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Gurman Hundal of MiQ: “To Develop Resilience, You Need To Have Genuine Friends”

There’s three for me that stands out in my mind. The first is that in your work environment, you need to have genuine friends. That makes you more resilient because you have someone to talk to and who is understanding of what you’re going through. For me, I’m almost brotherly with my business partner, who […]

There’s three for me that stands out in my mind. The first is that in your work environment, you need to have genuine friends. That makes you more resilient because you have someone to talk to and who is understanding of what you’re going through. For me, I’m almost brotherly with my business partner, who has been a huge support system along the way.

The second is that you have to know how to control your emotions — especially during those highs and lows. You can never be a 9/10 and you should never be a 3/10 — learn to always be somewhere in the middle. I also came up with this technique — never act on your first thought which is solely instinctual. Act on your second thought — it’s more rational.

And the third is that whatever you do to sort of “chill out” or switch off, do it.


Entrepreneur and tech visionary Gurman Hundal is the CEO and a co-founder of MiQ. He launched the now-global company in London with partner Lee Puri after recognizing a clear unaddressed need for data-driven insight in an otherwise thriving ad-tech economy.

Hundal began his career at the Pan Euro ad network Adlink Internet Media, where he launched the company’s performance division just six months after joining the organization.

There, he honed his expertise in ad tech, analysis, and optimization. He subsequently led the establishment of online ad network A&NY Media for publisher group Associated Northcliffe Media. Seeing both opportunity and demand for more transparent models in real-time advertising,

Hundal and Puri started MiQ in 2010. Under Hundal’s leadership, MiQ has maintained a 95% employee retention rate, more than twice the industry average.

In 2017, Hundal was named the winner of a Gold Stevie Award in the Executive of the Year in the Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations category at the 15th Annual American Business Awards.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

I started my career in advertising when I was 19. I had to do an internship for my college degree — very much more on the operational side of the industry and the technical side. I decided to stay in the industry after and actually worked at the same company I interned with. After about six months there, I sort of said to my boss — who is actually now my current business partner — we should create a new product and a new division within the company. So he and I did a spinoff and the idea of that product was very similar to MiQ — to be able to go to clients and promise great performance on their online advertising campaigns and back it with really great transparent insights.

Then I got really lucky that he got headhunted to go work for a competitor, which meant I got his job — so six months out of university I got promoted. He and I competed for about four or five years, working in the same space. But then we got together and said we really want to start our own company with the reasons that we wanted to have the ability to make decisions and be in control of our own destinies and accountable to ourselves. We really cared about making a great environment for people. So when we heard about this new way of buying advertising online called programmatic advertising — a new technique to buy advertising online in a much more automated and efficient manner than traditional methods — we dove in.

We started the company in October 2010. Our value propositions at the time were leveraging programmatic — and the idea that we’ll deliver superior performance for clients. Another was that we offered a way to use one of the most untapped market research data — the raw data behind all of the digital ads that companies were buying. We said we wanted to aggregate that and give great insight to customers. The rest is history.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

Shortly after we started the business we realized we needed to build technology and hire people with engineering backgrounds or data science backgrounds to be able to build the capabilities to run these powerful ad campaigns. We went to India to do that. And I found that very interesting on how to recruit people from there and motivate them, how to connect what’s typically known as an economic outsourcing alternative, but create a brand where that’s not the main philosophy — the philosophy is we are at the epicenter of the business and we’re going to get you really close and connected to the markets that we sell in. So that whole experience was one of the most interesting and exciting. But also one of the biggest challenges, because it’s a highly competitive market and to integrate every single country you operate in — and say to clients that they have to leverage technology and resources from another place is always challenging.

Another example is when my wife and I came to America from England. We came to New York and didn’t have any staff. We weren’t funded. And we had to do all of the selling ourselves basically. I remember a bit of marketing we did — we were the first company to be able to trigger an ad based on changes in the weather. So we’d turn a campaign on in any location when it started raining. My wife and I came up with this idea to buy umbrellas — pretty expensive, great quality ones — and we wrote handwritten notes to everyone I was emailing. We created a little pamphlet tied ot the umbrella saying “did you notice a change in the weather, wondering what’s happening with your campaign.” Bless her — she waited until it was absolutely pouring down rain and went by taxi to deliver them to all of these companies so that they got it. That hustle was how we started and I think what works here in America.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

It’s definitely the people. It goes back to when we wanted to start the company — we also wanted an environment where we could almost over-deliver for our people as much as we could. It definitely gets harder as you scale — but I think our ambition has remained. And I think MiQ’s employees have so many amazing stories. In India, one of our employees was an ad-ops person. She went from that position to launching MiQ in India, hired all of these people, created a brand out of nothing for six-seven years to now where she’s done really well and has created her own company. She came from a quite junior role to where she is now. It’s incredible and we’ve got numerous stories just like that from others as well.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Definitely my wife. The highs and lows to start a business are very extreme. The highs are electric — you almost need someone to calm you down a bit. And the lows can be horrible some days. There was a day around 2015 — so about four years into the business — we had no finance team at the time, and I was doing the accounts. As I was doing them in the back of a taxi — I found that we lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in two months and I knew if we kept going that way we’d be out of business. I just remember we pulled over and I threw up. But my wife calmed me down and we worked through it and thought about how to never lose money again — and we never did.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

You can’t give up. Resilience is experiencing really bad times and getting over it. When you overcome the bad, that defines resilience. It’s so easy to want to give up.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

My mom. Her and my dad ran a shoe shop business, and she worked seven days a week every week through all her highs and lows. I’m not sure I even recognized it at the time, but it truly was incredible and admirable and took a lot of resilience to be able to do.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

The time with the money was really hard. But when we started in New York in 2014 and got a few deals underway, we had one really big competitor at the time and were able to figure out who their top seller was and got a potential meeting with him. We threw the entire kitchen sink at him and he agreed to meet. But then at the last second, he called me and said ‘I’m not coming.’ That day was rough.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

I had a great upbringing — my parents were immigrants from India. And I was brought up in a very traditional north part of India. I couldn’t speak English when I first went to school in England — so my mom had to come to school with me to translate. But I think I was lucky to be brought up in a multicultural way. And with the shoe shop business — I’d always be in the shop so learned a bit about that business then. Really I was quite fortunate to be exposed to how to run a company at such a young age.

One memory that has impacted MiQ is that I remember my mom had this supplier chasing her for money, but the sales at the time weren’t good enough. I remember her calling him — explaining that she needed more time but was so nice in the process. It taught me how important it is to manage cash flows as well as look after suppliers. To do this day, I over-index and am super thoughtful towards my own. Even being exposed to little things like that in the shoe shop has taught me greater things for my own business.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

There’s three for me that stands out in my mind. The first is that in your work environment, you need to have genuine friends. That makes you more resilient because you have someone to talk to and who is understanding of what you’re going through. For me, I’m almost brotherly with my business partner, who has been a huge support system along the way.

The second is that you have to know how to control your emotions — especially during those highs and lows. You can never be a 9/10 and you should never be a 3/10 — learn to always be somewhere in the middle. I also came up with this technique — never act on your first thought which is solely instinctual. Act on your second thought — it’s more rational.

And the third is that whatever you do to sort of “chill out” or switch off, do it.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Basic education for young people — I’m not sure what movement that is — but I just think it’s so important that young people get at least a basic level of education.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

They aren’t alive now, but I watched this documentary recently that talked about Thomas Edison — and I found it absolutely amazing. He’s truly a proper resilient inventor. He messed up so many times, literally failed one thousand times, never gave up, and eventually invented electricity. He was resilient enough to change the world.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

My LinkedIn can be found here, but for all things MiQ — check out @wearemiq.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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