What's in a name?
July 05, 2022
Did I hear it right? Did he say ‘Zoo men’? What sort of business could they be into?
Those were my thoughts as I was hanging up after talking to a HR recruiter from the company. Looking up the company online, I realized that the company was called Zumen. I went ahead and researched the company but forgot to solve the mystery about the name.
All this to say I was excited when I got the opportunity to interview Viswa, our CEO and founder. Below are the parts of the interview that relate to the story behind Zumen.
Viswa walks in, in his usual-brisk style. But he seems a bit relaxed today which is good. Otherwise the mental picture I have of him is of tens of items whirling around his head which I guess is more or less an accurate reflection of what’s happening in his mind.
He now sits down with his steaming cup of black coffee and flashes his boyish smile. For a minute you forget that he’s the brains behind Zumen and feel like you’re sitting across from a friend.
I have my list of questions to ask but for some reason the first question that I blurt out is, “So Viswa, why Zumen, as in, why Z-U-M-E-N?”
He continues to smile, but then suddenly gets reflective, pauses for a few seconds and starts off with, “I’ve been meaning to share this for a while. The story of how we named our company.”
I’m relieved that I didn’t jump the gun.
“Though I’ve spent most of my time in the manufacturing space,” his eyes light up as he talks about his favorite subject, “being around machinery, equipment, and automobiles talking about statuses, reviews and strategies, I was also closely associated with branding & advertising.”
“So finding a name for the company was a linear process to me,” he continues in his no-nonsense style. “I started out writing what I wanted the company to stand for and then looked for terms that would convey the message.
Curious to get more information into his thought pattern, I interrupt, “You make it seem so simple, Viswa, did you face any challenges?”
He breaks into a laugh and confesses, “I wasn’t prepared for the time it took! We went through so many different names and I would periodically bounce these names off Harsh (our engineering manager), Girish (a key investor in Zumen) and a few others close to me. This was probably the first time Girish had a chance to look at how I think!”
“Anyway, they continued to be my sounding board as I came up with different names, and I did this for months on end,” he smiles contently, as if looking back he feels that he could not have done it any other way.
“Eventually, we arrived at what’s core to the manufacturing space. A few of the names we considered went something like ‘Make the Part’, Mfg Link’. But the moment we arrived on ‘blueprint’, I was excited.” I sense the same excitement in his tone now.
“Although blueprints are not in vogue any more, it still means an engineering drawing. And what’s more, till today, when there is a project to deliver, people refer to the plan as a ‘project blueprint’.”
The excitement in his voice goes up a few notches as it would happen when a person realizes he’s onto something, “Blueprint was possibly the best name we could use as the product itself deals with the drawings for the engineered items our users deal with at every moment. The blueprint is literally the document over which the conversation and the sourcing event starts and over which the suppliers or vendors make their quotations on.”
He moves on to say, “Unfortunately, the word blueprint was quite common. The domain name wasn’t available. Although I knew we had the name, the search continued…” He smiles and continues, “In fact, I played this little game with my daughter asking her to come up with names. This led to quite a few interesting discussions at the breakfast table. And I was surprised by the list of names she came up within those few months.”, he trails off recalling the emotions.
“And then I had the aha moment. It suddenly occurred to me that I should look for an equivalent of the word ‘blueprint’ in other languages. After several weeks of looking and considering, we finally arrived at ‘Zumen’ which is a common term for blueprint in Japanese.”
Unable to stop myself, I asked, “Any particular reason you chose Japanese?”
“My daughter likes Japanese!” he quips and laughs the typical Viswa laugh. He goes on to clarify, “We know that Japan is a manufacturing superpower and their manufacturing practices have raised the industry benchmarks. So yes, we thought that Japanese would add that nice finish we were looking for!”
I couldn’t agree with him more. I could say that our product by any other name would be as effective but Zumen does convey the message succinctly—One source of truth for everyone no matter the rounds of iterations or collaboration.