

14. Apart from property, what is the most expensive thing you’ve bought?

I was lucky enough once to go on holiday on a private island in the Grenadines. It was the best holiday I’ve ever had – although it was a bit odd, because there were three people there in the house, serving you all the time. It was the one bit I couldn’t get my head round: I’d never be good living that lifestyle.

15. Suits or jeans?

No comment.

16. Flexible working or office hours?

We have 20 people in our head office and if everyone was flexible it would feel like a complete mess. But I do think people should be judged on what they do and how they’re doing and not necessarily what time they come in. Some people perform amazingly with hardly any effort and others put loads of time in and don’t do well at all.

17. What is the best thing about your office?

The people. As an entrepreneur you get to choose your team. You don’t have to work with people you don’t like – it’s fantastic. When I come to work I like everyone - although that’s not to say everyone likes each other…

18. What app can’t you live without?

I use Ocado a lot. I hate shopping for groceries. Being able to do that while you’re watching the telly is pretty cool.

19. Who is your business idol?

Richard Branson – but for a reason! Critics would say he’s had a lot of failures, but that’s only because he’s tried so much stuff. He takes failure as par for the course and moves on from it to the next project. Plus he talks about sending people to space, which is pretty cool.

20. If you were Prime Minister for the day, what would you change?

I’d make dress down Friday illegal.

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