Maneesh Tripathi: An Exciting Journey From A Small Town, Jabalpur Of Madhya Pradesh To An International Arena

Maneesh Tripathi: An Exciting Journey From A Small Town, Jabalpur Of Madhya Pradesh To An International Arena

Maneesh Tripathi: An Exciting Journey From A Small Town, Jabalpur Of Madhya Pradesh To An International Arena

Maneesh Tripathi, CEO, 0

Even during the darkest of times, leaders must possess the capabilities to dispel clouds of doubt and uncertainty so as to illuminate the path ahead for organizations. Undoubtedly, they play the most significant role in the business world, hence are called the leaders and the flag bearers of their respective organizations. As no one is a ‘born-leader’, one must diligently stride forward and hone the leadership skills, and possess leadership arsenals beyond their professional expertise to numerous soft skills.

Leadership roles not only require serious, smart people at the helm but also people with dreams and the tenacity to pursue those dreams day in, day out. One such persona who has truly defined the meaning of being a leader is Maneesh Tripathi, Group CEO of a listed company called SEVAK Limited (Singapore Electric Vehicle Advanced Keylogger – a $300 million-plus company that operates in the areas of telecom, IT/ system integration and electric vehicles). Maneesh who came from a small town in Madhya Pradesh called Jabalpur has been one of the prominent and influential business and social public figures not only in his Indian home state/town but also in Singapore (where he lives now). He has been giving hopes to every small-town girl and boy to take a step forward and stride towards their dream. It has been 23 years now since he left Jabalpur to make himself a ‘larger-than-life character’ for the young natives of Jabalpur who have dreams in their eyes. Maneesh lived and worked in Kolkata, Pune, Delhi, Riyadh, Jeddah, Tokyo, Jakarta and Singapore. He always moved with his family for any long postings he had. That is true adventure and courage!

Maneesh is a global citizen. Why do we call him so? Though Maneesh has been residing in Singapore for almost two decades now, astonishingly he has done business in 41 cities across 27 countries in his professional journey, to date. He brings with him the learnings, the knowledge and the experience to manage different work culture across every unique challenge that are put in front of him. He has been crystal clear in understanding customer needs, business management, governance, product innovation, and people management; thus significantly creating value for all the stakeholders involved by fearlessly carrying out commitments taking full responsibility.

“I see lots of people, especially from the small towns/rural areas who don’t have the courage to come outside and face the world as they think it’s impossible to compete outside. Hence, I really want to be that person who can inspire people from these areas and make them understand that nothing is impossible in this world. So basically, if I can do it, anybody in this world will be able to do. It’s just the matter of taking the first step,” highlights Maneesh.

“From the very beginning, I wanted to be somebody at the top of a very large MNC. Later it dawned on me that if one sets their mind to something, somehow the positive energy will attract like-minded people, and it somehow pushes you towards that goal. And everything falls inline automatically. So the first step is to believe in yourself, believe in the skills one has. Dream big and pursue it every day of your life, put in the effort, and the rest will fall in place, albeit gradually and after sincere effort. But if we don’t act, nothing will happen. That is the law of inertia. One has to move to create momentum first,” he adds.

The Courage to Make a Change
Maneesh started his career as a young engineer after finishing his engineering from GEC Jabalpur in Electronics and Telecommunication. He then pursued his PGCGM from IIM Calcutta/Kolkata and worked for Philips. He then moved to Modi Olivetti, where destiny just changes forever. He soon realized that he was boxed as a technology person doing just technical work day in, day out, whereas he wanted to become the President or the CEO of a company where he could take strategic decisions and make a difference at a larger scale. His field engineering and technology work was not getting noticed at the top level as he was not even visible to them. Maneesh felt his role was limiting him from his childhood dream of becoming a top gun in a company.

Hence, to overcome this hurdle, he quickly re-oriented his track, took a step back, and aligned himself with the sales opening his company offered him and re-chartered his professional journey so he could move towards his goal. Many of his colleagues and friends advised him against it as he was going back two steps in the sales role, but his wife stood by him and gave him full support. It was the Chairman of Modi Group (Dr. B K Modi) who motivated him to take up the challenge (when he met him on a short car ride going to a customer location). No one wanted to do that sales role due to extensive train travel and going to small towns in West Bengal, Orissa and to the North East. Maneesh took up the challenge based on the Chairman’s advice.

He had the courage to sacrifice his few years and start the journey once again. But Maneesh was sure that with the hard work rendered, and the techno-commercial skills that he acquired being a technical person at the first place, along with his communication skills (articulating to customer the key benefits and value add), he will be able to catch up soon. As sales order and large accounts deals started kicking in due to his unique selling style, he even started owning the delivery of projects back then. And from there, it was never turning back for him; he thought he was ready for the road ahead. Maneesh was given an opportunity by his Asia Pacific manager to move to Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, one of the most difficult countries to work in and the most difficult sales role at that time. One can guess the intensity as no one wanted to take that project. But with the support of his wife Archana, and with a three-year-old son in arms, off they went to Riyadh and then Jeddah.

Life was never the same again! Saudi Arabia Prince/Sheikh who owned the company was very kind and supportive to him as a sponsor and he quickly moved up the ladder due to sheer hard work, tenacity and results. Then came the opportunity to move to Singapore with IBM Asia Pacific and he did move again. In Singapore, he worked for IBM for 10 years before moving to an SGX listed company called SEVAK Limited, leveraging his international experience gathered with IBM, extensive project-related travel and armed with new skills at the top of IBM ladder in Global Services.

But as Alchemist said, ‘when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it’; every bit of it is true for Maneesh. He met Dr. Modi again accidentally at a Shopping mall lift at Singapore. Their five minutes talk and Maneesh was hired on the spot as the Group CEO at the crucial time when Dr. Modi was listing his company in Singapore. Can we see now how the events turned out to be! How a young man who took a challenge 20 years back came around and became the CEO of a listed company in Singapore for the same Chairman in an International arena?

What if Maneesh had turned down the sales role at Kolkata? Do you think the Chairman would have hired him as CEO again when he met him at Singapore? The answer is a firm NO! This story is amazing and a lesson for all youngsters who never shy away from a challenge as we don’t know who all are watching us.

The One Dollar Story
Being the CEO of a company isn’t limited to making just strategic business decisions. But it extends to the personal front too. When his company suffered close to $40 million losses due to a disastrous business setback, Maneesh took a decision not many CEOs will dare to take. He voluntarily offered to convert his basic annual salary to $1. “We went on investing a huge amount of money in feature phone brand phones in many countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and India. With this, we had become a billion-dollar revenue feature Phone Company. But in just a span of 12-18 months, Apple and Samsung completely changed the game by launching Smartphones on Android and iOS operating systems. Due to this, the company suffered massive losses, as all other feature phones business companies did. Even Nokia and Blackberry brands collapsed within 18-24 months from top companies to next to nothing,” explains Maneesh.
It was a very hard time for the company, but Maneesh took the responsibility and offered to the Chairman and the Board to go on a $1 salary, which was never done in the 50 years history of the Singapore Stock Exchange by a listed company CEO. This became headlines in the local newspapers and influenced every other person in the team to opt for a pay reduction voluntarily to help the company get back on its feet. Maneesh even announced not taking salary till the company returned to profit. Those were tough times for him. He recalls how his wife stood by him firmly again on this decision as they managed their personal finances prudently as both his sons were studying (one in UK/London) and there were loans to be paid.

The shareholders liked the move and gave time and space to the company. Going from making a loss of close to S$40 million to turning profitable was a steep ask. Many thought this will never happen or will take a long time. But the sheer tenacity, teamwork, support from the Chairman and with his own firm leadership style, Maneesh changed things in the company in a planned manner and at breakneck speed. He believed in always ‘Do it Right the First Time’ – which is a Philips company motto he learnt in his formative years. The moment the Board gave him complete authority in return of going to a $1 dollar salary, he changed things very fast in the company.

It was a very hard time for the company, but maneesh took the responsibility and offered to the chairman and the board to go on a $1 salary

People were changed, cost reduction implemented, lossmaking businesses were divested and intensity and velocity were created in profit-making businesses, supply chains were renegotiated, extra expensive and fancy offices were closed, and all travelled by Coach class including the CEO. The results started flowing in, and in just a year, the company turned around to make a small profit. Maneesh’s quick executions of tough decisions and his learning & experience played a very significant role.

Fostering a True Concept of Leadership
Maneesh has been playing an important role in transforming the company from ‘information to innovation’. Under his leadership, SEVAK has evolved from hardware sales to cloud computing, application development, business continuity recovery services, as well as edge and security services. The company also launched the first commercial Electrical Vehicle Fleet in Singapore with its own EV fleet management software and is also working on autonomous vehicle software.

“We are a very result-oriented organization. As they say only the paranoid survive, we are always abreast of the changing market dynamics. And people who can cope with it survive with us for a very long time; the others cannot. Also, the training part is integral.

We don’t do much internal training, but we send all our technical and salespeople to our partners, as we are tier 1 partners for IBM, HP, and for all the operators in Indonesia,” signifies Maneesh.

“Even at the top level, we continuously upgrade our skill sets; for instance, very recently, I've done certification course from Harvard University on ‘Emerging Markets- Technology Entrepreneurship’ and a course on Crypto and Blockchain from UC Berkley called ‘Certificate for Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies’ so as to keep myself abreast on how new businesses have to be seeded,” he adds.

His company has now been investing in WellTech (Wellness Technology), and RealTech (Real Estate Technology). He very well understands that a start-up not just creates innovation but also jobs for the locals and talented heads. He is largely involved in mentoring and guiding the Singaporean startups through thick and thin.

“As they say only the paranoid survive, we are always abreast of the changing market dynamics”

In the year 2020, Maneesh was elected as the Vice-Chairman of Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI). He also took up the role as Chairman of Innovation and Startup subcommittee and the Chairman of Bilateral and International Trade Relations. In this crucial role, he has been helping several startups and SMEs to expand and to connect with other ASEAN and India markets while also connecting them with venture capitalists and angel investors. “It is a way for me to give back to the society and the youngsters as they move into the startup world,” said Maneesh.

Intriguing Facts about Maneesh’s Concept of Handling Burn Out
Maneesh follows a special routine to handle work-life balance and stress. He says one has to enjoy life every day unlike people taking breaks of 10-15 days every year, which according to him is an old fashioned rut created by the society 40-50 years back. He follows the ‘Holi-hours’ concept instead of ‘Holi-days’ concept, which he learnt from his Chairman way back. This actually means using the free hours one has in a normal day of 24 hours as holiday-time (of course in addition to a few vacation days one may take).

He has been following this concept for years now, where he takes his off–office or non-working hours in a day as Holi- hours amounting to four-five hours every day in his life. He diligently plans them every day, whether for a Marathon training run, listening to music with his wife, planning a jam session even on weekdays or weekends with like-minded people or doing a Cricket Nets session with his sons/team after 7 PM. Maneesh along with his wife used to watch 10 movies every month pre-COVID, not just during weekends but also on weekdays. This indeed has resulted in less burn out for him he says.

“As we have a couple of hours as holi-hours every day, my entire family looks forward to it. The best part is our boys also join us. Hence there is less burnout. I believe one has to live the moment as has been said in ‘Geeta’. And if you cramp days as a long holiday, you will only come back tired,” explains Maneesh. A fitness freak, he has been following intermittent fasting for the last 15 years now. It would be interesting to reveal that he has been the captain for his club Singapore Indian Association and played Division 1 cricket in Singapore for 15 years in a row.

Maneesh strives to be a perfectionist, whether at work, at home or even when it comes to his passion for telling a story via a movie (producing or directing). He even did a course from Singapore Media Academy in 2013-14 to become a certified film producer and camera director. Luckily, the pandemic provided him with the opportunity to work with a director at Singapore and a famous producer in India to create a narrative/serial on COVID-19 survivors and the front-line warriors like doctors and nurses. Grabbing the opportunity by hand, he produced a documentary film called ‘White Coat Warriors’, and a series called Disease X – the COVID Survivors’ this year, which will release on an OTT platform in the near future.

Maneesh Tripathi, Group CEO, Sevak Limited (SGX Listed) – Singapore; Vice-Chairman – Singapore Indian Chamber Of Commerce And Industry – (SICCI)
• 28+ years of work experience in IT, manufacturing, retail, telecom, mobile devices and applications, and EV
• Runs and manages an approximately S$300 million SGX listed company in Singapore
• First CEO in Asia listed companies to go on $1 salary voluntarily in 2015
• Instrumental in making the company ready for the EV innovation change & Autonomous Electric Vehicle revolution
• Played an important role in making Singapore Electric Vehicle (SEV) Pte Ltd the first 100 percent commercial electric vehicle fleet company from Singapore in late 2016
• Singapore Electric Vehicle Advanced Keylogger (SEVAK) software is Maneesh’s brainchild
• Played a key role in the acquisition, integration, transition and growth plans of Affinity Group and Selular Group
• Helped subsidiaries to move from hardware projects to services, cloud, system integration and software oriented business
• Is the elected Vice Chairman of Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries and involved in several social causes through Startup/Innovation and Bilateral and International Trade subcommittees
• Ardent cricket player and has represented State teams in U-22 Col CK Naidu Trophy
• Holds a diploma in Tabla
• Holds a certificate in Film Production & Planning from Singapore Media Academy