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Andrea Loubier, Co-founder of Mailbird

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Andrea Loubier has a firm background in market research, social science, project management, and content building for software. Through her work, she established solid business relations with major clients which include Proctor and Gamble, KAO brands, Ubisoft, General Electric, Kraft and more. Andrea has a real passion in communications networking and making people happy through value driven initiatives and brand building.

Receiving numerous accolades, she has been recognized as Female Entrepreneur of the Month by Geek Girl Meetup and some of the apps that she has built has been awarded for best Productivity app at the prestigious Sparxup tech event. Most recently, one of her latest creations Mailbird, has been named as the startup of the day by Microsoft. Coming from a multi-cultural background, Andrea has been given many opportunities in building global brands and a broader understanding of culture and geographically specific values.

She is passionate about sharing her experience and knowledge with others and today, Andrea is interviewed by The Asian Entrepreneur about Mailbird and also her entrepreneurial insights.

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What exactly is Mailbird?
Mailbird is an email client for Windows that brings a whole new world of productivity to your inbox, on the most beautiful platform for email innovation ever.

How did you come up with the idea of Mailbird?
The idea came from our co-founder and CFO, Michael Bodekaer who started an entrepreneurial initiative called Project Getaway (www.projectgetaway.com) which takes place in Bali every year. He, like many others today, is a hybrid user when it comes to operating systems – meaning he works on both the Mac OS and Windows OS. On Mac it was clear that Sparrow was a winner in the email cilent world, however on Windows there was nothing that provided this alternative experience. In addition to that, after pulling together the initial team, we couldn’t help but brainstorm the opportunities and possibilities to essentially make an even better email experience on the Windows platform.

Could you walk us through the process of starting up Mailbird?
Starts with the idea and realizing the problems within the current set of limited email options for Windows. Then we assembled the team in early 2012. We started with 6, we now have 8 team members as our business has developed over the 9 months it’s been live in beta for the public. We then began to put the basic framework down for Mailbird, then the brainstorming began for how to innovate email in a way that paved the way to a more productive user. Then we had to decide what type of business model we’d follow through with. Then it was getting our company logo designed once we decided on the company name, Mailbird. Mailbird was a very clear cut and “yes I get it” name for our new bad ass email client.

We had to establish a closed testing group and a way to communicate and engage with our early adopters. Then we had to get our website up so people seeking alternative email clients for Windows could sign up to be notified once our project was live. We are now in beta and have been going strong for 9 months now. We plan our marketing efforts in line with our major milestone and feature launches to make sure people know about our updates.

2014 is going to be even better since we have some of the more inspiring feature releases in the beta coming like Wingman (a productivity booster) and Birdhouse apps (a public API allowing premium productivity app integration as well as 3rd party developers to contribute their apps to the Mailbird Birdhouse platform). We’ve been bootstrapping the project for the last year and a half and are now actively seeking outside investment in our leading global email brand. We are localizing as well to allow support for multiple languages. A lot of things we learn from experienced entrepreneurs and through our awesome network of resources at Startup Getaway (www.startupgetaway.org) based in Bali, Indonesia.

How has it been like managing the business since?
I think it is fair to say that running a startup is the most exciting, challenging and stressful commitment to your passion. A film called “The Startup Kids” says it well, running a startup “is the most manic-depressive way to live your life.” This clearly touches on the roller coaster ride that entrepreneurs seem to be addicted to because they genuinely love creating something out of nothing. Some days are awesome, some days can be the worst days ever. Otherwise, managing the business has been an awesome experience and I’ve never learned so much in a short amount of time.

Now we are focused on growing our user base, making sure we deliver happiness to Mailbird users and building key features in Mailbird that differentiate our email client experience from others. I am always thinking ahead of the next step, even if we may be far from it. The challenge during a beta period is keeping users who maybe just want to try it out, but still remain loyal to their current email solution. We are also constantly seeking ways to better grow the business and reach our potential users who are productivity seekers, they enjoy the native client email experience because it makes them feel more in control and they are very design conscious. It’s the new age of online communication and productivity.

Did you find anything particularly difficult during the startup?
There is not any one particular thing that is difficult about starting a business, it is more that there are many challenges. For us it was a combination of working through language barriers, agreeing on revenue channels, determining whether to apply to an accelerator in Europe or the U.S. or to continue focusing on product and business development from Asia. It is difficult to determine what to do, how to do it and when to do it.

We overcome the many startup challenges typically by talking to other people who are experienced in overcoming any particular challenges. You quickly realize that it is ok that you don’t know everything about running a business, there are others out there that have done it before who you can learn from and perhaps even do it better. Some current challenges include exploring growth initiatives, countering those who say all email is headed to the web or on mobile, establishing holocracy in our teams working culture and determining the best investment options for our business. Again, we overcome these challenges by talking to experts, keeping things transparent and ensuring each team member takes part in our overall big picture business decisions.

How was the initial reaction from the consumers?
Users were relieved that there was finally a solution and alternative on Windows that offered the light weight, in-control and speedy feel that Sparrow delivered for Mac users. And yes, we have a great conversion rate from our free Mailbird Lite users to paying users. As we’ve developed the software and business, engaging more with our users, we are learning so much and already have great plans for Mailbird as a productivity hub, not just another email client. It is best summed up by our user testimonials.

Do you face a lot of competition in this industry?
Yes, email is an action packed space and with the competition for new email clients comming to surface we see this as great validation for the need for a better email experience. Our strategy from the beginning has been to find a market to focus on, and that is the Windows OS market. We also will be the only email client that can solve many issues people have with email where at one point it has evolved into a productivity killer at work, we are doing the opposite.

We are making email your productivity super tool on the desktop with the Wingman feature and Birdhouse apps that are currently in development. We are looking to build a tight community between email users, premium productivity tools and third party developers who are also interested in building and marketing their productivity apps within Mailbird. There is not just one problem with email, so creating our productivity platfrom packaged in a beautiful and fast email client allows us to innovate email – something that has not changed in many many years. Instead of focusing on being everywhere, we are focused on the Windows platform. So we will be the go-to email app for Windows users.

Have you developed any industry insights that you could share?
Email is a very challenging space when you are working against huge corporations with unlimited resources. There has been a big shift in email from desktop to mobile, but what we’ve realized is that most people are productive when they are sitting down at a desk in front of their laptop or PC. We’ve seen many attempts to “fix email”, but what it comes down to is that we just need to be better at how we manage and use email. When it comes to the user experience and interaction design, we are now looking at very minimalistic, clean and beautiful emails interfaces. Email users today are growing increasingly more and more dynamic in their feature needs based on how they use email. We know that email has become one of the biggest productivity killers for offices.

A study by a Microsoft Researcher named Linda Stone revealed that email actually induces additional stress, where 80% of computer users actually stop breathing when they open up their email. The other emerging problem is that people spend too much time online these days making it more difficult to separate work and life, stress levels have increased, and energy levels on a downward spiral. Mailbird makes 87% of our email users more happy and it is getting better. We want people to be so much more productive and better with email management that they spend less time with their email, and more time doing the stuff that matters. Email is not going anywhere.

How have you managed to stay relevant in this industry?
By talking to the right people. We talk to others who’ve worked on email companies before that have both suceeded and failed. We execute on what we know works in our effort to innovate email and make people happier. Many tech influencers have also written about Mailbird, and our power users are even more awesome in that they also communicate to the world about how awesome Mailbirdis. Marketing so that you reach and connect with your potential users is of course a very big part of it too. Staying relevant means you are on the radar, continuing to change and improve your vision for improving the email experience and helping people manage their online communication and work load better than what is currently out there. We as a company will continue to do this relentlessly for our users.

What are your future plans for Mailbird?
This year we plan to release the mega features that differentiate Mailbird most from other email clients- Wingman and the Birdhouse apps API. We are looking to close our first outside investment round for those interested in leading global tech startups. By the end of the year we hope to close the beta and release the full version 1 of Mailbird for Windows as platform for email innovation. After that we are looking into expanding to the mobile environment. We hope to also continue building our relationship with Microsoft, focusing on opportunities with email.

This is especially since they recently introduced IMAP support for Outlook.com and Mailbird was one of the first email applications to adopt integration with Outlook.com’s IMAP support. They also named us Startup Of the Day which was awesome. We will work to continuously improving Mailbird for our users, and reaching out email users worldwide in our effort to improve information management and work flows. We’d like to start working with smaller businesses that are seeking a great email solution, where the current more coporate email clients you see in big offices are not such an attractive option and are also very expensive. Our business pricing plan is actually the most economical solution for teams of 5.

If you could start all over again, would you change anything about your approach?
No, because you can only take your past experiences and apply them to a new business concept or idea. You never really know what unique challenges will come up, so you have to just do what is projected to result in best outcome. There’s a lot of trial and error, which is awesome because that is how you learn the most. If I absolutely have to say something I would have done different, I would have approached outside investment opportunites earlier and more aggressively because whatever money you think you need to keep the business moving forward, double it, more is always better to speed up business growth.

What do you think about startups in Asia?
I think startups in Asia are the future of business development and growth. More and more people from around the world have their attention on Asia, and even more specifically on Indonesia due to sheer potential given they are the 4th largest nation in the world. Most of what you see in Asia startups today are following cultural trends which means everything is mobile, e-commerce is king or online or mobile payment solutions. In order for the world to really take notice of the high potential of innovation, talent and growth in Asia, I believe that we need more globally scalable tech startups.

This also means there is a lot that Asia still must do in order to “catch up” with the tech startup culture that dominates in Silicon Valley. We need to see a shift for international investment as well to give startups in Asia more relevance and traction. Most investors are extra cautious of the unknown, and therefore have a tendency to only build their investment portfolio locally. A lot of startups in Asia have awesome developer teams, but I feel still lack in experience and credibility when it comes to the business and marketing side of building a solid business. I would like to see more startups in Asia that take on the “big dogs” and to step outside of the local market. I’d like to see more startups that challenge the mind set that Asia “still has a lot to catch up with” because we are building remarkable things here, and it is a matter of time before the rest of the world starts to take notice.

What are some personal values that guide your career?
I believe in delivering happiness to people, and in Mailbird’s case that would be our customers and our team members. I feel strongly about positive reinforcement, building meaningful relationships with others and not being afraid to fail or admit when you are wrong because it means that you are open to learning, to take leadership and ownership of what your are doing. When you say you are going to do something, try your hardest to making sure you get it done. Keeping an honest and open channel of communication within our team, customers, investors, partners and advisors is key. Learn to filter the advice for how to run a successful business, and to trust your own instincts. Stay focused and committed.

What is your definition of success?
I build a product that is globally recognized as a solution to the problem with online communication and productivity. Something that helps people do better work in the growing tech-centric culture we live in today. To have millions of users world-wide, to be recognized by top influencers in the tech startup world and publications. To make it on the top of rankings and “best lists”. When I am a big part of bringing happiness and change to people, including the those that I work closely with. Finally, a very relevant part of building a business, to be able to sustain the business through revenue re-invested into the business, constantly improving and being ahead of our competition.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I have a passion for building something from nothing. I love being a part of the business development process and to challenge the status quo. I am a self-motivated person and also love the freedom of creativity, obstacles and learnings you gain from starting a business. I believe that when you decide to pursue the entrepreneurial route, you learn some of the best life lessons that you wouldn’t have learned otherwise. I believe it is so much more rewarding to be a key influencer, an important variable in a complicated equation that comes with building a business.

What do you think are the most important things entrepreneurs should keep in mind?
Be true to yourself, your team and those who could help your business growht, know when to ask for help, set goals and a road map early on as a way to reaching your goals and visioin through your business. You could have the worst day ever, someone is suing you, a team member leaves, some publisher publicly posted some very negative comments about you…just remember that it is going to be ok, just about any issue can be fixed and to stay focused and learn to ignore the negative chatter and rather focus on your customers by listening to their needs.

In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?
You have to have strong leadership skills which can always be improved over time as you learn and gain experience, you have a relentless passion for achieving your goals, you are a likeable and respectful person who can easily influence others. You are creative when it comes to problem solving, an “out of the box” thinker, you are very analytical, organized, focused on execution, putting strong initiatives in place, ready to be involved in all facets of a business – even those that are extremely unfamiliar to yourself. You have to be somewhat fearless, see challenges as great learning opportunities, and someone who likes helping people and making their lives better.

Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there?
Building relationships is probably one of the most important things you can do to move your business forward. Start building relationships with prospect customers, PR affiliates, potential investors, potential talented and experienced people who can help you. Also, it is important to make clear that building relationships is something that all team members involved with your business should be doing.

Be sure to have a clear answer for why you are pursuing entrepreneurship, why your business needs to happen, find your product/market fit as soon as possible and practice taking calculated risks and making more decisions. If you are making decisions, you are moving your business forward and that is even if you make the wrong decision.

Be passionate and driven with a strong work ethic and brace yourself for the ups and downs, the roller coaster ride of entrepreneurship. It truly can be the pinnacle of your personal and business development, and the most thrilling experience of your life.

Connect
Website: http://www.getmailbird.com
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/GetMailBird
Twitter: https://twitter.com/getmailbird
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/company/mailbird

Entrepreneurship

Ecommerce in India – 2016’s Online Shopping Destination

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Shopping in Chennai, India

Ecommerce in India is looking pretty so far, but 99% of the canvas is still unpainted. The country’s online retail sales currently account for less than 1% of the total revenue generated by retail sales. However, it would be inaccurate to label India’s e-commerce state as ‘infantile’, for the industry has seen growth — fast and furious — over the past few years. For example, India’s online retail market share nearly doubled from 10% in 2009 to 18% in 2013. With the gears well-oiled to continue turning at this robust rate, key e-commerce players are forecast to run on exponential growth for the next five years.

With reference to a recent study by TechSci Research, India’s e-commerce market is predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 36% between 2015 and 2020. A combination of many important determinants work together in producing this figure. Internet and mobile penetration is at an all-time high and growing stronger by the day. With cheaper internet and mobile data plans being churned out, the feverish bug of online retail is spreading beyond Tier 1 consumers, but also to the Tier 2 and 3 consumers in India. Accessibility and awareness work hand in hand to contribute toward heightened interest in online shopping. Foreign Direct Investments and aggressive funding in both retail startups and giants are also major factors in stoking the fire. In the next half-decade, Taiwanese electronics maker Foxconn Technology Group will pour 5 billion USD of commerce investments into India.

On the consumers’ side, aggressive marketing and attractive discounts on spending are incentivising them to open their wallets. The big boys of India’s online retail — Flipkart, Snapdeal and Shopclues — compete for market share by keeping their prices low and competitive. Cashback sites have also caught on in recent years and proved to be a popular channel for consumers to make their purchases. These cashback sites monetise by providing rebates for consumers on their spending and purchases.

Top Online Shopping Sites in India

Just this year, Southeast Asia-based cashback startup ShopBack launched in India. With a strong pulse already felt in Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines, ShopBack opened strong in India as well, offering customised cashback options for key Indian merchants like Jabong, MakeMyTrip and Amazon.in. Co-founder Joel Leong said, ‘We recognise that Indians are heavy users of mobile recharge, so we want to help them save money by paying them extra cashback for an indispensable necessity.’

As of Q2 of 2015, a study by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India revealed that mobile subscribership clocks in at almost one billion Indians. Recognising the savings prospects this entails for mobile users, ShopBack made its Indian debut providing 5% cashback for mobile recharge and bill payment with Paytm. To put that in perspective, the current market rate is only at 1.9%.

What obstacles must be demolished?

From arid dry deserts to sweeping mountain ranges, the Indian subcontinent is flush with beautiful panoramas. However, this varied landscape — coupled with insufficient suitable infrastructure — incubates a disorientating headache for retailers seeking economical logistics and transport systems. The developing country’s business-to-consumer e-tail platform is thriving, but specific to this department, the delivery fees for sending a single parcel from one end of the country to the other can be steep, making them unpopular with buyers and cost-inefficient for sellers. Currently, logistics systems in India are metropolitan-centric and target mostly Tier 1 consumers. About 90% of goods purchased online are delivered by air, layering added costs for retailers. Surveys have shown that Indian consumers expect low-cost, if not no cost, where shipping and returning charges are involved.

Indian Rupee

Another hurdle to cross for India’s e-commerce growth also happens to be their most favoured payment method: cash-on-delivery. Although manpower-intensive and time-consuming for retailers, the system accounts for more than 80% of e-tail transactions in India. The vibrant cash economy is supported by a majority of consumers who prefer inspecting the goods to match expectations before counting out the banknotes. This purchasing behaviour means returns and non-payments are high, and efforts and delivery costs come to naught for retailers. Plagued by low credit card ownership amongst the overall population, it seems this arrangement is set to continue, at least in the near future. However, the preference for COD also stems from a distrust in the lack of delivery and transit structures. Investments are already laying on the foundation for these problems, and key players are also introducing online payment wallets and enticing credit card payment options. The e-tail industry holds huge promise for expansion should these issues be alleviated.

What is brewing in the future?

India has a potential consumer base which far outsizes those of many other countries in the world. Currently, a flourishing travel market accounts for more than half of the total e-commerce market. Ticket-purchase, hotel-reservations, and holiday-planning are increasingly being completed online, and this trend shows no signs of slowing down.

Agra India Taj Mahal

2015 was a remarkable year for India’s e-commerce, booming from 5 billion USD to 8 billion USD. Although there is no question of it continuing to permeate consumers’ lives in 2016, India’s e-commerce seems to be paving another route of growth. Out of at least 75 million predicted e-tail consumers this year, more transactions are likely to go through mobile phones than computers. India is opening its doors wider to international firms by the day and with accelerating capital flows bolstering economic liberation, the drumbeat of India’s e-commerce is looking to resonate stronger than ever.

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Saurabh Gupta, Social Entrepreneur & Founder of Earth5R

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Hailing from a corporate background and having served at various HR operations for several years, Saurabh Gupta identifies himself as a social entrepreneur. In the midst of his jobs, Saurabh took sabbaticals to pursue a few youth based social projects and these opportunities introduced him to a lot of intriguing people and gave him a chance to travel to a lot of places round the globe.

After working several years in corporate world, Saurabh finally quit his job, where he found innovative and inspiring ways of catalyzing changes.

Saurabh’s real passion is to work for the betterment of our Earth. During the process of cycling to and fro for work, he spoke to thousands of people about outer and inner sustainability. He tried to develop an understanding in everyone about leading a sustainable life based on personal choices that one can make by slight and important changes in the lifestyle. Fortunately, Saurabh also had the opportunity to conduct a few talks in the corporate sector on the topic, ‘Organic life’ which included- Not using automobile on work commute, Eating like animals- eating for the need and not for the want and Tech Detox- against material excess culture.

In the past, he was blessed with the appreciation and appraisal from His Holiness The Dalai Lama for his work related with youth community on Project ‘Ganga to Nile’.

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In your own words what is Earth5R?

Earth5R is a social movement about giving back to Mother Earth and serving the society in a way to culminate in the building of sustainable communities. It is a conglomeration of science, advocacy, education and action to bring about the much needed changes for the planet, through an environmental leadership. We believe in taking shared action via an environmental talk show known as ‘EarthTalk’, a sustainability based online magazine named ‘EarthJournal’ and a community project called ‘I’M EARTH’. As an organization we have an entrepreneurial team of hard-working volunteers who are passionate about building a great change with social and environmental impact.

 

How did you come up with the idea of Earth5R?

I have grown up in the Himalayas, where we grew the food we ate. We survived in an interdependent and balanced ecosystem, where we even shared our garden produce with the neighbors next door. With a sense of respect for nature, the whole social system was very cohesive. However, moving to the cities presented a whole new picture of reality, where the exploitation of nature grew with the globalization and developmental index of the city. Witnessing the loss of respect and care for nature, there was a growing concern in me to change the prevailing scenarios and I always kept pondering over the ‘how’ of it. The corporate work environment too breathed lack of sustainability- sitting on chairs throughout the day, eyes embedded on computers, eating food while working, drinking cups after cups of coffee and breathing the re-circulated exhaled air. With time and this schedule, I faced a lot of health challenges, starting with getting overweight and then back pain, occasional migraine attacks and gastritis. This was when I came across a cycling marathon and I decided to take it up. Even though I participated in the short distance amateur category, the benefits of cycling lasted for several days. Ever since, I was hooked to cycling and started bicycling everywhere. In the beginning, my passion for cycling was taken as joke as people thought I was unwise enough to cycle on the roads of Mumbai, taken the weather and traffic, to add on. However, with time, people were convinced with my hobby.

In due course of time I lost a lot of weight, became much healthy and started enjoying life a lot more. By this time I was getting in the inner circle of life and started exploring the real meaning of life.

It’s said Buddha achieved Nirvana under a Banyan tree and I joked with my pals claiming, I achieved mine on a bicycle seat. Deciding to break the monotony of work at the corporate sector, I decided to head towards helping people with the aim of sustainability.

After quitting my job, I wanted to travel for some time and to sustain the flow of income, I became self-employed as a natural therapist, and this is when I travelled and bicycled in several countries, crossing latitudes and longitudes.

With a distance greater than the circumference of Earth (40, 008 km), I completed to cover a distance of 50,000 km in 2014 in two years commuting to my workplace and it was then, the idea of Earth5R struck me. With the zeal to start with some ‘work for good’ I believe change is propelled through the power of communities. And to fulfill this, Earth5R started to take shape from last November.

 

Could you walk us through the process of starting up Earth5R?

After the idea of Earth5R came to me, I developed a very basic website and hired two paid interns to market this idea. However with their sole monetary interest and a meager willingness to contribute to the cause, I saw bleak chances of the success to the desired movement. However, a few people applied to work with us and after having explained to them the volunteer based model that we were to follow at Earth5R, that meant no pay for work as well as a determined will to work, we had our first set of volunteers. The team grew with word of mouth. Hard work along with fun at work brought a lot of meaningful work in practice and consequently helped expand our team. Initially we had the EarthTalk, which is somewhat like a TED Talk, but of and about environment. EarthTalk received a tremendously heartwarming response and to create a large scale impact, we thought of introducing the EarthJournal, to reach out to the masses. The journal is a provocative Scientific-Socio-Economic reportage through an environmental lens. We created this magazine for lovers of Earth, equality, and investigative journalism. EarthJournal too, was welcomed with a very good response. After talking and writing had hit the success bar, it was time to walk the talk and then was born- I’m Earth. In this initiative, comprising of a 120 people team, spread across most of the large cities of India, Germany, Switzerland and France, the team reaches out to the community and nature. Importantly, it builds impact by engaging people in activities that build collaborative change.

 

Did you encounter any particular difficulties during startup and if so, how did you guys overcome it?

The biggest challenge of any organization being manpower cost was taken care of, by the volunteer run model at Earth5R.

A major challenge that all social projects face is that people join in with a good intention of contributing towards a noble cause, but refuse to leave their comfort zones. Doing things because they are easy or convenient, is not something that we support or encourage as a team or as an individual effort. To overcome this, a uniform policy was finalized to be followed across the organization, be it the CEO, an EarthJournal author, graphic designer, photographer, college student or an artist- they all have to contribute minimally with two community services on a monthly basis to give back to the Earth. There was a deeper commitment with this uniformity and we realized that better performance came to the fore with the building of a greater understanding towards our concerns.

 

How have you been developing Earth5R since startup (i.e. what’s the developmental direction)?

I have had the experience of travelling and staying at many places with diverse cultures, from small cities to big towns to places in the heart of nature and coastal banks. There was an immeasurable gap between these places, especially considering the multifarious topographical and geographical conditions of India, where I spent the most of my time.

I got versed with the fact that people residing to the villages led a sustainable life and thus, were even well integrated with the ecosystem. The herculean challenges lie in the bigger cities where endless competition for success has embraced people with reckless lifestyles and the cities turning to concrete jungles. Recycling was not the sole solution to bring change in the community, we had to inculcate and restore the lost respect for nature. If people begin to respect nature, which includes them (as they too are a part of the ecosystem), they will reduce their needs- inner sustainability, if their needs reduce they would start reusing, consequently there is less left to recycle. Working on these four Respect, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Restore- can lead to improved restoration of resources, and that is what Earth5R is.

This thoughtful approach has been very important to each and every person working at Earth5R and that’s why we engage everyone working with us in community activities, so they can live those values and produce innovations. Action learning is a powerful force that can give rise to a lot of creative ideas which are more likely to work because they came out of practice.

We are working in the direction of developing social leaders; each person at Earth5R is a social entrepreneur. They create their own projects, conduct impact assessment and share their learning with the larger community via social media, EarthJournal and EarthTalk. When they engage with the communities they create more leaders, and that’s how a chain reaction of social change begins to evolve.

 

What kind of feedback did you get for Earth5R so far?

We have received a very positive response from our volunteers. Initially each volunteer joins for a duration of three months but it has never happened since the inception of Earth5R that a single volunteer left because their voluntary commitment of 3 months was over. They were tied to the culture, stayed in sync with Earth5R and some of them even got promoted as team leaders or project coordinators, seeing their caliber of work.

We currently have 120 people working with us in the core team who are driving various social projects across 4 countries and another 1,500 applicants reserved for future pipeline of work, as there is a saturation of volunteers for the committed work. Numbers have been very encouraging and there hasn’t been a struggle for talent till date.

 

Do you face a lot of competition in this industry ? What is your strategy against your competition?

Competition, as of now, has not come into the picture as we have created a niche in the area of work. However, to stay up beat and outperform competitors, we believe in a strategy of innovation, strong execution and continuous impact.

 

What can you tell us about the industry? Have you developed any industry insights that you could share?

Social and environmental work isn’t anything new; it’s been around since humanity. However, what we did was created a sense of urgency and got together people to act, linking it with their leadership development and that is an interesting phenomenon, since people anyways wanted to do good but lacked a platform so we provided them the platform and brand, which they can look up to.

 

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

As an industry it’s quite contemporary and there is a tremendous future to this. We have colossal amount of environmental and social issues to tackle. We are working to develop new sustainable technologies and working towards social innovations- these are the key factors that would help us stay relevant and effective.

 

Were there anything that disappointed you initially?

We’ve come across people joining in with the ideation of social work being the ‘cool thing’ and failing to live up to the standards of performance. We have also learned that endorsing a talent and bringing it to smart execution are two different things.

 

What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia? Is it harder or easier, why?

The appreciable fact about working in Asia is its receptivity and acceptance of novelty in work. With an immense scope of social work to be done, Asia also serves as a large market for the same. However, the red tapism involving bureaucracy and redundant paperwork is  huge hurdle to overcome in India. Nevertheless, if we believe in our ideas, our cause, and ability, these obstacles don’t really matter.

 

What is your opinion on Asian entrepreneurship vs Western entrepreneurship?

By the history of culture and lifestyle, Asians seem to have a smaller appetite for risk, as compared to the people of west. Another bi-product of the collectivistic culture in Asia is that a lot of people have social and family responsibility to ‘settle down, while with individualistic societies of west are less tied. These factors do affect the flourishing entrepreneurial ecosystems of these societies. Despite, thanks to globalization that introduced cross cultural practices and traditions, which have helped in growing the girth of equilibrium Earth-wide. Acceptance has grown and continues to grow.

 

What is your definition of success?

Making a difference in people’s lives is more rewarding than just accumulating wealth and crunching numbers in boardrooms. In my opinion, success is what adds value to our lives, it’s about value creation that feeds more people than serving the few. Success is what is shared.

 

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

I am an adventurer and I can tell you being an entrepreneur is one of the most adventurous things. You are always walking on a thin ice.  But a stronger reason why I decided to become an entrepreneur was because I wanted to challenge the status quo. I felt there was a need to get people out of their comfort zone, realize their potential and use it for building a change. People responded, and now it has become a social movement.

 

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

The single biggest key to success is execution of an idea, even if its half baked, rather than waiting for a perfect solution. People learn real lessons on the path of execution.  I love that Nike slogan- Just do it! It’s a greatly inspiring line.

Also it’s very important to have the right people as team, who believe in your idea and support it. It’s important to invest time in building a great culture, because that’s what drives performance and guards the team. Performance brings performers on board. That’s the power of culture.

It’s also very important to reward with perks and fire the jerks. It keeps the team motivated.

It’s also important to know whether people are having fun and customers enjoy a great experience.

Entrepreneurs must make sure that they are solving a problem and creating a difference to the lives of their stake holders- be it employees or customers. They will continue to be successful as long as they are relevant. Social media has enabled a lot of sharing of information to people which was earlier controlled by media and advertisers and those businesses who continued to operate the same way and now seem to face a load of difficulties, because they are losing relevance.

 

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

Do it only if it’s super important to you, if it’s not, don’t waste your time because life is too short to do something that doesn’t include your emotional investment.

 

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