Selected as Asia’s Most Promising Leader 2021, Manish Kumar, Managing Director, APAC of Stratacache has transformed the industry with pristine vision and precision implementation
What makes a strong leader? What are your key leadership strengths?
A strong leader is a combination of many attributes – someone who possesses a clear vision, is courageous, has integrity, honesty, humility and clear focus. He or she is a strategic planner and believes in teamwork. Leadership is all about being passionate about what you do, and having confidence in yourself and your followers whom you have to motivate and inspire.
On a professional front, I am often described as a visionary, innovative and dynamic leader. I believe my strength lies in being passionate about what I do, particularly in establishing STRATACACHE in APAC and fortifying the brand as the pioneer and global leader in the digital signage industry.
On a personal front, I am known to be a personable, approachable and empathetic leader. Besides promoting teamwork and encouraging staff to collaborate to create synergies, I respect everyone as a unique individual with different working styles. The success of STRATACACHE APAC today is a result of everyone’s collective contribution and efforts. I try my best to make everyone feel valued and appreciated.
An accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career? What challenges did you face to reach this success.
An accomplishment which I consider to be the most significant in my career would be the establishment of STRATACACHE APAC headquarters in Singapore in 2019 and growing the business in Asia-Pacific.
This milestone was no easy feat and I faced many challenges at the beginning. Firstly, establishing a brand name in a new market requires the right marketing mix and brand-building strategies. Building up a brand takes time and much effort is needed in deploying the most effective methods to reach our target audience.
Secondly, prior to setting up a physical office and supporting infrastructure in a foreign country, a lot of background research is required, including understanding the local country laws and business legislations, engaging reliable service providers (eg contractors, property agents, recruitment specialists), understanding the local culture and hiring the right talents for the respective positions.
In addition, when I took over the role there were many management issues and significant concerns around ethical working standard. Trying to identify the rotten apples and re-engaging the staff who have been working with dedication and integrity meant that there was a lot of travel and one on one discussions to understand each employee and their role. I had to re-establish a new management team who understood the importance of conducting business ethically.
What is the role of a leader in these challenging times. List 5 in order of priority.
“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” ― Ronald Reagan, US President (1981 to 1989)
During these challenging times, the role of a leader in setting a clear vision for the organisation, motivating employees and building morale is more important than ever.
Setting a clear vision
To ensure success and progress, it is critical for a leader to set the right vision for the company and be able to see beyond what is possible today and look toward what is possible in the future. The leader provides direction around a vision, generates enthusiasm and has good ability to steer the organization to the desired future state.
Determining the corporate strategy
With a clear vision in mind, the leader of the organisation is responsible for defining the corporate strategy. It is important that leaders understand the need to articulate a clear strategy to all levels in the organization. Equally important, leaders must put in place the necessary systems and structures to ensure the strategy can be realised.
To be a credible leader that others choose to follow, one needs to inspire trust and gain respect by being a good role model – both in terms of character and competence. An inspiring leader is more effective in motivating employees and encouraging them to unite and collaborate as a team.
Another role of a leader is to encourage employees to continually improve and achieve their potential. An inclusive leader listens effectively, values diversity, appreciates and encourages differences between people in thought and style and most importantly does not give one-size fits all coaching.
An inspiring leader infuses a positive can-do spirit within the organisation. He creates an atmosphere that inspires the team to achieve at a higher level. He recognizes the team’s contributions and ideas, gives praise and open recognition. A motivating leader helps the employees stay energized and inspired and ensures that delegation of authority is at the right level.
What is your vision and how do you share that with your shareholders, employees and others?
To be the leading Marketing Technology company in APAC, using meaningful innovation to empower brands in their marketing journey and serve as an indispensable creative partner to clients in a dynamic and evolving business environment.
The vision is clearly communicated to all employees via various channels, including the HR handbook, powerpoint slides and in MD messages to staff. It is also featured prominently on the office walls so that it serves as a good reminder and motivation to everyone in the office.
How do you drive active business renovations and how does that impact your subordinates?
Last year, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognised the impending crisis and introduced an improvised strategy to mount the response by redesigning the company’s solution offerings and adjusting its business roadmap to ensure that it remains relevant in the new normal.
The approach taken in driving these changes is a top-down approach, wherein I, as the leader of the APAC team, spearhead the changes and communicate the new strategy to the senior management team first. After that, they will assist to cascade the communication to the rest of the employees and ensure that everyone understands the changes and is aligned to the new directives.
I constantly encourage my employees to adopt a “growth” mindset and be adaptable to changes, as change is the only constant. They are aware of the challenges of working in a dynamic and highly demanding environment, and are keen to learn new skills as they progress in their jobs.
How do you integrate corporate philanthropy or corporate social responsibility as part of your business strategies?
It is my personal belief to always be kind and do good to others. This conviction extends to the business of STRATACACHE APAC, wherein we conduct business ethically, are accountable to the communities we operate in, and contribute meaningfully to society.
Every year, STRATACACHE APAC engages in various CSR activities to help the less fortunate. For example, we organised several donation drives last year to lend a helping hand to communities who have been affected by natural disasters/tragedies. These included raising funds to aid the Red Cross work in Lebanon (post Beirut Port explosion) and the Australian bush fire relief efforts. In addition, we delivered food staples to many less fortunate families in India who were adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and donated daily necessities to the migrant workers living in Singapore.
What has been your driving force or philosophy in life?
The lessons taught from my parents and the values inculcated to me since young have played a critical role in shaping me into the person I am today. My philosophy in life revolves around fundamental values such as honesty, integrity, respect and kindness. These values, as well as my hunger for success and a clear, well-defined vision of the future have helped me in making critical decisions in both my private and professional lives.
My wife and daughter have been a driving force and their support and understanding has helped me shape my career. They have given me strength and motivation to continue to persevere and work towards my goal, despite the challenges that come my way.
How do you define success and how do you measure up to your own definition?
I define success as meeting a combination of company and personal goals and helping my team achieve the same. As the leader of the APAC team I am entrusted with the responsibility of not only growing the business and expanding STRATACACHE’s market share in APAC, but also nurturing my team to grow in their roles and inspiring them to contribute effectively to the company and to society.
At this juncture, I am happy with the progress of STRATACACHE and proud of the milestones we have achieved together as a team. I am glad to gain the trust of the staff and it is my endeavour to continue to unify the team and bring STRATACACHE to greater heights. To me success is a team effort and I believe that as a unified APAC team we will continue to revolutionise the digital signage industry.
In your opinion what is the most significant aspect of leadership?
Honesty and integrity are the foundations of leadership and I believe that honesty is the cornerstone of business. To be an effective leader, one needs to lead by example to earn the respect of one’s staff, colleagues, business partners and associates. A true leader is always ready to admit his mistakes, stays humble and is keen to learn from his team. Being an “honest” leader is not usually easy and at many times a true test of your character.
I believe that there are no moral shortcuts in life or in business – those who are truly “successful” are those who are steadfast in their principles and conduct business fairly and ethically.
Esprit de corps: How do you bring fairies and equality to all?
STRATACACHE APAC is made up of over 100 employees from different countries, cultures and backgrounds. One of the corporate objectives is to foster a cohesive and united corporate culture and establish a unified STRATACACHE APAC.
To achieve this goal, the HR team has introduced various team-bonding initiatives to promote camaraderie. Employees are highly encouraged to collaborate with team members in other departments/countries to achieve synergies. The HR team also ensures that all policies and benefits are standardised across APAC and all company rules and regulations are communicated clearly via the HR handbook. Guidelines for celebrations of birthdays and key national festivals are similar throughout the region.
The senior management team ensures that everyone is treated fairly and with the same level of respect. STRATACACHE APAC is an equal opportunity employer and there is no room for discrimination based on caste, race, colour, religion, gender, marital status, country etc. All employees are accountable for their work and performance reviews are based solely on merit.