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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, ūüėČ


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

Is There A Coworking Space Bubble?

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An annual growth rate of nearly 100%, almost five years in a row? More than 60 coworking spaces in a city like Berlin? Are these the characteristics of a bubble? Nope, these are characteristics of a lasting change in our world of work, which has been further catalyzed by the recent economic crises in many countries. But what makes this change different to a bubble? We’ve summarized some arguments of why the coworking movement is based on a sustainable change. However, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy job to open a good working coworking space.

Five reasons why the growth of coworking spaces is based on organic and sustainable growth: 

1. Coworking spaces invest their own money and create real wealth

Already, there is a convincing argument supporting why coworking spaces are not developing in a bubble: the fact that they create real wealth.

Whether referring to the dotcom bubble a decade ago or the real estate crisis in Spain or the United States, the crisis originated in a glut of cheap money, in an environment in which the sender and the recipient were unacquainted. From funds and banks, money flowed in steady streams to investments which offered little resistance and the most promising returns – which only a little while later turned into delusions and ruined investments.

Redistributed risks create illusions. Those people who distributed the money rarely wore the risk of investment decisions. The risk was mainly taken by small shareholders or people who bought parts of those investments. This was because either both parties’ (better) judgement was drowned out by the noise of the market, or because shareholders were unaware of the risk, and were at the mercy of banks and funds for reliable information.

Another fundamental condition for the creation of bubbles are the sheer amounts of money that flow from various locations globally and are concentrated, by comparison, in much fewer places.

Most coworking spaces, however, receive their funding from local or nearby sources and do not operate within this financial system. In fact, the founders mainly inject the bulk of the required investment, and turn to friends or relatives for additional support. They wear the full brunt of the risks that are involved in small-time investment.

They have access to much more information, because it is their own project, rather than a foreign one thousands of miles away. This also includes failures and mistakes that are encountered along the way, but the risk is less redistributed, thereby decreasing the probability of failures.

2. Labor market changes demand on certain office types lastingly

Most users of coworking spaces are self-employed. The proportion of employees is also on the rise, in many cases simply because they work for small companies that increasingly opt to conduct their business in coworking spaces rather than in traditional offices. The industry of almost all coworkers fall within the Internet-based creative industries.

With flexibilisation of work markets, new mobile technologies that are changing work patterns, and the increase of external services purchasing from large and medium-sized enterprises (outsourcing), the labor market has changed radically in many parts of the world.

The long-term financial and emotional security of becoming an employee no longer exists, especially for younger generations of workers. Bigger companies are quicker to fire than hire, and precarious short-term contracts are on the rise. Promising options on the labor market are more often recuded to freelancer careers and starting your own company.

And that’s possible with less money to invest. All you need is a laptop, a brain and a good network. For years, the number of independent workers and small businesses has been growing worldwide – particularly in internet-based creative industries. Anyone who has sufficient specialized skills and the willingness to take risks may adapt more quickly to market conditions if they own a small business or are self employed; more so than if they were to work in a dependent position in an equally volatile market.

Coworking spaces provide an environment in which to do this. Once they have joined a (suitable) coworking space, these factors become apparent to coworkers, who will remain in their space for years to come.

Furthermore, independent workers rarely fire themselves in crises, and even small companies are less likely to give their employees the boot Рcompared to their large counterparts. This combination enables more sustainable business models Рand less business models à la Groupon.

3. Coworking spaces don’t live on crises

Global economic growth is waning while the number of coworking spaces is continually growing. Do coworking spaces thus benefit from this crisis?

The current crises accelerate the formation and growth of coworking spaces, because they offer solutions and space for the resulting problems. Coworking spaces are therefore not a result of a crisis, but the product of change that pre-dates their existence. A crisis is simply the most visible expression of change.

The first coworking spaces emerged in the late 1990s; the movement’s strong growth started six years ago – before the onset of economic downturns in many countries.

4. Coworking spaces depend on the needs of their members

Most coworking spaces are rarely full. Does this mean they are unsuccessful? On average, only half of all desks are occupied. But the average occupancy rate of 50% refers only to a specific date.

In fact, coworking spaces generally serve more members than they can seat at any given time, since members do not use the spaces simultaneously. Coworking spaces are places for independents who want to work on flexible terms. Smaller spaces rely more on permanent members. Larger spaces can respond more flexibilty to the working hours of its members, and, can rent desks several times over.

If a coworking space is always overcrowded or totally empty, the purpose of said space would be defeated. Firstly, it is rather impossible to work in an overcrowded room. Second, it’s impossible to cowork in an empty room. Given the nature of flexible memberships, a¬†coworking space only can survive if they fit the needs of their members. Members would otherwise be quick to leave, and membership would be much more transient.

5. The coworking market is far from saturation

Less than 2% of all self-employed – and even fewer employees – currently work in coworking spaces. Reporting on coworking may increase, but inflated reporting on the coworking movement in the mainstream media is still far away.

Coverage of coworking space are most likely to be found in the career or local¬†sections in larger publications – front cover coverage remains the dream of many space operators. This is because the whole coworking movement¬†can’t be photographed in one picture.¬†What appears to be a disadvantage, however, is actually a beneficial truth: niche coverage allows the industry to grow organically, and avoid over inflation.

Conclusion

Coworking spaces don’t operate in parallel universes – like the financial market. Demand and supply are almost exclusively organic and operate in the real world economy.

For the same reason, there is no guarantee that opening a coworking spaces will be automaticly successful. Anyone who fails to learn how to deal with potential customers in their market, or is unfamiliar with how coworking communities function, will have a difficult time of making one work. In the same way that business people in other industries will fail if they do not understand their market.

Those who simply tack on the word ‘coworking’ to their space’s facade will need to work harder.¬†The structure of most coworking spaces is based on real work, calculated risk, and real-world supply and demand.

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About the Author

This article was produced by Deskmag. Deskmag is the magazine about the new type of work and their places, how they look, how they function, how they could be improved and how we work in them. They especially focus on coworking spaces which are home to the new breed of independent workers and small companies. see more.

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Callum Connects

Dextre Teh, Founder of Rebirth Academy

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Dextre Teh is a consultant and marketing guru, helping F&B businesses to tighten their operations and grow their businesses.

What’s your story?
I help frustrated F&B business owners stuck in day to day operation transform from a glorified operator into a real business owner. I’m a 27 year old Singaporean second generation restaurant owner and a F&B business consultant. Entering the industry at 13 years old, I have always been obsessed with operations and systemisation. At the age of 25, I joined the insurance industry and earned a six figure yearly income. However, I left the high pay behind because it was not my passion and returned to the F&B industry. Now I help other F&B companies to tighten operations and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services.

What excites you most about your industry?
The food. I’m a big lover of food and even have a YouTube show on food in development. But that aside, it is really about impacting people through food. Creating moments and memories for people, be it a dating couple or families or friends. Providing that refuge from the daily grind of life. So in educating my consulting clients and training their staff to provide a better experience for their customers, I aim to shift the industry in the direction of creating memories instead of just selling food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and bred in Singapore. I love the culture, the food and travelling in Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore hands down. The environment here is built for businesses to thrive. The government is pro business and the infrastructure is built around supporting business growth. Not to mention the numerous amount of grants available in helping people start and even grow business. If I’m not mistaken, the Singaporean government is the only government in the world that offers grants to home grown businesses for overseas expansion.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Learning to do things you do not intend to master is a BIG mistake in business. Focus on what you are good at and pay others to do the rest.

Many business owners including myself are so overwhelmed by the 10,000 things that they feel they need to do everyday. We try to do everything ourselves because we think it saves us money. The only thing that, that does for us is overload our schedules and give us mediocre results. Instead we should focus on what we do best and bring in support for the rest.

Who inspires you?
Christopher M Duncan.

At 29, Chris has built multiple 7 figure businesses. He opened me to the possibility of building a business on the thing that I loved and gave me a blueprint of how to do it. He also showed me that being young doesn’t mean you cannot do great things.

Imran Mohammad and Fazil Musa
They are my mentors and inspire me every single day to pursue my dreams, to focus on celebrating life and enjoying the process of getting to where I want to be.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Time is always more expensive than money. Money, you can earn over and over again but time, once you spend it, will never come back.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I am a firm believer that your experiences shape who you are. I am grateful for every single moment of my life be it the highs or the lows, the successes and the failures because all these experiences have led me to become the person I am and brought me to the place that I’m at so I will probably do things the same way as everything was perfect in its time.

How do you unwind?
Chilling out in a live music bar with a drink in hand, listening to my favourite live band, 53A. Other than that I’m big on retail therapy, buying cool and geeky stuff.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bangkok. It feels like a home away from home where the cost of living is relatively low, the food is good and the people are friendly.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Everything you know about business is wrong by Alastair Dryburgh. It is a book that challenges commonly accepted business ‚Äútruths‚ÄĚ and inspires you to go against the grain, think different, take risks and stand your ground in the face of the challenges that will come your way as a business owner.

Shameless plug for your business:
I’m the creator of the world’s first Chilli Crab Challenge. It gained viral celebrity earlier this year with 3 major newspaper features and more than a dozen blog and online publications featuring it in the span of two weeks. In the span of the two weeks, the campaign reached well over a million people in exposure without a single cent spent in ads.

Now I help F&B companies to tighten operations, increase profits and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services. Chilli Crab Challenge (https://www.chillicrab.com/nationalday)

How can people connect with you?
You can connect with me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/djtehkh) or visit www.rebirthacademy.sg for more information or book a 10 minute call with me @ www.tinyurl.com/dexclar

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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