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Women on Top in Tech – Roshni Mahtani, CEO/Founder at Tickled Media and theAsianparent.com.

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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 Roshni Mahtani, CEO & Founder at Tickled Media and theAsianparentRoshni is also actively involved in the start-up community. In 2015, she founded the Female Founders Network, a group of over 2,000 female founders. She also sits on the board of TIE Singapore and is a mentor at JFDI and the Crib where she works with early stage start-ups. Besides her interest in the start-up world, Roshni is also an Executive Producer of Untouchable: Children of God – A 2014 documovie about young girls in the brothels of India and how they are sold and trafficked from Nepal. The film won the Humanitarian Award at the Newport Beach Film Festival 2014 and is currently playing on Singapore Airlines flights.

Roshni has graced the cover of multiple magazines and newspapers in the region. Her company has been mentioned in over 200 media outlets ranging from the BBC to the Singapore Straits Times.


What makes you do what you do?

I’d always wanted to create something that would have a positive impact on the world around me. I noticed that a lot of organizations focused on education, children’s welfare, housing – covering our basic needs. But even more fundamental is parenting, and I knew of none that was singularly intent on making that better.

So I thought, if I could capture a mere 1% of the 20 million Asian families online, I’d be making a difference in at least 200,000 of next-generation children. We all want to make the world a better place; and to us at Tickled Media, the simple solution is: better parents = better kids = better tomorrow.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

When you say ‘rise’, you think steady upward trend; but it’s really been more of an uphill battle with lots of stumbles for me. Startup life is neither easy nor predictable. We got to where we are through making calculated yet still gutsy moves, eventually making mistakes and learning from them, then using this knowledge to refine our strategy.

Despite the hurdles, we’ve just had to stay laser-focused on our mission and goals and one thing that’s helped us do that is our market research department. We conduct both commissioned and our own studies on Asian mums, so we can keep track of how the market is evolving. Again, knowledge is power; acting on what you discover propels progress.

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)?

I remember way back when I started my company at 25, and people just didn’t take 25-year-old Asian women seriously. I would go to meetings with male business owners in their 40s, and they wouldn’t even look at me, directing their questions to junior male employees instead.

I powered through anyway, not to prove them wrong but to do something right – to pursue what I believed in. I fully knew that entrepreneurship would take over my life and even change its course; but I persisted, taking on this challenge for the same reason we all do – because I knew it mattered.

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

My first mentor, who continues to advise me to this day, was Zoomit co-founder William Klippgen. William has been an integral part of theAsianparent’s success and is an exemplary leader. Amongst a score of others in my support system, it’s important to have advisors with a good understanding of your industry. For that, I’m fortunate to have the support of people such as Ashwin Puri, formerly from Komli, and Dave Weiss, formerly from BabyCenter.

As the founder of the Female Founders Network, I’ve also tapped on the expertise of a global community of women entrepreneurs who come together with the common objective of sharing knowledge and empowering women to achieve their goals.

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

Spotting talent is the easy part – a person’s achievements speak for themselves and word gets around about rising stars in the industry.

Crucial to developing and supporting talent is setting people up for success. Provide the right resources, have the right culture + environment in place, and challenge don’t choke. Training helps, but what I’ve found to be more important is mentorship. It gives me great satisfaction to know that many of our former employees have gone on to do incredible things – that we’ve played a part in helping them reach their potential.

Supporting our Ticklers’ personal alongside their professional lives is something we’re also keen on. If someone in our team has to move all the way to the other side of the globe, we’d still find a way to make it work, time difference and all.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

As a company speaking to mothers, we actively support working mums in our own environment. We offer flexible schedules and work-from-home arrangements, we have breastfeeding and kids’ rooms, we’ve built a culture of understanding – these are all part of our efforts to be truly mum-friendly. We have dads working for us too and they’re equally supported.

Since we’re present in Singapore, Thailand, India, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam, we’ve got such a rich multi-cultural pool of talents. Even with the complications in logistics – time differences, different holiday schedules, having to do calls instead of face-to-face meetings, etc – the benefits absolutely outweigh the costs.

Our flagship product is theAsianparent.com and we’ve got so many Asian parents under our roof! This doesn’t just help us in terms of authenticity and knowing our audience intimately; it also allows us to learn from each other’s parenting principles, styles, and traditions. All these elements come together to provide our readers and partners with the best we can offer.

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

There’s no one formula; no one size fits all. Each person must tap into their leadership potential given their own context and decisions thus far, skill set, passions, support system… all these things that make each leader’s journey his or her own.

I wish I could tell you what the key is, but I can only share what has been mine. Macro view, it’s been to always be one or even two steps ahead. The industry is moving at light speed and competition is intense. You can’t fall behind in the game; you have to be best player you can be. Your team looks up to you to make the right decisions – what you decide puts food on their tables and sends their kids to school. There’s no slacking off when that’s what’s at stake.

Within the organization, be a good listener. Take the time to get to know each of your team members – not just their strengths and weaknesses, but also their families, their dreams. People are your best resource so invest in them. You can’t have a good grasp of your organization if you only know the operational side. Be familiar with its every aspect, especially your people.

Advice for others?

Listen to your mom/wife! She’s always right.


To learn more about Tickled Media, please see http://tickledmedia.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.

Callum Connects

Mikyung Kim, TV Commercial Producer

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Mikyung Kim is a savvy producer who runs her own TV and print production business, based in Hong Kong.

What’s your story?
I am a TV commercial and print producer working with advertising agencies and brands to bring their communication needs to the screen. My background is in film production and I started my career in Hollywood working with Oscar winning directors Michel Gondry and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Before starting my own company last year to produce content directly with agencies and brands, I was with Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong for nearly five years as the Senior Producer and Head of TV running the film production department.

What excites you most about your industry?
How it’s constantly evolving! Every day is different and it’s certainly never boring. I love that it’s a creative industry and that my job involves talking to people with creative minds on how we can bring a story on paper to life. It’s exciting that the advertising industry places high value on the creativity and effectiveness of content. I’ve produced a few commercials that creatively push the envelope with fun and sometimes wild ideas that have converted into positive brand awareness. Ever heard of KFC Finger Lickin’ Good…Nail Polish that yes, tastes like chicken? https://www.adweek.com/creativity/kfc-just-made-edible-finger-lickin-good-nail-polish-yeah-tastes-chicken-171245/

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Seoul and raised in Hong Kong until graduating from high school at HKIS. I spent my university years in Boston at Emerson College and worked in Los Angeles at Anonymous Content and Partizan Entertainment. But on a brief visit back to Hong Kong in 2010, I decided to move back and continue my career here, and it was the best decision I ever made.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong is my home so it will always be my favourite city for business and for me personally. What I love about Hong Kong is that while I am based here, I can actually work with agencies and brands from anywhere in APAC. If I need to attend an important meeting, I can just hop on a quick flight easily. I spent most of 2017 working in Seoul with Korean agency Cheil and Samsung, and currently I am working with Japanese agency ADK and Toyota based in Singapore.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Fake it until you become it,” from Amy Cuddy’s TED talk. Worth a watch. This helped me early in my career when I felt like I was under qualified for the job I was in. I learned to fake my confidence and fake a powerful body language until I truly felt that confidence became something real. It was nerve wracking at first but it worked and now I don’t have to fake it.

Who inspires you?
My friends. Noelle who worked part time jobs while being a full time student to pay her own tuition while we were in college together. Osti who is a lawyer focused on supporting developing nations and a board member of Redress, an environmental NGO working to reduce waste in the fashion industry. Vanessa who runs a real estate company, co-owns the gym Crossfit Asphodel, started a health foods business called Quo and NGO The Keep Moving Project to promote wellness in our community. Cathy who will be the first Asian woman to direct a big budget superhero film starring Margot Robbie with Warner Bros and DC. And too many more to name!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
5.2 million plastic bottles are thrown away in Hong Kong every day. Plastic pollution is a major issue for the environment and we as responsible citizens can do our small part by reducing our consumption of unnecessary plastic. I do mine by having a water filter at home and carrying my own reusable water bottle with me everywhere I go. I love the brand Hydroflask because the stainless steel material keeps water hot or cold for hours, so I don’t feel tempted to buy a cold water at 7-11 on those hot, humid days we have here.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
About five years ago I purchased my very first stock and put one month’s salary into it, which at the time was a lot of money for me. Knowing how that stock has performed now, I would have put all my savings into it.

How do you unwind?
Exercise is essential in my daily life to help clear my head and de-stress. My go to is a workout at Crossfit Asphodel, running outdoors, yoga and hiking. But a glass of red wine and live music at Soiree in Soho on Sunday night works pretty well too!

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
One of the best trips I ever took was to the island of Lombok in Indonesia. Two girl friends and I did a 3 day 2 night hiking and camping trip to summit the Mount Rinjani Volcano. It was physically challenging but mentally relaxing. There was no cellphone reception, no distractions, we had the company of nature and nights with skies full of shooting stars. It was pretty magical. We then went to the Gili Islands for a few days of scuba diving, yoga and sitting on the beach doing nothing but sipping on coconuts. That was pretty relaxing too.

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” by Lois P. Frankel and “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. Essential reads for every working woman and/or man who wants to know how to support the working women in their life.

Shameless plug for your business:
I am a TV commercial and print producer that can plug into an existing advertising agency or brand team to produce their communication needs. Many advertising agencies these days are scaling down so they have creative directors and account services but may not have an in-house producer, so I can fill that gap by becoming a part of the existing agency team. For brands that want to produce content directly without involving an agency, I can also bridge the gap by bringing my production knowledge in-house and working as part of the marketing/brand team and liaising with the other departments in the company such as product team and ecomm.

How can people connect with you?
They can email me at [email protected]
or visit my website at mkimproducer.com

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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Callum Connects

Renée Ballard, Owner of Renée Ballard Communications

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Renée Ballard runs a social media agency working with business women, helping them find their business’s voice.

What’s your story?
I began my career in PR/communications ten years ago in Australia, after arriving home from two years in Dubai. In Dubai I was working for Emirates Airlines as a flight attendant and flying around the world non-stop for two years. This really sparked my interest for how people communicate. I started out as a community manager for an online advertising company, then moved into the corporate world of outdoor advertising, managing internal and external PR and communications. After having a baby four years ago, I decided to leave the safety net of corporate, and stride out on my own. I now run a social media agency and I specialise in working with business women, helping to find their business’ voice so they can use social media to achieve their business goals.

What excites you most about your industry?
I love the open accessibility online provides. It’s free for businesses to get online and connect with their target audience. Twenty years ago, advertising and PR was insanely expensive and quite elitist, but through incredible platforms like Facebook or Twitter, any business can connect with who is looking for their product/solution. Social media is particularly effective for small businesses because they have the edge when it comes to authenticity and a clear voice.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m in Hong Kong because I’m a trailing spouse. I know it’s such a daggy term, but I love it, it makes me sound so dedicated to my husband! Alas, we came to Hong Kong for my husband’s work. He’s the Design Director of Asia for an international retail design agency. We’ve been here for almost two years and it’s been a huge learning curve in terms of business and culture. We love the fast-paced nature of Hong Kong and the fact that everything is open late – it suits me perfectly because I’m nocturnal.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
That’s easy, Hong Kong. It’s the perfect blend of start-ups and mothership-sized institutions. I love the small business side, watching the collaborations between workshare spaces with galleries, networking groups and foodies; it’s a hothouse of creative partnerships here.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
When you’re are feeling scared about your next step, lean in and feel the difference. Is it fear mixed with excitement? Or fear mixed with dread? Always go with the former and cut loose the latter.

Who inspires you?
I love Tamara Mellon (Jimmy Choo founder). She has created multiple empires and she never stops trying new business models and pushing her limits. It helps that I love shoes too.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I just turned 40 years old. At best, I’m probably halfway through my life. It makes me constantly question, “Am I where I want to be?”

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have asked more questions to the people I looked up to, and listened less to the people telling me I won’t achieve my goals.

How do you unwind?
In this day and age, it’s scandalous to say, but I love sunbaking. At any chance, you’ll find me poolside, laying in the sun in a trance-like state.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Northern Danang in Vietnam. We were there at Christmas, at the foot of the mountains and it was beautiful. Heaps of wildlife and jungles and enough five star resorts that I was never parched once.

Everyone in business should read this book:
‘The E Myth’ by Michael Gerber. It’s an oldie but a goodie because it succinctly outlines how to transition from a one person operation to a global business like McDonalds. Once you see how important systems and processes are, you can recognise shambolic companies a mile off.

Shameless plug for your business:
Renée Ballard Communications is a social media agency that works with business women who are ready to make social media work for them. We create effective, powerful social media strategies that are tailored to the people who will be breathing life into them. We hand on heart promise to never use annoying, marketing buzzwords and that we value laughter above everything else.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected] or www.reneeballard.com or +85296670115

Twitter handle?
@ballard_comms

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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