2020 was the year of digital transformation as physical spaces came to a standstill and we saw every professional stranded in the virtual world. It was at this juncture that Manish Kumar saw an opportunity to build a service that caters to the data analytics needs of companies depending on their capabilities and requirements. Thus, in March 2020, balancing his day job, Manish boot-strapped insightsDNA, Asia’s first Consulting-as-a-Service firm, that provides Digital Analytics services on a subscription basis.
We speak to Manish about his background, what led him to start insightsDNA and what makes it different from others in the market.
1- Hi Manish, tell us something about yourself?
Hi, I am Manish, the CEO of insightsDNA, a Data Analytics consulting company that I founded in the year 2020. It was after working in the corporate setup for 8 years that I decided to be the captain of my own ship.
During my stint in the corporate sector, I was the Data and Analytics mouthpiece for C-suite champions at various management and leadership discussions and helped companies to improve and manage their data infrastructure.
I got my first break in 2012 at RMS (Risk Management Solution) as a Risk Analyst and swiftly climbed to the 2nd level within two years. My work in RMS was my first steps into stakeholder management, team excellence, and learning the ropes of the consulting ecosystem.
In 2015, I jumped to the eCommerce space and became the 30th member of a London-based travel startup, isango! – Part of Hotelbeds, located in Gurgaon, India as Head of Analytics. My work involved setting up analytics and consumer metrics, and reporting the environment from scratch, and building a global team that supports the business intelligence initiatives across geographies. I was the main point of contact for analytics as to the Head of Analytics and reported to the Managing Director of the company.
2- Seems like you had a rather successful corporate life. What made you change your mind?
In a post-pandemic world, globalization is much easier to achieve as the virtual world has opened new avenues for networking and being out there. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to test your business skills before getting into an actual business.
While working in the corporate sector, I realized that I have an acumen for consulting and recognized the skill gap in the digital analytics space. Plus, during the course of my corporate career, I had extensively traveled to international summits in Europe, London, and South East Asia as an attendee as well as a panelist. I had also conducted several mentorship programmes for the Analytics community at meet-ups across the country and beyond.
All this made me realize that consulting and problem solving are rare skills and I need to put myself out there without the umbrella of any organisation. I grabbed the best possible opportunity (and time) available to me in the digital space and put my deep expertise and knowledge to it.
3- But what was that one AHA moment where you realized that this is it and I need to go my own way?
It was certainly the lockdown. While I had the idea in my mind and knew that someday I would go solo, but with a safe job with ample growth opportunities, it was a tough call to make about when to make that move.
But when the lockdown was announced in March 2020 and the world went digital, it is then I decided to hit the iron while it’s hot. To begin with, I started insightsDNA as a side hustle with my own full-time job and took up projects. In the first month, insightsDNA onboarded clients in London and Australia, and there has been no looking back since then.
In August 2020, I quit my full-time job to focus on insightsDNA, working on multiple projects. Initially, it was a one-man show but now with the increase in bandwidth, I have a strong team of six professionals consisting of operation managers, virtual assistants, graphic designers, and social media managers working from different parts of the world. Seven months into the business, insightsDNA is EBITDA positive with a bevy of retainer clients and steadily moving to the second stage – without any funding.
4- Wow, tapping such growth amidst the pandemic is a great feat. What do you think you did differently?
Generally, people seek for the idea and try to implement that idea without understanding the actual need of the market. I spent some time understanding the gap first and provided the solution against that in the form of subscription plans for data analytics consulting.
For instance, a consultant usually gives one service for USD1000. I decided to subdivide the services of data analytics into three different formats and recommended three different pricing models for clients to capitalize on the entire market by being affordable and with quality work.
5- What are the challenges that you faced and what lessons did you learn?
There were many. It’s not always a bed of roses and I knew I was going for the thorns first.
In the beginning, I thought I should try to solve each and every problem of the stakeholders, due to which I underwent major hurdles and pressurized myself to maintain high quality. But it’s all about going niche and dirty our hands with problems that we know we can fix.
Then I used to work on any project without deep diving into understanding the problem of the business which led to several short-sighted solutions. But over time I realized that I need to swim through the business needs and understand the nature and culture of the work. So I started providing a 15-day complimentary consulting service where me and my client agreed to understand our strengths and weaknesses and find the right fit for each other.
Also, I thought it would be easy to run a business alone with the use of technology, but after working with a team, I learned that we cannot go far without human intervention. We don’t need technology but a skilled and able team who can apply the technology to its best use.
Lately, I have understood the importance of personal branding. You cannot survive in the industry if you don’t meet new people, make them aware about your work and collaborate.
6- You said that you have a team now. So, how difficult was it to manage a remote and global team?
Before pandemic, it was easy to manage a team and their expectations. However, post-pandemic, you have to be more empathetic and should see how one can adapt to each other’s culture and work ethics. To achieve this, you’ve to communicate clearly and give enough space to everybody to complete their personal OKRs.
After building a team, one needs a helping hand to manage a team, if you don’t have any delivery partner yet. Hence, lately, I’ve discarded myself from the operational work of my own organization and focus only on top priority work, overall team building, and top-notch delivery.
I use technology like project management, communication, and video calls to complete the deadlines with complete visibility and accountability.
7- What are your future plans for insightsDNA and where do you see yourself from here?
Moving forward, my objective is to continue this early streak and take my team count to 50+, have long-time clients in the Data Analytics domain, diversify our portfolio into performance marketing and digital transformation with Linkedin, video, and social media marketing (Instagram and Facebook).
8- Finally, what do you want to tell the aspiring CEOs out there?
CEO is not just a title, it’s a responsibility. A responsibility to maintain a supportive and growth-led culture. To be the synapse between internal and external stakeholders. To take responsibility to lead the business with a growth-driven mindset that influences every human, at all levels.
That’s my 2 cents for everyone. Be resilient, patient, and empathetic, and everything will fall in line.
About the founder:
Manish Kumar completed his bachelor’s in Mathematics from Ramjas College, University of Delhi, and graduated from Hansraj College, the University of Delhi with a Masters’s degree in Operational Research. He worked in the corporate sector for eight years before founding Asia’s first Consulting-as-a-Service firm. Manish also ran a monthly series ‘How to start your own business,’ which garnered 25,000 views on Linkedin. He has also appeared as a panelist in several domestic and international conferences.
He is a doting husband to wife Misha and a loving father to his 1-year-old daughter Manika.