Ask the Expert – Vinod Varma

April 22, 2020

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey –  how you got started and what led you to start ShopandShout?

In West Philadelphia, born and.. just kidding. After I realized that I don’t like blood being a doctor was out (standard Indian parenting push), and as I grew older I realized paleontology would get boring if no one actually stepped up and brought back the dinosaurs. 

The truth is, I’ve always been pretty entrepreneurial. Setting up lemonade stands, and hosting garage sales to sell stuff my parents didn’t want me to sell. Fast forward through getting kicked out of highschool, being homeschooled, and then graduating university with a double major bba. I had an amazing opportunity to work as a category buyer for Best Buy Canada, and was involved in launching some awesome brand launches like FitBit, Apple, Samsung, Garmin, etc. I saw a tonne of potential (and results) in Influencer marketing, and even had the chance to work with some Toronto Raptors (celebrity Influencers). The issue was, everything involved with creating effective Influencer Marketing campaigns wasn’t scalable. Best Buy, and the brands they work with have a plethora of talent, and (almost) unlimited resources. Most brands don’t, and that was sort of my moment. I thought automating the collaboration process between brands and Influencers would be a worthy cause and mission to pursue that had meritt, and tonnes of potential to capture market share in an emerging category.

What was a milestone moment in your business/career?

Being promised a half a million dollars in my first raise, having all the paperwork signed, making the hires, signing the new office lease, and ready to accept the chq when the investor bailed without so much as a phone call or explanation. Me left standing there overspent, with a feeling that I let my new hires (and everyone else) down. 

Not the milestone moment you thought, but it was a defining moment for my entrepreneurial path. I’m much more grounded, don’t get too high, don’t ever be low for too long. 

(I was lucky to have good people on my team working in the company, and supporting roles who mentored me. They supported me through that, and we eventually got that raise done!)

How important is public relations to your business?

Very important, I wish we were better at it! Haha. We take what we can get, and once in a while will get a complimentary mention from someone that catches wind of what we’re doing. I think PR, when done right, can help any business. It’s all about the angle, story, and right publications. It’s definitely an art, and I think the connections you have (and companies you chose to work with) can make a big difference.

What does a day in the life of CEO at ShopandShout look like?

I like to get up early and read something, usually news on my flipboard app. Then I’ll look at our main company KPIs, which include some social media. Then move to my emails, delete the ones I don’t care about, pick out the most important ones, and try to tackle those first. 

Most of the day is meetings, in person or online (now online more than over). Sales, partners, investors, etc. I have a great team, so don’t really have to micromanage anything. Between meetings I try to catch up with them, and be involved when it makes sense. 

Emails / Proposals / and finding a better way to do things consumes my day to day. 

I like to get my inbox down to 10-20 before I go home (or go to bed). Days actually go by quick, there’s always a lot to do, and our team is pretty funny so there’s good energy around. 10-12 hours of work isn’t out of the norm for me. I’m never really bored, and tend to be one who welcomes a challenge or constantly on the hunt for new opportunities. It doesn’t really feel like work, I always feel like I’m working towards something bigger and that keeps me motivated.

What is your favourite food?

Good sushi, I’m also a self-appointed charcuterie board connoisseur

What is your dream holiday destination?

As much as I love to explore cities or be adventurous outdoors. I think the Maldives to unwind and disconnect would be great.

What do you want to be remembered for?

I want to be remembered for being a shrewd business person. And, also a family man/dad. The first one is currently a work in progress. 

The latter is a chapter yet to begin!

If you could have coffee with anyone (living or dead) who would it be, and why?

Tough question. I’d say, Gandhi. He won a war, against the most powerful country in the world, without a single shot fired. I have much to learn, lol. If I get another coffee, I’d pick Steve Jobs and talk shop all day.

If you could teach one life lesson to someone, what would it be?

The only thing you’re truly in control of is you, and the way you react to situations. You can not change reality, but you can sometimes affect what happens before, and you can always impact what happens after. We’re all a little more powerful than we think if you approach life with that perspective.

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