Q&A: 6 questions for Gautam Singh, CEO of The Smart Cube
Gautam Singh is the CEO of The Smart Cube, a company specialising in business analytics and research. Singh is one of the co-founders and in addition to his overall responsibilities, manages the business development team globally.
He has more than 20 years of management consulting, venture capital and industry experience in Europe and the US. We asked him about his entrepreneurial journey to date.
What was your journey like to get to where you are now?
I am originally from India and qualified from IIT Bombay with a degree in mechanical engineering. I then went to the US and completed an MBA at the University of Michigan. After graduating I came to London and worked with the consultancy firm A.T Kearney for six years across various industry verticals. I come from an entrepreneurial business background with both parents running their own businesses and decided it was time to try it out for myself, so started work for a start-up called Corven Partners. We provided consulting advice to start-up companies and took fees in the form of equity instead of cash.
Following Corven I started The Smart Cube. I saw the market opportunity and coming from India, I knew of the capabilities out there so I took the plunge, went out to India, found an office and recruited five guys. Sameer Walia came on board as a partner in the business and took over the operations for the company while I focussed on business development using my network.
The market at the time was really treating offshore operations as a labour arbitrage opportunity but I saw things differently. I wanted to push the boundaries in terms of what you can unbundle and support from offshore, and to do so further up the value chain. This helped propel the growth of the business over ten years. By relentlessly focusing on the customer, and delivering value from our work with them, we have grown accounts within our customer base. I am very proud of this.
We make sure we respond to the market environment. The Smart Cube’s growth will continue to come from the explosion in demand for our analytics driven services and we see Pharma, Retail and FMCG as our biggest growth areas. Financial services is also an important sector - with a lot of change in this space there are many opportunities for The Smart Cube to bring differentiated solutions to the market.
How do you feel you have changed the business at The Smart Cube?
We started out with five people and have grown the business to more than 700 people and with annual revenues now exceeding $25 million, so our business needs have changed throughout this process. However, we have always focused on building a strong team culture. We believe it is not only about doing good work, yes we work hard but we believe in playing hard too. We invest in our people, they are paid well, looked after and managed well - including for example, outbound training, team building events, such as rafting trips to the Himalayas and long weekends in Goa. Our focus on leadership and people development is something we are proud of.
It has become part of the fabric of how we do business at The Smart Cube, that we put the client first. It is a key differentiator for us. We worry about the client first and money comes second. It’s important we grow accounts and bring value to the table. We’re not creating a volume business but a value based business. It’s about how strong our relationships are
What are your goals and what are you passionate about?
For me personally, it’s about the opportunity out there, how we can add value to our clients and how The Smart Cube can make a name for itself in this space. I am focussed on the opportunities available and confident that we are well placed to take the lead. I’m even more excited about where we are today than when we started and am passionate about making the most of the opportunities we have before us. It involves hard work and being smart about how we get there. I will always remain entrepreneurial and ensure we listen to the market and adapt, in order to offer the best service our customers.
How have you dealt with changes in the markets over the years?
Change is good for The Smart Cube as it creates opportunities and keeps us on our toes. Change creates opportunities and we remain agile to adapt and take advantage of those opportunities.
What, in your opinion, is the single greatest challenge facing global supply chains today?
The changing role of procurement is key to ensuring consistent supply chains as the function becomes more strategic and business focused. This does mean letting go of many of the transactional responsibilities and moving those to either third party providers or to alternative solutions so that the focus for driving company performance and contributing strategically becomes the key objective. Procurement’s success won’t be measured in terms of team size or how much spend they have under management, but how they can work at a strategic level with the business, how they leverage smarter solutions to support their goals and deliver more effectively. Cost efficiency should follow as a result rather than be the prime focus.
What are your interests outside of work?
I am an outdoors guy – I love the mountains and am an avid skier. I play tennis as much as my business and family will allow. I’m also a keen chess player and passionate about music. As much as I can I do love spending time with my family and our family dog, a pug.
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