EP 195 – Nischal Tanna – Group CEO at TransformHub – Partnerships Are the New Business Model

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Michael Waitze worked in Global Finance for more than 20 years, employed by firms like Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, primarily in Tokyo.  Michael lived and worked in Tokyo from February 1990 until December 2011.  Michael always maintained a particular focus on how technology could be used to make businesses more efficient and to drive P/L growth. Michael is a leader in the digital media space, building one of the biggest and fastest-growing podcast listener bases in the region.  His AsiaTechPodcast.com show has listeners in more than 130 countries and his company, Michael Waitze Media produces some of Asia’s most popular podcasts.

Nischal Tanna, Chief Executive Officer at TransformHub, drives key functions for Innovation, Growth and Customer Success, oversees and governs each function within TransformHub, and plays a key role in business networking, customer acquisition, and customer retention. Nischal has almost 16 years of experience in Engineering, IT and technology leadership, specialising in the Banking, Fintech and Financial services sectors. Prior to establishing TransformHub, he was the Vice President of DBS Bank where he focused on ​​Engineering, IT strategy, and drove transformation in Cloud, Mobile, API & DevOps. He was also Senior Vice President of Ciitbank, where he lead fintech & banking as a service. During his time in both organisations, he was a key leader in programs like Citi Fintech and Open Banking, DBS Digital Bank, DBS Consumer Banking Applications, and DBS Agile and Digital Transformation Nischal holds a Bachelor in Engineering, Electronics and Telecommunication from the University of Mumbai, an MBA in Finance and Operations from SP Jain School of Global Management, and is a certified Oxford Fintech expert. Nischal is also a certified TOGAF & SOA architect, AWS Solution Architect and a Scrum Master.

The Asia InsurTech Podcast spoke with Nischal Tanna, the Group CEO of TransformHub about embedded insurance, his financial services background and the inspiration for founding TransformHub. He also discusses the importance of digital transformation and the need for insurance companies to adapt to the changing landscape and meet customer needs through technology.

Please see our best-efforts transcript below:

Michael Waitze 0:03
Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the Asia InsurTech Podcast. Today we’re joined by Nischal Tanna, the Group CEO at TransformHub. It is great to have you on the show. How are you doing really early this morning?

Nischal Tanna 0:18
Thank you, Michael for having me are really doing great. It’s an awesome morning. Right. Oppose, you know, it’s, you know, it’s Friday. Right. So how better it can be looking for the weekend, because you know, December being it’s a bit late of the year, right. So everybody bring clients and employees, everybody’s chilling. So yeah, so good time, good time to talk. I think it’s a great month. So yeah, I

Michael Waitze 0:38
don’t disagree with you, almost the end of December, almost coming into 2023. A lot of stuff to catch up on as well. And before we jump in, we’d like to start by asking right away, what do you think the biggest trend is? or emerging trend in insurance? And InsurTech? You’re in India, let’s start there. But by extension, the rest of Asia and the rest of the world to be fair, yeah,

Nischal Tanna 0:57
not close, you know, yeah, but missed out, you know, but I just keep shuttling in Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries, what I can see is, you know, there is a one of the biggest trend, not as an insurance, but even in banking is embedded banking or embedded insurance, you know, that that means basically, customers today are not buying policies, particularly on on the you know, on the insurance company portal, they are actually buying from WhatsApp, from Facebook, from Instagram, they are even buying from, you know, telegrams of the woodwork. So what I see is, you know, again, if this is happening to every industry, whether it’s ecommerce or retail, you know, you go where the customers are, you don’t expect them to come to you. So that is one of the biggest trends, I’d see it in the next five years, you know, getting into every piece of work, which we do on a day to day life, just like the travel portal, right, you know, you don’t go to a specific insurance company, you buy insurance on the travel portal. So embedded insurance is going to be a big thing in next three to five years. That’s what I see. I want

Michael Waitze 2:01
to get back to that. I want to get back to embedded in a second, because I want to dig much deeper into this. But before we do that, can we get a little bit of your background for some context as well. So

Nischal Tanna 2:10
yeah, but you know, I have almost 20 years of experience, you know, I went into product into tech into leadership roles, right, from my, you know, it’s looked back in my schooling and all in I’ve started in an English school, you know, I got good education come from very humble background, you know, my, you know, my parents were, my, my mom was I was live and my dad was a government employee. So very humble background, you know, we have been very academic, I’ve been very academic, right from siloed. Now, what does it also mean is, you know, the kind of going into the details, and you know, that has been part of my life, right? From school life, school life. Yeah. Now, you know, fast forward to where I am today. So I’ve spent almost 10 to 15 years in BFA in banking and financial services industry in Singapore. So I was in Singapore for 10 plus years, and it was fantastic. It’s really, it is a really good ecosystem. That’s where I know that’s where I was, before we started transforming is something which has been, you know, out of my 10 to 15 years of frustration, as a consumer as a banking consumer. That is where transform started. So that’s sort of a little bit of my background.

Michael Waitze 3:20
Okay, where does the frustration come from, and what inspires you to move from because I come out of the BFSI, as well, right, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, I’ve worked at these companies for my entire career, what inspires you to then move go out on your own, cuz it’s a completely different life, right to live inside of a big organization, and then start something from scratch?

Nischal Tanna 3:39
I would say the very first aspect is craziness.

Michael Waitze 3:43
You’re insane. Yeah,

Nischal Tanna 3:44
definitely. You know, so, that is something which is, when I was working in corporate, you know, there was always this craziness, always going out of state, you know, out of the comfort zone, challenging the status quo. And so I think that is kind of a personality, human being has to have to do something as crazy as moving from a stable corporate job to an unchartered territory. So that is one aspect, the soft aspects, hardest aspect is, you know, there was a frustration in terms of, you know, following a, you know, if it comes to innovation, or it comes to a, you know, doing some different initiative, you have to go through a bureaucratic process, right? In big enterprises, there’s a process, you have to go through all those steps, you have to make certain people happy and whatnot, you have to fake it sometimes beat Frank. So those were the frustrations, you know, why don’t we just do for the sake of doing things, you know? So I think one of the reason is also I wanted to be my own boss, if I were to say that, you know, I can go as crazy I can and try to do things in a different perspective. So that was initially initially all these words that trails behind it right now from a from a challenge point of view, where I was into banking, and I was consuming, you know, I was doing technology part, as you know, everybody was A very, I would say they will just do what you say no, they were not challenging. They were not trying to give you a better way out, right? Like no later, Yes, Boss types. And that was also the thing, you know, when I wanted to go out and you know, be very frank and that was one of the inspiration I got from an Australian boss, who I had when I was in dBs, he was a great mentor, right? He created an impression, you know, do what is right, even though your take the toughest part. So that is what also, you know, led me to start transform to be the company, which is different, in its own way to ask

Michael Waitze 5:35
you this, because I went through this myself, right, when I worked at Goldman Sachs, I took for granted kind of all the resources that were there, if I wanted to get something done, yeah, there was a bureaucratic process. And for sure, I did have to fake it sometimes, which frankly, was uncomfortable for me in the same way it was for you. But I did take for granted all these resources. You know, you worked at dBs, you just mentioned that DBS is the Premier Bank in Singapore, it’s the market leader there. And when you’re there, you do have this access to all these resources, if you want to get something done Sure. It takes some time, maybe. But at the end of the day, the resources are there to get stuff done. When you’re building your own company. Like are you surprised, like just how hard it is to get everything organized? When there’s not a department that does this? Or a department that does that? And there’s no HR division? Do you know what I mean? Did that surprise you at all?

Nischal Tanna 6:27
I think you know, mentally I was prepared. You know, okay, I took the there was a lot of planning, there was six months of planning, whether it is the financial resources or you know, things what is going to come up right. And mentally, I was prepared that, you know, I’m going into a really big hole, right. And I was like, you know, let me give it a year, try it out. If nothing, you know, I will still learn out of it. Right. And I’ll become a better person. Yeah. So I think having an exit plan in mind, even an optimistic exit plan that yes, you know, whatever happens, you will still learn out of the way. So there was his optimism when I got into it. And to be very frank, you know, I actually found any crisis very manageable, interesting, because you’re you are in control, right? You are in the driver’s seat, whatever is happening, whether it is COVID, or whether it is a customer not coming up or not paying up or not signing, it is still you are in control. So I felt that was more liberating for me. Even though it was a challenge, there were challenges, but it was liberating, because you knew you are in control of it. Whereas in big organizations, a lot of you know something is going wrong, but you cannot easily call it out. Right? Yeah. Because then you have your hierarchy and your bosses, they are their own bosses and all that. So I would say yes, there were challenges, but it’s also liberating.

Michael Waitze 7:40
It’s a really interesting point, right? I will, it’s felt like when I was at Goldman Sachs, that I was a passenger, on a fighter jet. Do you know what I mean? That it was everything that I needed was there, but I couldn’t like can manage the controls. And even now, when I’m building a smaller company, I’m not on a fighter jet. But I am on a private plane in a way, right. And I do get to fly that plane. And sure, if I run into some turbulence, it’s scary, but no more scary than being on a plane that I’m not controlling, in a way, right, if that makes sense. And I’d rather be sitting at the controls and saying, I’m in charge of my own destiny. And I think that’s something that you’re saying as well, I want to get back to this embedded insurance, because we talk about it a lot. But I want people that maybe aren’t familiar with this concept to really get a deeper understanding of what this is, maybe you can make a distinction between insurance and embedded, and then give a couple examples of where you see this happening at scale.

Nischal Tanna 8:31
Yeah, if I just give a simple perspective on embedded insurance is like embed yourself as an insurance company in customers lives, you know, where to spend most of the time, so you have to just embed yourself as income as an insurance provider. Now, the biggest difference is, you know, let’s take an example. Right, you know, generally typically, insurance being you know, life insurance is just term plans and even you know, medical health plans and all that so yeah, this was there was a lot of planning and you know, there were advisors and whatnot, so that it was a conscious decision. But today if you see you know, whether you’re purchasing a costly phone like if you’re purchasing an iPhone on the E commerce you can buy a phone insurance, you can buy a transit insurance, that means it is transporting to you you know if there is a break and whatnot so all these are part of daily life now right? The you don’t make a conscious decision you just purchase insurance with a product rather than purchasing it in it in isolation, right? So there is no isolated purchase now. You know, you buy a vehicle, you just buy an insurance along with it, you don’t really choose an insurance company unless you are too fussy about it. So I think the customer behavior is such that, you know, I want a single window, you know, if I’m purchasing you know, a travel like a ticket to get me everything in the cloud Porter whether it is the hotel, whether it is cabs, whether the insurance so this is what I say it’s embedded purchase experience, and this is going to stay Now, right? You know, if you see the next generation, which is coming up our kids and you know, the teenagers today, they rarely come out of the Instragram. So the word right, so imagine you, they’re not going to go on specific purchase vehicles and buy insurance, you have to actually push it to them where they are. This is the biggest difference in environment, you

Michael Waitze 10:19
got it. So what is transfer transform hub trying to accomplish? Right? You said you had this frustration? Were you inside these big organizations? What are the things that you want to transform? And between 2019, I believe, when you founded the company, and today, what are some of the little successes that you think you’ve had? And what do you think is going to change going forward?

Nischal Tanna 10:38
What the frustration was the inertia, right? As we discussed, if you want to do something, if you want to achieve something in a big and it’s fair enough, you know, those are publicly listed companies, right? You won’t have that risk charter or their risk appetite, to do something innovative. Maybe, you know, for example, if you want to move an application to a cloud, you have to go through hundreds of approvals, including regulatory approval. So just fair enough, right? There are a lot of stakeholders. But there is a big difference in transform as a service code. Of course, you know, when we work with our customers, we also take those into notice, but at the same time, you know, there is not much, you know, roadblock you know, we can be as innovative as we can, we can propose the solutions, of course, you know, our customers love us for that impartial view, because it’s rarely like, you know, we like a Yes Boss type of partner, that is what is helping us, right, you know, being transparent, being genuine and being innovative. Now, in that journey, what it also means is generally, we get customers, which are themselves, you know, very innovative, they want to disrupt their industry, one of the early customers, which we got, they were really disruptive, you know, I think they were the first insurance company in 50 years, five, zero to get an insurance license in Singapore. So imagine, you know, 50 years before them, there were just traditional licensed product, these were the first digital only after 50 years. So you can imagine all the as crazy as it can get, right? Our customers were more President us, if I were to say, and I believe in that, right? Only the crazy can change the word you know, only the, you know, people who are very lateral or very disruptive thing that they change. So what is helping here is, our customers are far ahead than us, actually, in terms of innovation. And that is helping us because what we try to do with them is we try to be their partner incline if I have to say, in a pun intended way. So we are the partners, who are as radical as them as disruptive as them, but at the same time output is really great. And we have had a fair bit of success so far, and three plus years. What do you think

Michael Waitze 12:41
the balance is between innovating, right? Because there’s this sense that incumbent companies in frankly, in every industry, are slow to move, we talked a little bit about the inertia, right. But you did mention this idea of risk. And I remember when we were installing a new trading system at Goldman, like all the back end systems, the stuff that customers couldn’t see, it had all this legacy information, legacy data legacy processing that was associated with it. And if any of that stuff broke, it was fatal. I mean, really fatal, right? Because you’re managing billions of dollars. And in the same way that insurance companies have multibillion dollar balance sheets, our trading desk did as well. How do you balance this innovation and the speed that’s necessary to accomplish that with the risk management as well? Right,

Nischal Tanna 13:24
really, really interesting question you’re right doing is more tougher than saying it right. Thing is easier. Yeah, you know, be innovative. But you also coming from that background, me coming from a heavy BFSI background. And one of the things which I feel is your to show early success for executives to adopt. What I mean by that is you to pick up an area, which is probably pick up a pilot, you know, in devious that is what I learned, you know, they used to do a lot of good pilots, the pilots used to run like for one year, as big as dude. And one of the fascinating things they used to do in pilot is they always used to pick up one of the most complex pieces. So their approach was like, if you can successfully pilot, the complex piece, you can always, you know, get success in the easy ones, right? So they would pick up the trick every MD and they would say, you know, pick up one of your critical applications, but then the one which you can take risk in the sense, you know, you you still own the risk, right. So I think that that leadership, and that is what I learned in transfer as well, you know, pick up one of the complex pieces to pilot, very same point of time, you know, have a clear mandate, what are you trying to achieve? Whether it is a success or a failure? And there has to be a lot of planning, I believe in the saying, I don’t exactly remember what but there’s a saying Right, like if you’re cutting a tree, you’ll spend 95%, almost planning or sharpening the saw, you know, how will you cut it and then 5% is what you actually do the job. So I believe in a lot of planning, detailed planning, Plan A to Z. And then once you have that, my recommendation is pick up few applications, like if you’re moving some applications to cloud You know, pick a few applications, define your pilot charter, you know, be transparent learn from and that’s when you roll out into the enterprise. And again, you know, you have to run the bank or run the organization insurance company, while you’re changing it as well, right. So there are like a two speed model, two track model, I think it can be done, you know, innovation is something which can be done in a sandbox environment in a controlled environment, without disturbing the status quo. And then, of course, you replace the status quo. Once the, you know, the pilot is successful,

Michael Waitze 15:30
I read a book back in 2013, or 14 called Little Bets, and I can’t get it out of my mind. One of the things that had mentioned was outside of the insurance industry, outside of industry, to be fair, was this idea that even comedians go to small clubs to test out jokes, really small places where maybe people definitely know who they are, but it’s not a wide audience, you know, they tell people to turn off their cell phones, so they can just practice this stuff. And I feel like that’s a little bit what you’re calling for here, right? Is try these little things where you can get little successes, do you feel like there needs to be a mindset change as well, at senior management that then needs to get pushed down? Or can it be a mindset change that comes from the middle or the bottom that gets pushed up? How do you think that works?

Nischal Tanna 16:12
My, my experiences, the middle of management is very critical. In any organization, you know, I think the leadership, right, the management actually relies on the middle management, what data they provide what evidence so I think that middle tire is, a lot of times we say top down and bottom up, right, but somewhere that middle tire is, is underrated. And those are the guys if we get the good ones in the sense, you know, people who are positive, or optimistic and who are won’t always get on, happy about doing their job, I think that is something which even trained transformed, we are done, we got a very good middle management. And the beauty of that is, if that layer is really good, right, your working level is happy, because they are reporting into some very positive person and your management is happy, because now you’ve got somebody who is, you know, transparent and giving the right amount of data without crying crisis every day, right? We don’t want people you know, come to the top boss, and at the drop of a hat you don’t want. So I think that is something which every organization should focus on. Yes, leadership, top leadership is important. But I think the middle tire is more important to get things

Michael Waitze 17:19
done. I’ve always thought about this, do you think because you mentioned new insurance licenses, the first digital insurance license and 50 years in Singapore? Do you feel also like there are other businesses that are coming in and trying to not disrupt I don’t like this word at all, but trying to enter and join the insurance industry, and even the financial services industry at scale, that haven’t been involved in those businesses before. I’d like to ask, do you feel like if the insurers and some of the other financial services business can flip the bit a bit and enter other businesses, right? In other words, if grab, can launch grab financial, right? Because they have all these users, then can banks and insurance companies launch a ride hailing company kind of thing. It doesn’t have to be ride hailing, but you get the point. Right.

Nischal Tanna 18:05
Yeah, very interesting perspective as it relates to something which I read a few days back. I was reading an article where the Netflix CEO was saying, you know, their competition is not Amazon Prime, no, their competition is sleep, like the more that people sleep, the less they watch Netflix, then there was this, you know, Mercedes was in India, he quoted he said my competition is not other luxury cars, my competition is the mutual funds and surprising like how can mutual funds will impact a car. So, his rationale was you know, traditionally retail investors invest a portion every month into mutual funds right. So as they got a Systematic Investment Plan s IP, yeah. So every month, you are putting your hard earned money into mutual fund that is the corpus which ideally should be parked into the car, EMI, so very interesting perspective, which you rightly said, you know, you’re parallel. I would like to put one more interesting perspective on this parallel industry is you must have heard or heard about something called as UPI, right, it’s a phone to for p2p money transfer in India, an individual to individual how it impacted this small coffee, sorry, trophy trophy companies right you know, the chocolates, small chocolates. In India, there was a funny situation a few years back that if you want to give a change, like suppose if I give 100 rupee note and I need to get a change, the shopkeeper used to give you the chocolates if the he doesn’t have the coins, right. And now, since UPI is a direct, complete money transfers, even if it is a very odd number, you’re to transfer you directly to a p2p without any charges. And that has impacted the chocolate business. Can you imagine?

Michael Waitze 19:38
Yeah, so this is a really important thing to talk about. And I think we could spend hours talking about the unified payments interface in India because it’s one of the things that the government India has done that literally has transformed No pun intended. The financial services businesses in India, it’s interesting to me that other countries haven’t done the same but the UPI as a model is now trying to expand outside To end, I think this is a great idea because it removes the friction from moving money around, as you said, right? That’s the key thing here. It’s not the difference just between the chocolates and the money. It’s this idea that no matter how small or how large the payment is, everybody knows how to do it, and everybody can use it. And this to me, is real digital transformation, right? Because it means that not just the biggest companies in the industry, but any company on the side street can do this as well. That’s a big deal. Yeah. Very,

Nischal Tanna 20:29
very big. And go into your example. Yes, definitely, you know, can bank I think they can go into those, you know, different sectors. Having said that, you know, I think one of them, rather than they trying it, the partnerships are more common. So, a bank like DBS is partnering with Uber and Ola or a grab, I think the partnership is fast time turnaround time, right? Because building any business is going to take multiple years, that is going to also have his own fair share of struggle by doing good now, but again, you know, the we know, they’re they are their own struggle in terms of the profitability. So it takes multiple years. And that is where the partnerships are more common nowadays, rather than compete competition.

Michael Waitze 21:05
So when you look at this, right, and when you talk to your clients, like how do you tell them to build effective partnerships, right, because just combining is okay. But business partnerships are almost as difficult if not even more nuanced than just human to human marriage, right? Because at some point, you can get divorced for lack of a better term. But breaking a business partnerships is super hard. What do you look for in a great partnership?

Nischal Tanna 21:33
I always, you know, even when, that wasn’t city, you know, that’s what I learned, you know, I was into FinTech, which was like all about, you know, getting customers from alternate channels. That means not from city channels. So, so I never had access to internet banking and mobile banking of Citi. They were like, No, these are not your channels. You go and get customers from other channels, which is partnerships, right. So we used to partner with travel companies, even supermarkets, insurance companies, whatnot. So one of the things I think partnership, one of the key objective of any partnership should be and again, I’m talking from a BFSI point of view here is how do you get access to new set of customers? Right? customer acquisition is like, for example, a ride hailing company, they have what millions of customers, right? How do you provide a credit facility to them? How do you provide a co branded car or whatnot, a lot of opportunities? And the beauty of this is those are completely new? I would say, yes, they will be there will be some common customers between the ride hailing and the banking, for sure. But there will be a lot of customers, which are totally new to the banking, or at least to that relationship. I think that is what is the partnership key and the benefit, the ride hailing company gets it is able to take percentage of the lending, you know, lending interest and whatnot. So they have a great new income to be able to provide more, and not just be a ride hailing app. So I think it’s a win win, it’s a win win for both the entities. Most important is the organization has to be very clear in what they’re getting in for, like, are they going in for the new customers, or they’re going for new revenue or in a new geography whatnot, but there has to be a very big clarity right from the beginning. And that, and that is to to give you yours, you have to be patient with it.

Michael Waitze 23:17
It’s you’ve mentioned this word a lot, actually patience, it’s gonna take time, I really want your view on this, right? Because we both experienced this frustration right inside of big companies, like let’s do this faster. But I also have this philosophy that like, there’s no such thing as an overnight success. But all this stuff we hear about where like, it wasn’t there yesterday, it’s here today really just means we weren’t talking about it yesterday, but it was definitely there. Right? And again, how do you balance that, particularly in this region, where things like financial inclusion and financial literacy are also really important? How do you imbue that or embed that into the conversations you’re having with your partners and your customers?

Nischal Tanna 23:57
Beautiful thing said, right, patients is not visible, often not visible, right? Success is, I would like to quickly quote an anecdote here. So there is a big movie director who has been very successful in India. And he was asked once you know, here’s the first movie on us, right? It was a box office success, as they say, in Bollywood. So he was asked, you know, how does it feel like, you know, overnight success to have overnight success? He was like, Yeah, it feels great. It feels great. Feels great. It took me 10 years to get this overnight success. Right. That’s what I always

Michael Waitze 24:28
say. But it’s so funny, isn’t it? Because that’s my catchphrase. Everyone’s an overnight success. 10 years later.

Nischal Tanna 24:35
Right. Perfect. Yeah. So so that patients gain and I’m a firm believer of things, you know, all is well, I think, ultimately, the outcome is good, you know, yes. As you see, you know, in general COVID You know, be there was a lot of lives affected and all that but ultimately human race came out of it. Right. So, I’m a firm believer, you know, stick to your plans. Yes, you can pivot a bit here and there but, you know, don’t let crisis Second, you outright don’t let crisis, you know, too much change you, you have to be, of course, you also need to be flexible that you might have to pivot sinopharm In this case that all is well that ends well. And if it if it is not really well, that means it’s still not the end, right, you’d still have to continue, keep continue. I think that perseverance is something which, which I have firmly believed. And in hindsight, when you go back, like when fast fires when you MLB, next five years, when I’m, you know, after five years, where I’m actually when I look in hindsight, you know, great, you know, great that I did not drop off from this journey. And I want to reach that situation. I know of living on the top, talk to me

Michael Waitze 25:39
about this, because it’s really interesting when you started your company, and I want to give you an anecdotal example of my own, where I didn’t really understand this at the time, in 1997, right, so early on in my career, you know, I’d saved a little bit of money, and I had planned on buying an apartment in Manhattan. But then there was a financial crisis. And to be fair, the apartment wasn’t that expensive was a little bit out of my reach. But I thought if I buy this now, it’s going to be okay. But it’s the crisis kind of loomed, I thought, Okay, this is a bad time to buy. But in retrospect, and I wish somebody had told me this back, then it’s actually the best time to buy, because the more the deeper into a crisis that you are, the more likely is that you’re going to come out of it much stronger. What was it like for you building transform hub? In one of the worst crises, and definitely health crises of my lifetime? What was that? Like? What kind of what was the fear? Like, were you sure that we were gonna come on to this, like, run through that for me? Oh, yeah,

Nischal Tanna 26:34
it was a torpedo. Right? Imagine Oh, like, you know, coming out of Citibank as a senior vice president, you know, drawing that good, some paycheck trotting, starting your own three months into it, and you are now facing the worst crisis a human has faced, right. Trust me, you know, three months into it, and I was already getting offers from my old friends. No, do you want to join it back? Join back city? Are you over with your drama and know all that adventure as the you know, if I leave, as you rightly said, you know, Michael, you know, if you leave a crisis, unsold is going to haunt you forever. Right, you will never be able to do anything better. Anything, whether it’s personal or professional, if you drop a crisis midway, and that is what my approach has been, in COVID. I was like, you know, I have to survive this, not for just for the for the company, but for my confidence in life, whatever. And mine means the entire company, right? You know, everybody involved was worth till that one time, we have to survive this move to ensure that we get the, you know, mental character, right. So it was a challenge to survive. Because, you know, you imagine that you three months into company, if you shut it down, you’re never going to start another, right. It’s going to be very tough mentally, right? You’re never ever going to go back to that. So I was like, no, no, we have to survive this. Now. How did you survive is I think important thing is, again, we never knew it will last for two years, to be very frank, right? Nobody no one knew it would like, but good thing is at that point of time, everybody was thinking, you know, maybe next month, it will get over maybe next month. So I think, yeah, so I think that has helped us sail through you know, okay, next one will be better than this month. And that optimism has kept us going. And actually till we could realize we were pretty out of the crisis. So important thing is keeping your focus on and, you know, yes, you will be having a lot of stress. But stress doesn’t most of the times, I believe in saying I read it somewhere, that 80 to 90% of your hallucinations are actually hallucinations. They never become reality. Right? So I believe in that 90% of my stress. And he was it’s not going to happen, right? So why do I, you know, then then worry about it.

Michael Waitze 28:42
It’s such a great point, right? Like half the stuff half more of the stuff that you worry about, not you, but like, did all of us worry about later, you just like, Why did I care, it never happened, it wasn’t going to happen. The probability of it happening was low. And if I just not worried about it, but just like thought about how to fix it, or remediate it and just moved on, it would have been so much faster, so much less stressful. I want to ask you this, though, as well. You know, we started this conversation with you saying you come from humble beginnings. And part of this family connection of I come from a very humble family as well. And this idea of getting a great job at Citi Bank, or Citi Group getting a great job at DBS is not just good for you and your lifestyle and your family’s lifestyle. But there’s this family comfort as well. Your mom and dad, your cousins, your uncles, your grandparents look at you and say, okay, Michelle, it’s fine. It’s one of these things we don’t have to worry about. But then you quit and everyone thinks, oh my god, that dude’s completely insane. What is he doing? He didn’t work all this hard through academics or everything else to just throw it away. And then the crisis comes and your friends think, Okay, this insane dude really needs another job. Like how do you fight through that in a way that other entrepreneurs can learn from?

Nischal Tanna 29:54
First of all, every entrepreneur entrepreneur has to realize, you know, you don’t have to prove to anybody, right you’re not aren’t in a race to, you know, prove yourself every time

Michael Waitze 30:04
that you do, right?

Nischal Tanna 30:06
Is correct, more morally or psychologically it feels like but if you sometimes you know, you like a damn care attitude is also good in life, and you care for your people, your family and friends and all, but you don’t have to answer them or, you know, sometimes you are in crisis. You know, I remember, you know, my parents would ask me in our things, I would say, you know, how do we expect it? Right? Like, if it’s, you know, what’s the point in answering that question? You know, how are things right? How are things globally? So, so sometimes I think not getting into those conversations is better for the positive mindset, and you should avoid conversations, when you have to give bad news, I always believe and I always feel that if the news is not good news, you know, let’s not share with others or we don’t, because it’s not going to help. I love

Michael Waitze 30:54
to say to people like what were your expectations? Right, you knew it was going to be hard. So now that it’s hard, just move on, like, just try to figure out a way to solve it. If you expected it to be easy. That was your problem? I think at some level, no,

Nischal Tanna 31:06
yes. And everybody would have done it. Right. If it was easy. Yeah, exactly. I was just talking about, you know, I think when you take a leap as a as an individual, when you try to do something different, there is always going to be scrutiny from your friends and family and positive scrutiny, it won’t be like, you know, they’re not, they are hoping you to succeed. But as a scrutiny, they want to sit on the fence and observe, you know, whether you know, this guy is failing, or is going to succeed, I think that kind of pressure, you know, the societal pressure of looking up to you, that also adds to challenge and I personally love the challenge, you know, the thrill of, you know, being the underdog and trying to deliver I think I’m a bit dramatic. If I do say that aspect.

Michael Waitze 31:46
I like it. But do you feel like because I had this feeling right? So I was frustrated as well, in these big organizations, I don’t mean to keep going back to the same thing. And once you’re out and you try to build your own company, it’s very difficult. And once you push through and actually get a little bit of success, you feel like there’s a part of you that really believes that you’re now what’s the right word, like no longer employable by a big organization, because you see the impact that you can have, when you get to make decisions with the team that you’ve chosen for yourself.

Nischal Tanna 32:15
The great thing about today is economy is, you know, it is very startup friendly. Right. You know, doing your own is no more stigma, which was probably a decade back. Okay. Yeah, I think the perspective is different. You know, success is not really materialistic. Now, not only but realistic, that is a good thing. We are, we are in the in a great situation today. Our generation is very, I would say our next generation is very lucky that experiments are getting rewarded, or at least appreciated.

Michael Waitze 32:43
Yeah, I think you make a really great point, because I always say this. New companies, particularly in their earliest stages of development, are really just big experiments. And a lot of experiments as well, right? Because you don’t know what’s going to work and had bigger companies. It’s kind of like, how do we take this thing that we’ve done really well? And do more of it? Or do bigger it but smaller companies are like, I think this is gonna work. Let me try that. Let me try this. Let me try this. And then when you find something that works going deeper, no.

Nischal Tanna 33:13
Yes. Right. Let’s say it will be planned experiments. Right. I will say if seven out of 10 decisions work, you’re successful, oh

Michael Waitze 33:21
my god. I would say 51% of your decisions.

Nischal Tanna 33:25
Even you’re right, even even 50% is you’re already successful. Yeah. So I think it’s not being you know, making every decision work. But important thing is, you know, I believe that important thing is you need to reflect on any failure, or any success so that you you learn from it. Right, your mind has to actually absorb before you attend the next you know, work or next plan. I had that you don’t think so? There are a lot of times Michael when it I think reflection is so underrated. People don’t reflect. Right? Yeah, yes, I know, we can we can sense a lot of people spend time watching movies eating out, you know, going to a club, you know, or going doing their sports, which is great. I know, you know, you have to be healthy and all that. But I think I think few hours we should reserve on weekends to reflect on the week we just gone past by what I could have done better or what, you know, I could have avoided what not I think that is very underrated. I always tell to my team, you know, spend one hour on a weekend tea time, just reflect and go doc, just just look inside?

Michael Waitze 34:33
Do you feel more confident now than you did when you first started? And I guess the reason why I’m asking is because you’re right. You know, three months in the pandemic hits your friends call you which is super nice and say do you want to come back to work and you’re like, No, I’m not going to do this. And I feel like you do in a way. It’s not the giving up that matters, but it’s like you’ll never have another opportunity to go back and start again. And like I said before, if you go back and join another company, you’ll feel even more frustrated and more kind of left out, because you know that you don’t want to be doing that. But leaving again, it’s going to be so hard, structurally, emotionally. And just like reputationally. But do you feel more confident today now in building new things?

Nischal Tanna 35:13
Yes. You know, definitely, as you rightly said, I think most important is the mental character, which you need to have, because it’s not just the company, which I had formed. But it’s also if I would have left it midway, you know, as you said, the reputational damage, you know, the self confidence would have shattered, right, and I would have never attempted again, something in like next 10 years, I’m sure mentally, but sticking to it and being positive. I think today after coming out and today, we are already in 121 50 People size company now, right, we are growing every month, we are adding like five to 10 people, hopefully by the year end 2023 would be 202 50 plus. So I think now today, it gives us the luxury and the appetite to experiment, right? Whether it is an A monetary investment, or whether it is time, and as last but not the least lot of intrapreneur knowledge, which which I have learned in the three years today a lot more confident. And the risk of failure is pretty low. Right? Because see, ultimately, I think 80 90% of the job you do is all about science behind it. And 10% is the art and the luck factor. As they say if you cover most of the things, you know, the risk is low, right? Or failure.

Michael Waitze 36:25
Do you hire? I’m really curious about this. You’re growing, you said five people a month? Or hopefully I got that number, right. What drives your hiring? In other words, are you anticipating more clients more business and stuff like that? Or are you getting the business first and then hiring for that business as some kind of hybrid of that? How does that work?

Nischal Tanna 36:43
So one of the things about hybrid, right? Major aid is, see we try to decouple the acquisition, talent acquisition from the demand is you’re never going to catch up, right? It’s always going to be supply chain mismatch. So what we try to do, you know, there are some strategy skills, which we hire irrespective of the demand, and then there are some tactical skills, which is demand driven. And that way we have been able to, you know, bifurcate, and grow in our own pace.

Michael Waitze 37:10
Got it before I let you go, what are we going to think about transform hub? When you become an overnight success? Seven years from now, do you want to be like, where are you going to be? What do you see the future looking like? And what do you see the future of the insurance and insure tech space looking like seven years from now,

Nischal Tanna 37:25
I will say that when yours is too long, it’s very difficult to pass that kind of, yeah, it’s difficult, you know, the, I think next year we can or next two years, we can create one other thing which I would recommend to a lot of entrepreneurs is look at those prior two countries now type two and type three. Now look at Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, UAE and India for that sake, two developing countries, right, I think look at those countries, and you know, where there is a huge appetite for innovation, because they want to do a leap, right? They don’t want to go through the same painful journey, which Singapore or UK or US must have gone through, right, they want to directly lead to from zero to 10. So my advice, or my recommendation, even Vietnam, right, is coming up. So my recommendation to everybody is to you know, don’t try to be a small fish in a big ocean, right? Try to be a big fish in a lake or an opponent, I firmly believe that also will give you good confidence, go to those industries, those geographies where there is less competition, and there’s more appetite. And that is what people need to focus in next two, three years, you know, these countries, if you see the percentage growth, right, like, you know, the developed countries are growing single digit, right, the developing countries are growing two digit, right double digit, and that is where the entire world is focusing. So that I would say, next two, three years, these geographies are going to drive a big chunk of GDP of the globe. So better be a part of it.

Michael Waitze 38:54
Yeah, the last thing so I want to ask you one more thing before I let you go. How do you how do you and transform hub impact the democratization of financial services? Right, just getting more people to be involved in making sure that penetration? I mean, insurance is just so low in the region, except in Singapore. How do you drive that?

Nischal Tanna 39:13
Yes, so technology is a big enabler, right of democratization of you know, financial services. Most important the way we as a technology company do is we try to when we build something for our customers, we ensure that we build it in a very quick who has zoobi Right? It, it has to go. Like I was saying earlier, partnerships are the business model, or the new business model. So you have to build the technology which is capable to talk to each other interoperable, as they say, we try to do a lot of work around interoperability and that is our contribution. Because then when our customers are plugging their solutions into as you know, the ride hailing company or even a supermarket, it is very easy. It is very easy to plug and play, and the time to market is low. So that is our contribution as a tech partner. To ensure that whatever we build is built for the future.

Michael Waitze 40:03
I love it. And I love this idea that partnerships are the new business model. Maybe I’ll use that as the title of this episode. I want to thank you this was so great and Nischal Tanna, the Group CEO at TransformHub, thank you so much for coming and doing this today. That was awesome.

Nischal Tanna 40:15
Thank you Michael for spending the time and it was lovely catching up with you.

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