Thought Leadership: CPaaS

Lead Article from Help Net Security

CPaaS market to exceed $5 billion in 2021 – Help Net Security

Data from Synergy Research Group shows the CPaaS market continues to demonstrate strong market growth. This momentum provides a solid foundation for increased development of communication and software technologies, creating and enhancing new customer interactions and experiences. The latest 2Q 2021 market share report shows CPaaS market grew over 40% worldwide with Twilio maintaining its number one market share ranking.

Recommended Feature Interview with Paul Ruppert

B2B FM – Thought Leadership

CPAAS: CPaaS is a $18 billion market expanding to $61 billion in 2024 (Arthur D Little), yet according to analysts Mobile Squared only 3% of enterprises are utilizing them, meaning a 97% underutilized upside.

3 Recommended Podcast Interviews on CPaaS

Davide and Laura of Avaya OneCloud CPaaS

‎TalkingHeadz Podcast: TalkingHeadz Bonus Episode with Davide and Laura of Avaya OneCloud CPaaS on Apple Podcasts

‎Dave and Evan host their first TalkingHeadz foursome. In this episode we meet with Davide Petramala and Laura Faughtenberry of Avaya OneCloud CPaaS. Avaya is best known for its powerful enterprise contact centers which can now do even more with OneCloud CPaaS. In this podcast we find out more about…

Comstar and 8×8 Talk CPaaS, XCaaS and Digital Transformation

‎JSA Podcasts for Telecom and Data Centers: Comstar and 8×8 Talk CPaaS, XCaaS and Digital Transformation on Apple Podcasts

‎JSA TV takes a deep dive into the latest communication technologies with two industry powerhouses, Warren Reyburn, SVP of Sales and Marketing at Comstar Technologies, and Nick Parmar, VP of Enterprise CPaaS Sales at 8×8. The impactful discussion covers some of the most pressing questions around CPaa…

Cloud Communications with Paul Ruppert

‎The Telescope Investing Podcast: Podcast #53 – Cloud Communications with Paul Ruppert on Apple Podcasts

‎Cloud communications, also known as Communications Platform as a Service (or CPaaS) allows businesses to communicate with their customers using channels such as voice, email, SMS, and instant messaging. This week we sit down with industry expert, Paul Ruppert, to discuss his insights on this comple…

B2B Thought Leadership: The Great Resignation

Lead Article from Forbes

‘The Great Resignation’: Why Gen Z Is Leaving The Workforce In Droves…And What To Do About It

Gen Z has had enough. A recent Adobe survey of 5,500 workers found that 56% of those ages 18-24 say they are planning to switch jobs in the next year. Research from Microsoft and Bankrate backs this up, reporting that 54% and 77% of Gen Zs, respectively, are thinking about quitting.

Recommended Feature Interview with Paul Glover

B2B FM – Thought Leadership

THE GREAT RESIGNATION: According to some experts, up to 74% of the workforce is now looking for a new job. With pandemic induced dissatisfaction and disruption of working practises expediting career choices, companies are now facing significant challenges in employee turnover and engaging in a bidding war for talent.

5 Recommended Podcasts on The Great Resignation

The Impact of the Great Resignation

‎The Behaviorist on Apple Podcasts

Work Wisdom, a practice specializing in positive organizational behavior, shares helpful, concrete practices for elevating leaders, teams and companies to become the best version of themselves Work Wisdom, a practice specializing in positive organizational behavior, shares helpful, concrete practices for elevating leaders, teams and companies to become the best version of themselves

Causes of The Great Resignation

‎The Behavioral Karma Podcast: The Great Resignation: Could the 40 Hour Work Week Be Why? on Apple Podcasts

‎On this episode Paulie and Billy explore some potential reasons behind the great resignation. The great resignation is a new term coined to define the nearly 30% of people leaving their jobs and in some cases their fields all together. The pandemic changed the way people look at work and this is one…

The Great Resignation: What is it and Why is it Here?

‎The Upward Spiral: The Great Resignation Part 1 | What is it & Why is it Here on Apple Podcasts

‎What is The Great Resignation, why is it here and what do business leaders and entrepreneurs need to know about it? That is the core of what Cody Strate and Davin Marceau discuss in Part 1 of a two part podcast on the top of “The Great Resignation”

Q&A: Strategies to Keep Your People in the Great Resignation

‎POPS! The People Ops Podcast: Q&A: Strategies to Keep Your People in the Great Resignation on Apple Podcasts

‎In April 2021, more than 4 million US workers quit their jobs-the biggest spike on record. And the turnover is expected to continue. What can businesses do to retain employees during the Great Resignation? On this episode of POPS! Zenefits Senior HR Advisor Lora Patterson explains the key reasons w…

Paul Glover on Employee Engagement

‎XL Podcast: XL10: PAUL GLOVER – Employee Engagement and The Myth of Radical Transparency on Apple Podcasts

‎3 Netflix Execs recently took to Slack to air their grievances about the company’s culture and leadership. This was, after all, the same Netflix that advocated “Radical Transparency” in a 127 slide public presentation. The Execs were fired, not because of what they said but how they said it. Accordi…

Prarthana Sibal

Prarthana Sibal Heads up all podcast projects at B2B Podcast Agency Pikkal & Co. As part of the initial founding team Prarthana has overseen the growth of the agency from zero to servicing some of the world’s most prestigious corporate clients today. Their podcast client list includes Deloitte, UTI (Investment Bank of India), The Lux Collective, Julius Baer, UBS and The Singapore Government.

Prarthana was the one who made the Tony Fernandes interview happen. She also helped conceive and launch the podcast for India’s largest Asset Manager (UTI) and advices Swiss Private Bank Julius Baer on their audience growth strategy.

Prarthana doesn’t often step out onto the receiving end of the microphone. She’s happy to operate in the background making sure the show runs smoothly. In her recent projects, she worked with United Nations Directors, Singapore government ministers and the President of AWS Industry.

Turning Ideas into Award Winning Podcast

Much of Prarthana’s work involves taking a brand’s idea and turning it into a successful podcast. In some cases they are award winning podcasts, as with one of the world’s largest management consultancies.

But, brands never come to the table with an award winning podcast in mind. Most brands don’t know what’s possible. They understand they have a need to communicate in a more agile and authentic way, but are unsure of how to do this through podcasting. They are often less concerned about winning an award than creating a podcast that fails after the first series or lacks engagement.

Successful podcasts are a long term commitment to progress. Start with a POC (proof of concept), progress to scale and audience growth, later focus on dominating podcast rankings.

K Bharath

He’s Got Your Back

K Bharath is one of the world’s most experienced podcast and live show engineers.

If I have a podcast interview with a celebrity guest, a do-or-die situation where “I forgot to hit record” or “the mic didn’t work” are unforgivable, it’s Bharath that I’d choose to work with every time.

That’s why it was Bharath who recorded the Tony Fernandes interview with me in Kuala Lumpur. I knew with confidence that the wouldn’t screw up, and that helped me focus on being in the moment talking to Tony.

It’s the same reliability that clients value when recording with high stakes guests. It could be a United Nations Director, the President of AWS India or Lord Karan Bilamoria. These kind of podcast guests are too busy to afford clients a second chance, that’s why you want a recording engineer who’s going to get it right every time.

You want someone who won’t let you down. On the morning of the flight to Kuala Lumpur, Bharath was quiet. He had his game face on, running through mental check lists, equipment configurations and scenarios of possibility for the upcoming recording.

Over 1,500 Podcasts Produced

Bharath’s experience in recording over 1,500 podcasts is the foundation to his reliability. But it’s not just the volume of recordings, it’s all manner of shapes and sizes that makes every recording unique. There’s online and on location. He’s recorded podcasts in airports, in airplanes and in rice fields. Plus he’s dealt with almost every possible microphone configuration that guests bring to the recording – from no microphone in a stairwell (the worst possible audio setup) to “I’ve just bought this expensive microphone but don’t know how to use it” (which you have to lipread from the video and hand gestures).

Patience is key. High profile guests rarely find themselves in these vulnerable situations at the mercy of a microphone or a Zoom setting. They often come with handlers who can do everything for them. But, in the world of podcasting, where handlers themselves have little experience and the interviews often take place in a one-on-one situation, knowing how to put guests at ease and walking them through the setup can be the difference between an engaging conversation and a failure.

All in the name of getting the job done.

But, as so often with those that make these stories happen by operating in the background, we get to hear very little about their own stories. Often they are far more comfortable on the other side of the microphone, making everyone else sound great, than stopping to think about all the experiences and the journey that they’ve been on.

So, let me tell you a little story about Bharath, from the first day we met. Bharath was the first employee of our Podcast Agency Pikkal & Co. And while he’s an employee he’s been instrumental in growing it from the very beginning. I’m pleased to say he’s now part owner of the business.

Paul Glover – The No BS Performance Coach on Employee Engagement

ceo cognitive bias paul glover

Interview Highlights

  • THE GREAT RESIGNATION: According to some experts, up to 74% of the workforce is now looking for a new job. With pandemic induced dissatisfaction and disruption of working practises expediting career choices, companies are now facing significant challenges in employee turnover and engaging in a bidding war for talent.
  • EMOTIONAL LEADERSHIP: At the heart of the problem lies the leadership. Leaders rise to positions of influence because they have strong emotional traits that enable them to make better decisions. These traits, however, also blindside them with cognitive biases that obscure and obfuscate the realities of employee feedback and issues.
  • EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT: If we want to better engage employees, we need to look beyond gimmicks and financial rewards. Leaders have a significant impact on how their teams feel engaged in their work. We need to equip leadership with the skills and processes to both know how to communicate with their people and actively listen to them.

Introducing My Next Guest Paul Glover…

The XL Podcast focuses on conversations with Leaders about the key challenges we face in business, society and technology today.

My next guest on the Podcast informs us that the biggest challenge we face in business is Leadership itself. It’s us, the Leaders.

It’s the Leaders that employees look towards to make sense of the uncertainty that surrounds the workplace post-pandemic or to lead out of crisis. But, despite being instilled with this position of responsibility, our report card doesn’t make good reading.

Look at the data, Up to 74% of the workforce is looking for a new job. That number varies significantly by the engagement rate of the employee – with only 30% of “engaged” workers on the market.

The 51% who are not engaged do enough to “Show Up”. They do just enough to not get fired. They won’t give you discretionary effort that makes all the difference.

Disengagement means reduced profit, productivity, sales and tenure, which costs the global economy at least $7 trillion a year.

Gallup’s own State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report shows, 80% of the world’s workers are already not engaged or actively disengaged. You can see this in black and white when you consider that today, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged workers in the U.S. is 2.4-to-1. Think about that for your average team of 7, where 2 motivated employees are pulling the dead weight of the other 5.

Employee Engagement is a problem that has been growing under our radars for some time now. For years, they’ve hunkered down and sucked it up, but the pandemic has expedited the issue. Most people are disengaged at work. While this previously manifested as lower productivity, today it’s adopted a new dynamic – a trend called “The Great Resignation”.

Company Culture Myths like “Radical Transparency”

My Chicago based podcast guest, Paul Glover, sees this growing trend with his coaching clients. Business Leaders are reporting that employee engagement is not front and center of their daily operating discussions.

And while the prevailing wisdom may suggest a bandaid approach to covering up the issue, Paul says that the problem lies in a much more fundamental issue in how Leaders manage their people.

Quite often these challenges start with the leader’s own cognitive biases. They believe in the hype that obfuscates reality – take for example the “Radical Transparency” Netflix talks about as the core of their company culture. According to Paul it sounds great when presented on powerpoint slides but in reality, Netflix culture is just like any other industrial model corporation.

In a recent article he wrote for Forbes, Paul argues that management is still dominated by this “Theory X” worldview. “Theory X” being the industrial model of carrot and stick management, where “workers” are seen as lazy and demotivated, requiring a combination of benefits and coercion to achieve results.

When 3 Netflix execs went public about their complaints on internal communication, they were summarily dismissed.

If you want to practise more open business communication like Radical Transparency, you also need to be open. That means being vulnerable – removing the artefacts of status and hierarchy that shield management from open and authentic conversation.

We talk about empowerment, but it has to be given. You have to be willing to give people power, to give it up. In the workplace we still operate off an industrial age model – supervision.

Transparency isn’t a one way mirror: as much as it expects employees to be honest and open in communication, it requires leaders to let go of their cognitive biases. Bandaids won’t work.

Paul calls this, “Theory Y” management. By contrast, it’s participatory and built less around the contracts of departmental silos and hierarchy but open, decentralized communication. Employee feedback doesn’t become a moot point leading to a potential firing, but the basis on which leaders measure their (and ultimately the company) performance. It’s holistic and seeks to address the challenges of employee engagement not by tackling the symptoms, but by helping leadership change company culture.

What does Radical Transparency actually mean? It means “Speaking Truth to Power”. It means you (the employee) have a position of authority over me (the leader) and that if I tell you what you don’t want to hear, you’re going to thank me for the gift of feedback.

🎧 Listen to the Podcast

Convincing the Jury Requires Good Storytelling

Open workplaces where people speak freely and without prejudice sounds great in practise. The issue is the last part “in practise”. We human beings are fuzzy, emotional beings that bring their psychological baggage to work every day.

If you want to change these fuzzy, emotional decision processes you also need to know their operating system.

We like to think of ourselves as logical beings open minded and accepting of data, but this is rarely the case. In one study, neuropsychologist E.Tulving found that patients who had significant trauma damage to their emotional cortex weren’t cold and detached like many would assume. Rather, the most fundamental operational challenge they faced was that without resorting to emotion, patients couldn’t make decisions about daily life – like whether to drink tea or coffee, or what to buy their wife for her birthday.

Leaders draw on this emotional core to make decisions. Consider how in the Star Trek series, the duality of Captain James Kirk’s emotional leadership style contrasted to his second in command Spock’s logical rationalisations. If you want to lead, engage and influence people you need strong emotional intelligence rather than logical reasoning skills.

So if you think that critical decisions, like the outcomes of a trial are based on logical reasoning, like most people would assume, you’d be wrong. Sure, we listen to the facts and weigh up their merit, but it’s via our own emotional biases that we are able to make sense of these truths.

As a young trial lawyer Paul discovered this himself the hard way. To win his first cases out of the gate he committed to giving the best researched and most factual presentation. It’s only after a series of defeats that an older lawyer took Paul aside and revealed to him the inconvenient truth about jury decisions, trial lawyers and as Paul would later discover, business. The truth was that people make decisions based on emotion and justify those decisions with logic.

The best lawyers know this. They frame arguments to connect jury emotions with past experiences. The “opening statement” or the “close” are examples of how lawyers use a narrative to help us understand facts.

The flipside of being a strong emotional leader also means that emotion governs much of your own reasoning process. When it works against you, you end up blindsided to both problems and opportunities. Many a poor decision was made because leaders rejected facts or evidence that contradicted their prevailing world view.

Take the story of Kodak leadership in the 1970s. Here was a brand that could have been the Apple of the next generation if it had simply paid attention to the conversations of its people. In 1973, a Kodak engineer named Steve Sasson presented to the leadership the world’s first digital camera. This device could have made Kodak a world leader, far ahead of its time, but with 90% of its business coming from analog photographic paper, managers said to Sasson, “That’s interesting Steve, but don’t tell anyone about it.”

A History of CEO Cognitive Bias
ceo cognitive bias paul glover

A reminder that CEOs are humans just like the rest of us. Read the article on Forbes here.

Finding Your Advocates for Employee Engagement One Person at a Time

Used effectively, emotional bias is also a powerful tool in business. Steve Jobs famously called the iPod (of which Apple sold over 400 million) not the world’s best MP3 player but a “tool for the heart”.

But Jobs never set out to sell 400 million units, rather he sought to convince one person. Apple made a successful case building a “beachhead” of fans over the long term that became passionate advocates of the brand in mainstream conversation.

One thing I learned about trial lawyers from my conversation with Paul is that’s how juries operate. You’d think that you need to win across the whole jury to win the case, but not so…

The first thing you have to do as a trial lawyer is convince one person. You don’t need to convince the whole jury. You need one advocate who is going to speak for you in deliberation.

The same applies to employee engagement. This isn’t a political game where the biggest vote wins. You start with a small group of employees who “get it” and work with them. One leader cannot change a whole company overnight, but they can start with one person, one team, one department and from this build internal advocacy to create change.

Employee Engagement and The Great Resignation

According to Gallup, “Engagement — not pay — spurs people to go the extra mile and give their best. “

So what drives engagement?

Once a base level of salary and comfort is met, everything beyond this point is arbitrary. A 10% pay rise at the expense of an extra 5 hour commute every week to the new office is, for example, an opportunity cost pay off that employees rationalise when it comes to their own engagement levels.

For years, employers have tried to offset the true friction of work (commutes, stress, meaningless tasks) with a combination of “Theory X” factors from regulations to financial benefits to gimmicks (e.g free beer, ball pits in the office, company mission statements).

There is a myth that we believe the highly paid are willing to accept a level of stress and abuse that others aren’t but this simply isn’t true. Look at the recent example of young Goldman Sachs bankers who went public complaining about the mental health issues of working 100+ hour weeks. Instead of listening to the feedback, Wall Street responded with a “maybe this isn’t the right job for you.”

In the podcast, Paul tells the story of a warehouse facility he was consulting to that had a problem with its workforce shipping deliveries on time within the allocated 8 hours a day. He bargained with them that if they could finish their work in 6 hours and cleaned the warehouse, the could clock off early and still get paid for a days work. It was a win-win for both employees and management, with 80% of the warehouse workers voting for the change. 2 months later on returning to the warehouse, Paul found the warehouse cleaned and empty 2 hours before clock off time, the system was working.

By shifting the employee engagement problem from one of management to a collective management employee challenge you can achieve great results. If you give them empowerment, they become engaged.

But, rather than embrace the win-win that this new working arrangement created, warehouse management resorted back to their traditional Industrial “Theory X” leadership style. Within a year, they renegotiated contracts and upped the “piece count”, meaning they had to load more product in the same amount of time.

These interactions between management and employees are critical. Ask any employee about why they enjoy their work and they’ll tell you it’s the small things that make a big difference – the team, how they are treated by the leadership and interactions with customers. If you want to summarize these factors, it’s other people the collective purpose. (See McKinsey’s article on Purpose and Employee Engagement).

When people are able to exercise control and engage in the process, they feel engaged. Quite often, a one-on-one review with management, positive feedback or effective mentoring can have a more significant impact on engagement levels that bonuses and pay rises. That’s why disruption of communication supply lines in the modern workplace has shocked people into thinking about their own career and happiness.

In Forbes, Jack Kelly writes of The Great Resignation that, “People have started thinking about what they’ve been doing and whether they want to continue on in the same job or career for the next five to 25 years. The results of this introspection clearly show that they want to make a move.”

According to’s Hiring Lab, job postings have been higher than pre-pandemic levels since March, leaving workers with a vast array of opportunity. CNBC reported this summer that four million people had already quit their jobs.

Among actively disengaged workers in 2021, 74% are either actively looking for new employment or watching for openings. This compares with 55% of not engaged employees and 30% of engaged employees.

So what’s driving The Great Resignation?

One factor is happiness, or lack of happiness in the workplace. A new Visier survey showed that the pandemic created widespread remote work with burnout at epidemic proportions (89%), driving a major resignation rate as a result.

The second factor is the pandemic. Work from home has given us choice and exposed us to new ideas about what works and what doesn’t. As we drift back to work we will remember what life was like without enduring long commutes and office politics. One recent study from Envoy stated that 47 percent of returning employees will not remain in their jobs, if they are not offered hybrid work.

But ultimately, The Great Resignation is the symptom of a wider malaise in our leadership.

People Join Companies and Leave Managers

Core to the issue are our leaders. The old maxim, “People Join companies and leave managers” reflects in the data:

Based on meta-analytics of 100 million employee interviews, one of Gallup’s most important leadership breakthroughs was that a full 70 percent of the variance between the highest engaged teams and disengaged teams was merely the leader in charge.

In Paul’s experience, most Leaders simply don’t know. They don’t put in the evening shifts or consider the age old principle of MBWA (management by walking around). They don’t really see what’s going on at the grass roots level of the organization.

Many organizations believe that they have a level of trust with their employees that enables them to speak up and share negative feedback without fear of retribution. In practise, this is simply not true. Employees don’t trust their leadership and they aren’t engaged.

That’s why key to taking a pulse on the reality of employee engagement starts with a 360 Review, where Paul will talk to and interview all stakeholders in the business about what’s really going on and how the Leaders are doing. It’s what Paul calls the moment of truth and you can find out more about Reviews in his Forbes article here on Appreciation Reviews.

When we talk about 360 Reviews on the Podcast, I wonder how this could have created an alternative ending for Kodak. As their CEO said at the time, “if I told people it was raining outside, even on a sunny day, they’d tell me it was raining.”

A 360 Review would have delivered the uncomfortable, but necessary truth. It could have saved billions of dollars in lost value (Kodak later filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection), thousands of jobs and ultimately one of the most iconic tech brands of the 20th century.

All companies and their leaders are prone to becoming victims of their own success. Their own “BS” as Paul cauls it. Like the Netflix “Radical Transparency”, they start to believe in their own hype rather than the news from the trenches. That’s why Paul calls his coaching style “No BS”. These may be uncomfortable conversations to have but so much failure in business and life was prefaced with someone refusing to acknowledge data or experience out of their comfort zone. The modern day equivalents of Sasson don’t stick around for fatter pay checks or better benefits, they seek out challenges and meaningful work that can be easily crushed by the cognitive bias of an ill informed manager.

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Bernard Hor

CEO of Hatio Lab based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia.

Asia’s Middle Class Opportunity

They call it The Asian Century – the roughly 100 year epoch that defines 2020 onwards, the same era that defined the American Century from 1920 until today and the British before it. Each epoch is characterized by rapid build outs of unique logistical networks unique. The British has their rail roads, shipping lanes and canals. The Americans built the Panama Canal, telecommunications and the internet. The Asian Century will be defined by a massively complex offline to online network logistics nodes spanning 4 billion people and thousands of islands.

Like every new era and the opportunity that defines it, we need new technologies and new hubs from which to deploy them.

Kuala Lumpur is perfectly placed as a logistics hub for Asia.

Geographically it’s the midpoint. A 5 hour flight from KLIA airport will enable you to reach 4 million people, about half the world’s population. By contrast, the same flight from SFO will reach only 700 million people. It’s no wonder that logistics giants like AirAsia are based there.

By 2030, 2/3rds of the world’s middle classes will be living in Asia, a combined value of $30 trillion or twice the size of the US economy today. And while household brands like Alibaba, AirAsia and Grab will be servicing those consumers, the vast majority will be looked after by small businesses. But, there are few solutions in the market that are either a) built for Asia and b) built for small businesses.

That’s where a chance encounter on vacation with family opened the door of opportunity for Bernard Hor, CEO of Hatio Lab. While in Korea, he discovered an advanced logistics platform used by Koreans that would be a perfect fit for the Southeast Asian market.

Speaking the Local Language of Warehouse Managers

When Bernard started out selling logistics software, he found warehouse managers would listen to his “pitch”, look at his slide presentations and nod patiently. They’d then go away and never return calls. It’s only when he realize concepts like “Digital Transformation” were management consultant speak that existed in another world did he also start understanding how to connect with these people.

“I threw the presentations away,” he said, gesturing towards an imaginary white board that can be found in any warehouse. “I start mapping out their business on the white board. What’s your problem now?” It’s only then that warehouse managers started to listen. People don’t buy stuff; they buy what stuff does for them. Small businesses didn’t have the budgets, skill or people to take their Mom and Pop stores and turn them into mini Alibabas. Most operated their inventories at best on paper, at worst in their heads. And importantly, even if they did, it wouldn’t be an appropriate solution. Warehouse managers don’t care about digital, digitalisation or digital transformation. They care about goods to be picked and orders shipped.

Rather than reskill and rehire an entire generation of workers who are the backbone servicing Asia’s Middle Class, we’d need a solution that works on their terms.

Rajiv Lamba

CEO of Neurosensum and Surveysensum.

Rajiv’s journey takes him from India to Indonesia to Singapore.

He built his early career in the agency world.

Rajiv’s revenue growth has been impressive.

Rajiv’s current business has enjoyed rapid growth servicing Asia’s expanding demand for consumer goods. His success has been building a model to service Asian based corporates that meets their needs. While many startups pursue the SaaS model, here in Asia corporates want a hybrid – they want both the SaaS technology and the guidance of a hands-on consultant to help them both use and interpret the data internally.

Fundamental to Rajiv’s success is his knowledge of the Asian consumer. Asia is a market of over 4 billion people. By 2030, 2/3rds of the world’s middle class will be living in Asia, a combined value of $30 trillion. Unlike many other more mature consumer markets, brands have less established knowledge about the behaviors, habits and mindsets of these emerging consumers. What do we know, for example, about the attitudes of Indonesia’s 135 million people aged under 35? In the US, you could begin to get a picture of a generation (like Millennials or Gen Z) by describing them as a derivative (albeit with their own distinct nuances) of the consumers that came before them.

But Asia doesn’t work like that. For Asian consumers, it’s not a case of looking at the bank and washing powder brands of their parents and deciding to buy something similar, but more relevant. Many of their parents didn’t have bank accounts or washing machines. And many of the brands on the market didn’t exist a generation ago.

Amongst all this chaos, brands need to build a clear and consistent picture of the people they want to serve.

As an entrepreneur, Rajiv is mindful of the mental health of all of his team. They collectively meditate, a practise that he says has been fundamental in their wellness and business success. As is common with many startups, entrepreneurial life can be beset with uncertainty and anxiety. But, with reflection on his journey into a more mindful existence, Rajiv says he is a better leader. He’s less snappy. He’s less reactive. He and his team are able to both make decisions based on their long term merit to company and client, and importantly enjoy the journey.

Margaret Manning

Introducing Margaret Manning

Margaret Quote

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Margaret Mannning is CEO of Digital Conversations – advisor to corporates and government on building agile company cultures, diversity and adopting a start-up mindset.

Why is Margaret qualified to bridge the world of corporates and startups? Because she’s hard remarkable success on both sides. On the one hand, she’s been awarded by the Queen, served the UK government in advisory roles, was a former partner at Ernst & Young. On the other, she successfully build and sold one of the UK’s first digital consultancies.

At heart, Margaret is an entrepreneur who knew how to speak the language of the corporate world and used this rare combination of skills to good effect. In her own words, she’s not the traditional corporate type. She could have applied her drive to a career in management or accountancy, working up the ladder and biding time for each subsequent boss to move up or retire. But she could never settle for mediocrity or, more importantly, a life not lived on her own terms.

In her early career out of the gate of University, Margaret rose through the competitive ranks of managerial roles. Until one pivotal moment, a fork in the road, forced her to change course. A good friend confessed to her that he would do anything in his power to secure a management position that both he and Margaret were shortlisted for. That meant, for him, even stamping on Margaret to get there.

Margaret is a seeker, passionately curious and driven to find answers. She cares little for the BS of formality for formality’s sake and will do what’s required, even if that means going against the grain of expectation. Packaging that disruptive mindset in a safe way for corporates and governments is the key.

When we speak through Zoom against the backdrop of her house in Barbados, her eyes constantly seek out answers and ideas around her, her thoughts joining the dots between a diverse world of experience that seems improbable. At a recent Blockchain meeting on the island, she was the only woman present. Being “out of place” only limits us when we define ourselves through one place of belonging, one role, one identity, a narrative often defined for us rather than by us.

When you consider a few of these facts about Margaret’s formative years, you’ll soon build a picture of someone who doesn’t like to be defined by traditional narratives:
– Studied Artificial Intelligence at University in the 1980s (10 years before me – in fact we took the same course: Cognitive Psychology and AI). Long before I was programming on VED terminals in Prolog, Margaret was using even more rudimentary technology – mainframe punchcards and Fortran.
– Competitive triathlete in her teens (long before the Ironman days, when triathlon, Margaret informs me, was an offshoot of pentathlon involving a swim, run and shooting!)
– Would regularly challenge boys in her year to competitive arm wrestling (apparently she was pretty good and would bruise many a male ego).

Now she’s in her 60s, seeing out challenge is not an option, it’s her nature. She confidently informs me she can leg press 120 kg. And then there’s online gaming. In her strategy game, she’s a leader of guild leaders. She recently organized a casual meetup in Vegas for fellow gamers, 30+ attended in person.

This is the same “un-establishment” Margaret Manning, for instance, that both served as the Chair of the government UK ASEAN trade council and was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in person by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

We’ll talk about her building a digital agency from zero to $10m+ in sales and 100+ people across 3 time zones and selling the agency in a minute.

There’s something intriguing about a woman who is both comfortable with being awarded by the Queen and quite frankly, badass. Many of her online gaming friends are surprised to find out that behind this formidable persona is a 5 foot tall, quiet woman in her 60s who speaks in measured tones. She’s not loud or brash, as you’d expect of someone who’s amassed so many awards in her business career. Rather, she’s disarmingly down to earth and genuine.

Growing The Reading Room

Reading Room: Award Winning Consultancy
reading room

When I ask Margaret about a defining moment in the growth story of The Reading Room (one of the UK’s first digital consultancies) rather than dwell on the exit sale, she recalled the scene of taking the train in Barcelona and looking down the carriage to see it full of the her team. That’s when she knew she had built something worthwhile because it was defined by creating value not just for her but for a whole community of over 100 likeminded creatives and change makers.

Where most agencies and consultancies would favour hiring people with length experience and school pedigree, Margaret (who interestingly had both) chose people who were often misfits in the traditional hiring process. She hired teachers and architects who had little digital experience but who had the mindset of solving problems and getting the job done.

Margaret Manning -
Margaret Manning –

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Rachit Dayal – Founder Happy Marketer

? Welcome to the XL Podcast

The XL Podcast celebrates extraordinary live and shares the stories of people who have led through choosing their own pathways.

My next guest, Singapore based Rachit Dayal, started a business out of the gate of University with minimal funding. 9 years later, her grows the same company to $10m in sales before being acquired by Japanese media conglomerate Dentsu.

Startup media loves narratives like this, but behind the headlines is a less glamorous story of surviving rejection and keeping the business alive. 2 years on from his Exit, Rachit Dayal, founder of Happy Marketer talks to me on The XL Podcast about his journey, the challenges of scaling a non-investible business and his next move.

As you’ll learn in this conversation, some successful entrepreneurs aren’t driven by Moonshots or game changing solutions, but by the need to just do something different. As Rachit puts it, “I chose entrepreneurship not because I had a brilliant idea, or money lying around or a great vision for where it would go, but I felt that it would allow me to explore”. He mentions Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken”, a beautiful homage to the adventure that is entrepreneurship. I’ve copied in the last verse below:

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

The Power of Showing Up

Behind every success is a lot of “Showing Up”.

Before the Exit, Happy Marketer didn’t run out of some cool buzzing coworking space or startup accelerator but a low-key shophouse on the fringes of town in Singapore. We’ll get to the shophouse in a minute, but first, the success…

The Business Exit from Marketing Interactive 2019
happy marketer
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Like most startup success headlines we only see a snapshot of the whole story. No mention of Maggi Noodles here. We also don’t get to hear about the day to day drivers that kept these startups going in the early days, when there were few clients and little comfort that they could meet payroll end of the month.

It’s in these early days an entrepreneur’s motivation keeps the show on the road. Being the tallest memeber of the team meant Rachit played a vital role in keeping the business open. Other team members weren’t able to reach the shutters on the old shop front, so if he didn’t show up to work, nobody could access the office. Often, we don’t see the meaning in the events that define our business careers until we reflect on them later. In the end, it’s not about winning awards or exiting companies, but showing up.

“Showing Up” is underrated.

Survivor bias blinds us in the startup world – we lionize the billion dollar SaaS startups and the fat pre-Series A funding rounds sold on the promise of changing the world. In the midst of all this media hype, there are entrepreneurs like Rachit who aren’t driven by a game-changing “why” but a desire to “Show Up” and make today a better day. Sure, he’s won awards and achieved a business exit, but if that was the main motivation for the journey, he’d have chosen easier and more comfortable pathways to success.

Showing Up means committing to a long, sometimes unpopular, and often arduous path to growth. It means eating eggs, Maggi Noodles and Kailan, foregoing vacations and nights out for the first 2 years to ensure the business had enough cashflow to keep the lights on.

I thought if I could live off $900 a month for 10 years I’d figure it out. Sure, I might lose some friends along the way.

Seven years later, he grew that business to $10m+ in sales before selling it to the Japanese media conglomerate Dentsu. All the while, they had been growing the business in the background, “Showing Up” – building relationships with corporates and key partners like Google. Until the day came when they were too good to ignore. They landed large client accounts, awards and eventually caught the eye of a potential acquirer.

It’s the long hard road to overnight success.

Happy Marketer - Singapore's Most Awarded Agency
happy marketer

Choosing the path of an extraordinary life comes at a high price for many of my guests on the XL Podcast. You’re more likely to succeed if you can say no to what does not make you happy than embrace the big “yes” opportunities. This is the road less taken – the path of most resistance.

Yes, there are economic hardships, like the noodles, but there are also emotional ones. It is relatively easy for people to start their own businesses these days. Keeping going is the key to success. In order to stay on track, you have to manage expectations and other people.

When it comes to success in startups across Asia, I found that the biggest obstacle isn’t a lack of ambition or resourcefulness (you will find both in abundance). It is saying “no” to the good intentions of extended families, peers, and society in general that want to help. It is often the “best for you” that is shaped by their own experiences – a world that values job security and status over individual exploration and discovery. Why risk it all on a startup when you can secure a high paying and comfortable job at a bank?

Going with the flow in life will constantly nudge you into comfortable outcomes. However, if you want freedom, you must be prepared to swim upstream. Rachit doesn’t interject answers to my questions or feel the need to fill in the blanks during our conversation. It is clear that he is curious and thoughtful. These are deliberate choices he makes, shaped by a bigger structure somehow determining his own personal and professional life.

Rachit Dayal – The Troublemaker

In the Happy Marketer story, Rabit relates a moment when he was reunited with his former university classmate Prantik Mazumdar. Initially, Rachit needed Prantik’s business development skills and contacts to get the job done, but he faced a major hurdle – the weight of family expectation. It took quite a bit of persuading. Though Prantik was sold on the idea of building a startup, Prantik’s parents were keen to see their son continue his successful career trajectory in the consulting and government sector.

I was a little bit in awe. I had just met [Prantik] after he came from his school in Indonesia where he was the prefect or head boy. He seemed to be the favourite of the crowd and I was a little misfit. I barely squeaked into University, made it to the flight and made it here with a hundred bucks.

I tell Rachit that this story reminds me of a similar conversation between Paul Allen and Bill Gates in the founding of Microsoft. Allen was the maverick coder who worked behind the scenes. Gates was a Harvard straight shooter with exceptional academic credentials. Allen convinces Gates to drop out of Harvard and start Microsoft with him, appealing not to the material wealth they could create, but to the idea of building something that could make a difference.

By the time he had “pitched” his partner’s family the idea of quitting his corporate career and going against the grain of expectations, Rachit already had years of experience. He had years of practise fielding questions and subtle nudges from an extended Indian family who wanted a safe career vocation for their son. Rachit’s curiosity meant, inevitably, he was going to cross a few lines and break a few boundaries.

Making different decisions is a muscle like everything else. It didn’t start off with me making bold decisions but lots of small decisions early on like not wearing the right shirt to school.

He describes his school life as not being the best looking / smartest / wealthiest kid as pivotal in creating the foundation of his desire to seek at alternative pathways for success. Here was the kid at school who would deliberately wear the wrong shirt, against school rules, simply to test the limits of what was acceptable. It’s a formative behavioral pattern that could go either way: either this trouble maker will fall into the wrong crowd and spend his life bouncing from one crisis to the next or he will somehow, like all trouble makers to paraphrase Richard Branson, end up becoming an entrepreneur.

When Rachit graduated, he deliberated over career choices but after deciding that climbing the corporate ladder wouldn’t offer him self-growth and personal Kaizen, he began to explore his own choices. A combination of a NUS (National University of Singapore) entrepreneurship program and a year spent in the US exposed him to startup cultures that confirmed his belief that, with the right idea and enough belief, he could strike out alone. What, though, wasn’t clear. He dabbled, initially in hypnosis and NLP before finally finding his feet in digital marketing.

Why vs Kaizen

It’s at this juncture I find the story of entrepreneurs like Rachit diverge from the commonly held narrative about what motivates them and drives them to success. In his book, “Start with Why” author Simon Sinek reminds us that “Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers had little in common, but they all started with WHY.”

I don’t have a service, I have a version 1.0 of everything. People might not pay for what I have right now, but if I listen to feedback and try something new, another version of this will work with some audience.

The Wright Brothers never set out to build a plane, they worked in a bicycle repair shop. Steve Jobs never set out to redefine the IT and mobile industry, he just wanted to design that interested him. I’d argue that entrepreneurs don’t start out with a “Why” but rather a desire to follow their curiosity and improve things. For Rachit his driver was not settling for a life of mediocrity.

As an entrepreneur you tread a narrow path. On the one side the corporate ladder where you can prove success and status to extended family and wider society. On the other, the myth of “why” and the need to create big game changing narratives about your startup to raise money and impress audiences.

All the hard goals I see fellow entrepreneurs struggle with are arbitrary. Saying you need $400,000 to make payroll came from a 10 minute conversation with an investor. If you focus on these goals you’ll lose your way

In the podcast, we get to the art of “Kaizen” – the Japanese art of constant evolution. Both Rachit and I are tangentially connected to this philosophy on a business and personal level (we’re both married to Japanese partners). Too many entrepreneurs focus on the big goals and the hard numbers that define business success and pay little attention to the daily realities that manifest in the numbers.

Kaizen is the underlying principle of the Toyota Management System that provides the foundation for Lean Management and most popular startup thinking today. (See bestseller The Toyota Way by Jeffrey Liker). Rather than start with a clearly defined goal for your product or business, start with what can be improved. Toyota learned that rather than focusing on the hard goals, they would devote their efforts to breaking the process down. Every process has hundreds of cogs. You can improve every cog. And while the impact of a single cog may be meaningless in the bigger picture, the compounding effect on success long term can be significant.

Toyota never set out with a “why” to become the most profitable automotive manufacturer in the world. It started with a goal to create cheap transport and jobs for post-War Japanese. 20 year later in the 1970s, Toyota was still perceived as unreliable and prone to break down. But within another 20, through the constant application of process improvement, Toyota had become the best selling and most reliable manufacturer in the world.

Agency based models, like that of Happy Marketer, are inherently non-investible for early stage angels and funds. Agencies need bodies and rely on the stuff that doesn’t scale – relationships and people. So, where most software and product based startups can turn to funding rounds to achieve scale, agency founders need to have access to the tools that will help them achieve an organic, compounding trajectory for growth.

Constant evolution and the magic of compounding can yield massive results long term. Rachit demonstrates you don’t have to focus on an audacious growth story to 10x your revenues. Instead, you can direct your attention to what’s visible, measurable and controllable now. A dashboard with your key operational data or customer behaviour, for example. These visuals (as Amazon calls them) are powerful tools to constant growth. You only need to improve your numbers 2% a day to double in 7 weeks (according to the accounting ‘law of 72’!).

But it only works if you commit to constant learning, constant examination of what’s working and what isn’t and adopt what’s right as opposed to what’s always been done.

Personal Kaizen

Rachit talks of “process oriented goals” that can be atomized and measured on a daily basis. Rather than focus on building a multi million dollar sales funnel, focus on the number of inbound leads you receive on a daily basis. And rather than focus on building and selling a business, focus on how you can improve and better serve your customers ever day.

Process Oriented Goals are what can bring joy every day

I love that entrepreneurs are mindful enough to use the word “joy” in the context of business life. So often founders are driven to achieve the next goal. When they hit their goals, they are afraid of taking time out to celebrate success and push on to newer and bigger goals. Business life can pass in a blur. Taking time to enjoy the journey, not reaching the destination, is critical to success.

The fact that Kaizen, as Japanese as it appears, was actually taught to post war Japanese industrialists by an American (Edwards Deming) is testament to its universality. The principles of Kaizen apply to startups of all shapes and stripes – Japanese, Singaporean and even American. You can also live your life by these principles.

I’ve spoken to many entrepreneurs about the existential challenge they face after achieving success. It’s a question I’ve wrestled with myself, selling a business before traveling the world for 4 years with my family. Lying on tropical islands after some time gets old. If you’re an entrepreneur, retirement and inactivity leads to boredom and unhappiness. What drives us isn’t Instagram-friendly tropical sunsets, but the challenge of other people and constant learning.

My biggest values weren’t being attracted to something but running way from mediocrity. Whenever I saw people working towards a predictable path, I get fired up to go do something different.

More importantly, we are driven to seek out bigger truths. Everything in Rachit’s life has been an experiment driven less by an overarching goal to change the world but more by the need to satisfy a curiosity, to improve outcomes for customers and the people around him. With success, we don’t stop the seeking, rather we use that knowledge and those resources to seek out new truths that challenge us in different ways.

Success isn’t about exiting the game so we can focus on what we love, but to find a game that we love and keep playing it.

Success means you have the ability to keep Showing Up on a daily basis.

With the hindsight afforded to him with a little personal reflection post exit, Rachit now thinks about how we can continue to satiate that curiosity. He’s still working as the Apac CMO of Dentsu’s interactive arm Merkle and enjoying the challenge of applying his philosophies to a larger playing field. He’s also investing his creative energies into creating his personal brand on Youtube. He mentions Casey Neistat, a Youtuber with 13 million followers, as a personal role model.

But, at time of our conversation, he just bought his camera equipment and not yet started recording. It’s a long way to go, but perhaps these long journeys without defined destination are what drives entrepreneurs like Rachit.

Rachit Dayal -
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Prantik Mazumdar

What does it take to grow an agency from zero to $10m+ in sales?

Agency business models are one of the hardest to make successful. You don’t have the 100x growth potential of a SaaS startup and you’re investing a lot of your time both in your own people and individual relationships with clients.

Co-Founder of Happy Marketer.

Prantik could have taken a safe corporate route in his career. Indeed, that’s how he started out. He landed comfortable jobs working for Singapore government agencies and consultancies. For many Indian parents (and the all-important opinions of extended families) Prantik’s early career path would have been perfect.

But, entrepreneurialism is a calling that doesn’t always respect tradition or the expectations of others. If it touches you, you either are all-in or your spend the rest of your life living in regret. For Prantik, a conversation with Rachit Dayal, a friend and classmate at NUS, changed the trajectory of his career. Rachit was already 2 years into his journey building his startup, but the missing member in their team was someone who could be a rainmaker, who had the connections and the PR presence to go out and sell the business to big ticket clients.

That person was Prantik. He had the credentials – studied at NUS, one of Asia’s leading Universities, was former head prefect at his school in Indonesia, worked for the Singapore government. He exudes positivity and is very conscious of the opportunities that his background has given him.

Post Exit Prantik is keen to put the opportunities life has given him to serve others. He’s passionate about equality of access – meaning giving people the ability to access resources and knowledge in healthcare and employment across the region. That’s a significant problem to solve. India and Southeast Asia combined have over 2 billion people, a large number of which do not have access to education, employment or healthcare services that most consider fundamental.