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Women on Top in Tech – Navneet Nayyar, Associate Vice President and Regional Business Head SEA at Sterlite Technologies Limited.

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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.)

Here is my interview with Navneet Nayyar, Associate Vice President and Regional Business Head for South East Asia and SAARC at Sterlite Technologies Limited. An avid speaker and technology enthusiast who believes in participating and contribution at various thought leadership events to keep pace with the fast changing environment. This has led to product innovation and new solutions in areas like Digital Partner Settlement, IOT, API-led models, SDN, Digital Customer Journeys etc.


What makes you do what you do?

I think the primary reason I am doing this is because I aspired to carve a niche for myself in the world of Telecommunications and Technology. It helps me connect with the marketplace as well as the tech that enables the marketplace. Telco is a dynamic space, which is not only consistently evolving and changing itself but also significantly impacts each & every industry and is a driver for transformation in them. Hence it keeps me going by learning each day and looking forward to new developments around me.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

To be honest, I started my career as a solutions architect, I was not a business leader to
start with. I started my role in tech, slowly and gradually I did my MBA in Marketing and
from there I flipped the coin. I always felt there is a bridge from the tech that would drive business, which is today a reality. And I guess my persistence and conviction paid off. Today with the eruption of digital, technology and business are used interchangeably.

Further, my inherent inquisitive nature to learn new stuff and explore unknown space made me stick with this industry and as a result, I just like what I do. I guess that’s why I have done well for myself and my organization.

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)?

Firstly, the leadership demographic itself has changed from what is used to be 20 years back and how it is today and how it will be in future. The image of a leader in early 80s was a grey-haired person with a suit and tie. Today that’s not the case.

Today’s world is fast changing, e.g. – If I had to look at the recent phenomenon. Mobile data has changed over 4000 folds in the last 10yr and 80% of that growth has come in the last 2 years. You see the pace at which it is changing. If I expect a person who started with Mainframes to innovate on what can be done on a digital SIM or bitcoin, it cannot happen. For this either he must be a genius who has constantly evolved himself faster than the pace at which the world is evolving. Or get some young blood who is hungry, impatient and can run with the pace to match the disruption.

When I joined my organization around 6 years back, I have given a challenge, We had zero presence in Southeast Asia and the task was to make an impact starting as a Sales director. Making this greenfield region into a multi-million dollar region was a challenge and today looking back makes it feel like a roller coaster ride. South East Asia is one of the growth levers for our organization and has not just given us revenue growth but also some of the best in class transformation stories in the Telco space.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?

I will say I have multiple mentors. I try to learn and get inspiration from every inspiring individual I come across, whether they are renowned names like Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Indra Nooyi, Narendra Modi or even my family and friends There is plenty to learn from them and I do learn from each one of them. A simple idea of a growing start up coming up with something interesting can also influence you. So I don’t have one particular mentor I look up to, I tend to pick up all whatever I think is inspiring and bring about a positive influence on me.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?

We all know these are uncertain and hence exciting times because everyone and everything around us is changing at such rapid pace. So how can we keep up with this change? And probably that’s the answer to this question. For myself as well as for growing talent. Continuous reading, you have to continuously read and you need to specifically give yourself time outside the mundane work that you are doing. I will have my goals, targets, KRA but 2 hours in a day I need to step out of that space and see what I need to do to survive myself in this fast changing world. A better way to put it, ‘To grow myself’. I read and follow editions/ webinars on how technologies are changing right, what are the recent upcoming trends, there are so many journals, so many startups who are innovating and you need to follow their innovation. Put yourself out of the box and challenge yourself each day. I look for the similar traits before hiring people. I believe in hiring people who are better than me and I can look up to them and learn from them. I strongly believe that hierarchies in organizations have
been destroyed and any growing organization will have to be flat. Essentially all it means is to have an equal right to opinion and opportunities for each and every individual. Hence I follow these basic principles to spots, develop and grow key talents in my team and we all work as one team with a common goal in mind.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

Diversity is a key element in today fast changing environment, while the technology is a common thread connecting people but at the same time, every country and its culture is unique. We need a diverse set of people in a team who can bring a flavor of new ideas and different aspects. Our workplace, like the nation and wider world, is made up of men and women of diverse racial, religious, and ethnic backgrounds, with varied lifestyles and approaches to life. Instead of trying to make everyone fit one mold, diversity acknowledges people’s differences and works with those differences to create a strong team.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?

Ability to lead is directly tied to one’s ability to inspire confidence in people. And to earn the confidence of your people in a world of the technology-driven world, you need to learn how to identify the driving forces that are shaping the future.I guess that holds true in terms of leadership traits for people as well as for organizations.

A leader of today focuses on agility — being able to change quickly based on external circumstances as a change from the outside in has been coming at an ever-increasing speed, and it’s only getting faster. To be a leader both today and in the future (again I am referring to people and organizations) you need to become adept not only at reacting to events but also anticipating a change. I believe that’s a general rule of thumb for me to identify someone as a leader. Look at any modern organization today from Google to any unicorn startups which is leading a change, you will realize they are all working towards controlling data and building models around predictions.

Advice for others?

Just follow yourself, live it and follow yourself. Make it as crazy as possible because the best of innovation comes from the craziest of things we do. Just follow your instincts and don’t let anyone run you down. Look for advice but do what you feel is right even it sounds crazy to others. Till the time, it is not crazy enough chances are someone else will also be thinking of the same idea. That’s how Google, Facebook, twitter have emerged and more of such examples are emerging in today’s world.


To learn more about Sterlite Technologies Limited, please see https://www.sterlitetech.com.

I am a huge fan and cheerleader of Women Leaders — If you know of an AMAZING Woman Founder, CEO, Leader in Tech or you are one yourself — Write me here.
AMPLIFY Conscious Business Leadership with me.

Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Daphne Ng, CEO of JEDTrade

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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.)

Daphne Ng is the CEO of JEDTrade, a blockchain technology company focused on trade, supply chain, and financial inclusion projects in ASEAN. She is also the Scretary-General at ACCESS and Exco. of Singapore Fintech Association

What makes you do what you do?
I was introduced to blockchain technology in 2016 after I left my corporate banking career after 10 years. It was my mentor who first got me interested in this technology, which I then went on to delve further into, on its potential applications in the lending and trade finance space – domains where I came from.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
Being in the space for 2 years and actively involved in the ecosystem, I was able to bring on the projects, network and a good degree of thought leadership in this vertical. Early on in the startup journey, our team faced many challenges. And to me, the key to rising above failures are two essential factors – resilience and support. While resilience is innate, I received a lot of help be it in terms of connections or advice. ‘Nobody succeeds without help’ rings very true for me.

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)?
From the start, I focused on my domain expertise in trade finance and the application construct of how blockchain and DLT can be applied to these use cases. Also, my strategy from the start was to build a technology company made up of 80% tech and engineers, which is also our key competitive advantage today. At the end of the day, deliverables are about strategy and execution, which includes building and leading an ‘A’ team.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?
I have many mentors, which includes our company advisors (all of whom are well-known in this industry) and mostly informal mentors I meet via my connections, and on various occasions and circumstances. Creating opportunities also means putting myself in the right place, at the right time. And in my case, these were mostly organic and genuine friendships formed from the initial connection.

How did you make a match if you and how did you end up being mentored by him?
To me, a match in values is very important. It also takes humility to ask for help and be willing to listen to advice, which is important in order for mentorships to be successful – be it formal or informal.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
I love this question! I am passionate about building strong teams and helping my people grow. I abide by the 3Rs when identifying talents: resourcefulness, resilience and right values. And then I invest in the ‘potential’ and this means giving them room to lead, make decisions and take risks.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
My support of diverse talents, skillsets and characters can be seen in the make-up of our core team – all helming specific roles and each bringing their own value to the table. We need the sum of all parts to build a great company.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
Great leaders emerge in times of failures and challenges, never abandoning the team, and always putting the team’s interests before her own. And I consciously live by these mottos every day.

Advice for others?
My advice to other entrepreneurs: be resolute and dare to be different. If you are going to follow others, then you will end up on the same path as them. No right or wrong; but I would rather chart my own path. This June, we are officially launching our blockchain project, Jupiter Chain (www.jupiterchain.tech), which have garnered much interest in the industry, even before we made it public. We believe this project is the epitome of marrying innovation with practical implementation, and we want to be the first to truly operationalize blockchain for our ecosystem projects in this region.


If you’d like to get in touch with Daphne Ng, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/daphne-ng-%E9%BB%84%E7%91%9E%E7%8E%B2/

To learn more about JEDTrade, please click here.

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Callum Connects

Jace Koh, Founder of U Ventures

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Jace Koh believes cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. Understanding it will enhance your ability to run and manage your business.

What’s your story?
My name is Jace Koh and I am the Founder of U Ventures. I’ve always been inclined towards investment and entrepreneurship. I’ve played a hand in starting businesses across these industries – professional services, cloud integration, software and music. I believe that succeeding in business is tough, but that’s what makes the rewards even sweeter.

What excites you most about your industry?
Everything excites me. These are my beliefs:

  • Why is accounting important?
    The accounting department is the heart. Cash flow is like blood stream, it pumps blood to various parts of the body like cash flow is pumped to various departments and/or functions in a business. It is vital to the life and death of the business.
  • Is accounting boring?
    Accountants are artists too. They paint the numbers the way they want them to be.
  • What makes a good accountant?
    A good accountant can tell you a story about the business by looking at the numbers.
  • Why is budgeting and projection important?
    Accountants are like fortune tellers, they can predict the numbers and if you wish to understand your business and make informed decisions, feel free to speak to our friendly consultants to secure a meeting.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore, and here’s where I want to be.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore is my favourite city. We have great legal systems in place, good security and people with integrity. Most importantly, we have a government that fosters a good environment for doing business. I recently went for a cultural exchange programme in Hong Kong to learn more about their startups. I found out that the Hong Kong government generally only supports local business owners in terms of grants. They’ve recently been more lenient and changed the eligibility to include all businesses that have at least 50% local shareholding. But comparing that to Singapore, the government only requires a 30% local shareholding to obtain government support. In the early days of starting a business, all the support you can get is precious. It’s great that we have a government that understands that.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best time ever to plant a tree was 10 years ago as the tree would have grown so big to provide you with shelter and all. When is the next best time to plant a tree? It is today. Because in 10 years time, the tree would have grown big enough to provide you shelter and all.

Who inspires you?
Jack Ma. His journey to success is one of the most inspiring as it proves that with determination and great foresight, even the poorest can turn their lives around. I personally relate to his story a lot, and this is my favourite quote from him, “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.”

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’ve faced multiple rejections throughout my business journey, and recently came across a fact on Jack Ma about how he was once rejected for 32 different jobs. It resonated very deeply and taught me the importance of tenacity, especially during tough times.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I live a life with no regrets. Everything I do, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, happy or sad, and regardless of outcome, it’s a lesson with something to take away.

How do you unwind?
I love to pamper myself through retail therapy and going for spas. I also make a conscious effort to take time off work to have a break outside to unwind as well as to uncloud my mind. This moment of reflection from time to time helps me see more clearly on how I can improve myself.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Taiwan! Good food with no language barriers and the people are great!

Everyone in business should read this book:
I don’t really read books. Mostly, I learn from my daily life and interactions with hundreds of other business owners. To me, people tell the most interesting stories.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re not just corporate secretaries, we’re “business doctors.”
U Ventures is a Xero certified advisory firm that goes beyond traditional accounting services to provide solutions for your business. You can reach us on our website: http://uventures.com.sg/

How can people connect with you?
Converse to connect. You can reach me via email at [email protected] or alternatively, on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacekoh/

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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