This week I interviewed Subi Nanthivarman, Founder and CEO at Stridez Pty LTD and Former Chief Administration Officer at Bayer HealthCare ANZ. A senior business leader with substantial operational experience gained across Supply Chain, Quality and Finance, Subi has great faith in the leadership potential of all ranks of an organisation and has completed a course on Authentic Leadership at the Harvard Business School. She is now an accredited coach of the Institute of Executive Coaching and is working towards becoming a member of the International Coach Federation.
Tell us more about Stridez and how you came up with the idea?
I migrated to New Zealand many years ago and I noticed that people were struggling to make themselves presentable, to understand the market here, and to prepare for it. So over the years, although I was working somewhere else, I helped people to get jobs. And then I went on helping younger people to get into like the Big Four firms and Articleships. Training them became part of what I did on a voluntary basis. I wanted to take that to the market and offer a service where people learn how to get jobs, focus on their targets and prepare for the interviews, prepare themselves and really understand their career path. And that’s how Stridez came about. When I gave up my corporate job, I moved in to do this startup about five or six years ago. And it has had a mixed reception, because the younger people I find, they like to have something quite fast and quite like a silver bullet. So to work through things, it was a bit hard to convince them. So I’ve had mixed satisfaction as well as success with this venture.
What were the initial struggles you faced and how did you resolve those?
So I think the actual implementation of the product and service went smoothly because of my operational background. For me, the challenge was to make it what the younger people really wanted, not needed. So for me, that was a revelation. Indeed, I didn’t go out and get investment and that sort of thing, because I was able to use my skills and ability with very little resources to get it going. So I’m pretty proud of that as well.
What motivated you to start your own start-up and how did you approach it?
I had been in big corporate for a long time, so I thought this would be a good thing to give back to the community. And that’s why like everybody else, this grand idea of giving back to society was the major thing of putting up this startup. That was a major motivation. It took almost two years of very hard work to put it out into the market, and as a result, I have understood digital marketing, writing and basically how to reach out to people. So I enjoy my writing side of it, which I have married up with my coaching, which I do as well. I have to blend it in a way that is very thought-inspiring for people and helps them get to know more about themselves.
What would be your message to the young entrepreneurs just starting with their careers?
Entrepreneurship can basically be divided into two categories.
The first kind is freelancing, where entrepreneurs are offering their services. So if you’re very good at what you do, and somebody needs that service, you’re able to tap into the market and give out your services at a good price, and that makes you an entrepreneur.
The second kind is where people provide services or products, which either the market needs, that is, customers or businesses, and that they’re going to use. So you’re not actually selling yourself, or what you could do as a service, but you’re actually selling a product to another customer or business that you have to be very careful about because you will be needing a lot of investment. And you must see the opportunity in the marketplace and go after it. You have to have the ability to really understand what the customers want.
Entrepreneurship and freelancing are very different things. Entrepreneurship requires a lot of investment, a lot of risk-taking, a lot of thinking on your feet, and the ability to really make opportunities out of threats. Whereas when you’re freelancing, if you’re really good at what you do, when people really like what you know, it is the word of mouth kind of a thing. And you can really fly. And you don’t need that much investment at that moment.
So what I say to young people is I think you need to know, which is your niche? Where do you want to go? Really understand that market and really understand what is driving it. What are the needs? Understand all of that before you jump in and say I’m an Entrepreneur, I’ve got an idea, and it’s going to fly and I’m going to be big. I think you need to do a lot of research before you make that crucial decision. But when you’re young, you can always try and then start on something else. And you really have to be hungry to learn all kinds of disciplines, you must be able to do a lot of things, roll up your hand sleeves and really get into it.
What is the one book that you have read or are currently reading that you would recommend and why?
I am very interested in philosophy now. The Daily Stoic is something that I am currently really into. And through that, I have picked up quite a number of tips and tricks. So I can live my life a bit more calmly and more magnanimously than I used to do before. In my younger days, when I was starting out with corporate, Dale Carnegie’s — How to Win Friends and Influence People, was a good one that really helped me make relationships and have interactions work for me.
What do you think is one incident in life that has been very influential in making you how you are today?
I come from Sri Lanka where the Civil War was going on. It was a very sad time and a long time. That’s when I migrated. So I think resilience is something that the Civil War taught me as well as hunger to really succeed in life. There was a lot of trauma in the family where I lost family members when I was pretty young. I think that has also helped me reach out to people when they are in trouble. I think it has made me a bit more compassionate as well. Those are the three things that life has taught me and it’s been a hell of a ride, I must say.