Sudhanshu Tewari shares his journey from leaving the corporate world to starting his own business.

What’s your story?
Six years ago, I left my cushy job at JP Morgan to start Rewardz with wife, Nicole, close friend, Jaya, and a meagre capital of SGD 25,000. It has proven to be the best decision of my life (second only to my choice of life partner). Today, Rewardz is spread across 4 locations, serving 13 countries, and is among the largest players in the rewards and recognition space regionally. Recently, Rewardz was recognized as one of the top 10 companies to work for in Singapore by the Singapore Computer Society, sharing this accolade with giants including Microsoft, Singtel and Thoughtworks.

What excites you most about your industry?
What excites me most is that no matter the industry, the company size, business objective or stage of technological evolution, rewards and recognition will always be relevant to every company. We are changing the culture at workplaces and bonding individuals and teams together through innovative technology. Seeing this happen, time and again, with every satisfied client is what excites and drives me to continue to simplify and enhance digital engagement.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in a middle-class Indian family in small-town Lucknow (India). It was truly a dream come true when I took my first flight ever from Lucknow to Singapore to study at NUS, which is regarded among the best universities in Asia. Little did I know that Singapore would become home. My wife Nicole, who is Singaporean Chinese, and two beautiful mixed-race daughters mean the world to me! I also have a circle of close friends spread across many Asian countries, including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Dubai and Hong Kong.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
While we have offices in 4 locations in Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai and India) and strong business relations across other Asian countries, I consider Singapore as the best place for doing business because of its…

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
While we have offices in 4 locations in Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai and India) and strong business relations across other Asian countries, I consider Singapore as the best place for doing business because of its…

  • Ease of setting up a business and transparent corporate governance
  • Excellent support during seed and early growth stages of the company
  • Fair and clean business practices
  • Excellent hub location with numerous HQs based out of Singapore, which benefits B2B businesses such as Rewardz.

Nonetheless, hiring skilled technology staff across various domains remains challenging. We have mitigated this by setting up a technology center in India.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Passion is overrated.” It all boils down to having fun, cultivating great friendships and enjoying the start-up journey. If you are not enjoying it, then it is not worth it.

Who inspires you?
I look for inspiration closer to me.
My wife Nicole inspires me to maintain a balance between home and business. She manages to switch off on weekends and evenings once she gets home, something that I admit I struggle with.

My dad inspires me with his strong ethics and disciplined life, a level to which I aspire.

One of my very close friends deeply inspires me in how she overcame an emotionally distressing phase when she lost her brother, got cut off from friends and had other personal struggles. She has pulled herself up, turned her life around and is now at the heart of the group… her presence alone makes people happy!

I am inspired by survivors, like my friend, who overcome adversity through sheer willpower while staying grounded and humble. I am fortunate to have known quite a few, giving me the strength and inspiration to soldier on.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I am bowled-over by Shirashi San, Benefit One President, who started the company with 5 people 24 years ago. Today, it is a multibillion-dollar conglomerate and among the top 200 companies (market cap) in Japan. Assuming that he has already reached the pinnacle of success, I asked him what drove him now? His response: to beat Toyota and be the #1 company in Japan. He said it with such conviction and sincerity that I was completely blown away by his relentless ambition, passion and drive.

A techie at heart, I am blown away by the potential impact of the 5G upgrade and how computing and networking have revolutionized over the last decade, with no signs of slowing down.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Well, hindsight is 50-50, as they say.
For one, I would have quit the corporate world to start my own company 5 years earlier than I actually did. Going back even further to University days, I would have loved to have backpacked my way through the world, learning different languages and immersing myself in different cultures.

How do you unwind?
By spending time with my two lovely daughters – I wish I could do more of this! Also, catching up and chilling with a few close friends or even just spending time with myself, doing some self-reflection. Currently, I am also learning Japanese through amateur teachers – not quite the backpacking immersion plan that I had in mind, but it will do for now!

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Phuket.
I like to visit Phuket once a year with friends to relax and recharge. We rent a nice apartment near the beach, get some good wine, chit chat and relax over music by the sea. Good food, good wine, good company and an excellent sea breeze makes for a perfect setting for old friends to come together and chill.

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Who Moved My Cheese”. An A-Mazing Way To Deal With Change In Your Work And In Your Life, by Dr Spencer Johnson.
Written for all ages, this story takes less than an hour to read, but its unique insights can last you a lifetime.

Shameless plug for your business:
At Rewardz, we create change through positive reinforcement and gamification. We are leaders in digital engagement, enabling corporations to expand their contributions to society. These contributions vary by context ranging from improving corporate wellness, fostering a peer-to-peer appreciation culture, enhancing employee engagement and corporate efficiency, boosting sales, building customer loyalty, and even promotion of public interest.

We put our money where our mouth is and believe that engagement begins at home! Indisputably, we are one of the top 10 tech companies to work for in Singapore. So come join our family as a team member, reward merchant, reseller, or client.

How can people connect with you?
You can connect on
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/sudhanshu-tewari-89071621/
Email – [email protected]

Twitter handle?
I am not active on Twitter. LinkedIn is the best way to keep updated on what both I and Rewardz are up to.

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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