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Subrata Ghosh, Founder of Redstone Learning.

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Subrata Ghosh started Redstone Learning in US with an Indian offshore center in early 2014. Prior to Redstone, Subrata founded and ran an Ed-tech startup in India from 2007-2013, and it was recognised as the youngest company among the top 5 in ‘Project Management’ training in India in the year 2012. Before embarking on the entrepreneurial journey, Subrata spent over a decade in strategic technology roles at US companies like First Consulting Group, Itron Inc, and Nationwide Insurance.

He shares his story with The Asian Entrepreneur today.

In your own words what is Redstone Learning?

Redstone Learning Inc is a global Ed-tech company that is headquartered in New York with an offshore center in Bangalore. It provides an Online and On-demand Learning Platform for Organizations and Individuals – focused on business functions like Regulatory Compliance, Strategy and Operations, HR, Project and IT/Quality Management.

Redstone currently has over 300 empanelled experts across the globe. Professionals from companies including some of the world’s largest research organizations, the world’s largest payments platforms and the world’s largest pharma companies, among others, leverage Redstone Learning to keep themselves ahead of the curve.

Redstone has over 200+ business skilling courses and 30 professional certifications. It trains around over 10,000 people a year.

How did you come up with the idea of Redstone Learning?

We are living in an age of unprecedented change. Digitization, AI and globalization are disrupting the status quo at a rapid pace in every industry. If one looks at what is happening with Transportation (on-demand, electric, driver-less), Commerce (online, on-demand, personalized), Healthcare (AI assisted diagnosis), etc – the future is very uncertain, and yet full of opportunities for those who can adapt.

During my business exploration phase, I realized that there was a huge crisis building up for businesses and knowledge workers. Most professionals that I met across industry were concerned about the drastic changes in industry around them. They were worried that they would wake up one day and find themselves irrelevant. And most businesses, large and small, were worried about not having access to the right expertise to help them stay agile and ahead of the curve.

I felt what was needed was a platform for real-time, relevant expertise – through a combination of top-notch experts, high quality and constantly evolving learning content, and delivery formats that follow the learner. That is the only way that business and individuals can cope.  That is the problem that Redstone Learning is solving.

Could you walk us through the process of starting up Redstone Learning?

Redstone Learning was incorporated in the US in late 2013 and started business operations in Jan 2014. The Indian offshore center was set up by taking over an existing domestic-focused professional learning company.

Did you encounter any particular difficulties during startup?

Being a first-generation entrepreneur, there are many mistakes made – however, we managed to stay focused and continued to learn from them.

How have you been developing Redstone Learning since startup?

Redstone started with online and on-demand courses for professional certifications, targeted at mid-career professionals in the US. After consolidating its position in this area and adding the top 10 most popular global certifications to its portfolio, Redstone Learning launched another vertical in the area of GRC courses (Governance, Risk Management and Compliance). In the latter, Redstone Learning has quickly scaled up to become one of the top 5 global players in this niche. Within a year, it has reached a size that has taken its competitors 10+ years to achieve.

What kind of feedback did you get for Redstone Learning so far?

Redstone has been able to achieve high customer ratings for its quality and price points. In parallel, it has been able to sign up over 300 US trainers in the areas of certifications and compliance, who serve as Redstone’s speaker panel. These trainers are experts with decades of experience, and they are at par with what established older US players have to offer.

Do you face a lot of competition in this industry?

Any business worth doing will have competition. However, Redstone has been able to leverage a globalized and digital model from the get go with the right experts sourced in US for our clients, while the marketing engine is run cost-effectively from India, and the courses are delivered online.  Most US competitors are struggling to move from brick-n-mortar to a digital and global model and we have a significant lead in this model.

Have you developed any industry insights that you could share?

Globally, reskilling has become a more rapidly iterating process and online and on-demand delivery formats are catching on. However, the online experience will have to be richer since classroom is still a high value-addition play.  Technology will play a key role and things like VR and Analytics will change how people learn in future.

In Asia, professional learning is beginning to see more investment and businesses and individuals are looking at it as key to their growth and success. The days of getting through one’s entire career with one set of skills is gone. Individuals will have to constantly stay ahead of the curve, and on-demand skilling will be key to this.

What is the future of the industry and how do you plan to stay relevant in this industry?

Real-time, relevant expertise through a combination of top-notch experts, high quality and constantly evolving content, with relevant delivery formats is the only way that business and individuals will cope.  This is what Redstone Learning is focused on.

Our larger and long-term agenda is to be the one-stop platform for growth expertise – and we’re currently focusing on a few critical pieces of it.

We are already bringing expertise to professionals at cos like the world’s largest space research org, the world’s largest payments platform, the world’s largest pharma company among others. And the journey has just begun!

Were there anything that disappointed you initially?

We did would wish that developing markets adapted faster to changes that seemed obvious. However, we realised that the markets were not wrong, we had to be nimble and navigate smartly under tough circumstances.

What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia?

Within Asia, one has different countries that are at different stages of development. A place like Singapore is ranked as among the easiest places to do business, while India is far below in the list. We had the advantage of serving a mature market like the US, while leveraging the low cost offshore center in India.

Culture, society and economies have a significant impact on entrepreneurship in different geographies. Asian entrepreneurs rely much more on their families and personal networks for support and resources, than in the West. In India for example, small businesses have to struggle within a very tough regulatory and financial environment – and the long term vision gets sacrificed very early in order to survive.

What is your definition of success?

Success is, when you become the person you believe you were meant to be!

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

During my working career across the globe, I met a lot of brilliant people with dreams and ideas but who were inhibited within the wrong environment. I realized that the only way to realize your vision is to go out there and create it yourself, and also create an environment to bring in others who share the same vision. This was only possible as an entrepreneur.

In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?

  • The ability to separate noise from data
  • The ability to inspire others and take them along
  • The ability to persist despite challenges

Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there from your personal experience?

Make your work relevant to the world, and good things will start happening.

Connect

http://www.redstonelearning.com/

https://www.facebook.com/RedstoneLearning/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/redstone-learning

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Benjamin Kwan, Co-Founder of TravelClef

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Making music to create a life for his family, Benjamin Kwan, started an online tuition portal and his music business grew from there.

What’s your story?
I am Benjamin and I’m the Co-Founder of TravelClef Group Pte Ltd, a travelling music school that conducts music classes in companies as well as team building with music programmes. We also run an online educational platform which matches private students to freelance music teachers. We also manufacture our own instruments. I started this company in 2011 when I was still a freshman at NUS, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

I was born to a lower income family, my father drove a taxi and was the sole breadwinner to a family of 7. I have always dreamed of becoming rich so that I could lessen the burden placed on my father and give my family a good life.

After working really hard in my first semester at NUS, my results didn’t reflect the hard work and effort I put in. At the same time, I was left with just $42 in my bank account and it suddenly dawned on me that if I were to graduate with mediocre results, I would probably end up with a mediocre salary as well. I knew I had to do something to gain control of my future.

During that summer break, I read a book “Internet Riches” by Scott Fox and I knew that the only way I could ever start my own business with my last $42 would be to start an online business. That was how our online tuition portal started and after taking 4 days to learn Photoshop and website building on my own, I started the business.

What excites you most about your industry?
Music itself is a constant form of excitement to me as I have always been an avid lover of music. As one of the world’s first travelling music schools, we are always very eager and excited to find innovative ways to a very traditional business model of a music teaching.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore and I love the fact that despite our diversity in culture, there’s always a common language that we share, music.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hands down, SINGAPORE! Although we are currently in talks to expand to other regions within Asia, Singapore is the best place for business. I have had friends asking me if they should consider venturing into entrepreneurship in Singapore, my answer is always a big fat YES! There’s a low barrier of entry, and most importantly, the government is very supportive of entrepreneurship.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have been blessed by many people and mentors who constantly give me great advice but right now, I would say the best piece of advice that I received would be from Dr Patrick Liew who said, “Work on the business, not in it.” This advice is constantly ringing in my head as I work towards scaling the business.

Who inspires you?
My dad. My dad has always been my inspiration in life, for the amount of sacrifices that he has made for the family and the love he has for us. He was the umbrella for all the storms that my family faced and we were always safe in his shelter. Although my dad passed away after a brief fight with colorectal cancer, the lessons that he imparted to me were very valuable as I build my own family and business.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
You can not buy time, but you can spend money to save time! With this realisation, I was willing to allow myself to spend some money, in order to save more time. Like taking Grab/Uber to shuttle around instead of spending time travelling on public transport. While I spend more money on travelling, I save a lot more time! This doesn’t mean that I spend lavishly and extravagantly, I am still generally prudent with my money.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more time to spend with my family and especially my father. While it is important to focus our time to build our businesses, we should always try our best to allocate family time. Because as an entrepreneur, there is no such thing as “after I finish my work,” because our work is never finished. If our work finishes, the business is also finished. But our time with our family is always limited and no matter how much money and how many successes we achieve, we can never use it to trade back the time we have with our family.

How do you unwind?
I am a very simple man. I enjoy TV time with my wife and a simple dinner with my family and friends.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Batam, it’s close to Singapore and there’s really nothing much to do except for massages and a relaxing resort life. If I travel to other countries for shopping or sightseeing, I am constantly thinking of business and how I can possibly expand to the country I am visiting. But while relaxing at the beach or at a massage, I tend to allow myself to drift into emptiness and just clear my mind of any thoughts.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Work The System, by Sam Carpenter. This book teaches entrepreneurs the importance of creating systems and how to leverage on systems to improve productivity and create more time.

Shameless plug for your business:
If you are looking for a team building programme that your colleagues will enjoy and your bosses will be happy with, you have to consider our programmes at TravelClef! While our programmes are guaranteed fun and engaging, it is also equipped with many team building deliverables and organizational skills.

How can people connect with you?
My email is [email protected] and I am very active on Facebook as well!
https://www.facebook.com/benjamin.christian.kwan

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Callum Connects

Nadia Al Sheikh, Founder & CEO of Flenco & Deal’n

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Nadia Al Sheikh has created a business module which incorporates philanthropy and business to empower others, and herself, she’s called her business Deal’n.

What’s your story?
My story is mirrored in my work. Flenco and our Singaporean eco skin care brand, “Flen” combines Dead Sea minerals from the lowest point of earth with Chinese medicine, which represents the wisdom and mystics of the east and these things represent my journey. I’m a single mother rediscovering my identity at a low point in life. Throughout my journey, determination, flexibility and assertiveness are the pillars of innovation. Thus Deal’n was born after years of groundwork in volunteering with various NGO’s and pursuing my masters degree. Transforming a vision, into a module that incorporates philanthropy and business, with tools to empower others and empower myself!

What excites you most about your industry?
The endless opportunities for improvement, innovation, creativity, free thinking which is mastered through interaction with other players in the market and customers creating a virtual place for brainstorming and the exchange of ideas. An evolving industry that challenges each and every person to use their skills, talents, expertise and utilise all their abilities to claim a slice of the pie.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Asia and specifically Singapore are my second home. It’s my spiritual and business safe haven that provides fair opportunities for everyone to succeed. If I was back in the Middle East as a single mother, I’m pretty sure my struggle would have been much longer and more difficult, however, it wouldn’t have stopped me from achieving my dreams. Singapore specifically empowered me professionally and Asia spiritually in redefining who I am as a person and understanding myself better.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, although it’s a very tough and competitive market for entrepreneurs to start a business, it provides them with support and motivation through grants, competitions and subsidising the cost of exhibiting or promotional events to promote their business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Success is measured by achieving your own personal goals and dreams and not what others think you should achieve.

Who inspires you?
Those who go unnoticed. From senior citizens, cleaning tables at food courts regardless of their wealth of knowledge and experience to single mothers, who are fighting everyday to overcome the social stigma and manage taking care of their children while earning an income. The amazing people who give their lives to start an NGO to empower others asking for nothing in return except the success of their beneficiaries, the humble members of our community that work in silence changing lives not for the spotlight but for their belief in making the world a better place.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
To step onto the balcony! In order to evaluate situations and understand people’s motivations from different perspectives and even to understand ourselves better we all need to step onto the balcony and become observers rather than participants. It gives you the power to see life through a variety of lenses.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’d be wiser with my decisions, evaluate situations from different perspectives and believe in myself and my capabilities. That all came with experience and the ups and downs throughout my journey so I guess, to be who I am today I would have accepted the rough times and embraced them because they were my best teachers. So I wouldn’t undo the past but I am changing my future.

How do you unwind?
Meditation, exercising, listening to music, reading a book and a walk in the botanical gardens.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Maldives, I love the peace and harmony in the simplicity of what it offers; beautiful beaches and wonderful people.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Wisdom Of Crowds by James Surowiecki

Shameless plug for your business:
Deal’n provides opportunities for all members of the community to utilize their skills, talents, expertise, capabilities and abilities in various ways, aiming at empowering all users to become productive members of their community. Using the services of other users for all to grow and benefit, interact with each other through the Deal’n community, thus enhancing their self esteem, level of confidence and as a result, a more empathetic and happier community!

How can people connect with you?
Through my FB page Nadousheh, my email [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@nadiaalsheikh

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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