Trust yourself and trust the people around you. Emotional highs and lows are easier to handle when you have people around to share with.
Anjan is a technology leader with over two decades of experience in building and deploying cross-channel web applications. As the CTO and Co-Founder of Vantage Circle, he is responsible for the technological progress and evolution of Vantage Circle. He has played a key role in the design, architecture, and technical implementation of the company’s core functions.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better before we dive in. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Thank you so much for having me. So I come from Assam and have always been fascinated by the technological innovations, which encouraged me to study computers in college. Then I moved to London and dedicated around 14 years of my life working as an e-commerce consultant/architect. When I look back, I realize how my stint in Europe helped me develop my entrepreneurial skills.
Then in 2010, my friend Partha was willing to start his own company. Knowing Partha and the kind of skills and perseverance he has, I immediately jumped to be one of the early investors. I am happy that I trusted his instinct, or else we would not be here today. That’s how Vantage Circle started.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
When we started initially, the platform was based on corporate deals as it was not considered much among the organizations. It provided us with the perfect opportunity to kickstart our idea of providing specific perks and benefits for the corporates.
As time passed by, we saw a window of opportunity in the fitness industry as well. There was a fitness revolution going on among the youths. It gave us the idea to start Vantage Fit and bring health awareness among the corporate employees. Having a bit of experience in this particular field helped us significantly.
A few years down the road, the importance of improving wellness for the corporate world will be a big thing. People are now aware and acknowledge that a sound body and mind will help them achieve their goals. With the help of Vantage Fit, we will definitely try to improve the employees’ health and wellness.
As the saying goes that prevention is better than cure, I think instead of focusing more on providing benefits like health insurance, life insurance, sick leaves, etc, employers should encourage the employees to take care of their health and wellness through some actionable measures.
Most of the companies have always centered their focus on providing health benefits that lacked flexibility and adaptability. But with Vantage Fit we aim to change the dynamics of how health benefits should be tabled and elevate the efforts with a more improved product that can cater today’s health needs. The main focus should include both the aspects of a human body that is mental and physical well-being.
In your opinion, were you a natural-born entrepreneur, or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
I don’t know if there is anything like a natural-born entrepreneur or a natural-born athlete. Yes, some people are indeed born with definite traits that help them to achieve their goals. But to run any business, one must develop relevant skills to the present time and have learning agility. To be more aware of the marketplace and stay relevant. I strongly believe that the one who is consistent and always keeps working on improving their skills has a better edge than others.
I am still learning and will continue till the last day, I believe. I believe that experiences shape you and learn through the challenges you face in your journey. From my education to my corporate experience abroad played a substantial role in developing that aptitude.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
It is my friend and co-founder of Vantage Circle, Partha Neog. Partha and I are friends, and we used to discuss a lot about business. To build something and sustain it. During our time in London, business and entrepreneurship were our favorite topics of discussion. Even when he went to do his MBA in ISB, Hyderabad, we were in constant touch. We both were equally passionate about it. In 2010, when Partha wanted to start a corporate deal business, I became one of the early investors. I had the belief in him and his entrepreneurial leadership skills. Later in 2013, I joined Vantage Circle full time, and we never looked back.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Interesting question! I believe our company’s core strength lies in our values and beliefs. And that is reflected in our company culture. Most importantly, our products played a significant role in making our company stand out from the rest. We are an employee engagement platform, and we researched and defined the core metrics for engagement and employee productivity at the beginning of our journey. We want to give a great employee experience to the workforce. This is why we have employee rewards, benefits, employee surveys, and wellness as a unified solution to provide the workforce with a great employee experience.
Many stories pop up in my mind at the moment. Ok, let’s put it this way. We had clients who gave their opinions after implementing our platform and how it positively impacted their work culture. This is what we work for, and when we are acknowledged for being able to make a difference, we keep that in great regard.
We are in a business where we make people happy and engaged in their jobs. Having attained success amidst all the struggles, we are trying to create a better work culture for the greater good.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Never give up attitude, Self- belief, and Perseverance. Understanding the corporate culture and the change that could bring the opportunity to build new innovations is equally critical. Employee engagement is a niche in the HR department. At least it was a decade ago. Now things have changed, people are more aware of investing in employee engagement initiatives and building a work culture that enhances employee experience. Before, it was a manual approach, and HR departments had no tools to leverage from.
I don’t recall any specific examples, but I believe that these traits were instrumental in making our company grow and sustain in difficult times.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about the advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
India was a developing market when it came to internet entrepreneurship. And that is where I think I made a mistake. There are a lot of stories to share, but I think I should have returned to India a lot earlier and understand the dynamics instead of waiting for the right moment. When I arrived, there was a complete change in the scenario, and I saw a completely different corporate world. It evolved so much and adapted to the developments that made me realize I might be late to enter the current market. But that was never the case. Along the way, I learned that no matter how delayed your entry is, if you have the right idea and a vision, you can accomplish anything and overcome the challenges.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
In my experience, employees’ happiness and satisfaction are two important factors that can help the company grow and strive towards success. The crucial aspect here is that, as a young entrepreneur, you have to value your employees and create a work environment that everyone will look forward to. Before starting a new venture, you have to be very clear on how you are going to focus on employee engagement and foster the well-being of the employees.
A work culture that emphasizes appreciating employees takes care of their mental and physical health and measures the overall growth significantly reduces workplace stress and burnout levels. The main goal should be to create a workplace with a perfect work-life balance that the current workforce loves and needs to thrive in this competitive market.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and authority in their industry?
Well, it actually varies from business to business and people to people. It is always about people management and how you could improve their overall experience in the workplace. No matter how hard you try to bring in the best technologies to cater to your workforce’s needs and requirements if you do not have the right idea about people management, it becomes quite difficult to carry out the daily tasks.
In order to build trust, credibility, and authority in a particular industry, you have to provide your people with the autonomy they want. And it’s not always about autonomy. One should provide the flexibility, prioritize the needs and benefits and most importantly, focus on acknowledging the overall efforts.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
If you have a workforce that is not satisfied with their work, then it becomes impossible to achieve the long-term goals and visions. Your employees are your backbones, and without them, nothing is possible. No matter how much revenue you generate or achieve success, if you do not take care of your people, they will eventually leave you. It is important to retain your employees because they know the culture, the structure, and everything that revolves around the organization internally and externally.
With the growing needs and requirements of the corporate world, taking care of your people mentally and physically will determine your leadership qualities and set a good example for the upcoming business leaders that people management is and should be on top of the funnel.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
The elements to begin a new business are the same for all, and it is not a cakewalk. However, you have to be absolutely sure of what you are going to do and how you are going to achieve the vision that you have. This vision gives you the necessary drive and motivation to do better while experimenting with new things.
These days, most startups now do not plan a solid business strategy to align their vision and garner success with the right marketing plans. Another mistake that startups now make is that they do not have any reliable backup plan of action that will help them save their business when times are difficult.
One should have a definite backup plan that will help them and give them the confidence to take risks. Another thing to keep in mind is that one must learn the most basic necessity of a business: good people management. Success should be the primary concern but not at the cost of the people who support you through thick and thin.
Ok, fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills, and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
There is no clear answer to this question. It again varies from person to person and how they deal with a situation. Everyone has a varying perspective on how life should be and how they take on the challenges. Having emotional highs and lows actually gives us this sense that we are just humans and must keep a positive outlook towards life and learn from the journey.
I won’t say it is different from a regular job. But yes, the level of dedication and effort takes a shift when you lead a business. It becomes stressful at times, and you might feel that all you can do is quit. You become responsible and accountable to a lot of people, and that’s where you draw the energy from. In a regular job, you work for the company, but when you start your own business, you work for the people, the investors, and the society at large.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Let me give you a very recent example. We built our marketing team slowly and were not very sure about its practices and how to go about it. Marketing is a tricky business. A wrong call can damage your branding. For us, it was important to connect to the decision-makers of the organization who needs an employee engagement platform. We, therefore, decided to invest in inbound marketing and generate organic traffic to boost our business. Our team did an excellent job in creating resources and blogs around employee engagement, HR Management, and everything in-between. We crossed monthly traffic of 1 million last December, and that was quite a feat for us.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
In 2003, I came from the United Kingdom to India to set up a business. I recruited several software developers within a few days and also leased an office room. Sadly, though, things didn’t turn out as expected. It did affect me mentally and made me vulnerable. The confidence that I can build something in my own country with the experience and knowledge that I have was shattered. That was really a low phase for me.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
I took everything as a learning experience. I did give a lot of thought to it positively. Also, the positive aspect of going through a tough time is that your mind contemplates and tries to connect the dots. I did exactly that to figure where I went wrong. It helped streamline my focus and come out of it positively.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Look after yourself. Eat well, sleep well and do some physical exercise.
- Focus on the action and not the result. Results are not always in your control anyway.
- Plan long term and maintain a strict discipline.
- Trust yourself and trust the people around you. Emotional highs and lows are easier to handle when you have people around to share with.
- Ups and downs in life are very important to keep us going because a straight line even in an E.C.G means we are not alive .— Ratan Tata
We are living during challenging times, and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Resilience is something that comes from within a human being. It is psychological. It’s about being strong mentally. Your experiences mold your resilience and help you understand the mistakes that you have made. Actually, it’s about the attitude you have towards life and the mission you have. If you are adamant about fulfilling your dreams, then resilience is something that comes impulsively.
I believe that resilient people are focused, good problem solvers and decision-makers, compassionate, and inspirational. They are the leaders that everyone looks up to and a guide that everyone needs to follow.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
I am a strong believer of the Friedrich Nietzsche quote ‘That which does not kill you makes you stronger”.
The hardships that you experience in your life builds your resilience bone, I believe. I had very beautiful memories from my college and hostel lives. Now that I look back, these experiences seem very pleasant. But I had faced many challenges during that stage. They really helped me become more resilient. Also, running, as a form of exercise from a very young age with my father has helped build my resilience. The habit that I have not given up to date.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during challenging situations? What helps you to do so?
A positive attitude is anticipating the good and being mindful of the present situation to make better decisions. It comes from acceptance and experiences. Keeping hope and working with the utmost focus can help us climb any ladder. At least it helped me.
I am accountable for the hundreds of people who work with us. It is a challenging task to keep everyone on the same page and satisfied. At times, you second guess your decision when it does not give you the anticipated results. Issues like these are so prominent in any organization today. So you do what is needed. Work, motivate, guide, and keep learning and growing with the hope that you will achieve your goals.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
When you start a business, having a positive attitude is what will drive you towards success. No matter how difficult a situation may get, a positive attitude will give you the confidence and willpower to face the challenges fearlessly. It actually helps you in keeping the mind focused on finding the solution rather than losing the vision you have. Positive thinking might be underrated, but it definitely makes your thought processes clear and builds a calm mind.
During the initial days, there were times when we had no money in our bank account. This really made life difficult for us. But we were adamant that our employees should not suffer because of it. We didn’t let them know about it and made sure that we will handle the situation with a positive mindset. Finally, things worked in favor of us and we were able to get through the difficult phase. This made us believe and gave us the strength that we have got to be positive through all the circumstances.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
Ok, the favorite quote would be the one by Benjamin Franklin. It says, ‘The sleeping fox catches no poultry.’ This quote has taught me the importance of seizing the opportunity. My mother used to tell me the same thing when I was very young and struggling to find my foot. That’s why the saying stayed with me and still helps me when I have critical decisions to make.
How can our readers further follow you online?
Email: [email protected]
Bio: I am a technology leader with over two decades of experience in building and deploying cross-channel web applications.
The initial 17 years of my vocation were spent brainstorming, designing, and architecting multiple e-commerce applications. The cognizance, experience, and insights accumulated over the years have been invaluable in eventually doing what I authentically wanted to do- developing world-class HR technology solutions
I have spent a significant part of my career, 15 years to be precise, working in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe. Upon my eventual return to India in 2013, I have been involved in developing and mentoring the product, operations, and marketing team of Vantage Circle since then. Even today, I consider myself an entrepreneur at heart.
As the CTO of the company, I am responsible for the technological progress and evolution of Vantage Circle. I have played a key role in the design, architecture, and technical implementation of the company’s core functions.
As a wellness devotee, I am inconceivably energetic about the requirement for corporate wellbeing. I am a passionate global technologist, committed to change the game for clients and customers.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!