Ash Ali Podcast Transcript

Ash Ali Podcast TranscriptListen to episode here

Ash Ali: [00:00:00] My parents always said to me, you know, people are walking that way and you're always walking the opposite. You know, why do you do that? I was a teen. I dropped out of college twice and decided to build a website. My sister gave me this birthday card that said future. com millionaire on it. And they were trying to take the mick out of me, basically laughing, right?

Ash Ali: And they're like, Oh yeah, yeah, here you go. ‘Cause I was just stuck upstairs in the attic. Didn't go to any weddings, any parties, just a hermit upstairs coding away. And then when Just Eat happened, obviously many years later. Um, she was one of the first people to call and now when I go back to my parents house in Birmingham, I said, Oh yeah, I see dad, everyone's going that way and I'm going the other way.

Ash Ali: And I'm all right. Right.

Amardeep Parmar: Welcome to the BAE HQ podcast, where we inspire, connect and guide the next generation of British Asian  entrepreneurs. Today we have with us, Ash Ali, who's the co-founder of uHubs, the author of Unfair Advantage, and the former marketing director of Just Eat. How are you doing today, Ash? 

Ash Ali: I'm good, thank you, Amar.

Ash Ali: Thank you for inviting me. 

Amardeep Parmar: So I've read your book, obviously, and we've got a good relationship. We've talked a few times before, but the people listening today, like, when you were growing up, [00:01:00] did you ever think you'd ever get to where you are today? 

Ash Ali: No way in a hell. I grew up in early Birmingham, inner city.

Ash Ali: Uh, to second generation immigrant Pakistani parents and they wanted to invest in education a lot, which they did and that helped my brother and my sister, but I was the, I was the odd one out. I was the black sheep of the family in that sense, because the Asian parents typically want you to be educated, become doctors, lawyers, engineers, whatnot.

Ash Ali: So I grew up in the inner city, normal schools, GCSEs, but then when it came to A levels and thinking about my career and my future, I kind of just dropped out. But before this, I was always entrepreneurial. I always wanted to do something in my life. So I was a paper boy at 13. I sold CDs at 16 until I realized they were illegal.

Ash Ali: I've always had this entrepreneurial spirit in me. My parents always said to me, you know, people are walking that way and you always walk in the opposite. You know, why do you do that? I just was like that. You know, everyone was going one way and I was going the other way. And he felt, abnormal at the time.

Ash Ali: And now when I go back to [00:02:00] my parents house in Birmingham, I tell him, Oh yeah, see dad, everyone's going that way. And I'm going the other way. I'm all right. Right. So it kind of worked out for me. You know, I grew up with a, four siblings and, uh, I remember at the time when, uh, I was in the attic in my parents house, building a website.

Ash Ali: You know, age 19, I dropped out, 18, I dropped out of college twice and decided to build a website. My sister gave me this birthday card that said future. com millionaire on it. And they were trying to take the mick out of me. Basically they were laughing, right? And they're like, Oh yeah, yeah, here you go.

Ash Ali: Because I was just stuck upstairs in the attic. Didn't go to any weddings, any parties, just a hermit upstairs coding away. And then when Just Eat happened, obviously many years later, um, she was one of the first people to call me. It says, Oh, do you remember that card? And I was like, I do actually, I remember it very well.

Ash Ali: Um, so it's kind of funny how things happen, right. And how, how you experience life. But you know, as a child, I was quite, we never had much, you know, I asked my mom once. And what did I want to be when I was older? Because I've forgotten, right. Because you know, you don't really know. My mom goes, you know what you want to [00:03:00] do?

Ash Ali: You want to be a bus driver. I was like, why mom? And, uh, I can't remember. And she said to me, you told me that because in those days, back in the early nineties, um, that when you used to go on a bus, you'd have to put money into the, uh, the bus before you can get on. So I was like, wow, all those kids putting money into the bus, that bus driver's earning a lot of money.

Ash Ali: I want to be a bus driver because I thought all that money went to the bus driver. Um, so funny, right? Uh, as a child, you think like this and go, wow, okay, that's cool. That's a cool thing to do. Just drive around and collect all this money. Um, so I always had this kind of thing inside me, very different to my brother, actually.

Ash Ali: Who's an academic and a professional in that sense, an academic professional consultant. I'm kind of like different route in street smart, I would say more than book smart. 

Amardeep Parmar: And with that first website, how did you believe in yourself that it was worth keeping going? Because obviously for sacrificing everything you were sacrificing and people taking the mick out of you.

Amardeep Parmar: Where did your like inner confidence come from there to actually say like, no, [00:04:00] like this is going to work out. I'm doing the right thing here. 

Ash Ali: You know, I've always been very curious as a child. My curiosity has led me down different paths, and I've always felt my curiosity and my naive optimism is what's kept me going.

Ash Ali: I didn't know what could go wrong, right? And because I didn't know what could go wrong, I just plowed on doing what I wanted to do. And, um, I learned how to program and develop a website. I felt like I was learning something. You know, I was doing something that's different. I was learning something. Not many people knew about it.

Ash Ali: The internet had just come out on 56k modem days. You probably don't even remember this. Way before you, you plug it into the phone socket and you get all this funny sound. Do do do do do do do! And it's like, um, yeah, I mean, and it... It was slow. It was different. I had my first PC. I felt like I was, uh, uh, an early adopter, uh, something new, you know, not many people knew about it.

Ash Ali: So that kind of kicked in for me, that kind of feeling of, you know, being somewhere new, something not many people know about this and I do. This is kind of cool. And what made me build a website was simply because a friend of mine and [00:05:00] his parents owned a shoe business. And it was like, Ash, why don't we sell shoes on the internet?

Ash Ali: Why not? Let's try. And that's really how it happened. The impetus came from my friend, my best friend. So let's do shoots. And he'd gone off to university at this time. So he's like, Oh, look, I'm learning about this new thing in economics, e commerce. All right, what's this e commerce thing? I was like, yeah, yeah, I know about the internet.

Ash Ali: It's the internet. And so we, from there, we just got interested in learning about e commerce. And so I built this website from ground zero. MySQL, PHP, learnt coding. Um, it was just a game. How did I get, you know, involved with it? It's just a game. It was fun. I was just curious. I wasn't doing it for the money.

Ash Ali: That was the reason why I kept doing it. And everyone around me, all my uncles were like, are you going to make any money from this? And so I didn't really think of it like that. You know, we sold shoes all over the world, all over the world. It's crazy, you know, like we did the first integration with Worldpay into the website.

Ash Ali: And one of my main jobs, actually, funnily enough, and it still applies today, was how to optimize the images [00:06:00] so they download on the 56k modem. And today, one of the most important algorithms and signals that you can give to Google is to have a fast website. And I was doing it back then. Knew, knowing that there was constraints in the 56k modem, but now it's become even more important because people are impatient.

Ash Ali: They want a website to load in one second, not three seconds,  right? 

Amardeep Parmar:And the funny thing as well is now, because we take it all so much for granted, because we have Amazon, we have all these different things. But like you said, like 10 years, even 10 years ago, it wasn't that good. Like when you were shopping online and 20 years ago, obviously it was terrible.

Amardeep Parmar: And then doing this early adopting things, like now the technology is there and most people don't know how it works. But to do that right at the beginning. It's like you said, like, that's the green field, right? There's who's going to be able to sell shoes online. If nobody can really do it yet, that's an open opportunity.

Amardeep Parmar: And then where did you go from there? Like, what was the path from there to then get to Just Eat?

Ash Ali: The shoe website was interesting because that got me an award in Birmingham. I won a B2B award and an agency saw me from London. 

Amardeep Parmar: On this then, so when you were winning those awards, was that when people around you started shifting?

Amardeep Parmar: [00:07:00] Like, actually, no, like, he's not just swimming the other way. He's actually... Doing something interesting, or is it still that doubt or still that skepticism? 

Ash Ali: I didn't even know we won the award until someone says, Oh, Ash, you're shortlisted for the B2B award. Right. You see, in those days, the industry is very insular.

Ash Ali: And I think sometimes when we go through life, we try to externalize our feeling of value to people who don't understand what we're doing. Right. So the insularity of that award, who cares about a B2B e commerce award, right? But nobody knows about it, right? So I think it wasn't to, that didn't justify to other people that I had something good.

Ash Ali: It gave me the confidence to say, actually, you know what, man? Oh, wow. There's all these agencies building websites. And we built a website in my attic by myself with my friend looking at how to do things. We can still win awards. So it gave me that feeling of Wow, there's a bit of meritocracy in this.

Ash Ali: Maybe there is a bit of talent. Maybe there is something I can, I can take on the big boys. I can take on people without degrees, without [00:08:00] all the other things and I can still do it. So that's what gave me that confidence. The award in itself didn't really mean anything to be honest to anybody. Right. So that was really kind of like the starting point for.

Ash Ali: Uh, the award and then actually what it did do is give me the confidence to come to London. So the agency that I'm, uh, I started working for in London, they said to me, Ash, you know, come along to London. We've got this agency. We build websites for, uh, large corporate clients. Oh, I took my rucksack and jumped on a virgin train first time in London.

Amardeep Parmar:Oh, yeah, right.

Ash Ali: Didn't know any anywhere, you know, like how to use the tubes or anything. Right? And so um first time in London And I went to the interview, didn't know how to do interviews. I've never done these type of things before, right? Professional interview. And I sat down and all I did, and someone asked me, what was my first opportunity?

Ash Ali: And this is the thing about when people say, are you making any money? Right. And we'll go back to that about, you know, when my uncle said, are you making any money? But what did it do for me actually? Not just make money, did something else for me. I sat in the interview and they were like, Ash, tell us about yourself.

Ash Ali: I was like, yeah, this is me. I'm from Birmingham. I'm really cool. I want to try new things. [00:09:00] And I did, I don't know what to say. Right. Yeah. And I was like, okay, so what have you been doing? And I said, I'll tell you what, why don't I just show you the website I've been building and they won the award for. So I showed them the website, how I built it, why I built it, the thought behind it.

Ash Ali: And then I did this thing, which not many people used to do in those days. I showed them the log file analyzers. I don't know, you don't know this web log analyzer. It's Google analytics now, but in those days it's like, where's the traffic coming from, from the website? How does it convert? Where is it leaking?

Ash Ali: And I just went through that and it gave me the job on the spot. I was 19 years old, no degree, no professional experience. And it gave me a 30, 000 pound job back then in 1999. I went to the phone, I came out and in that same afternoon, they gave me a job. Right. So when I say to my uncles, what did it, did it make me any money?

Ash Ali: It gave me the opportunity to open the door for me. And I think when you're young, you should be thinking about how to open doors and give you opportunities. Not just think about money. I was lucky enough to be [00:10:00] under an Asian in an Asian household where they don't let you leave. You're not going anywhere.

Ash Ali: Right. So I had a, uh, had a roof over my head. Obviously my circumstances were different. Um, so everyone's circumstances are different, but when I was young, I had that, um, unfair advantage, I call it where my parents looked after me. I didn't have to pay the bills. I could, I could do things like that. I could try a little risk.

Ash Ali: And so I came to London. And I had a fantastic experience, uh, building websites for clients. And then I realized that actually most people like to build websites, but not many people talking about getting traffic to websites. So I got into this deal to marketing kind of thing, you know, and there was no Facebook and social media in those days.

Ash Ali: It's just AltaVista and Google was just coming out, email marketing. I was one of the first people to talk about web usability and conversion rates. One of the first people to talk about that. One of the first people talk about why do you need a flash logo to start our website for three seconds before someone can get in, let them get in.

Ash Ali: Right. So it's really funny actually. And I remember those days at flash macro media. It's like all these things before in the intro, before you can get into a website, it's like, come on, you know? Um, [00:11:00] so yeah. 

Amardeep Parmar: I remember from those days is the flash games that we used to play at school when nobody was looking.

Ash Ali: Yep. Those flash games. Right. And they used, they used to use, I want the logo to spin faster. I was like, wow, really? So it's like funny times. Right. And, and that's the thing as you build your experience, you build it over with opportunities and timing, right? And the timing of everything, like new software coming out, the internet coming out, all these things, and you just ride this wave.

Ash Ali: And I kind of got lucky in that I was riding this wave without even knowing I was riding a wave. Right. But I did see the news in, uh, silicon valley. com, future. com. Wow. It's amazing. Yeah. And then I used to say to my siblings, right. It's about the. com industry guys. It's about Silicon Valley. And I used to say, and that's why they gave me that card.

Ash Ali: Right. Because I knew I was talking about it because I was so intrigued by it. Right. And I was like, and I can only access that information online. I've never had any magazines or people around me to do it. Just online looking at, Oh, what's this Yahoo thing? New the Yahoo thing. What's this AltaVista? Ask Jeeves in early days, you know, like you don't even know those, but they were the early days of search engines.

Ash Ali: Right. And I [00:12:00] really liked the idea of me getting our website ranked above all the designer shoe companies in the world. You typed in women's sandals, bang, we were number one. What was the brand called? It was called shoeimage. com. Yeah. Yeah. So it wasn't like a brand, but it's women's sandals that we're selling.

Ash Ali: Yeah. But it wasn't a specific brand. So we're selling multiple different types of shoes. Um, and loads of learnings from that, but fast track to my learning of building something, understanding the code behind it, understanding how traffic works. Um, I started working in, um, obviously e commerce. I worked in multiple roles.

Ash Ali: I got redundant. from the agency and I went back home with my tail between my legs and my parents were like, we told you so. That was when the dot com bubble burst and everyone got rid of it. And I was one of the first ones. I was one of the youngest people in the office at the time, actually, 19 years old.

Ash Ali: Don't know how to speak. Don't have to send an email. Don't know how to book a calendar in, you know, meeting. Don't have to do anything. Just learning there and then. So someone opened the door for me. And that's what it was. Someone just opened the door for me and saw something in me that, yeah, I've [00:13:00] got something about me.

Ash Ali: I might not have all the, uh, the nice professional skills around me, but I've got the, the know how, the passion, the curiosity. Um, and I was also in a time when not many people knew about this stuff. Right. So I got lucky, right. I can do, if I tried it now, I wouldn't probably succeed. Right. A lot of people know a lot more.

Ash Ali: So I did that. Um, I got involved in, uh, lots of different, I was just a side hustle as well. So me being a side hustle guy is always, you know, I always try to come up with new things. So I always try to do side things. Building my own little websites on the side, doing stuff, building websites for other people, you know.

Ash Ali: Just learning. You know, I did a lot of free work when I was younger. You know, I built a website for a guy who built a student website called Surfing Students that went and sold to Virgin in the end. And I got nothing out of it. I just started helping the guy because I was just intrigued, right? And that was from Birmingham.

Ash Ali: They were based in Wolverhampton. So I just tried what I could and I learned from these people around me and I thought, Ah, this is interesting. I like this sector. This is kind of cool. [00:14:00] So Fast Track 2, you know, like I worked in multiple roles. I was the head of new media, uh, uh, corporate company eventually back in London, um, got married at 24 and I was like, shit, I need to get a real job now.

Ash Ali: I need to settle down. You know, I can't mess around now, do all this freelance work and random jobs here and there. So I got myself a free, uh, corporate role, head of new media. I was there for just under five years, built a team there and I asked for four pay rises and I kept going, going, going, pushing, going, hit every single target.

Ash Ali: And eventually the, the, the boss was like, Ash. I can't hold you back. If I give you a pay rise now, you're going to be the highest paid person in your department, right? More than your own boss. And I was like, and I turned around, I thought to myself, why this limitation? Why am I limited? And I turned around to him and said, they should ask for more money.

Ash Ali: Why are they limiting me? Why don't they ask for more money? They're really good. And I was really inspired by them. They're really good. Ask for more money then. So it doesn't limit me. And at that point I realized limitation existed. In that kind of arena for me, [00:15:00] and then I met, uh, Jesper Buch, the founder of Just Eat, had a coffee with him in Starbucks and he goes, Ash, you know, um, I think you're really cool.

Ash Ali: You're a kick ass marketing guy. You know everything about marketing, building websites. I've got this idea, you know, restaurants on this platform and you know, you can order takeaway. I was like, really, you know, order takeaway back in 2006. Right? This is before the iPhone came out and before any of these smartphones were available, there's no app store then.

Ash Ali: Right? So you're ordering takeaway on a laptop or a desktop. Right? So when I gave my resignation in that, the company I was working at corporate, they're like, so Ash is now leaving us after four and a half years, five years. And he's going to this company called just eat an online takeaway business. And everyone just wen

Ash Ali: rolled their eyes and looked at me and went, Wow, what the, what's this? Right. You know, I was 26 years old. Had [00:16:00] a six month old daughter. And, you know, people ask me, how did I make that decision? I felt like at that time, it's the perfect decision for me because it's entrepreneurial and I was going to get equity in the business.

Ash Ali: I was going to become the first marketing director of that business. It was new. Uh, people didn't believe in it. I, I really believed in the idea. I took the punt. I said, this is going to be big and, um, I can see the future in here. I could see the way the problems that we were solving. And, um, you know, and I, uh, you know, some, some people say to me, how do you do it?

Ash Ali: So, you know, I went home and I picked up my six month old daughter, uh, put it in the air and said, you know, what this better IPO? No, I didn't. I said, I'm doing this for you. I'm doing it for my family. Hopefully it's going to work out. And if it didn't work out, what was the worst that could happen? I could just get myself another job because I had digital marketing skills.

Ash Ali: I had in demand skills. Right. I didn't think about what anyone else was saying to me on my degree, [00:17:00] people couldn't understand it. Right. And so even my, even my wife couldn't understand what to take away on the internet, you know? So, you know, it's, it's one of those experiences where, you know, becoming the first marketer of just D, I raised 10.

Ash Ali: 5 million pounds with the team. They're an amazing team. Management team there. Did the first TV advert. 

Amardeep Parmar:Could you tell us more about that? Like what goes through, like when you're thinking about Just Eat and you're thinking about at that time of how do we get the message out there when you said like so many people were like, what's this online takeaway business?

Amardeep Parmar: What was going through your head in terms of the marketing side of things? How are you going to get that message out there and get people to? 

Ash Ali: Yeah, you know, it's really hard, right? I was a one man marketing team. Really, I had to do everything from the SEO, the PPC, everything. So, you know, the first thing for me was to think about like, be a growth hacker and think in a growth scrappy way, you know, where were people looking for takeaways?

Ash Ali: Right. So they were going online and Googling it. Okay, cool. And then Google maps came out and I was like, how can I integrate Google maps? So I was just riding the wave every single time. So Google maps came out. So I integrated all my restaurants to [00:18:00] Google maps. I did it for them. Right. Then I realized that actually Google maps were changing the algorithm and saying that actually only companies with their own website could be listed.

Ash Ali: So then we built websites for our restaurants. So they can be in Google maps as well with their own website, but the ordering facility was through us. So there's little things like this, that you take advantage of little ideas and then having their own URL allowed us to say, actually, I'll tell you what, why don't we print your menus for you as well?

Ash Ali: And we came up with the idea of printing me, menus and printing um, 

Ash Ali: Doing all their usual marketing that they normally do a takeaway does and give it to them at a discount price because we had economies of scale. We had hundreds of takeaways. We could go to a printer and say, we're going to do X amount of printing. Let's do all the menus for you. As long as you put the URL at the bottom and the fact that they can order from Just Eat and they all did it and they distribute those leaflets.

Ash Ali: Across the country, across their local area, most people, when they used to order a takeaway, used to have a leaflet through the door and it's put it on the fridge. And we had our Just Eat [00:19:00] logo there. Right. 

Amardeep Parmar: I remember that. Yeah. 

Ash Ali: So we use existing channels and behaviors of people. We didn't change the behavior of people because that's hard to do.

Ash Ali: Right. We said, okay, where are people already doing this? How can we be part of that journey? So that was the first thing that we did. How can we be part of that journey where people are already at? One of the early signals of, um, success in marketing was the fact that, you know, we didn't do any whiz bang creative, you know, like online digital marketing at the time, right?

Ash Ali: It was. A simple thing that we did that actually drove 50 percent of our traffic in the early days of Just Eat. And it was as simple as the stickers that we put in the window of all the takeaways. The stickers that we put in the windows of all the takeaways generated more than 50 percent of traffic to our website in the early days.

Ash Ali: Now that's not, you know, that's nothing special online. It was just stickers in the window. It became so important for us that we had a KPI. I think we had 3. 2 stickers per takeaway. It's like really important, right? And we had a [00:20:00] WhatsApp group with all the salespeople that if they sold a takeaway onto the platform, they had to get the stickers in.

Ash Ali: If you never got the stickers in, it wouldn't count. That's how important it became for branding, right? So brand building was very important, right? Getting traffic, getting people aware. When you walk down the street, you see Just Eat, right? That's why, right? Brand building is really important. So the early things that we did were very much around, you know, building brand and getting people involved with, um, finding out about us.

Ash Ali: Really? And being part of their journey already, because we were more convenient, right? I was like, Oh, no, I just order from just the online. It's easier. What's the point of calling when the phone lines engaged? Right? I can see the menu online. It's updated. This might be an old menu. What's been, what's new?

Ash Ali: What are the special offers? They've changed. I can see online. Right? So just being part of existing behavior. And it's really fun to do that because there's a lot of offline marketing. That's where I've got the experience of offline marketing. And then integrating offline and online together.

Ash Ali: So that's where I got involved with a lot of integrated marketing techniques online and offline, whereas before I was just a hardcore online, just like, let's do email [00:21:00] marketing. We did a lot of that. We did SEO. We rank for every single keyword, right? Indian takeaway, Indian takeaway London, Indian takeaways.

Ash Ali: You know, we broke it down by location and city. Um, what's more important though was, so we do all the marketing. What's more important was to give people a great experience on the website. And one of the things we did in the early days, when you're building a marketplace, you have to create what we call liquidity.

Ash Ali: And what we mean by liquidity is enough options for people to be able to do a transaction. So you've got supply and you've got demand. The demand was coming from people who wanted to take away supply was the restaurants themselves, the takeaways. Right. So we came up with the idea of having a minimum number of restaurants per cuisine category, per postcode.

Ash Ali: So if we were advertising and marketing in that postcode, if you locked in N9 or N W six or something, right? You would have at least a minimum of three takeaways per cuisine type minimum. Otherwise I wouldn't market it. 

Amardeep Parmar:Yeah

Ash Ali: So when you land on a [00:22:00] website, go, wow, they've got loads of choice, right? Those are choice and those are options.

Ash Ali: And okay, that's cool. So I, and so this was kind of creating that product and doing a market fit together. Now, if people came to our website and typed in a postcard and we never had some restaurant in there, then I did a pop up window that said, Hey, why don't you leave your email address and let us know your top three restaurants in this area and we'll get them for you.

Ash Ali: And then when we did get them on board, because usually most people have their favorite takeaways, right? When we did get them on board, we fed that to the sales team. When they got them on board, we gave them a five pound voucher, said come along and try it out. 

Amardeep Parmar: Sounds really good. Yeah. Watching the time here.

Amardeep Parmar: So obviously you've got the book unfair advantage with Hassan, but he talked about on his episode as well. So he was on one of the early episodes. So if people want to learn more about that, I guess Hassan's got that covered. But can you tell us about your latest startup, uHubs? And where did the idea from that come from?

Amardeep Parmar: What's it trying to achieve?

Ash Ali: So I built a marketing and sales teams in quite a few different startups, and I realized there was a gap here where there was a lot of people just coming in and going, coming in and going. And [00:23:00] when it comes to sales, there's a lot of new people. You have a lot of diverse teams in sales.

Ash Ali: You don't have the same people from same backgrounds and the same professional experience. And when it came to training and upskilling them, Managers were doing this thing where they were taking someone away for four days on a sales management training course or something. Doing it once in the year and then hoping for the best.

Ash Ali: And I was like, that's kind of broken. That doesn't work. And it still doesn't work today. I would just do some training, take it off and yeah, let's hope for the best now. So we saw this issue amongst salespeople, amongst, uh, startups, fast growing startups who are growing a team in B2B tech startups. And we also saw the issue that a lot of people in sales, salespeople, junior salespeople rely on their managers, but managers aren't equipped to be able to help their sales team.

Ash Ali: Because many of the managers that becomes managers are promoted from becoming being shit hot salespeople, but they don't have the coaching skills and coaching is a big factor, [00:24:00] right? How do you coach your salespeople to become better? And management never had those skills, right? Now they're becoming, they're getting those skills and they get learning and they are growing.

Ash Ali: So we saw this gap in the market where how do you a metric driven angle, you know, you got, you know, how many cells have you got, how many bookings have you done, meetings, blah, blah, blah. It was more to do with actually the people behind the sales. How do you develop the person behind the sales, not individual deal coaching,

Ash Ali: so you could be on a phone and saying, God, this is what you should have said. That's individualized deal coaching. But what about. Improving your tone and language on the phone that will help you across all your deals. How do you identify that? We identify those skills gaps within salespeople to develop across the board.

Ash Ali: And then we integrate with all the tools, the CRMs, the call intelligence tools. We've got all this data coming in and all the sales managers have it, but they don't know where to go. They don't know where to go, what to look at and developing their people from a skills perspective. And so we've [00:25:00] now aggregated all that data, put it into our platform.

Ash Ali: We do a qualitative survey with all our, uh, team. We do that every 90 days. We track that continuously with upscaling. We then benchmark it against the industry. And we benchmark it against what makes a good A player in your company. So you know what traits to build. So we are a skilled, uh, we're upskilling business for salespeople to allow sales managers to hit more of their targets.

Amardeep Parmar: And then between you and your co founder as well, what are your unfair advantages that mean that you're going to do this better than everybody else is?

Ash Ali: So Matt, my, uh, Matt Milligan, my co founder. He's a XEY. He started the, um, startup network at EY. Part of the startup network he started was to allow founders in series A companies and fast growing companies get access to enterprise clients because, uh, startup fans were struggling to get access into those enterprise clients, how to sell into them.

Ash Ali: So he built that network of hundreds of founders. And he always also was a, is a lifelong learner like me and struggled with corporate learning. [00:26:00] Just well, I don't like this corporate learning. I don't want to just go online and learn something and just forget about it. So he also had this problem. So he had access to all his founders, a network of people that he already knew and in the industry.

Ash Ali: And then I, coming from a passionate kind of skills up, skilling background thinking, you know what marketing sales teams, they're integrated, but they don't know how to work together. How can we make them better? And I come from the simple premise, and I say this in the Unfair Advantage book, right, right at the start, it's really easy to build some, a website or build a product now, but very hard to get traction, get sales.

Ash Ali: So I focus on the sales part of business, and that's what I focus on every business I build, right? It's a core growth function of every, uh, startup. And so for us, it made sense because most companies are investing in start, uh, sales. So that was a niche that we went into. It's my background. I love sales. I love marketing.

Ash Ali: I love the idea of helping people grow, companies grow. And they also say that sales solves most problems, right? So that's where we, we are trying to be in that kind of sector, I suppose. [00:27:00] And our combination of skills. So Matt is very, uh, very much an integrator. I'm very much a visionary and together our skills just combined to work really well, because I can be like, whoa, out there sometimes I'm like, I want to, you know, I want to take this somewhere else.

Ash Ali: I want to, wow, I'm like creative and I want to, I'm a visionary in terms of what we wanted to solve and how we want to do it, passionate about it and trying new ideas, product innovation, but then I saw Matt can read it back and say, actually, hang on, what do the, what does the market want? You know, what do people need?

Ash Ali: So now we've got customers all over the world. We've helped thousands of sales people. We've done multiple rounds of funding in the business, and we're solving a real problem for people and people really enjoy it. A data driven, a data driven approach to helping sales managers lead better. That's exactly what we're doing.

Amardeep Parmar: Really excited to see where  that's going to go as well, because I know you've been raising money now as well. Getting more investors on board. And there's obviously so much potential because I think many people listening have been in sales have been his kind of energies. They'll know how much of a problem it is as well.

Amardeep Parmar: They'll know themselves. [00:28:00] Like they'd never got the training they wanted to get, or if they're trying to train other people, they didn't have the resources to be able to do it properly. But we've got to move on to quick fire questions now. 

Ash Ali: Okay. 

Amardeep Parmar: So first one, and I know you're struggling this earlier is who are three people British Asians that you’d like to shoutout that people listening right now should be paying attention to or following? 

Ash Ali: So  I know a lot of people who've made a big difference to my life in terms of my thinking and perspective. And I think that's the most important thing when you're choosing these people. So the first person is Kasim Choudhury. He is the founder of ThinkFest events. He does multiple events around the UK.

Ash Ali: He ran the business book awards. He's the one that said we should enter the awards and kept saying, Ash, you should enter when we first met. And if it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have won the business book award. Right. In terms of having opportunities to enter. Right. And there's 200, I mean, there's two, 300 books.

Ash Ali: There's like, I don't know how many multiple judges on that, but the fact that he just said, enter, uh, helps. So, uh, Kasim Choudhury from ThinkFest, uh, events runs multiple events all over the world. [00:29:00] Um, Mo Raja, Mo Raja is a personal friend of mine. He's an executive coach. He's worked in the industry, in a startup industry for a while now, uh, founded multiple startups and worked in many.

Ash Ali: And he's perspective on life and the way he thinks about the world really changed my view. Now he's not, you know, like one of those people out there on social media banging on about things, but if you reach out to him, Mo Raja, and if you were looking for coaching, if you're looking for somebody to give you perspective on business, just life even.

Ash Ali: And he's got it all right. And the third person is my mom, but you can't get access to her. You have to, you have to, you have to go through me, but yeah, I mean, really, look, there's so many people Hassan Koba, of course, follow him. Yeah. He's, he's cool. Um, another friend of mine back in Birmingham, Sagan, he's got a business out there who we did our first few business together.

Ash Ali: So there's so many people, but if I was to say, I mean, you can't choose, you can't choose. So yeah, I mean, there's so many cool people,  right? 

Amardeep Parmar:Yeah. [00:30:00] And then obviously I know Hassan as well. And I'll check out the other people too and make sure you follow them. Final two questions. First one is if people are looking for help, what should they come to you  about?

Ash Ali: What should they come to me about? So I'm willing to help guide anybody who feels like they're an underdog or they feel like they're struggling with getting traction in their business. And I like people who are specific. 

Amardeep Parmar: And then on the flip side, what's something you're looking for right now? What could somebody in the audience who's listening right now? 

Amardeep Parmar: Maybe help you with?

Ash Ali: So we're building our team out and, uh, at U Hubs and, uh, we're looking for content writers right now. We're looking for people to support us on our, on our distribution of our content and build our business out. We'll, we've got a couple of roles in, uh, go to our website, career section.

Ash Ali: We've got a couple of roles that already advertised there, a few roles which we're building out on. So feel free to check those out. We've got customer success, sales roles, quite a few different ones in there. And to help me out, I suppose, it really personal from a personal level, you know, read some of our posts and share some of the content that we write, because we do put time into sharing this content, put a lot of effort and energy in writing this content.[00:31:00] 

Ash Ali: Um, and it's gone worldwide, you know, since the book and stuff, the impact has been massive and it's crazy. I was at a coffee shop the other day, local coffee shop, and I sat down and I was just on my laptop doing a quick meeting and the girl opposite me kept looking at me and she's like, are you that guy from, uh, LinkedIn.

Ash Ali: I was like, I'm on LinkedIn. Yeah. Cause yeah, I read all your posts. Uh, and I like your book and I like your idea. And I was like, wow. Right. So the more we can share amongst the community, good things, it's really important. So if there's anything, share the good stuff. 

Amardeep Parmar: Thank you so much for coming on. Been a pleasure to have you here.

Amardeep Parmar: Have you got any final words? 

Ash Ali: Believe in yourself and enjoy the journey. It's not easy. I think a lot of people think that entrepreneurship and startups is all fun and games, but it's not easy. Enjoy the journey, believe in yourself, get good people around you, mentors, coaches, have a good group of people, uh, and do your best.

Amardeep Parmar: Thank you for listening to the BAE HQ podcast today. In our mission [00:32:00] to inspire, connect, and guide the next generation of British Asian entrepreneurs, it would mean so much to us if you could subscribe to our channel, leave a review, and share this with your friends.