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Taran Kumar, founder of DTAutomobile

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Taran Kumar, founder of DTAutomobile

T​aran Kumar is the founder of DTAutomobile, a highly successful and independent luxury car importing business based in Indonesia. He founded his business when he was previously living in London and pursuing business school studies. Whilst residing in London, Taran saw a business opportunity. Being heavily involved and active in monitoring the car trading industry in London and Europe, Taran was able to build his own acumen and envisioned ways in which he could develop the domestic luxury car industry in Indonesia. His expereinces and ideas culminated in the birth of his business, which he has passionately developed for the past few years.

A well noted entrepreneur who has been featured by several publications, Taran is here with us today to offer us his insights on his current venture and share with us his ideas on how to tackle business development.

​​Taran, tell us abit about your background

Well, I am from Jakarta, Indonesia. I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My family owns numerous well established businesses in Indonesia. One of which is a renowned garments manufacturing business which I have been heavily involved in since a young age. Through my family businesses, I have been able to develop my own business experience and vision as I had the opportunity to deal with and create business relations with numerous big names internationally. Besides all this I am also an independent stocks trader, I believe in investments.

What are you currently working on?

I am working on developing DTAutomobile at the moment. I am personally striving to bring in more diesel engine cars into Indonesia. I want to try to change the minds of people who love cars. Especially in regards to diesel engines. I am trying to show, as against people’s expectations, that diesel engines have much better fuel consumption as well as being environmentally friendly. That is a major thing I am working on in my luxury car business.

​As my business network grew exponentially along these years, I’m also working on expanding the market for vehicular oil lubricants in Indonesia. I want to make it excessively viable and reachable to everyone in Indonesia. This relates to something that my family has been involved in as well. My father has a similar business specializing in vehicular oil lubricants based in Jakarta. Now, I am striving to reach each markets in Java and everywhere else.

Aside from cars, I have a love for properties. I believe investing in properties is the best option for business and personal growth. Especially, if you have got spare cash rather than buying luxury goods and materialistic things to boost personal egos. Having another property file in your drawer makes you grow day by day. So I started investing in property personally within Indonesia. With property as well it grows. All you just see is people offering you to buy at a higher price, never at a lower.

Where did your initial idea for DTAutomobile come from?

My idea was based on my own passion for cars since I was a little boy. Having a father who loves cars is a blessing too. So when I started my venture in importing cars, my father had fully supported me in realizing it even without thinking twice. Having my ideas ripe and perfect, we kicked off with personal orders from people around Jakarta. Initially the orders were received from mostly friends and family. There were even personal investment to try out demand.

​I think the uniqueness of a private luxury car importer is getting the best of best cars. It is all about being bespoke. Doing what you want with these cars. It’s all about options, from upholstery leather colours, everything can be bespoken. This has never been done before. So I wanted to get in on it but not only that, offering these things at a price way, way cheaper then market values.

So what is the revenue model for DTAutomobile?

At DTAutomobiles, we make money but not as much as local competitors and dealers. The only reason being my objective to get more people to trust our brand and creating a very high turnover for our brand. We make money from each car base on how much difference am we are willing to give to each client and whether there should be a high charge of fee for our importing services. Importantly, that fee is nothing compared to the discounts we give customers. They could even buy another car with the amount of discount we give them.
How do you realize your business ideas?

​I do take time to understand and get focused. I do meet a lot of people and I love networking. Having someone to talk about your ideas too is the most essential thing as you can understand different perspectives and their ideas. It is always best to reassure what you have with another workaholic. I have realised a lot of my ideas. And all I do is work, work and work. I sometimes take the time to think and research based on the smallest thing that may be able to help me accomplish my business ideas.

What does a typical week in your work life look like?

My typical day is to wake up in the morning , spare some time for coffee and breakfast, as those are the two most essential things when you wake up. Giving sometime to God is my essential guide to a perfect day. Then I head to my office and clear out my morning work and have a meeting with my accountant on the company’s books and accounts , making sure everything gives out a tally.

On a busy day, I don’t even have the time to go to the office. I will be out for meetings the whole day and giving time to satisfy customers by attending to each one of them and their needs. These meetings are normally far away from my office so I take on the traffic jam of Jakarta and move around replying emails from all over with UK and The States as I work with them.

After work hours, I give myself time to go to the gym and spa. During tiring days, I just swim at home. I think it is essential to exercise and rejuvenate ourselves everday and take an hour from work , so for me exercising is part of my schedule.

After that I head home and spend time with my family and have dinner together if not I go and tend to meet my friends for an hour. I have to be back home before 11pm as during that time as American markets and offices open so I work until about 2-3am everyday. Often I attend to my conference calls and emails with abroad , and there goes my daily life.

During the weekends, I tend to go dinners and sometimes clubbing as well as to new fantastic places in Jakarta. I like to treat myself with a nice glass of wine or liquor, while socialising and catching up with my friends.

On Sunday, I go to church with my family as Sundays are very much likely to be dedicated and spending time with God as well as family.
Would you have approached certain things differently in regards to DTAutomobile?

“In life there are no regrets , just lessons.” I truly believe in this statement. In all honesty, I may have done certain things differently in regards to spending my time in London and making sure I had more time concentrating on my luxury car business and meeting more and more suppliers and also from all other parts of Europe. However, there was also a difficulty. I was juggling between business school and my meetings, I think it was a pretty good outcome that I was able to kick off DTAutomobile at the end of it all. So really I have no regrets.

Despite this I have I’ve learnt many lessons in the past few years from my business, my travels and studies. I grew and understood that I should be completely focused on one business rather then juggling around several because I have been involved in several.

What is one advice you would give to other entrepreneurs out there?

The advice I would give to entrepreneurs out there is to learn and understand the concept and characteristics of managing a business.

I would also like to advise them that Faith and determination is the key to achieving wonders. As I believe Faith moves mountains. This gives the upper hand of focus and positive thinking. That will definitely enable a successful outcome to entrepreneurs out there.

Something overlooked often is the power of note keeping. I think carrying a notebook is also essential for entrepreneurs as ideas come anytime, anywhere. Having it jotted down is a key to not forgetting as what they have just written might be their big one tomorrow.

What is the greatest challenged you’ve faced so far with your business?

The greatest challenge we faced so far in DTAutomobile is finding new suppliers in London. London is an interesting place, as initially I was completely new to the place and didn’t know how the tax system worked so that was the greatest challenge I had to overcome initially. This is because for my company cutting cost is our main priority and the tax in the UK is about 17%. This gives us a huge challenge as we had to take back the tax and make sure that is brought down to making the overall cost for the car cheaper.

What is a business idea you are willing to share with our readers?

I personally don’t have few businesses in mind that I don’t mind sharing. I do have an idea about making an annual conference for understanding how each entrepreneurs thinks. I think this idea will be the most effective idea to pursue for the purposes of now.

What are some of the online resources you utilize daily?

Probably these websites:
Bloomberg (www.bloomberg.com)
WallStreet Journal (www.wsj.com)
Autotrader (www.autotrader.com)
Coursera.org (www.coursera.org)
What is one important book you would recommend to our readers?

The Holy Bible, possibly the most important book you can read. Furthermore, Topgear and GQ.​

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Website: http://www.dtautomobile.com/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/taran.topandasani?fref=ts
Email: [email protected]

Callum Connects

Benedict Heng, Founder of Mr. Farmer

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Benedict Heng is bringing back the ‘kampong’ days of having the Ho Liao (good ingredients) for Ho Jiak (good tasting) food.

What’s your story?
I’m Ben from Mr. Farmer. Mr. Farmer is an online grocer dedicated to supplying the freshest produce to our customers. We believe in sustainable and ethical farming. Since a young age, I have always been an avid food lover (especially meats), developing a strong interest in all things delicious. That is why I ventured into the F&B industry, working as a junior cook for 3 years.

Midway through my career, I made a move to the finance industry to pursue monetary rewards. I dove into high-risk investments and I made lots of money from these investments. However, the good fortune did not last long and all these came crashing down when I suffered a tremendous loss. This coincided with the time that I had just started my own family and it was a huge blow to me both materially and mentally. It was this crash that made me realize that this life wasn’t for me. I went on a hiatus and eventually, it was only through the strong support from my family that I managed to tide over this tough episode.

I went back to help the family business and this was how Mr Farmer came about. My family has been in the food industry for many decades and one thing they noticed from years of experience is that sustainable farming practices are not as developed as in Europe. This is why through Mr Farmer, we hope that we can provide the best quality products to families out there who want the best ingredients for their loved ones.

What excites you most about your industry?
Delicious and wholesome food excites me. I believe food is a critical component of life and it brings people together. The opportunity to serve the community with fresh produce for a healthy life, that brings me joy.

I feel that there is still so much more we can do to improve the quality of food and bring it to the masses. One of the key components of ensuring greater quality of food is to support ethical and sustainable farming. Due to commercialization and urbanization, most farming practices these days are no longer the way they were in the old “kampong” times. Shortcuts are taken, standards are compromised, all in the name of profit. At Mr. Farmer, profit is important too but we want to focus on the concept of One Welfare – sustainable farming directly impacts our health. Our vision is to bring back the ‘kampong’ days of having the Ho Liao (good ingredients) for Ho Jiak (good tasting) food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore. I call Singapore my home as it’s where my family and close friends are. I also travel frequently to Malaysia and APAC for work.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
It’s definitely Singapore. There is just so much this tiny city can offer! Singapore has been globally recognized for its top-notch business environment providing its residents with developed infrastructure, political stability and excellent connectivity. These factors have given us an outstanding support system for businesses to strive.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Surround yourself with people that inspire you, challenge you to rise higher, make you better and, keep them in your life.

Who inspires you?
I draw inspiration from my uncle, who is the head of both the family and business. He takes care of our family matters at home and manages hundreds of employees at work. Handling both the family and business side of things can be tricky, but he has shown me that success can be sustainable and done with a conscience. His guiding philosophy of handling business and family is simply, to have a big heart.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Even just one day of separation from the day the meat is slaughtered, makes a world of difference to its flavour.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I have come to learn that awareness is the beginning of everything. If I had my time again, I would have probably spent more time figuring out who I truly am and with that self-awareness, begun to lead my life with more purpose and meaning.

How do you unwind?
I like to spend my free time sipping white coffee at my favourite coffee place. I enjoy taking in the surrounding sights and letting my mind wander freely. It allows me to unwind and gain clarity at the same time. It also helps me organize my thoughts to prepare for the week ahead.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
It would be Bangkok as the people there are genuinely friendly and hospitable. They say people are what defines the city and I couldn’t agree more with this. I also enjoy the ‘laid back’ vibe of Bangkok. Not to mention Bangkok has all the good food and awesome shopping choices too!

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Spin selling” by Neil Reckham. It’s an amazing book that teaches you a process designed to help you successfully sell your products and services to business buyers.

Shameless plug for your business:
We at Mr. Farmer have the best tasting meats in Singapore, do a blind test and you will know why it’s Michelin chefs’ preferred choice. Not only are we very confident about the taste, we are also proud to say that all our products are chemical, hormone and antibiotic free. We also focus a lot on supporting ethical and sustainable farming practices believing in the ‘One Welfare’ concept. Do check us out if you enjoy good quality food like us!

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

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

Zac Chua, Founder & CEO of The Kettle Gourmet

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Zac Chua’s popcorn business validated itself straight away and fast tracked him to the startup world. Zac now employs 11 people and shifts 500 bags of popcorn daily.

What’s your story?
It’s a crazy one. It was an accidental startup. If you think about it, no university graduate would ever dream of becoming a popcorn seller. We crashed our first tech event to validate our idea and it took off from there. I bought a logo for $7 from a designers marketplace, printed some cheap name cards, and built a 1 page landing page. Sales started pouring in and eventually, we were serving B2B clients (corporate pantries) and we have never looked back. Today we move about 500 bags daily, we have 11 employees and we are growing. Talk about a validation that worked in our favour.

What excites you most about your industry?
It’s food! Everybody loves food! In Singapore the F&B scene is brutally competitive and it spurs me on to fight and compete for market share and to prove to myself that I can do it. It keeps me going and I won’t stop until we become the market leader.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Singapore, and have traveled to most of Southeast Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore! Even though Singapore has a high cost of living, the Government is actually very supportive of startups. They provide grants for us to tap into, and the technological infrastructure makes it possible for us to compete on a global scale. I believe if you can succeed in your business in Singapore, you can succeed in most of Southeast Asia.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
You only need to be right once, and the rest is history.

Who inspires you?
My father, who was a VC. In fact he was the one who gave me the best piece of advice which I shared above. Having one successful exit, he showed me that it’s okay to fail a million times – all it takes is just one time for you to win in business and in life.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The power of compounding.

  • Mary and John are the same age.
  • Mary saves $2k annually from the age of 19-25 – so she puts $14k into her portfolio
  • John saves $2k annually from the age of 26-65 – so he puts $80k into his portfolio, but 7 years after Mary.
  • If both are able to generate 10% per annum, who would have more at age 65?
  • John of course! But how much more?
  • Mary will have $944,641 whilst John will have $973,704
  • Think about it! Mary puts in only $14k but John delays for 7 years and puts in $80k.

CRAZY RIGHT!?!?

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing, my mistakes taught me how to become a better me. But if I really must choose, I’d say take more time to find the right business partner.

How do you unwind?
Poker, Mahjong and Dota 2.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Vietnam! Things are cheap, people are warm and friendly, and their coffee fills up my life. I would love to retire there if possible.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The richest man in Babylon

Shameless plug for your business:
We don’t need a plug. Just try our competitors and you’ll understand why!

How can people connect with you?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chuazongyou
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zacchua

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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