DECODING the BUSINESS RISK with an ex Army man | Col Samrendra Kumar | TBCY

DECODING the BUSINESS RISK with an ex Army man | Col Samrendra Kumar | TBCY

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Welcome to another episode of The Brand Called  You. A vodcast and podcast show that brings you   leadership lessons, knowledge, experience  and wisdom from hundreds of successful   individuals from around the world. I'm your host,  Ashutosh Garg and today I'm privileged to welcome   a very, very accomplished veteran from the  Indian Army turn entrepreneur and professional   Colonel Samrendra Kumar. Sam, welcome  to the show. Thank you very much, Ashutosh,   indeed, huge honor to be invited to the show The  Brand Called You. I believe it's the third-largest  

brand in the world, and personally hugely honored  because I know you're a son of a very decorated   soldier of brigadier with Kirti Chakra the  second-highest. And then I'm hugely honored   that my name figures with him in the Chetwoode Hall. Thank you. So very nice. and you have been a corporate leader, you've  been an entrepreneur, so hugely honored. Thank   you so much. Sam is the co-founder and  managing director of MitKat Advisory.   He's a distinguished veteran, and he won the  sword of honor and the President's gold medal at   the Indian military academy. And all of us know,  to get the Sword of Honour and the President's Gold Medal

is a huge, huge, huge accomplishment,  only the best gets it and once a year, I think.   So, Sam, let's start talking about you and  your journey. What was the motivation to   leave a promising career in the armed  forces and start off on your own? I think the informal conversations before  we began this show, took me about 36 years   back, it took me back to my first day in Military  Academy. So, I must admit I came from a  

very humble background in Bihar. Bihar was the  most laggard and I used to sit on ground and study and I  started studying English in Class 6th only.   When I reached NDA first day, I found all  these sons of generals, air marshals, admirals,   people from Doon, Stephen's, Modern  School, DPS, so they all spoke fluent English   look much more polished and accomplished. And I  was really having a complex I thought, you know,  

I'm just not going to make it. And then God intervenes. You know, God always helps   you when you need it. And, yeah, so they took  us to barbershop, and they gave us a crew cut,   and they took off all our jeans and fancy dresses and gave us Khaki dress. So we were   all now has been leveled on  day one. And then four years down the line,  

as you said, very, very kindly introduced,  when I passed out and commanded the passing out parade, and  received the Sword of Honour and the President's Gold Medal. in the presence of my parents sitting in the  first row. I think the overwhelming feeling was,   wow, it didn't matter where you started from, what  you do and what you accomplished, that matters.   So thank you for taking me. Well said. So now, I will come to your I think your question,  

that you asked me. I represented the Indian Army at the   staff course in UK, which is  a prestigious, staff course 93   countries represented there, my batchmates  from Air Force and Navy are still in service,   both are doing very well, both are three-star,  you know, South Air Force, and   three-star in navy. So they're doing very well and I  chose to hang uniform on the last day of command   of my own unit in which I was commissioned. So it  was a huge honor, probably high point in life. So military, if you're aware, you know, last day  of command is a very, very special and if you're   hanging uniform, the whole battalion lines  up when really ceremonial send-off,   they pull you out in a jeep. So it was a  high, I always wanted to leave on a high.  

When people still ask you why are you leaving?  And not when they start asking you why didn't you   leave? And I think it's something that you have  also followed in your life. Correct. Well said,   well said. So let's move to now MitKat Advisory.  Tell me about this venture and what is the   background of the name MitKat? Oh, so do you want the official version or   unofficial version? Whatever you want to. So so, you know, when I was leaving army,   I was very busy till the last day of command,  you know, so your command is in combat inactive   operations, very, very busy. So I had no time  to think about what I will do. What I carried with   me what just the learnings from the army which  have stood me well in corporate career   and just the attitude that you can do it, you  know, so nothing is impossible. Okay. So   MitKat is a leading Asian risk  consultancy and in this consultancy we   work collaboratively with our customers to de-risk  their businesses and protect their people assets,   information, brands, such things. Now when you talk  about risks, when you talk to a banker, they  

will talk about liquidity risk, financial, credit  hedging those kinds of risks, so we don't do that. Talk to lawyers, they will talk about  litigation. So we are more into operational risks   the geopolitical risks, security risks, integrity  risks, things like cybersecurity, physical security,   fraud risk management. So those kinds of  stuff we do. So we wanted to get a   name and we're not getting a name and then I had  two friends, one was Mittal and one was Katragadda. So let's make it MitKat and  Sam, you run it and I said, now what will   I do with this you know, useless name, people  are saying it is like KitKat, you know. But then we made it mitigating knowledge threats.  Now we're mitigating knowledge's threats. Very nice,   very nice, very nice. And, you know, you work  with 50 of the top 100 global companies.

What is the kind of work that  you do in mitigating risk? So, very quickly, I'll tell you how we got  started, what was the motivation to start   because you know, security and when I  left army and 26/11 happened soon after that,   just seven years after 9/11 that happened  in the US, so that time security and risk   consultancy was completely dominated by foreign  players who had very little understanding of India.   So if a bomb blast happened in Kashmir or some  incident happened in Nagaland, so there'll be   travel bans to hood basically Chennai and  Bangalore. So, we said this must   change and we have capable people in India. So,  it was our desire to build a great brand you know,   with a deep understanding of India, the developing  markets, the Asian continent,   which we can take to the world. So, that is where  we started from and what the kind of work we do essentially we that time thought we saw that  security was very proactive, it was like non   glamorous, it was just associated with guards  and other things. We wanted security to be   business relevant, employee-friendly, very  intelligence-led, tech-enabled, very consistent   and give a great employee experience and save  people's money, save business' money.

So the kind of work we do is essentially  we started out as a consulting company,   so that gave us a little  bit of brand and traction with the customers   then we switch to services. Now we are largely  a technology-led, we are largely into you can   say a technology company. Very interesting.  What have been some   of your challenges as you have scaled up? So I think that's another excellent question.  

In fact, I am tempted to ask you the  same question because a huge amount of   entrepreneurial learning. When you  start your podcast, I will answer that. So let me start with the beginning you know,  first-generation entrepreneur you understand,   you know, didn't know where to start, didn't  know how to form a company. No talent wanted to   join us. I told you people used to tell us the  name is similar to KitKat. I use to tell them  Tata-Bata has worked, this will also work. And in fourth  month, on top of that, we lost a lot of money.

Very great sporting project. And I had to sell  my house to keep the company afloat. Actually,   we had 22 people, and we didn't want to let them  go, you know, just we didn't want to fire them.   It was something which was very, very, kind of, we  just couldn't think of it as a Fauji. So I think   that decision was more motivated by Fauji background. But I think it turned us good   reputation. Let me talk about the entrepreneur  learnings. I think that's the important bit of the   question. I think you will agree with me I think  entrepreneurship involves a fundamental mismatch  

between resource and ambition. You would absolutely agree with that.   So essentially, what I learnt is technology  has to be at the core if you want to scale up,   we started as a consulting to  service and now we are more a technology company,   on the way to becoming very asset-light,  data-heavy and algorithmically inspired.   I think that's the way to go. One thing I learned  is focus, you know, and we call it do less to do   more. Because you meet entrepreneurs that  will tell you I want to do three things,   and one will succeed and I tell them, none  will. If you do one thing, purely focus on that,   and then your chances and you're passionate about  and you can rally people around your cause, then the chances of success exponentially increase.  People, peoplem peoplem I think people  

are the backbone. You must surround yourself with  people who are brighter than you and don't feeling   secure in their company. Let go is a very important thing. I heard Late Mr. Jasvant Singh, saying the  graveyards of the world are full of people who   thought they were indispensable. So we must let  go. Cash Flows are important because one of my  

co founders used to tell us who is  no longer with us. He has to tell us   top line is vanity. Bottom line is sanity and  cash is reality. Wow. What a great line. COVID actually taught us to segregate good  and bad costs. I also learned that,  

there is no right or wrong age to be an  entrepreneur because the whole lot of entrepreneurs who start  early, and then there are people who start in the   middle, some people like you. And then there are  people like the founders of KFC, who started 66 or   my own chairman. After leaving Army as Lieutenant general, he started at probably 61-62. And he is   five successful entrepreneurial ventures.  Wow. And a lot of job offers in government  

and private sector. So again, you can and  finally, I learned that never waste a crisis,   because it takes a crisis for leaders to shine,  because when times are good event donkeys look   like horses. It's only during crisis  that you can figure out who is a leader.   Well said. So moving on,  Sam, as a security and risk professional,   how do you de-risk client business and protect  vital assets for them? Okay, this is getting little technical, but I will try to  keep it very simple. So, Ashutosh, you understand  

it well, but just for the benefit of listeners.  So risk is about five things. So firstly, every   organization has got asset, something of value,  people, material, information, brand. So these are   all assets. Now there are natural and manmade  threats from crime or interstate conflicts to  

hackers, bad guys who exploit vulnerabilities or  weaknesses, to create risks to assets. And these   risks could be strategic, operational, financial,  legal, reputational. And these risks have to be   basically brought down or mitigate it to acceptable  level by application of countermeasures controls,   which would be technology, infrastructure,  or processes. So that's what we do, we   identify assets, you know, of businesses,  and see how threats, exploit vulnerabilities   to create risks to those organization, and how  we can mitigate them in a cost-effective manner.   So that the business interruption is  minimal, and then business flourish.  

Interesting. So, you know, you spoke a few  minutes ago about technology and risks,   the risks that, you know, when  I was in the corporate world,   three decades, two and a half decades ago, it  used to be someone coming and taking away or you know, IPR and we used to be  very conscious of the fact that   any kind of confidential documents had to go  through a shredder and then we started to find   that people would collect the shredder waste  and collect, can you be able to combine those   pieces and get the secrets of the company out.   What are some of the major security and  risk challenges businesses face today? So essentially, let me look at risk  is very context-specific, the what you call that   is called dumpster diving, you collect garbage  and you can really put pieces together. Risk is very context-specific. If you go to oil and gas or chemical   environment, you will probably see a lot  of emphasis on fire safety because they're   inflammable, a lot of things on environment,  a lot of environmental pressures and concern   will go to factory setup, it's more about unions,  if you talk to bankers, I told you they   talk about all those financial risks, liquidity,  hedging, Forex, etc. If you go to IT and data   sensitive organizations like banks,  they're very, very worried about cybersecurity.  

If you go to an E commerce guy, it is more  about you know, the whole lot of last mile   delivery guys, you will see floating and that  introduces people risk, they have assets which   are lying all over the ground and all over the  supply chain. So that introduces asset risk.   So when people and asset risk combined, then they  have operational risks that leads to financial   and brand risks. So every organization  faces. Now, if you look at more strategic level,   if you look at from a national level, and you  know, large enterprises, I think they could be   categorized more into geopolitical risks, which  is more like interstate conflict or, you know,   US, China not getting along well, or terrorism,  or one of those things, or socio-economic risks,   which could be something like crime, or it  could be naxalism, the environmental and health   risks from pandemic to climate change, which is a  ticking time bomb, there are cybersecurity risks,   which will fall under technology risks,  there are travel related risks, physical   risk to employees. So you could go on and on.  Everybody sees it from their own lens. Correct.

And you're involved in all these areas? Yeah, we  are involved. Across the whole country?  Across the country, and we're now  working in 40 countries across. Wow.   Wow. Wow. Fantastic. So one of the other things  that, you know, when I talk to business leaders,   one of the big concerns they have is that while  technology is very, very good for growth of their   businesses, there's also huge risk associated  with technology, either through hacking,   or through over-dependence, or just through technology getting old. I'd love to get your   perspective on how are you using technology  to manage the risk for your clients? I think that's a wonderful question. And if I were to break your question  

in two parts, I think you're asking me  two things. How is technology,   increasing risks, and in turn how do we  use actually technology today? Absolutely, yes.   Two separate  questions? Yeah. So, let's look at some of   these terms, you know, which are very much bandied  about these days, digitization, automation,   digitalization and digital transformation. Now,  these are all terms, you know, which are used,   and they have slightly different connotation,  but what they all do is, and we can come to that,   but what they all do is they increase the surface  area for attackers. Now, attackers now can   operate over much wider front, so there will  be about 20 billion devices, IoT devices,   now each device is a vulnerability. And you add  to that, you know, 5-6 billion users of which  

four and a half billion have no idea you know,  what security? So that kind of makes the   job of these bad guys very easy. And to see the  amount of data you know, you have UPIs, you'll   have millions of transactions daily, 40 billion  transactions in a year. So they have to be lucky,   you know, 0.00001%. So by sitting in Jamtara, I can hack into the system. And it's kind of   much easier to procure  these things, procure the technology, it's much   affordable, so you can actually buy a commercially  off the shelf drone and one guy brought Gatwick   Airport to standstill in summer 2018 was  attack on Indian thing. Even militaries are,   you know, still learning how to grapple with  all the challenges of the bad guys just getting   access to technology. So how do we  actually, how do we turn it around? So as I said, most of the attacks are  now machine-led, you want sophisticated defenses,   whether at national level or at enterprise  level, you know, large enterprise I'm talking about.  

So defenses also have to be machine-led.  Because over a period of time, you know, tend   to kind of get tired, get things, so it has to  be very, very consistent. The technologies which   are showing promise are machine learning and deep  learning technologies, self learning algorithms.  

So we have an AI assisted platform that is able to  give customized, you know, intelligence to alerts   and advisories to each of the command centers and  to large organizations to stay ahead of the game.   For example, if it is a logistics company or E  commerce company, if a tree falls down on a road,   they must know and they should automatically  get and they should be able to reroute so as   not to lose business or Mumbai, if it is going  to rain tomorrow, and it's going to be a high   tide together and it's going to lead to flooding  then you can leave employees two hours earlier,   if you knew that, then blockchain is another. So we  provide these kinds of intelligence analytics that   is subscribed to the world's largest corporations.  So blockchains, I think blockchains are putting out   the intermediaries and preventing tampering  with ledger's is another very kind of used   for something in high-security things and very  popular in banking and finance. Biometrics is   showing another lot of promise and you know,  you could have whole world actually everybody's   biometrics taken and you could have passports  and other things. Cybersecurity, defensive  

technologies are proliferating, and again, AI and  all at the center. And then you at national level   were having a proliferation of these bodies, certain  sectoral certs and all. So they're also using these technologies in a  sophisticated way, I could go on and on. But just one more question. I think, as a military  guy, and you have some military background, too,   you will always understand there is always the  race between good guys and bad guys. So there  

was tanks, and then anti tank weapons came in,  and then tanks increase their mobility, firepower   and protection. And then anti-tank got more  sophisticated, this race goes on. And you have   drones and then counter-drone technologies, and  then counter-counter drone, and you had electronic   measures and then came electronic countermeasures  electronic counter-counter. So that I   think that will go on and on. Very  interesting. So you know, all this technology, and  

everything that we're being exposed to as human  beings brings in this big element of privacy. And a lot of people certainly  in the urban centers around the world   feel that their privacy is being intruded into.  Which also means there is a challenge of your   own security and you know, someone coming  into the world that you are living in either   as an individual as a family or society or as a  corporation. But you also look at some of these? Yes, so let's go back a little  step, let's dissect what you said. Firstly,   nations, organizations and business leaders across  the world started realizing the value of data.  

And I have statistics research by a very  respected organization. It says that there'll   be more value accruing from data rather than  from global trade over the next few years    So now all these  valuable assets have to be protected. So now data   is your crown jewel, so you need to protect it.  So they started putting legislation. Last year, you   would have seen China went into overdrive  regulating, you know, big tech So data localization  is becoming the next big thing,   global phenomena, we see it all across the world  and on privacy also. So, there are laws which are  

combining security and privacy and as you will  be aware GDPR is the most famous among them. Legislations let me look at it there are two  types, one is the horizontal which applies to   everyone which is like GDPR or something like  that, then there are sectoral, so healthcare,   you will have HIPAA or India is enacting  its own Disha. I love this government,   they have got a lot of these acronyms. So, so you will have various kind of regulations   to regulate banking or finance sector to healthcare sector and tech sector.   So, our own individual Data Protection Act law  that has been in the inbox for some time now,   and hopefully, it will see the light of the day, next session of parliament. Okay,  

so, I'm going to move to a few  questions for you personally, my viewers, and listeners love to  get to know my guest a little better.   So let me start by asking you that as a  successful Fauji, successful businessman, recipient of such a high amount  of recognition within the Army,   what would you say are three key  milestones in your life for your career? So I think I will not take the milestones,  as I would not take the milestones,   let's say as a particular event. I'll probably  take three phases in life. So I think firstly,   just as a village boy, I said started as a village  boy and getting to army was a big cultural   change. And I would say a shock and then probably  getting to being a commanding officer of combat   unit, very decorated distinguished unit, so that I  think completely changed my life. But in between,   there was one more phase which I want to  draw attention when from an Indian citizen,   I became a global citizen. First time that I went  to UK to attend my staff course and did my masters  

from King's College London, you were exposed to 90  countries people thought differently, you learnt   about the importance of diversity, you know, the  important dignity of labor, to get over pettiness,   you know, some of which we had been brought  in being in a very enclosed environment. So   that was, I think, the first kind of thing,  which was transformation from village boy to that.   Second is, I think, entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship gave me the, you know,   I think it was my calling, it gave me a chance  to express myself, my creativity and ambition, put my expertise, whatever I learned for  the greater good of society, business,   everyone helped me to democratize wealth, create  job opportunities. So I think that has been very   satisfying. I think, families, I'd be failing in  my duty, if I didn't say family, I think education  

is the best gift you can give to children. Let me just give you one interesting anecdote. I was an entrepreneur and my daughter wanted to go  overseas, and I didn't have a diamond in my pocket.   Even I did not get education loan.  Okay. And on top of that, you know,   when you don't get education loan, and through  your platform, I want to tell government of India,   if you don't get an education loan, if you're poor  enough, and if you're still there to send your   children, you have to pay a 5% surcharge. Wow.  So I have no money, my daughter wants to study   and happy to say that day after tomorrow, I'll  be paying her last installment of her education.

Congratulations. So you have  to kind of give the best to your children,   they shouldn't have suffered the  consequences of my career.  So these three things. Wonderful. So you know, I've always been very, very appreciative and partial to Faujis. Because I  

know, irrespective of what your background may be,  the values that you stand for are very similar.   I want to ask you, what are some  of the core values you believe? I think is integrity, which I think will  come top as a Fauji, teamwork is very,   very important. I think together, we win.  And then one more thing that I feel is human   potential is limitless. And again, I want to  give you a story very quickly in 30 seconds.

So jawan, from my battalion joined my company,  and he didn't know how to operate a computer. So   I told young person in my company,  please teach him computer. He says he can't learn.   I said, Okay, if he doesn't learn in seven days,  you find another job, because then you are a co   leader, leave you in six days, he actually learned  computer. And when he went to his home, he was   trying to open daughter's computer and she would  say, no papa, it will break. And he really opened   and put the password and he was able to do that  Word and Excel. So amazing.

What an amazing story. So let me move  now. I've got time for two more questions. So, combined two questions. And I'm going to ask you that what does success   mean to you and what inspires you? I think success, it's a very, I think,   very broad question. So I'll just try to put  make it very narrow answer. I think it's just   about fulfilling my roles and responsibilities  and roles and responsibilities, you wear   multiple hats to family. Like I said, give best education to the children learning and   help them pursue their calling and passion  like I did to my organization with MitKat. We have a shared dream as a team, and we have  to help realize and as the head of the family,   I have to help. I lead the marketing and branding.  And so we have to make it a great brand which  

is continuously admired by customers, which  continuously re-invents itself and continuously   attracts and retains the best talent. So that's  my job to the nation, I was a soldier first and   been honest, taxpayer and responsible citizen who  abides by laws and to a society as entrepreneur,   I think use my skills and creativity. We  democratize wealth, we create high-quality jobs,   I enter veterans and entrepreneurs and finally  use networks to kind of add value to each other.   And for the less fortunate, have a sense of  empathy, and if you can give back something.   Wonderful. And my last question to you, and  this is a question on failure. I also have a   book on failure, I've often said and spoken  at conferences that people in South Asia,   or East Asia, don't teach children, it's okay  to fail. We are always taught first in class, head  

of the line, etc, etc. And then that manifests  itself in our behavior patterns, yet we fail, we   learn. My question to you is Sam, what have been  some of your learnings from some of your mistakes?   Oh, so on just a very generic statement, I'm quite  okay to fail. And I allow my team to fail, but I   just tell them fail fast. Don't lie on lingering  death. But let me come to  

your question. Firstly, the first time as  entrepreneurs, we all make mistakes, I would agree   with that there is nothing, you know, I'm talking  to a fellow entrepreneur. So we all make mistakes.   So first time is learning cost. Second time is  stupidity. Third time is super stupidity. So now  

you're talking to a guy who is super stupid, I'm  super stupidly, I became entrepreneur people told   us don't do this, experienced entrepreneurs, like  you mentored me, I still did the same mistake.   So it was no longer learning costs,  but I still counted as learning cost. When I joined up with some other partners,  they made the same mistakes, which I had already   made. So we are now entering super stupid league  and one of the ventures went NPA, and we   actually, we still kind of we just today morning,  I paid off the last installment with one time   settlement. So, you know, kind of whatever you  learn, you know, please keep learning costs low,   fail fast. Now, let me just take a story from my  family. And I just want to take two more things   because failure is very close to my heart. My grandfather was doing well, he had few  

bit of landholding and he was doing okay, till  the time he decided to be signatory to somebody,   you know, he was the guarantor to his loan,  and he ran away. And thereafter whole life   balance of life, whatever, five, six years he  lived, he was most of the time in the court,   and he was drained of all the money, and that  must have taken a toll. And he almost died a   poor man. And he told us that never take loans,  I still did the same mistake, I was director in  

a company where I knew people are not doing well.  And I was hoping that it will kind of turn around   and it didn't. And so again, I've told you that  I've joined the super, super stupid league, and   hopefully, my children are listening, they will not  make the same mistake. On the specific mistake, I think wrong hiring  is the worst mistake you can do as entrepreneur,   probably you will agree. And so now we  have tried to correct that. So finally,  

we have bitten the bullet and we said no. So we  now when we hire, we have seven zero rule. Seven   people see a person and vice versa, he or she gets  to see seven people in the company. And if it is,   it has to be 7 zero, if it is six, zero,  or one guy says maybe not, it's curtains. So   that's how we try to learn. Well  said. On that note, Sam, thank you so much for  

speaking to me. It has been an absolute pleasure  and a privilege talking to an army officer who's   achieved so much in life. Thank you for talking to  me about MitKat Advisory about all the stuff that   you're doing for security and risk mitigation for  so many companies from around the world. And thank   you for talking to me about some of your values.  Thank you and good luck. Thank you very much,   Ashutosh it's been an absolute delight and honor  of talking to legendary entrepreneur like you and   somebody who values military so much. So thank  you very much. I want to just end on one note,  

that from 3500 BC to 1700 AD, India was  25% of global GDP. So flattening of the world   demographic dividend, the young people I see  the fire in their eyes, the young entrepreneurs.   So I'm very, very bullish about the future  of India. I think we must seize the moment   and to my young friends. Our time has come. Thank  you. Jai Hind. What a positive note to end on. Thank you.

Thank you for listening to The Brand Called You,  videocast and podcast. A platform that brings you   knowledge, experience and wisdom of hundreds of  successful individuals from around the world.   Do visit our website, to watch and listen to the stories of many more individuals. You can also follow us  on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter just   search for The Brand Called You

2022-02-04 20:38

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