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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

Women on Top in Tech – Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and Digital Innovation Strategist

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

I am talking to Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and freelance Digital Innovation Strategist. Tara was selected and recognized by TheNextWeb.com as one of the 500 most talented young people in the Dutch digital scene during the 2017 TNW edition. Tara is known for her creative, entrepreneurial spirit, which she is using to her advantage in leading the change in SMEs and corporates around the globe.

What makes you do what you do?

I tend to see life as a big, complex puzzle. Because of my curious nature, I am in constant development, looking for new angles and new approaches to business problems. Innovation through technology is exploring ideas and pushing boundaries. The most radical technological advances have not come from linear improvements within one area of expertise. Instead, they arise from the combination of seemingly disparate inventions. This is, in fact, the core of innovation. I love going beyond conventional thinking practices. Mashing up different thoughts and components, connecting the dots, and transforming that into something useful to businesses.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

I consistently chose to follow my curiosity, which has led me to where I am today. If you want to succeed in the digital industry, you need to have a growth mindset. Seen the fact that the industry is evolving in an astoundingly quick rate, it’s crucial to stay current with the trends and forces in order to spot business opportunities. I believe taking responsibility for your own learning and development is key to success.

Why did you take on the role of Digital Innovation Strategist?

The reason for this is twofold. On the one hand, I got frustrated with businesses operating in the exact same way they did a couple of decades ago. Right now we are in the midst of a technology revolution, and the latest possibilities and limitations of cutting-edge technologies are evolving every single day. This means that companies need to stay current and act lean if they want to survive. On a more personal level, I noticed that I felt the need to use my creativity and problem-solving skills to their maximum capacity. In transforming businesses at scale, I change the rules of the game. I love breaking out of traditional, old-fashioned patterns by nurturing innovative ideas. This involves design thinking, extensive collaboration and feedback, the implementation of various strategies and tactics, validated learning, and so on. I get a lot of energy from my work because it is aligned with my personal interests.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries?

Yes, I look up to Drew Boyd. He is a global leader in creativity and innovation. He taught me how to evaluate ideas in order to select the best ones to proceed with. This is crucial because otherwise,you run the risk of ideas creating the criteria for you because of various biases and unrelated factors. He also taught me a great deal on facilitation of creativity workshops.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I tend to have the characteristics of a transformational leader. People have told me that my enthusiasm and positive energy is motivating and even inspiring to them. Even though I take these comments as a huge compliment, I am not sure how I feel about referring to myself as a leader. To me, it still has a somewhat negative connotation. I guess I associate the concept with being a boss who’s throwing around commands. But if a leader means listening to others and igniting intrinsic motivation in people, then yes, I guess I’m a charismatic leader.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

Yes, one hundred percent. I believe that creativity and innovation flourish when a highly diverse group of people bounces ideas off each other. Diversity in terms of function, gender,and culture is extremely valuable, especially in the ideation phase of a project, as it can help to see more possibilities and come up with better ideas.

Do you have any advice for others?

Yes, I have some pieces of advice I’d like to share.
First of all: Develop self-awareness. You can do so by actively seeking feedback from the people around you. This will help you understand how others see you, align your intentions with your actions, and eventually enhance your communication- and leadership skills.

Surround yourself with knowledgeable and inspiring people. They might be able to support you in reaching your goals, and help you grow both personally and professionally.

Ask “why?” a couple of times. This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. Make sure to often remind yourself and your team of the outcome of this exercise to have a clear sense of direction and focus.

Data is your friend. Whether it’s extensive quantitative market research or a sufficient amount of in-depth consumer interviews (or both!), your data levels all arguments. However, always be aware of biases and limitations of research.

Say “Yes, and…” instead of “No”. Don’t be an idea killer. Forget about the feasibility and budget, at least in the ideation phase. Instead, encourage your team to generate ideas without restrictions. You can compromise certain aspects later.

Prioritization is key. There is just no way you can execute all your ideas, and, quite frankly, there is no point in trying to do so. Identify the high potential ideas and start executing those first.

Encourage rapid prototyping. Don’t wait too long to experiment, launch, and iterate your product or service. Fail fast and fail often. Adopt an Agile mindset.

If you’d like to get in touch with Tara Velis, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/taravelis/

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Callum Connects

Marek Danyluk, CEO of Space Ventures

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Marek Danyluk has a talent for assessing the competencies of management teams for other businesses and pulling together exceptional teams for his own businesses!

What’s your story?
I am the CEO of a venture capital business, Space Ventures, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses. I also own and run Space Executive, a recruitment business focused on senior to executive hires across sales, marketing, finance, legal and change.

My career started as a trainee underwriter in the Lloyds market but quickly moved into recruitment where I set-up my first business in 2002. The business grew to around 100 people. I moved to Asia in 2009 as a board member of a multinational recruitment business with the mandate to help them scale their Asian entities, which helped contribute to their sale this year, in 2017.

My main talent is assessing the competencies of management teams as well as building high performing recruitment boutiques and putting together exceptional management teams for my own businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
Building the business is very much about attracting the best talent and being able to build a culture which people find invigorating and unique. It’s an exciting proposition to be able to define a culture in that regard and salespeople are a fun bunch, so when you get it right it’s tremendous.

From a VC point of view there is just so much happening. South East Asia is a melting pot of innovation so the ideas and quality of people you have exposure to, is truly phenomenal. The exposure in the VC has taken me away from a career in recruitment. Doing something completely different has given me a new level of focus.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Whilst I came here with work, both my boys were born in Singapore and to them this very much is home. That said, my father in law spent many years in the East so coming and settling here was met with a good degree of support and familiarity.


Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Possibly Hong Kong. It’s the closest I’ve been to working in London. Whilst there are massive Asian influences people will work with you on the basis you are good at what you do and work hard. I find that approach very honest and straightforward.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Always treat people well on the way up!”

Who inspires you?
I like reading about people who have excelled in business such as Jack Ma, James Kahn, Phil Knight, Sir Richard Branson, Elon Musk, all have great stories to tell and they are all inspirational. No-one has inspired me more than my parents and they are well aware as to why…

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Pretty much any technology innovation blows me away.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Whilst it is important not to have regrets I do continually wake up thinking I’m still doing my A’ Levels. So, I’d have probably tried a little harder in 6th form.

How do you unwind?
I like the odd glass of red wine and watching sport

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Japan skiing. I love skiing and Japanese food and it’s a time when I can really enjoy time with the wife and kids. I recently tried the Margaret River which was divine, although not technically Asia.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Barbarians at the Gate

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive is the fastest growing recruitment business in Singapore focused on the mid to senior market across legal, compliance, finance, sales and marketing and change and transformation. Multi-award winning with exceptional growth plans into Hong Kong and London this year, and the US, Japan and Europe by the end of 2022. We are building a truly global brand.

Space Ventures is interested in any businesses that require capital or management and financial guidance or any or all of the above. We have, to date, invested in on-line training, food and beverages, peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring as well as other tech and fintech start-ups. We are always interested in hearing about potential deals.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

Twitter handle?
@Spaceexecutive

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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