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Vijith Quadros, Founder of Chai Shop



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”


Women on Top in Tech – Dawn Dickson, Founder and CEO of PopCom, Inc. and Founder of Flat Out of Heels



(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.)

Dawn Dickson is the Founder and CEO of PopCom, Inc. (formerly Solutions Vending, Inc.), the company behind PopCom Kiosks and the PopCom API, which provides a software solution to make vending machines more intelligent. She created the company after her own struggles to find vending machines that could sell her roll-up flat products, Flat Out of Heels, at high-traffic areas like airports.  She was awarded First place in the PowerMoves NOLA Big Break pitch Competition and second place in the 2016 SBA Innovate Her Challenge.

What makes you do what you do? 
I love solving big problems and working with amazing people to get it done.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
After working in the vending industry for three years selling Flat Out of Heels in vending machines in airports and nightclubs, I was frustrated with the lack of data I was able to collect from my hardware. I also wanted more engaging and interactive experiences for my customers and after speaking with several retailers they felt the same way. That is when I decided to focus on PopCom and developing a software solution to solve the data problem in self-service retail.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)? 
The fact that I am not the usual, leadership demographic is the main reason why I was up for the challenge. The industry is in need of a change and I believe someone with a unique and different perspective and experience is needed. I look forward to collaborating with the industry leaders and veterans to build a product that everyone loves and finds value in.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work? How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him/her?
I am involved in several different industries and sectors – retail, self-service retail, hardware, software…so I have to learn a lot of information quickly.  There are several people that I look up to, follow their career, and seek advice from. I was fortunate to be able to participate in some of the country’s top accelerator and entrepreneurship development programs, including Techstars, Canopy Boulder, and the BIxel Exchange – the mentorship and network I gained from these programs has been invaluable and very instrumental in our progress.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent? 
I have learned that spotting talent takes time, it takes patience, and building relationships with people and networks to meet new people, most of my connections come from introductions. I focus on finding the right fit for the company culture, there is a lot of great talent out there, but the culture is different, I want us to be on the same wavelength. I am fortunate to have met some great people through the programs I was in that came on as mentors, advisors, and eventually full time team members. I take time to get to know my team individually and understand what their personal goals and ambitions are, ask them what their dream job looks like, understand their needs so they can be happy at work and be fulfilled. I believe in self-care and making mental health a priority, if a person is good within themselves they radiate positivity and are more productive.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I am a black woman so I am diversity. Naturally, we attract people we can relate to and have things in common, so I found that my team was heavily female and my diversity initiative was finding more men…when I thought about it I found it funny. Now I have a balanced team of men and women from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives which is exciting.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb? 
To be a great leader you have to be a team player, my rule is I never ask someone to do something that I would not do myself. I also have a rule to give the team the freedom and flexibility to work when and how they are most productive. That means some of us working different hours and being in the office different days, but happy team builds the dream!

Advice for others?
My advice is never give up if you believe in it. I started my company selling shoes in vending machines in 2011, it took me 7 years, a few failed hardware attempts, and many people telling me it would not work because the market was not ready. I was patient and what I believed would happen is happening. In May PopCom is bringing the PopShop to market, a next gen smart vending machine to sell and sample products. Our API will be ready in July and for the first time vending machine and kiosk owners can understand their conversion rates and have the level of data and analytics available that eCommerce stores have, but better. It has been a long journey and I feel it is just getting started, but I am only here because I never gave up.

If you’d like to get in touch with Dawn Dickson, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn:

To learn more about PopCom, please click here.

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Callum Connects

Elaine Zhou, Co-Founder of China Women Equipping Center



Elaine went on a journey of self discovery and once she knew her true self she could be successful in her own business.

What’s your story?
I am very proud of where I came from and I am grateful for where I am living and working today. Singapore is my adopted home and it is my aim to always contribute to and serve this country and its people.
Twelve years ago, I moved to Singapore for an internship opportunity. I was twenty one years old and I didn’t have any friends, I didn’t speak English, I didn’t understand the culture or the customs. Everything was new and strange to me. Everything was difficult, but my parents had tremendous faith in me.
My parents have worked diligently on the family farm to raise us and send us to college. My parents had a huge influence on me. The important things I learnt from them are to love, to never give up, to be a hard worker and to have a can-do attitude. These are the qualities that I embrace in my daily life.

What excites you most about your industry?
We offer more than just training. Our business is a resource to be leveraged for transformation, improved teamwork, leadership behaviours, communication skills, relationship skills, coaching skills and increased job satisfaction and productivity.
Our passion and purpose is to help people grow as leaders and to create tremendous results by serving others well. We take people to daring destinations, beyond their imagination.
My greatest joy is to see people grow, change and transform and live a purposeful life; this is what motivates me to do more and do it well.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in China and I have spent all my adult and professional life in Singapore.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore and China.
Singapore is a very sophisticated and systematic country. It is a structured and highly efficient business environment and people are generally nice and honest. Also, the convenience and diverse culture is a great advantage for people who want to settle down there, no matter if they are from the East or West. You always feel at home in Singapore.
I also like China because of its fast growth. The population and the market is here. However, it takes time to settle in because of the language barrier and the very different traditional culture. But you will also find it is very interesting and you’ll want to learn more about China. The people are nice if you know them well. It is always about relationship first and business second, and when you are in a business meeting, you really have to master the skill of “reading the air.” It is a skill to let people know and understand you; your values, your background, why you think in that way or why you do or do not do certain things. Doing business in China is like swimming in the ocean; it is an abundant ocean and it is full of risks. Always know your values and stay true to yourself and make decisions close to your heart. It will help you see things more clearly and get things done in a way that doesn’t violate your values.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Be yourself, Elaine.” That is the best advice I have ever received. It was a big ‘aha’ moment for me. It was also the moment I truly and honestly looked within myself. I realized that when I am being my true self, and not trying to be someone else, I am able to connect with people instantly in a genuine and authentic way. It is a great feeling.

Who inspires you?
There are so many people who encourage me, lift me up and challenge me everyday. My mentor, John Maxwell who helped me discover my purpose in life; Michael Griffin, for his passion for Christ which is contagious and Wayne Dyer, my spiritual mentor who passed away in 2016. Also, people who are living with a purpose and striving everyday for their dream, they really inspire me. My clients, mentees and students. When I see that joy and peace in them, that inspires me to do more and do well. My team inspire me, especially when they said, “Elaine, I joined the business because of you.” They inspire me to make it work for the team and the business because it is beyond my own self interest. I am grateful for having so many people in my life who inspire me.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
China is a big country, we all know that, and it is also an internet giant. Recently on a team meeting, one of the directors who manages a successful beauty business, shared with us, that everybody is on the internet, especially on WeChat. People are obsessed with online communities – for ordering food, getting taxis, forging relationships, connections and friends. Almost anything and everything can get done online. But right now, there is a new trend; more and more people want the “offline” experience. It usually takes one to two hours from one place to another in Beijing, but people want to make the effort to have a real connection with other people, to attend networks, seminars, workshops and business meetings.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I started my first business when I was 24 years old, it failed. One year later, I started my second business and after a year and a half, I closed down the operation. After several painful experiences and two failed businesses, I started to look within myself, and seriously and intentionally invested in my personal growth at the age of 28. If I could turn back time, I wish I could have grown a lot earlier. I strongly believe that the level of our success is determined by the level of our self growth and we are always learning, everyday. But I also understand it is not the only way to live. I also consciously and intentionally try to live in the now. It is a beautiful and great way to live. In fact, I am grateful for what I have gone through; the pains, setbacks and challenges in my earlier life.

How do you unwind?
I like to stay connected with nature. For example, taking a walk barefoot on the grass and smelling the roses on the street. Having a beer or coffee along the riverside with friends; reading a good book; hunting for nice restaurants; swimming or running.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand – nice beaches, food and people.
Bali – fantastic beaches and food, great people.
Malaysia – Nice food and people, particularly Langkawi, Penang and KK.
Of course Singapore, it is always a place dear to my heart. It’s my home.
There are a lot of other interesting places in China which I am still exploring.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Law of Success by Napoleon Hill
The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace Wattles
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
Tao Te Ching: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life by Wayne Dyer
Developing the Leaders Within You by John C.Maxwell
Start with Why by Simon Sinek
These are some of the books that truly transformed my thinking and shaped my values.
I used to read a lot of different types of books, from sales, marketing, branding and management to different business models. I found it is really hard to master all of it and I was not optimizing my own strengths.
Entrepreneurship is a skill to be learnt. But it is really important to recognize what we are good at and what we are not so good at. We can not be everything.
Entrepreneurship is a journey of self-discovery and soul searching. It is all about learning and striving. We should try and always remember why we started our business in the first place.

Shameless plug for your business:
The China Women Equipping Center, is something both my team are I are very proud. We have put our hearts and souls into it, to help women in China grow and transform. As a developing country and with the rise of China, people are not lacking in money, everywhere is full of opportunity, but the challenge is the civilizations, values and faith. In fact the Chinese government puts a lot of effort into improving and shaping the international image to ensure it is making progress. But people are still facing a lot of pressure, especially women.
One of our business partners who is runs traditional Chinese medicine retail stores, shared that 80% of his patients are female, and the reason they are coming to see him are anxiety and depression.
Our China Women Equipping Center creates a safe and comfortable environment for women to help build their values and characters. My local team and I are very passionate about our mission and purpose. Beijing is our headquarters in China. We are planning to take three to six months to establish our business in Beijing and grow and expand to other major cities in China after that.

How can people connect with you?

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:
Download free copies of his books here:

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