Shipra Baranwal (M.13)
Getting Thing Moving
Shipra welcomed us in Ten’s offices, which we were not allowed to film for privacy reasons. Read the story below to learn how a scholarship can lead you to deal with the wealthiest individuals on the planet.
Read full transcript…
HU: Hello Shipra, the tradition is to start with a quick Chinese portrait. So if you were … a color?
SB: Most definitely red. It is the color of energy, it is vibrant. And in hindouisme it is an auspicious color, it represents sensuality and purity.
HU: An animal?
SB: I’d like to be a bird. Maybe an eagle.
HU: A meal?
SB: My mom’s chicken Biryani.
HU: A song?
SB: I hope you dance by Lee Ann Womack. It is a song I have been earing for the last 14 years and I hear it until date.
HU: A movie?
HU: A sin?
HU: An object?
SB: The wedding band on my husband’s finger.
HU: A sport or a game?
HU: A book?
SB: It’s a non fiction book called Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom. It is about his real life experiences. It is the story of a professor who is terminally ill and one of its students goes and visit him every Tuesday. It is life lessons through the way, it is a fantastic read.
HU: A hero or a superhero?
SB: I think Iron Man would be good. He is good looking, billionaire… and he is a philanthropist!
HU: Could you sum up your professional background in 30”?
SB: I have worn several hats over the course of my career. I managed operations for British Airways for more than half a decade. I then became an entrepreneur, scaled my own retail business. I have consulted for Bill & Melinda Gates foundation for a project in Kenya. And today I work with a London based lifestyle management company, Ten. I head the business in India over here.
“I am an operations person. I like to get my hands dirty and get it moving”
HU: Why did you change industry so often?
SB: It is good to learn! And the only way you know what you like to do is to expose yourself to the different functions and the different industries. Even though I have worked in very different companies there is one common thread across my entire career line : I work in very customer focused industries. British Airways was customer service, when I was entrepreneur in retail I was serving the fore front customer, now working in a lifestyle management company I work for about 2 million customers around the world.
Exposing myself to different functions actually allowed me understand what I really enjoyed doing, and that is really important.
“As much as we don’t like processes, that is what makes a business sustainable in the long run”
HU: So what is it you like eventually?
SB: I am an operations person. I like to get my hands dirty and get it moving. That is the reason I decided to work with a start-up once I came back to India. But I also like to work on the strategic objective of things. So I primarily run the P&L for Ten business in India, I lead the team in India and I do the vision and strategy for how the business is going to be in the next 2 years in the country.
HU: As an operations professional, what would you say one needs to be good at operations?
SB: Primarily you have to be a people’s person and then you’ve got to be good at processes. As much as we don’t like processes, that is what makes a business sustainable in the long run. And as you need to have a good eye for detail, for following processes, you should also always be able to look at the bigger vision of your business. Because the business environment is changing rapidly and you have to be willing to notice the changes and adapt to them very quickly. So you’ve got to have the flexibility as well.
HU: What are your day-to-day tasks?
SB: I come early to work to interact with the Singapore offices. I run through my email and I pull out things that need an action. I takes me about two hours to do that. And then I spend half an hour with the entire team. We do a brief session, and we run through how the day will look like. After that I have multiple things to do. Fo example look into the HR function, I look into the bill compliances for the business in India. I look into cost estimates and the business plan. I also do client meetings outside. Everyday is different really but on a standard day I would always come to the office, spend 4 hours working with the teams, see what’s happening. If we have a customer care issue then I would also take care of it sometimes.
HU: Could you explain to us very briefly what is Ten’s business?
SB: Ten group was started in 2001. It is a London based lifestyle management company. It is a concierge. Currently it is the largest single operated concierge platform in the world. It runs across 16 countries. What the company really does is: if you are wealthy but you do not have a lot of time, they will do anything to match your lifestyle needs. So if you wanted tomorrow to fly to Bali for your holiday, but you didn’t have time to take care of it or you don’t know how to do it we could manage that for you. If it is your wife’s birthday and you don’t know what to gift her we have a team who could run options with you. We had a customer in London that supported two charities in India, he was running a Triathlon and wanted to raise fund for them. We helped him do that. Litteraly anything that you could think under the sun, as long as it is legal and ethical the concierge can help you do it.
HU: What is Ten group’s strategy globally and in India?
SB: Ten wants to be the premium concierge provider in the world, and that translates to India as well. We want to be the premium concierge service provider in India. This is still a new concept to India. But India is home to the third largest community of billionaires in the world right now. The information technologies and the e-commerce market have generated a lot of money and wealth for entrepreneurs. But time is becoming a scarce commodity for them. So if you have the money, but you don’t have the time, energy or network to do what you would like to do, we are here to simplify it for you.
HU: Have you ever said no to any request?
SB: We don’t often have to, but I must say that it has happened. A customer had spent holidays in Australia and had some mis happenings there. So he asked us to file on his behalf a huge insurance claim, and that we couldn’t do. Other than that I don’t remember ever having to say no.
HU: What is your average of completed requests?
SB: Completing requests? 90%. That’s the beauty of it, when you have offices in 16 countries you have experts all around the world. So if tomorrow you wanted to fly to Singapore and you told me : “Shipra I am going to Singapore but I don’t know what to do” I have an expert sitting in Singapore that could make a list of the ten things to do depending on the period of your stay.
HU: How does Ten differentiate from its competitors?
SB: We don’t have a direct competitor, but there are companies in the space. The concierge market is a big one. There are companies that do lower end service than what we do and others that only do private memberships. Our USP is that we offer both, however we are focused on the high net worths and ultra high net worths customers. There is competition of course, but we focus on a niche market.
HU: So what is the craziest thing you’ve ever done for a customer?
SB: In India we planned a member’s wedding. An entire Indian wedding at the Taj Mahal palace in Mumbaï. He had guests flying from Europe, US and Dubaï and we coordinated all that. And you know, Indian weddings can be a mess… I won’t say it is crazy actually but it definitely took us much time and attention.
HU: How do you acquire customers in this business?
SB: There are two business models. One is B2B where you deal with banks high net worth clients. For instance if you buy top notch credit cards from Citibank you will have access to our service. And we will not charge you but we will charge the bank. The second model is a private membership model. Concierge would charge a subscription fee ranging from 300 pounds to 1500 pounds a month, and you can have access to the service.
HU: What do you do during your free time?
SB: I love Sunday brunches. The city holds some of the best Sunday brunches around. There is a place very close by called Blue Frog which makes excellent brunches and has music gigs. On Sundays my husband and I are used to trying different places and talk about all sort of things, life, under the sun.
“Mumbai is the only city in India where I have seen people celebrate every single festival”
HU: What would you do if you had only 24 hours left in Mumbaï?
SB: I would re live the first day when I came into this city. I landed in the city on the train, and that is the only time I took the train in Mumbaï actually… I would go go back to the same train plateform.
Then there is a kebeb place south of Mumbaï which is open to late night: Balemya. I would go there. And then I would spend the rest of the day in Girgaon Chaupati’. I love looking at the sea. Sometimes just looking into blank spaces is just a good feeling…
HU: What do you like most about people from Mumbaï?
SB: I have lived across 5 cities in India, including the big ones: Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, now Mumbaï. For me Mumbaï is a melting pot of all cultures. What I like best about the city is the religious tolerance that people have. This is the only city in India where I have seen people celebrate every single festival. Whether it is south Indian, or north Indian. I have seen people celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi, which is a local festival of Maharashtra, I have seen people celebrate Muslim festivals, Aid is big over here. When it is Christmas time there is a festival in Bandra, Bandrafest. I have seen people celebrate Diwali, I have seen people celebrate Holi. In this city people celebrate every single festival with a lot of enthusiasm. And I think this is the best part of the city.
To me this is something that really sets the city apart. Because there really is no city like Mumbaï when it comes to celebrating festivals. We have a season and sometimes it is a menace, the roads are jammed, it is a chaos and it takes hours to get to work. But do I like it? Yes I do.
HU: What is today’s India most important challenge according to you?
SB: In my opinion it is the difference between education and employability. I think that is the biggest challenge and a gap that we have to bridge as a country. Just to share with you some recent statistics: India churns out millions of graduates every year and 47% of these graduates are unemployable. Since I have come back to India I have been a keen observer of this situation. One office boys over here is a science graduate! One of the street vendors where I eat corn every day will graduate from college end of this summer. I think the definition of education really needs to change to hard skills. Right now all people focus on is to be an engineer, be a doctor, be a graduate. That doesn’t mean employment, you need a fine balance of hard skills and soft skills. That is the biggest challenge that the youth of India and the nation as a whole need to bridge up.
“I wanted to be in a class with a maximum cultural diversity and I realized doing my research that it was one of HEC’s key strength”
HU: Why did you do a MBA? Why did you choose HEC Paris?
SB: I worked for about five and a half years with British Airways. I had worked in operations and project management. Then I decided to join my family business. I decided to work with my father to scale our family wedding business. He was looking at expending and I had the corporate exposure. There was a little bit to give and lots to learn so I decided to work with him. And the one year that I worked with him I realized that while I was doing a lot of things from what I had learnt from my corporate job, everything was not moving perfectly the way it should. And that is when I decided to do an MBA. I had experience in operations, I was good at it and I was also doing marketing and business development. But I needed exposure on strategy and finance.
Why HEC? There are four reasons:
- I wanted to have an exposure to a culture I didn’t know and France was a great place to do that
- I wanted to do one of the top MBAs worldwide
- I wanted to be in a class with a maximum cultural diversity and I realized doing my research that it was one of HEC’s key strength
- We all have to calculate our return on investment when we do such a program and HEC was the best fit for me. In the US, for a school of the same caliber I would have had to double or event triple the amount of my education loan
And eventually I had a very good scholarship from the school as well.
“I became president of the women and leadership club. It is a networking club that brings you opportunities and guidance in your career plans.”
HU: Could you tell us more about your scholarship?
SB: Once you are admitted into the school you can apply for scholarships. There are three scholarships: one that runs for “need” meaning those that could not afford the school on a financial perspective. Then there is another one for excellence which applies to people with outstanding career profiles, and eventually there is the 40 foundation scholarship which is an excellence scholarship granted to 3 women in the program. I applied for all three and I got two, the excellence and the Forté Foundation!
HU: We also saw on your LinkedIn profile that you were involved in the woman & leadership club during your MBA. Could you tell us more about that too?
SB: HEC is a pro women school. It is evident and I experienced it from my admission onwards. In terms of scholarships, the women diversity it has, and the clubs of course. After a few weeks you try to figure out what you want to do in terms of clubs and associations, and I became president of the women and leadership club. It is a networking club that brings you opportunities and guidance in your career plans.
We also got some great woman speakers talking about balancing professional and personal life. It is always good to hear testimonies from people who have been there before. It is a great place to learn and also to share between woman from very different backgrounds and cultures. What you learn and what you share in these clubs is phenomenal.
HU: What is your best memory from HEC?
SB: Every Sunday, I used to cook an Indian dinner in my room for 14 or 15 of my fellow MBA students. All our friends would get their own beers or wine and we would sit and eat altogether. So someday it would be Biryani some day it could be south Indian curry… I remember it very well, we would just chat and laugh. That’s my fondest memory.
HU: What is HEC’s reputation in India?
SB: I think the school is gaining acknowledgement but it is far to portraying its true colors! There is a lot to be done in terms of brand awareness. So while I do believe it has improved because I do get recognition when I tell people I am from HEC, I still think it is a work in progress and there are many things that can be done and need to be done.
HU: What are the characteristics of the HEC brand according to you?
SB: To me the school stands for what values it gives you that will shape your future success. One of the things that I have cherished at HEC is the exposure I had in terms of different cultures. When you come out from a business school you realize how professional life is more about working with people rather than what’s in the books. And while I don’t think that business schools can teach you that perfectly but HEC gave me a great exposure on this topic. Today I am confident in going and working in any part of the world, talk to any person from any nationality. And that primarily comes from living and working with 80 nationalities at HEC.
HU: What is the main thing you could take out from HEC?
SB: There are two big things. One is the confidence it instills in you. Having lived and worked at HEC with different people on different projects that I didn’t know anything about, it’s gotten me the confidence to do everything that I am doing today. For example, I now do P&L and revenue management for my company. Which is something that I had never done before. And to be honest I am very good at it!
The second thing is that the school gives you the network to achieve your goals. I don’t think we are global I think we are becoming “glocal”. You’ve got foreign businesses coming to India and Indians going to work everywhere. You need the network to interact with these people and HEC gives you the network.
HU: What do you think about the HEC network in India?
SB: It is not a very well structured network in India yet, compared to other business schools network. And I partially bear this grudge as an alumnus. However, the network is definitely growing in terms of number of people.
“Another fantastic part of the program is the leadership seminar that we have in Saint-Cyr. (…) It is something fantastic about HEC that I have never heard about anywhere else.”
HU: For what reason would you like to be contacted by an HEC alumnus.?
SB: First I would say that would like to be contacted for both personal or professional reasons! I think that people saying that a network is and should always be professional are mistaken. I would be very interested to catch up with an alumnus who has studied earlier than I have, have a chat and learn thanks to his experience. As well as I would be happy to be contacted to add value on somebody’s project or for a brain storm session about a topic that I know.
HU: HEC’s moto is “the more you know, the more you dare”, what is your own moto?
SB: Always be a student, always be willing to learn
HU: Is there something we didn’t mention and you would like to talk about?
SB: Another fantastic part of the program is the leadership seminar that we have in Saint-Cyr. I am sure people have spoken to you about it… It is something fantastic about HEC that I have never heard about anywhere else. They take you for three days in army camps and you live there, eating the soldier food, divided in teams of ten. Over the span of 2 days you have to achieve 5 tasks, some of them physically challenging and some of them mentally daunting. One personne on the team leads the task for the whole crew and the idea is that the team wins credits for what it achieves only if everyone in the team completes the task. That is something you don’t realize at the beginning, but it is essentially about how do you work with people. Those are very practical experiences that few business schools can actually give.
HU: Last question, if I need a leached white indian tiger in my room tonight, could you deliver it?
SB: Remember I told you we don’t do anything illegal, and it is illegal to rent a tiger!
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