Anjan Pathak is a Co-founder and CTO at Vantage Circle – an Employee Engagement Platform. He is an HR technology enthusiast, very passionate about employee wellness, and actively participates in the growth of the corporate culture.
Global Millionaire magazine recently caught up with Anjan and here’s what went down:
1. Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?
The foundation of Vantage Circle was set way back in 2011. Partha and I were two school friends who had a fledgling dream of starting our own company, and the manifestation of our efforts resulted in launching Vantage Circle.
With Partha and I, having worked in the IT and technology industry for almost two decades, we were confident that it was where we could benefit from utilizing our expertise while achieving the goals that we had set for ourselves. We were able to create, launch, and reach the success that Vantage Circle has today due to the right opportunities, guidance, and ideas implemented at the right time.
We started out as a deals and discounts program for employees at the start of our early days. However, as we progressed with time, we stumbled upon the concept of employee engagement programs which the Indian corporate culture was lacking. The main idea was to equip HR professionals with a channel through which they could manage the intricacies of providing a stellar employee experience.
We, at Vantage Circle, understand that managing human resources efficiently, satisfying their necessities, and surprising (not shocking!) them is a humongous task. To overcome any deviations in these tasks, we provide an integrated platform to the corporate community with a variety of options of unbeatable perks and engagement activities for their employees. Corporate discounts on exclusive and online deals and unique Vantage Points are the highlights of our platform.
2. When did your entrepreneurial flair first reveal itself?
It was back in 2003 when 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.
In the year 2011, I founded Vantage Circle along with my friend Partha, back in our hometown of Assam, over the years with more experience. I believe it is with time and practice that entrepreneurial skills are created. What stuck up for me was that, after my first loss, I didn’t give up.
3. How did your life look before being an entrepreneur?
I spent my initial 17 years of my career brainstorming, designing, and architecting multiple e-commerce applications. The knowledge, experience, and insights that I have gathered over the years have been invaluable in eventually doing what I really wanted to do in developing world-class HR technology solutions.
I have over two decades of experience in building and deploying cross-channel web applications.
I have spent a significant part of my career, 15 years to be precise, working in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe.
As a fitness enthusiast, I am incredibly passionate about the need for corporate wellness. I believe that health & wellness at the workplace will be the primary differentiator companies will be ranked upon in the coming years.
In my spare time, I am always preparing for the next marathon or triathlon that comes my way. I have recently been introduced to two newer fields of wellness- meditation and yoga- and have been taking baby steps to improve every day.
4. As an entrepreneur, what is it that motivates and drives you?
A happy and content workforce builds up a healthy work environment. Seeing the employees happy doing their job are the best motivators for any employer and it is a peerless asset for an entrepreneur.
We have taken less than 1 Crores in external funding from like-minded people who believed in our goals. Witnessing the journey to becoming one of the top cloud-based employee engagement and benefits platforms in the world, encourages me to strive more. Vantage Circle has achieved over 1.5 million users’ support in the present day and is serving some of the world’s top MNCs. Surely a matter of pride and honour for a bootstrapped company like Vantage Circle.
5. In one word, describe your life as an entrepreneur and explain why it’s fulfilling.
I had 20 years of experience in the multinational technology industry before Vantage Circle. I have always had this dream to bring all my experience to my home country and give back. Today, we have managed to return through our business by establishing an employment channel. It is what drives us and keeps us motivated every day. So, yeah, it is a very fulfilling experience.
6. What were your top three motivations for starting your business?
1. Creating employment opportunities in my hometown
2. Health and wellness has always been my priority
3. Developing a product company in a service provider dominating sector
7. What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful business?
Let me answer this question in two parts. The key elements of starting a business are more or less the same for all. One needs to be very sure about the company that they want to start. In the beginning, your business’s passion and belief help you take risks and stay motivated. But it does not mean that you should not design a solid business strategy. That must be followed with the right marketing plan. The next important thing here is the experience. Every entrepreneur has some level of business acumen and lots and lots of experience. Use the experience in building your business.
For running a business, one must know the bits and pieces of people management. Or just say, have to understand the employees, to build a culture where people love to contribute happily. And it takes time and effort. If your workforce is not happy, you cannot sustain your business.
8. What are the three biggest challenges you have faced growing the business and how did you overcome them?
– Not choosing the right tools for mobile app development: Choosing the appropriate tool at the right time would have helped us be more user-friendly and accessible to a fast-paced audience.
– Ignoring the inception of the marketing team: It deprived us of reaching our core audience as efficiently as we could have through implementing the correct marketing tactics.
– Not streamlining the tasks of the sales team: The third big error was not to streamline the sales team’s tasks in a more strategic way and under a successful sales leader.
But I believe, making mistakes is an important part of how I have learned and ultimately accomplished a steady pace of continuous individual and professional growth.
9. What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?
A major part of our marketing strategy has been inbound marketing tactics and focusing on a more organic approach. I am happy to say that these measures have played a principal part in us getting over 1 million monthly users to the Vantage Circle blog.
10. As you grew the business, what have been some of the most important leadership lessons you have learned?
If you ask any entrepreneur or anybody in a leadership position, you would get more or less the same answer. People who are in a leadership position, do not control but lead. And leading your team means directing them throughout their journey. To understand their perspective by putting yourself in their shoes. It is a responsible job. You might be having a bad day or feeling low, but you cannot pass it on to them. Also, staying humble is so important. Humility may not be the forefront trait of leadership, but for me, it has always been a great trait. You must be willing to accept your mistakes, give credit, appreciate and learn from everyone in the room. Also, one must trust and be accountable when it comes to leadership. These are the few lessons that I have learned over the years.
11. What is the best advice you have ever been given?
A sleeping fox catches no poultry: Since childhood, my mother has always told me this quote that a sleeping fox catches no poultry. She likes to suggest that if I don’t take the gamble, someone else will. I won’t have anything if I don’t work for anything. I have been inspired by this proverb to wake up early and start my day early. I assume our bodies conform to the period of the sun. Synchronizing with the disciplined time to sleep and wake up helped me to find and use more time for my company. I don’t say that you need to compromise your sleep over this. To work properly, everyone needs to have enough sleep of a good 8 hours every day. I always believe that a healthy mind in a healthy body is a key to success.
12. What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?
Having experience of co-founding and operating three separate businesses, one in London and the other two in India, over a span of 10 years gave me the cognizance of how to make the most of the minimum resources that you have.
Another thing I have gradually discovered over the years is that if you do not plan the financial aspects on a priority basis, you don’t win in business (especially start-ups). Note that the sole emphasis should be on increasing (and sustaining) the company at the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey.