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Entrepreneurship

Vijith Quadros, Founder of Chai Shop

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Well, generally these 3 verbs sum my professional life up apart from the Mechanical Engineering that I study, which is Musician, Writer and Marketeer. But fortunately so, I’ve been given the opportunity to do a lot more than just them. I’ve been teaching college goers about how to handle entrepreneurship and how to go about your idea to make it a potential business, writing business plans, etc. I’m a very passionate writer as well. I’m the person who likes to do many things at one time, just to see how good I am with all of them. I’ve been involved with various kinds of project right from fashion to technology and this entire process has taught me a lot. Learning is, by far, one of the most addictive things for me. I love to learn new things and how different things and people work. This makes me to meet more people on a daily basis and interact with them personally and sometimes in masses as well. I think this bio is short enough, 😉


In your own words, what is Chai Shop?

I would call Chai Shop, a talent paradise wherein you would find people from a different fields doing what they do best. It’s a virtual address book for talent and interesting people with their stories.

 

How did you come up with the idea of Chai Shop?

Chai Shop, quite literally started off in a small tea shop close to my house, where every evening me and my friend would go grab a cup of lime tea just to push through the rough days. We would talk about a lot of things and also a lot of people. I used that ”talking to a lot of people” quite literally into a way to market the people we spoke about on a daily basis into The Chai Shop.

 

Could you walk us through the process of starting up Chai Shop?

Starting Chai Shop was pretty simple. I asked my friend Nitin R Gupta to design a logo for me. I wrote my first set of articles about the talent friends I had. Over 5 articles I discovered that I needed a website and I approached another friend who said he would get it done for me for a very low price and once the website was up and 20 people were written about, people from across the country started writing down to be featured and it’s been of that sorts since a year now.

 

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

Chai Shop is all about interesting people and their stories. Over a period of time, talking to people does get boring and monotonous, yes. So there have been many breaks wherein we’ve just stopped writing about people for a couple of months and then have begun again. It’s never been easy but hey if it’s easy it wouldn’t be awesome, so I overcome things with that spirit.

 

How have you been developing Chai Shop since startup ?

We have just focused on getting the best of the talent and content out there in terms of direction. We’ve let the people decide what Chai Shop is for each of them. It still doesn’t have a solid definition because it means different things to different people. We try to give them an experience and sometimes experiences can only be felt.

 

What kind of feedback did you get for Chai Shop so far?

There has been tremendous feedback for Chai Shop till date. We’ve got some people from very top positions from across the globe appreciate the work we are doing. Chai Shop has rapidly moved into different cities with people working for Chai Shop across 5 cities and scouting for talent and people across all these cities.

What is your strategy against your competition?

We didn’t have any competition in this field. This field was and relatively still in an empty field because finding talent is a laborious task in itself and luckily for us, till now nobody has offered to take up this field in India at least.

 

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

The industry as such is changing everyday. It’s a fast moving industry which has a new definition to it. Technology and people are changing so rapidly that if one wouldn’t cope up, it would be hard to come back and strike unless with extra ordinary effort it is made. There is one insight I would like to share and that would be that, it’s really good to have a very good knowledge about your field of work but if one wouldn’t have knowledge about what’s happening elsewhere, survival in this industry, especially for bootstrappers would be extremely difficult.

 

How do you plan to stay relevant in this industry?

Innovation and creativity till date have always been my strong point till date. Teaming that up with a sense a business and numbers would give me the edge to stay relevant in this industry.

 

What is the future of the industry in your opinion?

Honestly, the future is for the people who make it work and happen. It would eventually explode into something else. The cycle always repeats and thus the future of this industry is massive and explosive.

Were there anything that disappointed you initially?

The lack of support from friends and peers was something which initially was disappointing to me, but over time you learn how to handle and manage people. I learnt the hard way, but learnt well.

 

What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia?

Being an entrepreneur in Asia is a fantastic experience in itself. It is definitely hard because you constantly have to adapt to a lot of changes happening around you on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s difficult to cope up because you are constantly lost in the world where your making your dream come true and making your start up work.

 

What is your opinion on Asian entrepreneurship vs Western entrepreneurship?

Personally, the exposure and opportunities western entrepreneurs get is something which most Asian entrepreneurs envy. It may be this way for various reasons. With this being said both Asian and Western entrepreneurship has it’s way of functioning which works best in that geographic location which can’t really be compared as the mind set of people vary geographically.

 

What is your definition of success?

My definition of success would be if I successfully create a significant impact in the world in the things that I do, such that it help the world to become a much more loving and peaceful place for everyone to live in, where encouragement for the new is looked upon as something which is vital and not harmful.

 

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

I didn’t decide to become an entrepreneur, at least not consciously. It happened to me a couple of years ago, and I haven’t looked back since they day it happened to me.

 

What do you think are the most important things entrepreneurs should keep in mind?

Entrepreneurs are people who have a lot on their mind so making time to segregate those thoughts and the process them effectively, is something I feel every entrepreneur should do. Keeping in mind that to do the above, they have to keep a sound physical health. 

 

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

A Calm Mind, a healthy body,the ability to think out of the box, the ability to listen to your customers and eating with you staff are a few things in my opinion are the keys to entrepreneurial success.

Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there?

I’d like to quote something which I staunchly follow. These are the words by M.K Gandhi.
“Be the change, you want to see in the world”
 
 

Entrepreneurship

Science is the Next Big Thing in Startups

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From pharmaceuticals to petrochemical processes: Newcomer companies and investors and investors alike are setting their sights on science. How the start-up scene moves beyond the mobile apps bubble…

For the last two years Silicon Valley analysts and venture capitalists are anticipating the burst of yet another bubble. This time, under the risk are the mobile start-ups which constitute the biggest share of the market. Out of 50 companies listed in Forbes’ “the hottest startup of 2015” (by valuation) only six companies are based on innovations in other-than-mobile area, one company provide cleaning services, while the rest are diverse mobile apps.

Meanwhile many products listed can be barely called innovative. A significant proportion of the listed start-ups are texting apps, apps for people search (starting from business partners to life partners) or delivery services. While those services can definitely facilitate one’s life, in general they differ from their predecessors by only a narrower audience.

Many venture investors expect stagnation if not decrease on the markets, which is why they start to transfer their capitals from start-ups offering customers software to start-ups offering specific solutions for existing businesses. Such companies are expected to demonstrate more stability in the near future.

The Market for Mobile Apps Might be Saturated

Back in 2012 a talented entrepreneur could walk into a venture capitalist’s office, say his startup was a mobile-first solution for pretty much any problem (payments! photos! blogging!), and walk out with a good-size seed investment. “That pitch was enough to get going,” says Roelof Botha, a partner with VC firm Sequoia Capital. “It’s not enough anymore.”

“I think investors are bored with investing in another messaging app. And our idea is crazy enough that it might just work. ”, has declared in 2014 Nadir Bagaveyev a founder of a start-up using 3-D printers to make rocket engines. By 2016 the company attracted investors funding sufficient to launch its first rocket.

Pharma and Biotech Start-Ups in High Demand

Currently the most successful science-based start-ups are the companies offering innovative solutions in the field of pharmaceuticals and biotechnologies. It’s noteworthy that despite the previous revelations and even judicial proceedings the list of the most expensive start-ups still includes Theranos, blood analyzing laboratory, whose story did not descend from the main pages of the global leading media from 2014.

It first amazed the audience with its fantastic take-off and then with its collapse. One of the crucial parts of the success story of this start-up is its fundamental difference from the majority of the services produced in the Silicon Valley. Unlike the others, it was not a story of yet another beautiful gadget for communication or mobile app, but the story of the scientific idea which intended to conquer the world.

The great success stories in other scientific areas are now happening on occasional basis. However certain facts allow to predict that the situation is to change soon. One of such factors is growing interest among the big corporations to attract innovative solutions from outside to develop their businesses.

Given the accelerating pace of scientific and technological development of the world, the activities of internal R & D departments are often turn to be insufficient to ensure stable development of innovative business. Outsourcing of the R&D may become the efficient mechanism to stimulate the growth of the company. And high-tech start-up can certainly benefit from it.

Start-Up Technology for the Petro-Business

In December, 2016 world leading companies in the field of gas processing, petrochemicals and chemicals announced their intentions to enforce their R&D capacities by attracting start-ups. 3M, AkzoNobel, BASF, The Dow Chemical Company, DuPont, Henkel, Honeywell UOP, LG Chem, Linde, Sibur, Solvay and Technip together created a global stage for startups and investors.

“The petrochemicals industry can and must rely on the potential of open innovations to facilitate further inventions and implementation of new solutions in all major application areas, from construction and medicine to packaging and 3D printing. Thanks to the participation of international partners, IQ-CHem is now the largest global project within the industry which attracts innovative solutions and provides for their implementation into practice,” said Vasily Nomokonov, Executive Director of Sibur, a company which coordinates the project.

Positive Experience in Chemicals and Beyond

Some of the listed companies have already gained positive experience in working with start-ups which may have driven them to elaborate a systemic approach to attract innovative companies.

At the beginning of 2016, SIBUR and RRT Global start-up reached an agreement to build a pilot plant for isomerization based on RRT Global technologies in Sibur’s Industrial Park SIBUR “Tolyattisintez”. According to Oleg Giyazov, co-founder and CEO of RRT Global cooperation with a large corporation bring significant advantages to his company.

“By cooperation with Sibur we get a huge industrial experience that enables us to develop technologies and solutions better fitted to the market demand. This advantage is often not given due attention, but we, on the contrary, see significant opportunities in it. Currently, RRT Global cooperates with several companies around the world” he said.

Another petrochemical leader BASF enjoys successful cooperation with Genomatica start-up. In 2013 BASF started the production of 1,4-butanediol based on renewable feedstock (renewable BDO) using Genomatica’s patented process and in 2015 the license was expanded to the Asian market.

Unlike traditional forms of cooperation between a start-up and a venture capitalist, a cooperation between start-up and a relevant corporation allows to minimize the risks associated with investing in a potentially promising idea where the key word is “potential” (but not “guaranteed”). While delivering services in the same field as the start-up the corporation gets an opportunity to more effectively and accurately estimate the market value of an innovative idea and to support its implementation.

Structural Changes Ahead: Outlines of A Coming Market

In the short term prospective, possibly in 2017, the global start-up market will face structural changes – both in terms of start-ups professional orientation and of funding mechanism. In the future science-based start-ups will dominate the market and will change our lives at a deeper level than the way of sending a text message or searching the restaurant for an evening meal. To be more concise this is already happening in the pharmaceutical industry, and the other scientific areas are to follow.

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About the Author

This article was written by Dominik Stephan of Process Worldwide. See more.

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Norman Tien, Founder of Neuromath and Early Math Matters

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From a young age, Norman Tien, found his passion helping students as a math tutor and went on to translate that into a successful business.

What’s your story?
From the age of 14, I knew I would be in business for myself and started designing my company logo.

Growing up in a poor family, I worked part time while I was in school. That’s when I started tutoring and realised I had a gift to help students “see” mathematics. I delivered good results, and my students started to love math as well.

A turning point was when I was down with dengue fever and I realised I had to grow my business to the next level. I started a learning centre and that was the beginning of Neuromath. The initial years were tough as costs went up while my personal income took a dive. I almost gave up, but I pushed through.

Today, we have 3 specialty math enrichment centres managed and delivered by my dedicated team of teachers.

What excites you most about your industry?
“How to win” has always influenced how I position myself in the industry. I researched the psychology of learning, why some students are so naturally good at math, while others struggled. I managed to find the connection, and have always sought out niches to position myself so I can win.

In the beginning, I fused academic delivery with psychology to differentiate my services. Now I have a good team of teachers fully equipped with a psychological skillset.

In the next evolution of our business, we will incorporate technology into education in order to customise each student’s learning experience based on his or her needs.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and educated in Singapore. One key driver why I started a business was, as a youth, I witnessed how my dad struggled daily as a taxi driver trying to make ends meet.

That said, I am very blessed to be in Singapore and to be given the right education. I see this as a very important factor to my success today.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore – well, for one, most of my businesses are here. Singapore is convenient for business and is very well governed. There are rules and systems that make the entire entrepreneurial journey more secure here. One big plus is the location: Singapore is a hub that allows us to connect to the world.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
船到桥头自然直 –
There is a Chinese saying that when a boat goes near the pier, it will automatically align itself (with the current). It means we don’t have to worry too much, that things will take care of themselves.

A mentor once challenged me: “But who can guarantee you can even reach the pier?”

It is such a highly competitive world we are in, who can guarantee success? This is the ONE question that has been etched in my mind for decades. The Chinese saying always comes to mind when I am positioning, designing and strategizing for my business.

Who inspires you?
Mr. Lee Kuan Yew – The fact that he started ruling the country just like a startup. With limited resources, he was able to find a strong positioning to differentiate his country from the rest of the of Asia. With hardwork and proper planning, he transformed Singapore from a fishing village to a prominent financial hub in Asia.

Because Mr. Lee Kuan Yew positioned Singapore so well, government owned companies, such as Singapore Airlines, have emerged as the best in the world.

His story inspires me, spurs me to understand that success is not by chance but by design – every little step, all the strategies are all planned out. Not at all by chance.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
My business coach, Marshall Thurber, shared with me the power of the “Trim Tab” – a small part of the rudder system in a ship. This Trim Tab, despite its small size, is able to influence the entire ship’s direction by turning it.

This metaphor helped me see that a man can influence the entire world if the right effort is applied. We are now living in an entirely new world, the way we commute with an app on the phone – that’s the power of the Trim Tab at work.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would embark on the same journey but I would seek a mentor at a very early age.

I have been through many hard knocks along the way, and I definitely could have shortened the learning curve if I had a mentor to advise me on the many aspects of entrepreneurship.

How do you unwind?
Driving down long highways helps me unwind, that’s when I let my mind relax and wander.

I love long distance driving and riding. My wife gave me a Harley Davidson Tourer for my 50th birthday and we intend to embark on riding holidays together in Asia.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Hong Kong – I love the fast pace and the vibrance of the city. I love the cars there and it’s a very unique and exciting experience for me. And of course, I love the food there too!

Everyone in business should read this book:
One Minute Millionaire – this book highlights the mindset of an individual that is the key determinant for success in whatever we embark on. As long as we know we have a very strong reason why we need to do it, we can do it!

Shameless plug for your business:
I am the CEO and Founder of 2 Math enrichment brands:
Neuromath is a Specialist Math Learning Centre that helps students from Primary 1 to Junior College, empowering them with strategies, skills and a strong desire to learn and problem solve. We use technology to train students to avoid careless mistakes reclaiming 30 marks or more in Math exams and achieve their full potential in math.
www.neuromath.com.sg

Early Math Matters is a premier Mathematics and Cognitive Development enrichment centre for preschool children aged 3-6 years old. Through purposeful play and our renowned EMM approach, we help learners build a strong foundation for problem solving at an early age, and instil in them a passion & love for math that will stay with them for life.
www.earlymathmatters.com

We are actively seeking passionate teachers, entrepreneurs and investors who are keen to grow the education business with us.

How can people connect with you?
I speak regularly at workshops for schools, parents and platforms demonstrating the use of technology for peak performance in education.

Do contact me at
www.NormanTien.com

Alternatively, you can connect with me:
www.NormanTien.com/facebook
www.NormanTien.com/linkedin

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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