Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Happy Marketers

For our very first feature, we talked to two SoC alumni who have delved into the world of digital marketing. Rachit Dayal and one of his business partners, Prantik Mazumdar, both graduated from NUS SoC in 2005. Rachit and Prantik majored in Computer Science and Computer Engineering, respectively, but both undertook minors in Technopreneurship – something they considered instrumental in their career development.

Now they (with a third business partner) run Happy Marketer - Prantik heads the Social, Mobile and Display division and Rachit does his thing as Managing Partner and Co-Founder.

Left to right: Prantik, Rachit and their partner Dave

Tell me a bit about what you do now.

Prantik: I run a digital consulting firm with 2 other business partners (Rachit & Dave) and one that houses about 20 young, energetic people across our offices in Singapore (HQ) and Bangalore. I look after the business development and sales efforts of the organization but what I enjoy doing most is evangelising to clients and partners about the power of digital and then importance of gradually embracing it.

Rachit: Along with my partners, I founded Happy Marketer. And my responsibilities stretch across Business Development, Consulting Services and Financial Management of the Business. The most enjoyable part of my job is finding tough problems that clients face in their marketing, and working with my team to solve them.

Tell me about your time as a student at SoC.

Prantik: Barring the first semester, I don’t think I did any justice to my academics during my time at SOC. I was a school topper from Indonesia and I enrolled myself into SoC given my passion for technology but soon I realized that I wasn't too good or interested in programming. I loved tracking technological shifts and how it impacted businesses and our lives every day but I was not good enough at coding and unfortunately did not take it too seriously. Life at SoC was fun otherwise - I enjoyed quite a few modules, loved hanging out and working at the Computing Club and my favourite moment was to gulp down 10 glasses of Milo each time the truck arrived!

Rachit: SoC was a mix of joy and agony for me! I loved my first two years - finally found a place where computing and programming got the priority I thought they deserved. I thoroughly enjoyed the programming projects, the team modules and enjoyed creating great things. In the last two years though, I got very quickly bored of theoretical depth - and switched tracks to follow two minors in Entrepreneurship. So for most of my final two years, my interests left SoC. All the while, I was involved in Computing Club and proclaiming SoC’s superiority over my Engineering friends!

What did you enjoy most?

Prantik: What I enjoyed most during my times at SoC were modules that focussed on the marketing and commercials of technology. I also loved the fact that NUS allowed us to take multiple courses or "GEMS" across different faculties and that allowed me to expand my horizons and hone my skills in the world of technology marketing.

Rachit: My favourite parts of SoC were the team projects in the first two years.  Tough, frustrating and but very rewarding to create actual working programs of such large scale. I also loved that as a SoC student, when I went into technopreneurship I had a big advantage over students who pursued other majors.

What did you find most challenging, interesting or useful?

Prantik: What was most challenging in NUS/SoC was to play catch-up with one's CAP once one had a bad start. Given that it was a cumulative number, the odds are stacked against you!

What was most interesting and useful was the opportunity to take up the Minor in Technopreneurship. That was a game changer for me in school as not only did it revive my interests in academics mid-way into NUS but also helped me identify my passion and purpose. I learnt quite a bit, did well and realized that this is what I would like to pursue. Eternally grateful for this program!

Rachit: I'd agree with the Minor in Technopreneurship. It was really what intrigued my interest in school again, and I based my career based on that. While not strictly SoC, it was an advantage to be a SoC student in that class.

Did any of the faculty make an impression on you? How?

Prantik: Some names that come to mind are Bimlesh Wadhwa, Martin Henz, Tulika Mitra, Abhik Roychoudhury and Ankush Mittal. I enjoyed the way they delivered their lectures and made it a bit interesting. But my favourite person from SoC has to be our then TA and now Lecturer, Dr. Colin Tan. He was very affable and kind and helped us a lot with one of our killer modules - CS3216! What was impressive is that he would remember all our names without fail :)

Rachit: I was quite a geek and didn't pay much attention to my SoC teachers :-) ... but there was a Prof Lim Kwanghui who ran the TR2202 Technological Innovation module. Completely changed my life, sparked my interest in technology business and set the course for my life!

Is there anything you would have done differently during your time here?

Prantik: I would have taken coding seriously and would have practiced hard and gotten very good at it. I think it’s a skill that everyone must learn, experience and master.

Rachit: I would have taken business courses earlier to supplement my CS courses.

What’s the funniest or craziest thing that you did/happened when you were a student here?

Prantik: Have been part of many pranks and crazy incidents during the Uni days but the funniest has to be our CS3216 project submission where as expected Murphy struck during our final project submission and our software wasn't working as expected and the only way to ensure that the output was correct was to hardcode some lines that would be print out the desired output! It’s a chance we had to take and we were lucky that the TA did not find out ;)

Rachit: For me the craziest time was when I competed for a Computing Club Elections in 2002 as the Marketing Head. It involved middle of the night poster printing, door to door campaigning and trash talking of competition! I felt like a real politician, and it was quite exhilarating :-)

What do you count as your most significant achievements since graduating from SoC?

Prantik: Post SoC I worked with 3 organizations (1 Public Service & 2 young private sector companies) but I think my most significant achievement, both personally and professionally was to exponentially grow my own company with 2 of my business partners, Rachit & David. By the close of this financial year, we would have grown 10X in 3 years and that gives all 3 of us a lot of pride and satisfaction - not just the revenue bit, but also to be able to grow & manage a team of 20 people and ensure that we have some "happy", recurring clients.

Rachit: The day I wrote my last exam, I started my life in business. In the last 8 years, I guess the hardest part has been to stick to my guns about growing this business. There were many years of failures, surviving on Maggi Mee and doubt. But over time, I managed to find the diamonds in the rough - found Partners like Prantik who share the burden of growing the business and our team of about 20 who believe in the mission of revolutionizing marketing. Those partners and that team has gone on to hit huge revenue targets, great delivery satisfaction and defined a great roadmap for the business. And being able to attract like-minded people to Happy Marketer would probably be my most significant achievement.

How did it happen?

Prantik: I think one of the key success factors was an experimentative mind-set with a philosophy of "Fail Fast; Fail Cheap". It took a lot of hard work, aggressive networking and follow-up backed up with a lot of faith in each other

Rachit: Another one of our fundamental mind-sets has been to not accept outside money and influence. Setting bootstrap constraints for the last 8 years has forced us to innovate rapidly, focus on the market and make sure our core offering is amazing. And now we're in a position where our business is well proven, and we can open up to outside investments.

As Prantik said, it's relentless hard work. For me, it's been 8+ years of 80 hour weeks where everything else has taken a backseat. And while initially it seems like the world is ready to dismiss just another set of young entrepreneurs, in reality there are real gems among the people we meet. We've all met each other, our entire team - even our better halves. And managed to build an ecosystem of like-minded people.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?

Prantik: Playing or watching Cricket or reading a book on my Kindle

Rachit: I love tech gadgets and news and spend a lot of my time on technology sites. I'm also a huge TV buff, and find (mostly legal) ways to catch up on the newest US TV shows.

OK guys, time for some quick-fire questions: 
Best use of technology/science this year?

Prantik: 3D Printing

Rachit: Tablets that run my PC programs! 2kgs off my shoulders every day

Pet peeves?
Prantik: Pessimists and wet blankets

Rachit: Mediocrity and businesses and people that adopt it.

Singapore’s best kept secret?

Prantik: Raffles Marina Club near Tuas

Rachit: The different reservoirs and parks around Singapore - sunrise at those spots is just gorgeous!

Worst movie you've seen this year?

Prantik: Tron

Rachit: I'd say the new Jobs movie - it seemed like an enactment of his life, rather than an interesting portrayal of his character

Best song to dance to this year?

Prantik: Applause by Lady Gaga

Rachit: Get Lucky by Daft Punk

If you could choose only three items to have with you on a deserted island, from which you had no hope of escaping, what would they be and why?

Prantik: My iPad for entertainment & communication, a poster of my favourite sports star Sachin Tendulkar & a book by Lee Kuan Yew.

Rachit: Does my fiancé count? Apart from her, a set of weights for staying fit, a fat, fat notepad for my ideas and a book on how to escape deserted islands!

Got ideas about questions we should be asking or people we should be chatting with? Don't be shy. Email

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