Prantik Mazumdar is an award winning Entrepreneur, marketer and investor. He joined digital consultancy Happy Marketer in 2011 before growing the business to over $10m revenues and engineering a trade sale to Japanese advertising conglomerate Dentsu. Born in India. Educated in NUS Singapore. Based in Singapore.
Intro: Welcome to the Lucky Titan podcast where you will learn how to fill your favorite platform with tons of your dream customers from some of the world's top entrepreneurs. I'm your host, Josh Tapp, now let's get started.
Josh: What is up everybody, Josh Tapp here again and welcome back to the lucky Titan podcast and today we're here with Prantik Mazumdar and I'm really excited to have this guy here. First off, took me a while to figure out how to pronounce his name because I'm a hick from Idaho. So, it took me a minute, but I was excited to get his bio because when I received Prantik bio, I was like, No, this is a guy who is doing something that I would love to do, which he's really working in the Southeast Asian markets, growing businesses, he's looking towards investing doing some amazing things over in that sector, he's grown his own company to over $10 million in sales and just got bought out by Dentsu, which if you aren't familiar with Dentsu, go look them up one of the biggest companies in the world so Prantik, first off, super excited to have you here, man and then can you say what's up to everybody and we'll hop in.
Prantik: Absolutely. Hello, everyone. Great to be on the show. Josh, I should tell you A. your name is obviously easier to pronounce b. what's amazing about your name is it also is a name of a unicorn company out of India. Although in India, you will pronounce your name some people would pronounce the name as Josh or Josh rather, Josh sort of means excitement and so there's this chatting app, which is a unicorn, which is spelled just like your name so I think it's a lucky name.
Josh: I'm gonna go look it up and be like, Hey, can I get a piece of your equity for my name, I'm gonna go look them up, you said they're out of India.
Prantik: That's right.
Josh: I'm totally gonna go look that up. Anyways. Awesome. Well, I appreciate having you here. Prantik and I'm excited to really dive into a how you got to where you're at and then how you are planning to scale and do the next steps of of your journey because I've found this interviewing a lot of people who've done multiple successful businesses, and they're getting bought out. There's this really weird moment where, you know, you've, you've sold your company, you're collecting the cash, and then it's this, oh, crap, what's next moment, right because, hey, I got all the money but then you've been so busy working and pushing the company and everything. So I am curious, what is next for you? Like, what's going to be your next big step?
Prantik: Yeah, I love that question and, you know, it's, I was just having lunch with another entrepreneur, and he's going to something similar. So we spent an hour talking literally about what next and I guess maybe I'll kind of cover two things as to what's going on in my head, when I sort of, how do I sort of feel that what's next and be literally what's next, in my mind. You know, I think what's very interesting is when you're sort of been running and a company, and you've been running and scaling and growing this for about 15 20 years, there is a particular a physical and psychological pattern, right, for example, when you start when you grow, you're on doing partnerships you're selling, you're delivering, you sort of feel happy and nervous at the same time about the fact that, you know, there are about 70 people in our company, their payrolls and their families, you sort of responsible for that, when those people do well, in their professional lives, when they make money, you feel very satisfied, it's great but once you've sort of sold your company, a lot of that sort of that rhythm stops so you've got to sort of a acknowledge and realize, Boy, that's a good run but guess what, I'm not a, I'm a founder but as soon as the company, you know, sort of, I have to accept that as sort of pass on, pass on gift to the pass on, pass on to someone else o acknowledging that is hard. I think the other thing psychologically, and I don't know, if this happens with a lot of the folks in the audience is when they have sold their businesses is we may have made some cash, as you rightly said, there is wealth, which isn't a bank but you know, for 15 20 years, we're so used to the cycle of delivering something and earning whether it's a salary, whether it's dividend, some sort of a cashflow, suddenly, that Income Cash Flow sort of dries up and it's a very weird thing, because there is wealth in the bank but I am psychologically used to the cycle of doing something and collecting money, but without a business, that cash flow, that liquidity sort of dries up so that's a that's a very, very weird sentiment to sort of digest and deal with. Now, with that in mind, you know, the question that always sort of bothers me is literally what's next and I must admit, as I shared with you at the outset of the podcast is, I don't have a definitive answer but I do have a direction and I'm enjoying the space because since I know my direction, and my direction is sort of to look at something in the world of investments and I'll sort of double down on that in a bit but over the last three years, you know, since I've sold my company, and I'm sort of sold my company, residential, and I'm still very much part of the den, so management team, and I'm running a p&l in Singapore but I've had the fortune and the privilege of sort of exploring my interest in the world of investments and I do that by three things, I have been I've realized that unless I I put my money where my mouth is, unless I take risks I'll never learn, you know, so I've never been a believer of just bookish learning or degrees. So I said, I'm going to sort of build a portfolio and angel investment portfolio. So I sort of started doing that three years ago, I have a portfolio of about 35, companies across Southeast Asia and India mostly precede seed stage some Series A, then there is an investment aspect to it, I realize, look, I'm happy, I'm glad that I'm not happy just cutting a check, I've got to be involved in some way, if the founders need my help in some way so with some companies, I'm helping them fundraise helping them get clients helping them sort of build a team, I'm big on all culture, sort of helping them out there so investments advisory, I'm a limited partner with a few VCs in the region, ones into enterprise access ones into alternate protein ones into consumer web so if you notice, I sort of spread my wings, a to diversify B just to sort of expand my learning horizon and third is some sort of given back so I'm an entrepreneur in residence at a business school called INSEAD, which has campuses across Singapore, France and Silicon Valley as well. And the entrepreneur body, a global body, called Tai Pei was started out of the Silicon Valley, but I'm part of the board of the Singapore chapter so those are three things I sort of started consciously doing just to immerse myself in the Southeast Asia ecosystem, to explore what those investments mean, I was a complete noob, I had no idea what safe meant, what liquidation preferences meant, I had to learn the language, I had to put my money to just see, because you know, someone told me this, that to cut your own check and realize that money is gone, you don't get that feeling, you don't get that sentiment, that man, this money may never come back again so it was very important for me to sort of go through that process so that's how I sort of figured that, I think I can add value after my entrepreneurship journey as an investor as an advisor, I've sort of built a portfolio still early stage, let's see where it goes but it's exciting. So what next? I don't know the definitive answer but my direction is definitely something in the domain of venture investing, could be early stage could be mid stage, sectors, I'm agnostic, but I definitely want to explore something in in the impact world as well. Not because it's sexy, because ESG there's a lot of noise, I genuinely believe that there is money to be made, whilst one creates impact, and specifically in the domains of education and health so that's where my mindspace of that.
Josh: See. And I love that because, you know, it's interesting is there's there's so many different schools of thought as far as what you should do with your money, right some people are, oh, you should go straight philanthropy or you should go straight into investing, I think there's a happy medium and it's entrepreneurship right. It's investing in companies that do both, I think it's so cool that you've, you've decided to kind of go that route, and then printing I am curious, because happy marketing, right. Is the company that you sold to Dentsu?
Prantik: Yeah, happy, happy marketer.
Josh: Yeah, happy marketer, excuse me. So it was a SaaS product right.
Prantik: No it's a pure services, we offered digital transformation and digital marketing consulting services to three kinds of customers, either we see back a fast growing startups from Southeast Asia, or multinationals, there are about 7000 of those in Singapore so obviously, we didn't service all of them just a small subset in banking, insurance, telecom, and airlines, and education, and also what's called GLCs, which is government linked or state owned enterprises in Singapore. So pure services. Yeah.
Josh: Awesome. Well, and are you with the services model, right because we have a marketing company, right and there's a lot of people listen to this have marketing agencies, service based businesses, it's interesting, because hitting 10 million in revenue is kind of that dream number. For most people, it's pretty easy to take a marketing agency to half a million or $2 million, but then you hit that million dollar mark, and it's stagnates so what were kind of the big changes that you made that were that tipping point or that catalyst for you to be able to hit that $10 million mark
Prantik: Yeah, brilliant question. Three things really, and, well, I didn't make the three P's up. But in my head, it's literally three P's that are sort of crystallized that in my head, one is pivot and when I say pivot, every two or three years, we sort of pivoted to something that's new, something exciting, something that the market demanded, or do I mean, you know, we started off purely as a, what the market would call a marketing agency so we are implementing, you know, data analytics, CRM, loyalty, performance marketing services so that's the implementation but very soon, in real AI, we realized that it's Singapore and Southeast Asia, there's a huge demand for training companies love and the government spends a lot of money to sort of build capability because it was very small five and a half million so All Singapore has its people so Singapore government wants to ensure that the people are well trained and capable of sort of, you know, delivering stuff o we actually built a subsidiary called Future marketer to make marketers future ready so that was the second pivot. The third pivot was consulting in 2016, we sort of had a partnership with the Boston Consulting Group, because the consulting work group was sort of consultancies in the world around the world were going through this transition, where they realized that selling dreams or selling PowerPoint narratives alone was not enough. Clients were demanding pilots and clients were demanding proof of concept so they came to us and said, Hey, guys, can we work together? Where we take care of advisory and consulting across the group, you guys, you know, help us develop products, create some proof of concepts, have some sort of, you know, what we call converting PowerPoints to profits, how do we sort of execute the advice, right, so that whole pivot is the first one, the second one is partnerships, I think a game changing moment for us was in 2014 2015, we realized that we can keep scaling up our sales team, good or bad, one challenge we noticed was, you know, if you have a great salesperson, if he or she leaves, suddenly, we're in crisis so we have the good fortune of working with partners like Google, HubSpot, Salesforce, and the Boston Consulting Group, for various sorts of partnerships, I think, a lot of our growth, a lot of our success is thanks to a partnership with Google because at one point in time, we were the only agency in Southeast Asia, which was a preferred partner for Google across not just ads, their analytics products, their training product, as well as Google Cloud and Google has been a fabulous partner because A, they don't have an internal sales team and in most of those domains to cannibalize sales, they share revenue and margins very well, they open those and refer leads, and when they all refer leads, the wind percentage is very high so we took a very stringent call saying we won't have a sales team, beyond the partners so all our sales basically happened through partnerships so the second P really helped us scale, it could have gone either way, but it definitely helped us over time. The third P is people, because at the end of the day, we're a services business and when I say people, you know, so we call our group, the happy tribe and it's the culture, obviously, culture is something fuzzy, it's hard to sort of describe, but a couple of things I would sort of share with the audience is one is, you know, it's the set, it's a set of behaviors that people do, or people are encouraged to do when no one's looking, right. That's one way to look at it. And the other thing is, you know, I read somewhere an excerpt of related that to what we had built is, whether it's in your community, in your company in your country, there are two kinds of people, either you're a passive resident, or you're an active citizen so one of the things we really stress is, the people who we want to hire in happy market, or who have done well, are people who are active citizens, meaning who take initiative, who are empowered, who are allowed to experiment and fail but we rather have people who take risks and do their stuff, rather than sort of give them a checklist of be prescriptive so that's the third P of people and that culture so these are three things I genuinely think that allowed us to flourish apart from the macroeconomic factor of being, you know, in the right place at the right time, Southeast Asia is obviously booming so there's, you know, there's a big wave that we're capitalizing so that's the macro, or the micro would be the pivot, the partnerships, and the people
Josh: love that. Yeah. Awesome. Those are good three actionable steps, I hope people will look at and implement in their companies. So I do want to ask you, what was that moment when you realized it was time to be acquired, was it simply because they made you an offer or do you feel like there was a natural moment when you're like, I this is as far as I want to take it.
Prantik: Anything run that there was no natural moment, we had never set it up to sell to be honest. Our game plan was to keep running it like a business with succession plans, you know, something like an Accenture partnership or an Infosys Wipro, because we've seen these companies were idolize these tech IT services companies growing up in India, Indonesia but serendipity through a friend, very dear friend of ours who himself is an entrepreneur, he connected us to a gentleman called Kendrick, who was from Colorado, who is part of mercury, which is a company based out of Baltimore, and Mercury was acquired by Dentsu in 2015 and 10 was sent to Asia Pacific to basically grow organically and through acquisitions so our friend Shavon, who connected us with Tedrick and Treadway basically came and said, Hey, guys, you guys seem interesting. I and he was very, he was, you know, he, he sort of was direct yet he was patient. He said, Look, I know it's not an easy decision to make, but I want to make my intentions clear. Here's my roadmap, I think you guys are a great fit. But it took a very, very long time. Josh, it took about two years right from the first meeting to the last one because it is emotionally draining, you're not sure where they You want to sell the negotiation process, preparing your book so it took a very, very long process but I think there came a time when the baby met Merkel's founder, David Williams, who flew down, he sort of shared his 30 year journey. It started from zero, and they went to a billion dollars before being acquired by then so that was inspiring and I think he, they played the cards, right? They were very patient, they said, Look, you know, we understand how close this is to your heart, this is your baby so they basically said, Guys, look, here, tell me your ambition and once we shared our ambition, he said, What if I give you a roadmap to hit that ambition, five years earlier, I think that that was the point that is one of the points, the other one was the cultural and the product fit, I carried on but there came a point when they sort of shared what they do and how they operate, it literally felt like there was inside a joke that, you know, happy marketer was a mini marketing. I mean, I know they pitched it really well, and convinced us to believe that, or it just genuinely felt that and I think when when the ambition was calibrated that look, you know, this is our ambition, and we can get there quicker and I think when the culture fit felt good, the product offerings fit felt good, we were sort of nudge to say, okay, you know what, let's go down this rabbit hole and explore what it looks like.
Josh: Yeah, I love that. Wow. See, and it's so interesting, because there's so many different just ways to go about selling your company or exiting a company, you think that there's, you either hand it off to your kids, or you sell it and it's just really not the truth, there's so many different ways to leverage your existing model to generate cash and I've seen so many deals, we had a guy offered to one of our companies to just buy 70% It's like, we'll take it over and then you keep your 30% and he's I just expect you to be on a call once a month, like that's pretty enticing, in a lot of ways, but it's also really hard to step away from your baby, as you said, so you've put so much blood sweat and tears into growing it.
Prantik: absolutely. So tell me your views. I mean, you know, what, you've obviously seen so many founders and businesses, you know, get investments and exit? I mean, how do you sort of look at the acquisition, what should founders sort of look at when deciding whether to sort of sell or not sell?
Josh: Oh, yeah, I appreciate the question. What I've seen is two things, right? Is A Are you are you prepared for a sale because everybody's like, Okay, I'm just gonna sell right. COVID Was that a typical moment where everybody was like, hey, it's a perfect time to sell type situation, it was not the perfect time to sell. You sell when there's no availabilities in the market, you don't sell anybody else is trying to sell but the other thing I would say is, is looking at your lifestyle plan I found with most of the entrepreneurs I work with, they hit a point where they're like, I'm at a lifestyle that I don't want to compromise, right and, and a lot of people look at the tech life and they say, oh, it's sexy, I want to build this big tech company and exit, building a tech company means 100 hour weeks, every week, until you can get somebody to buy you and yes, you'll have a big cash out. If you succeed if you succeed, right and to me, I don't really like playing the funny money games. I love to see that, companies like yours, like you actually grew a real business, not a fictitious numbers business that you could sell off to some big entity, right so it makes sense. That's that's kind of my methodology.
Prantik: No, I love the two things you said and I was just discussing with my friend this afternoon is, I think as entrepreneurs, I mean, fundamentally, product valuation, or, you know, like in our case, EBITDA, multiple. I think that's a fundamental question. The other is, I think, I find it very discomforting when we only measure life by just one axis bit money, I think, unless I look at money, visa vie time. And when I say time and your life stage, I think that's important because, you know, when I'm 20, and I'm saying that, but as opposed to now that I'm nearly 40, with a five year old, the circumstances are fundamentally different and you've got a question. Ultimately, why are you doing this? Right there's, there are other elements of life, there's mental health, there's family life, there is your physical fitness, your perhaps your travel plans, or, or other ambitions in life and I think sometimes I find a lot of entrepreneurs, especially in the product lead valuation game, it's you just chasing this mirage that I just want to be a unicorn, I don't know why, but sounds sexy, I want to build on your unicorn and funnily ironically, unicorns are mythical. And but again, not judging anyone but yeah, I love that point that you've got to sort of measure it against other axis as well, yeah.
Josh: Yeah. And I love your perspective on I love hearing the perspective of people who've been there because there there is a moment where you have to ask yourself, why am I doing what I'm doing? You know, am I chasing the fame? I do I want to get on the cover of Forbes. Is that why I'm wanting to be that quote unquote, unicorn, I don't believe in unicorns, unicorns either, but I don't think it's a real thing and I think in the tech space, you Watch these companies who do make lots of money, and you go talk to their founders afterwards and they're very dissatisfied. They're very dissatisfied with life and because they had to sacrifice everything, for literally 15 minutes of fame, they're sold, and nobody even hears about them ever again, because they got ate up by a huge monster, right and that's, uh, that always gets me concern for people. You know, we know we are coming up to the end of the interview Prantik:, so I do want to ask you, how can people get in touch with you?
Prantik: Oh, easy, I think easiest to find me on LinkedIn. Just search my name from Prantik Mazumdar, I doubt there are too many of us but if you want to just narrow down your search Prantik Mazumdar Singapore, or you will find me just hit me up send me an InMail or a follow us follow me there, that's the easiest. In case you're on Twitter, my handles @Pranmaz. So it's at the @Pranmaz and yeah, that's the easy way.
Josh: Make sure you go follow him there and connect with him as well as if you have a podcast interview this guy he's obviously knows what he's talking about has a lot of knowledge to share with the world, I'm excited to hear more interviews of you Prantik so I do want to ask you that just to wrap the interview up is what's one final parting piece of guidance you have for our audience?
Prantik: You know, I think just especially post COVID I'm just gonna sort of reiterate the fact that I think whilst it's a cliché, just getting to discover your why, or just focusing on the process. I mean, to me, entrepreneurship is all about, you know, a it's may sound philosophical, but it's a it's a way to sort of discover what works for you, what excites you. I mean, it's a way to sort of find your why, you know, I think it's a very, very satisfying process and the why’s can be very different, like you said to be Forbes, could be, you know, helping a sort of make others richer, could be the sort of solves a massive problem, but find that why and again, at the same time, I would also sort of say, it is not for everyone, I think entrepreneurship is unnecessarily glorified. Again, it's, it's fun to be an entrepreneur at the same time, it's not fun at all, it depends on the day. So but if you want to give it a shot, find your why go through the process, give it all, but if it doesn't work out, it's absolutely fine, you know, the beauty of our lives is we live in an era where there are plenty of opportunities, you could be a DJ RJ, you could enjoy driving an Uber Lift you could run a bakery but at the end of the day, life is long, but life is short, too. So just sort of figure out what you want to do, just follow your sort of passion at the same time, the passion that can help you make money when there's demand for the for that passion project, but just don't leave any stone unturned, just you know, give it a shot, if there's an age, give it a shot, go at it, and hopefully you will find your path. Thank you so much.
Outro: Hope you enjoyed this episode of The lucky Titan podcast. If you've learned anything from this or any other episode, make sure you rate it and share it with another entrepreneur could help. Thanks again and I'll catch you on the flip side