We talked to Deepshikha Kumar, Founder and CEO of SpeakIn, Asia’s largest network of experts delivering Learning content and here is what she said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Deepshikha Kumar: Thank you for asking. My family and I have always been close-knit but it is certainly nice to have more time together. To be honest, the COVID imposed lockdowns have not really been a major transition for us, as I am personally an introvert and prefer to spend time at home with my family, kids and our two dogs.
I’ve actually enjoyed being at home and am glad that the world as we know it, has revamped itself and is slowly embracing the new normal.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded SpeakIn.
Deepshikha Kumar: I have always advocated the notion that access to knowledge needs to be democratized. Bureaucracy, hierarchies and closed-door environments are not sustainable for organizational success as it hinders knowledge sharing and ultimately, stunts the growth of skills regardless of the market.
SpeakIn was founded with my vision of creating an open talent economy by granting aspiring and existing entrepreneurs and business leaders’ access to pioneer, accomplished experts whose expertise span over a vast array of topics. Undoubtedly, there were challenges that came along while building the brand but with resilience, competence and innovation, SpeakIn has expanded its network to over 12 countries in Asia – from Singapore to Hong Kong, and from Israel to Indonesia. As a founder, I take great pride in seeing how far we have come and I am even more excited to see how much further we can go.
I embarked on this journey with the core philosophy, which is to create a large yet highly curated network with an equally passionate team that works continually with thought leaders globally to inspire, motivate and upskill other professionals. With SpeakIn, my vision is to bring in easy access to established and prolific thought-leaders from professional services, politics, government, bureaucracy, media, the corporate world and more. The ease of expert access to a common professional stands to revolutionize the skills of the workforce.
How does SpeakIn innovate?
Deepshikha Kumar: At SpeakIn, only the best come together to inform, inspire and motivate. Addressing a 2 billion USD market, SpeakIn aims to become the world’s largest on-demand network providing businesses access to top experts and their content. SpeakIn is Asia’s largest professional learning platform servicing over 500 areas of expertise. With an expert pool of over 18,000 top thought industry leaders globally, SpeakIn is a holistic one-stop platform where leading organisations partner for industry leader sessions for professional development.
Our innovation is strongly tied to versatility and reliability. Through SpeakIn, we have the ability to deliver multiple formats to our users on a single platform. There is an opportunity for blended learning of live sessions, e-learning, blogs, podcast, cross-industry interactions and even 1-to-1 learning that we provide.
Prior to COVID, we were completely offline, but in the spirit of innovation and understanding and the importance of professional upskilling, we went online. With the understanding that many professionals had tight schedules and also to cater to those who did not want to be computer facing the whole day, we also looked into the development and provision of eLearning, blogs, and podcasts. Leveraging on such content, organizations and/or working professionals now have the luxury of choice in gaining knowledge about industry know-hows at their own speeds and convenience.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Deepshikha Kumar: The outbreak of COVID-19 set off a global economic crisis of unprecedented magnitude, and we braced ourselves for an impact too. However, with flexibility, speed and agility, the team worked day and night to close the prevalent gap in the EdTech Industry, to create a holistic platform that offers easily accessible and credible solutions to upskill.
We are thankful to our SpeakIn experts who took on the responsibility of assisting other willing and able professionals to rebuild their resilience in the face of adversity. The inert need of working professionals to upskill gave a massive boost to Speakin’s business ever since the pandemic hit, allowing us to grow 500% Quarter on Quarter.
When did you start making these changes? How effective has it been? Can you share some statistics around it?
Deepshikha Kumar: Changes in the business were made right from the first day of lockdown. SpeakIn has always prioritised speed in experimenting and innovating. A prompt response was needed for us to have a competitive advantage in gaining advanced digital technologies and talent that were crucial for operation. We had to make competent decisions regarding immediate changes that could be implemented and managed for the long haul.
The effectiveness of this move can probably be summed up by the fact that we were able to raise funding even during these unprecedented times. Our investors continue to see promise in our spirit and our model of e-learning as a key tool for continued learning.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Deepshikha Kumar: Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, skilling, building, and expanding further in the new normal has been a challenge. Every step we take, we think of the future, which is common for entrepreneurs as we learn from our experience and work on them to get a better result. However, the team remained tightly knit, in fact, we’ve hired more people and doubled the team. As an organization, we have doubled in size, and we’re fortunate to have found other passionate individuals whose work ethic matched SpeakIn’s result-oriented culture. This created common ownership to each and every member of the SpeakIn team and this was exceptionally handy for us when people moved to working from home.
I take pride in leading a team where its members are exceptionally driven, empowered and are free to chalk their own career path within the organization, while simultaneously aligning themselves with the organization goals of velocity, customer delight and global growth.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Deepshikha Kumar: SpeakIn is a tech-focused company where the onus to use technology to automate processes that can then be scaled seamlessly. We use internal CRM systems with enhanced AI features to ensure the fastest solutions for our clients. Having grown over 10x in terms of our client portfolio, from across 8 countries, it was important for us to have access to the right technology to help us scale efficiently.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Deepshikha Kumar: Singapore is a land of opportunities for professionals and entrepreneurs alike. While it is still early days for us, the ease of incorporation, consideration for various schemes and networks as promoted by the Economic Development Board have been an exceptional launching pad for us. Even more critical is that SpeakIn is fully aligned with Singapore’s goals of professional upskilling – SkillsFuture Credit is a fantastic program to ensure Singaporeans continue to move up the ladder of business performance individually and collectively.
Your final thoughts?
Deepshikha Kumar: I strongly believe Singapore is an exceptionally fruitful destination for SpeakIn. Our motto of democratizing agile learning resonates beautifully with Singapore’s pole-post position as Asia’s ultimate innovation hub. We have just partnered with a local firm and are excited about being able to revolutionize the corporate learning landscape in the region, through purpose-led upskilling. We also hope to positively impact talent development and acquisition across various sectors and professions.
Our partnership is the first of many steps SpeakIn is working at accomplishing since our launch in Singapore earlier this month. We have also moved our APAC headquarters to lion city. The eventual plan for SpeakIn is to enter the markets of other ASEAN countries and the Middle East. You will hear more of this soon as SpeakIn will be launching a complete impact story series， which brings together the best of businesses in Singapore, through a series of Round-Table discussions.
Finally, the fact that SpeakIn is a woman-led enterprise and with over 70% of SpeakIn’s global workforce being female, we look forward to furthering the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s vision of 2021 as the Year of Celebrating SG Women as we hire and build our team in Singapore.
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